Adult animation enters new ‘Golden Age,’ revitalizes a stagnant medium


‘Rick and Morty’ pioneers in this new world of animation.

Animation opens doors. It allows us to go to space, talk to animals, to watch characters stay the same age for years. In what critics and television fans call the “Golden Age of Television,” adult animation exists right alongside live action television.

Shows like “Rick and Morty” and “Bojack Horseman” have redefined the medium of animation by showing its viewers that they can be serious.

While “Rick and Morty” is primarily a comedy, the show includes heavy emotional elements that are knowledgeable about the universe far beyond other human beings, as well as the emotions that come with having someone so knowledgeable in your daily life. “Rick and Morty” isn’t just about laughs, it’s about coping with difficult relationships, loneliness, insignificance and inevitable death.

On the other hand, “Bojack Horseman”— a show primarily about loneliness and how to get and stay there — is not a comedy first and foremost. “Bojack Horseman” begins seemingly comedic in order to get the viewer comfortable in an animated setting in which animals and humans equally coexist. However, once this is fully established, the show gradually spirals into a dark place. “Bojack Horseman” takes on a gradual tone shift as the seasons progress and reveals itself as a drama once the viewer is hooked.

One could argue that shows like “Family Guy” disprove the theory that adult animation has transformed enough to be considered a part of television’s golden age. However, there are lesser quality shows in both animation and live action television. One show cannot define the path of a medium.

An aspect of animation that cannot be easily accomplished by live action is the ability to continue without characters aging. This opens up the possibility of animated shows airing for decades. Because of this, there may be shows that don’t change enough in terms of character development and plot points (or lack thereof).

“Family Guy” is a prime example of a show that hasn’t kept up with the television’s golden age because of these factors. At the same time, “South Park” is a show in a similar situation. In fact, “South Park” has five more seasons than “Family Guy.” In 20 seasons, “South Park’s” four main characters have aged two grade levels while their characters have developed immensely with variation in plot and tone that is consistent with current events. There’s a right way to do this, and it’s being done.

With more outlets like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Crackle, there is more television than ever. This allows for more variety in types and quality of shows, bringing us some of the best television we’ve ever seen — adult animation included.