When you think about it, the list of yellow cartoon characters is impressively long: The Simpsons, the Minions, SpongeBob SquarePants, Woodstock, Tweety Bird, Pikachu, Flounder, Winnie The Pooh… Turns out there’s a reason for that, and it all goes back to color theory. A detailed yet entertaining video from ChannelFrederator explains the different color wheels and palettes that all point to yellow cartoon prominence. ChannelFrederator has previously helped explain why some cartoon characters only have four fingers, and why so many of them wear gloves.
Scientifically, in the RGB palette, yellow’s complementary color is blue, which makes it stand out nicely against that popular choice for outdoor cartoon backgrounds: the sky. Also, SpongeBob’s ocean habitat. The Simpsons became yellow to help the clan be more instantly recognizable to channel flippers, setting them apart from more typically toned families like The Flintstones. The bright tone of yellow even stands out to the color-blind.
But the popularity of the tone goes even deeper than that—into the emotionality associated with the shade. Yellow is, as any Inside Out viewer knows, associated with joy, as well as energy and vibrancy. As the video points out, these are all excellent traits for cartoon characters. There’s even more info in this 11-minute video, but be warned: Once you start noticing the prevalent yellow-ness of the cartoon population, it’s hard to turn that off.