Blue Smurfs and green Ninja Turtles: The cartoon-character color wheel.

Arts, entertainment, and more.
July 29 2011 6:53 AM

Red Skull Is Red, Smurfette Is Blue

A beautiful color wheel showcasing the entire cartoon character spectrum.

This Friday the Smurfs movie premieres, bringing its world of blue people into our world of normal-colored ones. We at Slateare lovers of all colors of cartoon peoples, from the yellow figures of The Simpsons to the frequently blue and green heroes of the Marvel Comics Universe, and so we wanted to champion the full diversity of the animated world. In the interactive graphic below you'll find the complete rainbow of cartoon characters, from Pink Panthers to Grape Apes to red, well, whatever Zoidberg is. You'll notice a few fleshy humanoids, too. Of course not every iconic character could be included—the cartooniverse is too vast for us to completely chronicle here—but we've handpicked beloved creatures of every hue.

Why are the Smurfs blue? Why is Doug's Beebe Bluff purple? Our aim is not to answer these existential questions. When asked why the Simpsons are yellow, Yeardley Smith (voice of Lisa) explained only that Matt Groening "thought that it would be really funny if, when people watched The Simpsons, they thought that maybe the color on their TV was off." Indeed, these characters simply travel in different worlds—worlds, it's worth remembering, in which humans of all races would often be oddly colored outcasts. (In one episode of The Simpsons, Homer warns of "horrible freaks, with pink skin, no overbites, and five fingers on each hand!")

We invite you to explore our color wheel. Is that a purple Tiny Toon? A glaucous ThunderCat? Hover your mouse over the character to find out.

Natalie Matthews-Ramo is a Slate Web and interactive designer.

Brahna Siegelberg is a Slate intern.

Isabel Slepoy is a Slate intern.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Television

See Me

Transparent is the fall’s only great new show.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 11:57 AM Iowa Radical The GOP’s Senate candidate doesn’t want voters to know just how conservative she really is.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 11:25 AM Naomi Klein Is Wrong Multinational corporations are doing more than governments to halt climate change.
  Life
The Vault
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 AM Thomas Jefferson's 1769 Newspaper Ad Seeking a Fugitive Slave 
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 30 2014 11:42 AM Listen to Our September Music Roundup Hot tracks from a cooler month, exclusively for Slate Plus members.
  Arts
Behold
Sept. 30 2014 12:10 PM Violence, Love, and Hope: Growing Up in the Bronx in the 1980s
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 11:55 AM The Justice Department Is Cracking Down on Sales of Spyware Used in Stalking
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.