The United States was slow to come to the notion of animation as TV programming for adults,. “It wasn’t kosher,” Adult Swim’s SVP Jason DeMaro said at a TCA panel on “grown up” cartoon.
Animation has the advantage of enjoying a higher level of suspension of disbelief, Rooster Teeth co-founder Burnie Burns explained.
It has allowed for characters who are despicable and yet can be funny in a way that live action TV cannot, enthused Margaret Dean, head of Crunchyroll studio and president of Women in Animation. Viewers can watch people experiencing horrible torture, and blood gushing, that, if you saw it in live action it would be horrible,” she added.
Animation also has led the field in on-screen diversity, and probing social issues, Fuse Media Chief Content Officer J-T Ladt argued.
One TV critic asked about the “toxic” fan base for some animated programming, singling out Rick & Morty. Jason DeMarco noted there is a “small” but toxic fan base for Star Wars too and advised, “If you don’t think that the story is making the world worse then keep telling it and try not to engage” the toxic fans, he advised, insisting Rick And Morty conventions are mostly attended by “sweet people who just want to tell you how much they love the show.”
It is not the characters causing the toxicity, insisted Dean, citing “other forces” having more to do with the downside of social media, as well as “society, and repression of everything that causes this anger and rage in people” who feel “isolation.”
“I don’t think it’s Rick’s fault,” she concluded.
Contrarian Olan Rogers, creator/writer/star of TBS’s Final Space, while acknowledging “it’s everywhere,” advocated for engaging the toxic crowd, saying he has found “the moment you give them a shred of positivity, they say ‘you’re a cool dude’.”
There was some discussion about the various metrics by which to judge the success of an animated program targeting adults. Acid test, insisted Rogers, is when he sees one of his characters become a popular tattoo.
“That’ s clear indication they’re passionate about something,” he explained.
They got asked if, for better or worse, the success of The Simpsons decades ago “codified” what adult animation would be.
“Yes but that’ not The Simpsons fault,” DeMarco said. “That’s lack of imagination at the executive level.”
Added Dean, “I think we all owe The Simpsons a tremendous amount. Before that, the last animated primetime show was The Flintstones.”
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