Ever since The Simpsons aired in 1989, various creators of animated series have tried to replicate its success in their own unique way. Although The Simpsons is primarily targeted towards children, the show paved the way for the more risque adult animated genre, as the late 20th century saw shows King of the Hill (1997), South Park (1997), and Family Guy (1999) be created. The rise of the genre gave creators more creative freedom to stand out, through using animation to explore taboo topics such as addiction and depression in ways that many live action shows wouldn't even attempt back then. With the recent drop of Netflix’s Rick and Morty season five propelling the show to peak as the number one in-demand show worldwide over the last 30 days, we raise the question- what is the current global demand for the adult animated genre?
Over the last 30 days Rick and Morty was the most in-demand adult animated show worldwide, having 71.32 times more demand than the average television show. As previously mentioned, this is largely due to the fifth season recently coming out on Netflix, which increased its current demand. The show, which follows a mad scientist and his grandson going on inter-dimensional adventures has grown a cult following in recent years most likely because it is unique, well written, and one of the more smart comedy shows any streaming service has to offer currently.
The second most in demand adult animated show is Attack on Titan, which had 64.66 times more demand than the average television show over the last 30 days. The show is based on one of the most popular Japanese Manga comic book series of all time, and is centred around the story of a boy who vows to end all Titans after they destroy his hometown. Unlike Rick and Morty, which is aimed towards adults due to the comedy, Attack on Titan is geared towards adults due the the nature of its violence scenes.
The third most in demand adult animated show over the last 30 days was Invincible, which had 34.86 times more demand than the average show during this period. An Amazon Prime original, the series follows a young boy and his transformation into a superhero under the guidance of his father. Again, violence plays a part in it’s rating, however its early success most likely stems from the superheroes tackling real life issues, which is refreshing to see in the popular genre. Although only having one season, Invincible also ranks in the 98th percentile within the adventure genre. This means that the show has higher demand than 98.93% of all adventure series worldwide, which makes sense as superhero content is currently in demand worldwide.
Reasons for demand
The chart below shows the demand change for the top five adult animated shows over the last 90 days. From this it is evident that demand for Rick and Morty started increasing after season five dropped on 20th of June. The subsequent spikes dated a week apart from each other indicate when a new episode was released. While the other four shows shown currently have less demand that Rick and Morty, one can expect them to rise when new seasons are released.
As adult animated series have become increasingly popular in recent years, various shows are now embedded in popular culture due to social media exposure. For example Netflix’s BoJack Horseman shares similarities to the sitcom genre as it dramatizes real life situations through comedy, with its depiction of depression and addiction being well received by critics. McDonalds bringing back szechuan sauce thanks to a Rick and Morty episode is another way that popular culture has embraced the genre in recent years.
Considering animation is historically a children's genre it is impressive that two adult targeted animated shows, Rick and Morty and Attack on Titan lie in the top 10 most in demand shows over the last 30 days. The chart below illustrates this and shows it competing with in-demand shows like Loki and Game of Thrones.
Evolution of the genre
The rise of the adult animation genre is simply just another way television storytelling has evolved over time. The medium of cartoons, which was once popularised by and initially targeted towards children, has evolved to take on heavier topics. This appeals to creators due to more creative freedom compared to a a children’s show that offers a more sanitised view of the world and delivers lessons through stories in simpler ways. Adult cartoons have no obligation to stick to this formula, and audiences have generally reacted positively to this.
The recent pandemic also helped enable the production of the genre. Although live action sets were forced to shut down, animators and voice over actors were still able to work in isolation with ease. Even president of the ViacomCBS group (which owns Comedy Central), noted that cartoons were “almost pandemic proof”.
While the adult animated genre may offend some, audiences tend to accept the jokes for what they are: another show meant for entertainment through the use of unique storytelling. The genre allows for real life ideas to be played in out of this world scenarios, which makes for engaging content. This along with the comedy and nostalgic aspects make the future of the genre exciting for fans. The rise of the adult animated genre has opened many doors for creators, so audiences can expect to see more of them in the future as a result.