They may seem silly, but cartoons are not just for fun. With vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, there is a lot you can learn from a cartoon. And if you are looking to entertain your child and teach him/her some French, immersion into cartoons in French are a perfect way to spend some quality time together.
As a parent in Paris, I’ve watched my share of French cartoons. And it goes without saying that some cartoons are less entertaining (aka boring) than others. And a lot does depend on the age of your child, their fluency, and how comfortable they are in learning a foreign language.
If your child is just acquiring the language of French, you would be better off trying to find cartoons that speak French clearly and are actually easy to follow along, rather than trying to watch something action-packed that may be age-appropriate but simply beyond your child’s language skills.
For this reason, I’ve put together a selection of French cartoons leaning at the younger end of the range, with a handful of cartoons for older and more fluent children as well. So with that, let’s get to it. Allons-y!
What are cartoons called in French?
Cartoons are called “dessin animé” in French. So if you are looking on youtube for cartoons in French, this is the phrase you should type in.
Does Netflix have French cartoons?
Yes, but unless you are in France, you won’t get the cartoon in French. Many of the cartoons I listed below are on French Netflix, but may not be available in North America or the UK (unless you go behind a vpn?)
Are cartoons a good way to learn French?
Yes, cartoons are a great way to learn French, since the characters will use simple words and should be easier to understand.
Keep a lookout however for characters that speak “baby-talk” or in a very high pitch, which is not the easiest to follow along to (eg. French Mickey Mouse or the chipmunks).
I. Original French Cartoons
The following cartoons have all been created either by French authors or been produced for French TV, before moving overseas. Many of the cartoons on this list have gone on to be translated into English as well as other languages, and have become international hits.
However, if you are trying to learn French, it is the French version that we are interested in. All of these shows are current regulars on French TV (and my little Frenchies rave about all of them!)
1. Petit Ours Brun
One of the grand classics for the French preschooler is Petit Ours Brun or Little Brown Bear. It began originally as a story in the French magazine Pomme d’Api in 1975, before being turned into a tv series. The story is about a little bear who is 3 years old, and aims to be a good little kid, despite his first instincts.
The storylines are quite charming with each episode having a small moral at the end. Each episode is around 7 minutes, with titles like important toddler topics like taking a bath, getting dressed by himself, and Mummy going on a trip.
Along with the tv series, the stories still run in the magazine Pomme d’Api or you can also get standalone books with the characters.
Aimed at more or less the same crowd as Petit Ours Brun, and with somewhat similar storylines, T’choupi is another amongst my little Frenchies. Based on the children’s books created by Thierry Courtin, T’choupi is a young boy in the form of. a penguin.
Pronounced choo-pi, the show has been translated into English under the name Charley and Mimmo. (Mimmo is his doudou, which is a word all French kids use for their favorite toy.)
There are several versions of T’choupi out there with the following:
- T’choupi et Doudou – T’choupi and his come-to-life imaginary toy Doudou
- T’choupi et ses amis – T’choupi and his friends
- À table T’choupi! – Time for dinner, T’choupi!
- T’choupi à l’école – T’choupi at school
- Après l’école avec T’choupi – T’choupi after school.
Each title has around 30 to 60 episodes of approximately 7 minutes long.
If you have a kid who loves to draw, check out the French cartoon series Didou, dessine-moi (Didou, draw me). The show features a little rabbit named Didou, who teaches children to use their imagination and draw.
Accompanied by his sidekick Yoko who is a ladybug, Didou solves all sorts of problems like going to the moon or building a robot by pulling out his crayons and drawing the item line by line. The drawings are easy and slow enough that kids will be able to draw along.
There is a 2nd Didou as well, called Didou construis-moi (Didou, build me), in which Didou explains a bit about the world around us, by building a boat or explaining how a crane works.
Each episode lasts around 7 minutes. You can find the official Didou channel on youtube here.
Caillou isn’t French, but French-Canadian. Pronounced Kai-yoo, caillou means a little pebble. Caillou has a young sister named Mousseline, and does the usual kid stuff like go to school, play in the snow, and go camping. (As all good Canadian kids do, of course. I speak as a Canadian;) )
The show has been translated into English as well and can be seen at times on PBS. Aimed clearly at toddlers, the show can be a bit boring for adults to watch along. Each episode is around 22 minutes long.
A bit less annoying is Trotro, about an enthusiastic young donkey. With plenty of imagination, Trotro manages to get into a little adventure and laugh wherever he goes with mom, dad, and little sister.
Each episode is around 3-4 minutes long, featuring a variety of characters from Trotro’s family and friends.
6. Simon le Lapin
Another French series that is very popular is the little rabbit, Simon (pronounced See-mo(n). Simon is around 5 years old, has a little brother named Gaspard, and a couple of parents who are rather busy. With grandparents around and friends, he gets into all sorts of little adventures around home and school, such as chasing dragons and going on holiday.
It has been widely translated into English, and as such French state television Okoo shows episodes of Simon in English and French back-to-back, in order to encourage language learning.
7. Les Triplés
If you would like to imagine having triplets in a luxe Parisian apartment, you will enjoy Les Triplés. Aimed at slightly older school-aged children, the story is about a set of very blond set of siblings, consisting of 2 boys and a girl, who are around 6 years old.
With their rather put-upon mom in charge, the family lives in a swanky duplex in Paris, which may or may not be next to Jardin du Luxembourg in the 6th arrondissement. (I say this because as a Parisian myself, this is the impression of the neighborhood I get watching the characters go to the bakery, nearby parks, etc.)
Interestingly, the father is never mentioned, so it isn’t really clear if this is a single-parent household or if the dad is just always at work. Originally released in 1983 as a series of comic books, the triplets get into plenty of trouble with their pet dog in tow in and around their neighborhood.
8. Miraculous: les Aventures de Ladybug et Chat Noir
A French cartoon for older children, Miraculous; les aventures de Ladybug et Chat Noir is also set in modern-day Paris, France. This time the lead belongs to two teenagers who transform into superheroes, namely Ladybug and Chat Noir (black cat), to protect the city from a mysterious villain.
With quick action scenes set in picture-postcard Paris, you won’t mistake this show’s background for New York or any other city. Ladybug and Chat Noir don’t know each other’s real identity, so there is plenty of zingy dialogue that older kids and young (at heart) adults will love.
II. English Cartoons translated into French
Now I should note that French kids (little addicts that they are, are just as used to watching international cartoons just like their North American or British counterparts.
1. Peppa Pig (en français)
At one stage, there was no competition in our home: Peppa Pig was the Queen. The straightforward narrative of a young pig, her family, and their friends is a hit in English and in French.
Peppa pig is another show that French state television shows with English and French back-to-back. You can also find plenty of Peppa episodes in French on Youtube.
With simple phrases as well as small jokes for the adults in the room, there is a reason that Peppa is a worldwide hit.
2. Les Monsieur Madame
A series that has been widely translated for French fans is Mr. Men, aka Monsieur Madame. With amusing stories and dialogue that is easy to follow along, this is a great cartoon to watch if you or your kids are trying to improve your French.
Each episode is around 10-11 minutes long and you can find plenty of them on youtube.
3. Hé, Oua-Oua (Hey Duggee)
Another British series that is a hit with the pre-school crowd is Hey Duggee. The French version has been translated into Hé Oua-Oua, which doesn’t seem like it is the easiest to pronounce, but once you get into it, it is a breeze.
Oua-Oua the dog works with his squirrel team made up of other small animals to achieve individual goals and earn a badge in each episode and is quite easy to follow along. Each episode a bit like the Boy Scouts or Girl Guides working together to fulfill a task.
The minimalist animation of Oua-Oua (pronounced woa-woa) takes away all the distractions if you are trying to learn French.
Where to watch French Cartoons
Now the problem with trying to watching French cartoons is figuring out where to find them. A lot of shows like Simon, Les Triplés, and Peppa are on Netflix France, but you may not find them in French if you connect to Netflix from the U.S. or U.K.
One options is to connect to French Netflix or the French state tv Okoo with a vpn. If you are looking for something simpler, however, there is always Youtube. All of the cartoons I’ve linked to above are on Youtube, where they have official channels.
Some of the channels may require Youtube premium, but for a monthly fee, you should be able to access a good amount of these French cartoons rather easily. If possible, I would recommend trying to watch the French version, and then find the English version to watch as well, to get all the vocabulary.
And if you are looking for even more cartoons, you can look for the movies made for French favorites Asterix and Obelix as well as Tin Tin. They may have started off as comic books, but have since been turned into movies for both young and old to enjoy.
In addition, you can check out our other resources to learn French. A bientôt!