Why do adults still watch cartoons?

With animated shows like Rick and Morty becoming instant hits, joining classics like The Simpsons, Beth Chrisp delves into why adults love cartoons so much.

Beth Chrisp
19th February 2018
Image Credit: YouTube

In an article recently published by the BBC it was suggested that adolescence now lasts from 10 years of age up until 24, rather than 19 as previously believed. Could this be of some explanation as to why ‘adult cartoons’ are more popular than ever? Or is something else afoot?

‘Adult Animation’ (we need to find an alternative term for this guys, something less risqué) has blown up in recent years with shows such as BoJack Horseman, Bob’s Burgers and Archer. We must, of course, pay a little trip to Springfield to trace the roots of this movement. The Simpsons led the way with high quality comedy and drama, setting a trend which would be followed in both TV and Film. You only have to look at Pixar and DreamWorks to see evidence of The Simpsons’ influence, both animation giants managing to create top quality entertainment that resonated on a number of levels, delighting both kids and adults.

The Simpsons led the way with high quality comedy and drama, setting a trend which would be followed in both TV and Film

In 2001 Cartoon Network launched Adult Swim with shows such as Cowboy Bebop and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, which ran on Cartoon Network throughout the night in the US. Adult Swim was launched in the UK on CNX but lasted little over a year. This was animation made very specifically for adults, rather than trying to incorporate humour for all ages. Sometime in the intervening years our taste for adult animation has increased in the UK, perhaps the reason is variety and accessibility? With online streaming services taking over we have access to so much more overseas content, Rick and Morty for example, is an Adult Swim production and is given a UK platform through Netflix. Not to mention the animated series’ being produced by online streaming services such as the superb BoJack Horseman on Netflix.

With streaming services, of course, came the rise of binge-watching, most animated shows run at around 20-22 minutes, a very binge-able chunk of time. I don’t want to be a traitor to my generation but we aren’t renowned for our attention span, guys…

Animations has the advantage of being able to do things that aren't possible for live-action entertainment 

Finally, and most convincingly I believe, the quality of animation currently available is unparalleled and enticingly diverse. The last few years have welcomed some incredible entertainment in both TV and Film, with The Red Turtle in 2016, a complex and innovative animation as well as the hugely popular, mega-hit Rick and Morty debuting in 2013. In animated television, right now, there is something for everyone; Rick and Morty offer high-concept sci-fi and pitch-black humour, BoJack Horseman places itself firmly in the ‘sadcom’ category and Bob’s Burgers offers classic animated sitcom humour through endearing underdog characters. Animation has the advantage of being able to do things that aren’t possible for live-action entertainment and this is being explored with fervour right now, much to the delight of its ever-expanding audience.

Or it could be the fact that the world is a really terrible place and we just want to look at the pretty colours for 22 minutes apiece? Such pretty colours…

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