The golden era of American animation is generally regarded as the period between 1928 and 1973, with sound cartoons slowly becoming more and more popular in the mainstream. The hype eventually died down, and for most people, animation was left for the kids. But then The Simpsons came and changed the playing field.
First premiering in 1997, The Simpsons was the first adults-only TV show. Despite its popularity, even until recently, animation shows were deemed to be “childish” and not to be taken seriously. But with streaming services becoming the norm, there has been a rise in some excellent adult animation.
Shows like Bojack Horseman and Rick and Morty have started popularizing this genre again, and people are beginning to take animation very seriously. Many people are terming this the golden era of adult animation. Let’s check out what the hype is all about and why cartoons are becoming so popular with adults.
With more and more people binge-watching shows and looking for a way to escape reality, adult animation is the perfect way to take a break from your dreary adult lives. Especially during the pandemic, when many people were stuck at home with not much to do, many of them started binging shows on popular streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO+.
Since everything behind the scenes of making an animated show is still much cheaper than doing live action, the pandemic has given rise to adult animation. It’s also much easier to pandemic-proof animated work. It’s much easier to make an animated show while abiding by social distancing measures than to film a show with real actors and a crew.
As for the viewer, with so much time spent at home, you get tired of watching the same old things after a while. This is why a lot of people turn to watching animated shows. Adult animated shows are usually short thirty-forty minutes each episode, with comedic themes that allow the viewer a much-needed form of escapism.
The Animation Boom
For a long time, adult animation had come to a bit of a stagnant position. There were only a few things you could do with shows like this, and nobody took any risks. Animation had to be “approved by everyone.
But just within the last decade, the tone in adult animation has widened to a large extent. Shows now deal with everything from mental health to puberty to drama and more. Once a narrow genre, adult animation has turned into an elastic art form that allows creators to deal with plots in a way they never could before.
Once people saw that shows like this were working with the crowd, more and more began to spring up. Sitcoms like Bob’s Burgers and American Dad attracted a large group of viewers who hadn’t watched animated shows before.
In 2014, Netflix released three animated shows, F is for Family, Disenchantment, and Bojack Horseman. These shows soon became very popular among the crowd and inspired others to follow suit. While these shows started with conventional norms, they quickly delved into deeper themes and bleeker arcs. This tone-change got viewers hooked.
There’s also a percentage of people still watching old cartoons that they watched as children for that nostalgic kick. This new viewer base not only inspired streaming services to keep these cartoons in their catalog but also produced spin-offs from old cartoons in a new way.
You can appeal to more niches instead of a wider audience with streaming services. And services like Netflix took advantage of that. They began to grow a fanbase of loyal followers who would talk about these shows online, thus increasing their popularity. This community also helped fuel the boom in animated shows for adults.
Why Is Adult Animation So Popular These Days?
Even though The Simpsons had and still has a lot of fans, for the most part, animation was considered a thing for kids. Sitcoms such as Family Guy and South Park were the exception, and not many people watched adult animation. People would even make fun of you for watching “kids’ cartoons.”
Fast forward to 2022, and things are pretty different. Animated shows get quite the hype, and shows like Bojack Horseman get shoutouts at the Emmys. There’s fantastic discourse about new shows coming out, and there’s a lot of hype surrounding adult animation. People are taking them seriously.
This shift might be due to the following reasons.
Rise Of Streaming Services
Undoubtedly, streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have changed the shape of television forever. With a rise in the number of streaming services, shows of all kinds have risen a lot. These services license existing shows and produce new shows to fill up their content libraries and boast about their numbers.
The result is an abundance of content, including adult animation. Just go over to your Netflix animation category, and you’ll see for yourself just how many different shows there are to choose from.
While this means there is more adult animation, it doesn’t necessarily mean all of it is good. With the boom in adult animation, there have also been terrible shows like Hoops, which got canceled after one season.
But since competition is so high, creators are now willing to take risks and come up with new ideas and themes rather than restrict themselves to nuclear family comedies. This new wave of bold, brave, taboo choices in adult animation might be why a lot more people are now interested in watching these shows and, therefore, more are being produced.
Globalization Of Content
Since you can now get easier access to all kinds of content worldwide, the globalization of content has opened up people’s tastes. Japanese animation, or anime, has long been watched by adults in Asia, and recently it’s gained mainstream popularity in the West as well.
With international animation content dealing with dark themes such as depression, death, and suicide and even more philosophical and dense content, it has inspired more American shows to do the same. International animation has therefore raised the bar high for everyone else.
Thus more shows that deal with new and exciting concepts came through. Shows like Rick and Morty and Big Mouth deal with many deep ideas in profound ways. These shows have characters that mature through the seasons and keep viewers hooked.
It’s Not All Fun And Games
Most people don’t take cartoons seriously because when they think of animation, they think of “lighthearted” and “funny.” Although the pioneers of adult animation, The Simpsons, was comedy, more and more adult animation is now not just limited to comedy.
Shows like Bojack Horseman start by being lighthearted to ease you into the familiarity of a comedy, as you get used to humans coexisting with talking animals. But once you’re hooked, the show turns into a drama, with an episode touching on everything from depression to anxiety, and a deep dive into mental health that many adults can relate to.
Perhaps this stride into making things more “real” and relatable through adult animation is what is making them more popular among adults. You can laugh while delving into deeper topics like suicide and mental health.
With the hype of Bojack Horseman and Rick and Morty, many new shows are also coming into the scene. Solar Opposites is one such contender, with animation very similar to Rick and Morty, which is to be expected considering they come from the same writers. If you’re a fan of Rick and Morty, you’ll probably like this show.
Contrarily, if you are entirely new to the world of adult animation, Solar Opposites isn’t a bad place to start. Unlike Rick and Morty, the show is much more balanced with an easy-to-follow storyline and a definitive endgame. With this show, you will follow a family of aliens who come from a better world and have to settle down in America.
It has a much more familiar premise, similar to The Simpsons, but the humor is entirely different. Each episode has a fantastic storyline and other C-plots as well.
And if themes of depression and cynicism sound too heavy for you, this show has a more “positive” tone and might feel more like Full House. Each episode has a sense of unity with the family, and you see the problems the family faces as they adapt to earth.
Solar Opposite takes some elements from pop culture and older favorites like The Simpsons and merges them. This makes it suitable for audiences used to this type of animation and newer viewers.
The shows have grown up with us into adulthood, and the golden era of adult animation has just begun. Both Netflix and CBC have built their own in-house animation studios to ramp up production and reduce costs. Many others follow suit, and you can only expect more shows to pop up with time.
The only problem with this era is that you might have to look harder to find good gems. But that’s true for all TV. So sit back, grab a bucket of popcorn, and relive your childhood by watching animation!