If you asked me a few years ago what would grip the world and bring an audience back to watch television, I would’ve said it must be Game of Thrones and definitely not Rick and Morty. But here we are, in a renaissance of adult animation (and not “adult” animation). We have shows like Bojack Horseman pulling at our heartstrings, Big Mouth depicting puberty in a very humorous and crude way. These shows are paving the way for the acceptance of animation as a legitimate and serious form of entertainment. These shows are anything but kid’s cartoons.
Adult animation is best described as animated tv shows which deal with issues and scenarios that are more adult in nature, and these shows are generally targeted to those age 19 to 34. Arguable the best generation … then again, I may have a bias.
Adult animation has come fairly far over the past two decades. Slowly breaking the stigma that was perpetuated by a culture that used cartoons and animation as form of advertisement towards kids. Think about it, that awesome new character in a new show? Guaranteed that it was more likely to sell.
This new renaissance of adult animation is being spearheaded by the initial influencers of the early 2001; Fox, Comedy Central, and Cartoon Network/Adult Swim. Here in Australia, a lot of the big hitters are being swept up by Netflix to be streamed to the thousands of Australian subscribers.
The internet is also helping to bring new animators and show directors to the masses. Though not pushed by Youtube, there are a multitude of excellent examples of adult animation. Cyanide and Happiness is an interesting yet entirely valid example. They combine a similar style of comedy to a very compact and short South Park, with an extensive new media outputs. They have highly skilled artists and personalities, producing a wide variety of content to keep their audience satiated in between shorts.
This web-comic turned web animation and soon to be video game, is to ones surprise, housing a cynically driven humour. Adult animation has the gall to poke fun of and yet simultaneously provide insight an emotion to topics that most others would avoid.
Adult animation uses its appearance to tackle these difficult topics. Presenting itself in a fashion that is seen as childish, unprofessional, and comedic, it gives off this façade that it couldn’t ever touch such hefty ideas… but they then pull it out of seemingly nowhere, and hit you with “feels” bomb.
Bojack Horseman recently covered the touchy topics of dementia and asexuality, two very different, yet very delicate and difficult topics. The show handled them with grace and respect. Never trivialising what they are, they however provided an excellent representation in the show, and provided insight and commentary on both topics.
Films even benefit tremendously from being animated. As the Independent covered in 2008, the film Waltz with Bashir, an Israeli animated/war documentary, that uses interviews to feed the documentary with story, all the while animating recounts and then providing dream sequences. The film blends the pain and suffering of war with an artistic vision and representation of events.
There has been a shift in how people and companies view adult animation. Back in 2001, Mark Taylor an independent animation festival organiser stated that all executives are “just looking for the next Simpsons.” They were looking for the attractive nature that made The Simpson’s work. It’s near endless social capital. Connecting with audiences through popular culture in a way that provided commentary and explanation… in a comedic and adult (young adult now) manner. This sentiment seems to have been expanded upon in recent years, just have a look at Rick and Morty.
Rick and Morty is an interesting case however, this show follows the adventures of an alcoholic genius (smartest man in the universe) and his less than completely-there grandson. With everything covered and nothing off the table, these adventures usually divulge into the dark humour and askew nature of existence. Generally poking fun at the fact that nothing is arguably connected to you, and that in the grand scheme of things, there is little chance for you to make an impact…
Yep that is what we’re laughing at now…. Oh and PICKLE RIIICKK!
The current renaissance of adult animation is amazing. We are giving people voices that 20 years ago never would have been given the time of day. These voices are producing some of the most engaging and thought provoking content mixed in with humour and quirks that inherently make them adult. Adult animation is wheedling its way into all forms of entertainment, with film, television, and now the internet all being in its domain. These productions are oozing quality, intrigue, and of course crude humour. Honestly, I don’t think anyone could have predicted 20 years ago, we would be laughing and crying at murderous pickle mad scientist.