American Animation

6 Dec

A particularly interesting part about American animation is how much it has to strive for mass appeal or at least for multiple levels of enjoyment. I’m sure that it’s a common experience to watch a cartoon that you remember from childhood only to discover a whole other context that you didn’t get as a kid (see ‘90s Disney films). Whether it be through subtle in-jokes or pop culture references, children’s programming tends to find a way to appeal to multiple demographics. Ideally, while the content is aimed at children, the parents (and possibly a large portion of the internet) may find themselves hooked on cartoons.

A show like Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time with Finn and Jake has found a viewing public both with children and with young adults. The animation has been frequently described as “trippy” and part of the appeal is the style in which the story is told. In many ways, the style of a cartoon contributes to its appeal. The comedic timing or the art often draw in viewers outside the child demographic.

There are also animated programs that are held up as examples of skillful story-telling. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has built up a large fandom of adult males (bronies) who praise the show for its character development. Similarly, Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender has garnered critical praise as well as commercial success for its epic scale and the long-form narrative it presented.

Something that I would have liked to explore is where animation fits into American television. I feel like it would have been interesting to go into what children watch and how unexpected communities form around it.

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2 Responses to “American Animation”

  1. kebullock December 9, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    I definitely think there is a certain level of nostalgia associated with ones love for animated television and networks are definitely using that to their advantage. Also, while there are many shows that are aimed towards both children and adults, I find animated shows that target adults alone interesting as well. In shows such as South Park and Futurama, this form that is stereotypically associated with children’s programming, is refashioned for purely teen to adult audiences. While animation is loved by all ages, it distances the characters and narrative from reality allowing for the show to get away with a lot more than a live action show might be able to. I don’t watch a lot of this type of comedy so I wonder if others would be able to weigh in on whether these types of shows would be as effective (or even acceptable at all) if they weren’t animated.

    • Jan Feldman December 9, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

      I think these animated shows for adults, specifically something like Family Guy, would not work as live action shows. In some of the more outlandish or overly violent scenes, I feel like it draws on older cartoons like Tom & Jerry or Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. Because these are cartoon characters and no one is actually getting hurt, it can be comical for the entire Griffin family to beat each other senseless for several minutes, destroying much of their furniture in the process. And because it’s animated, there are no lasting consequences, and no need to treat the characters as real people. Many of the jokes also involve things like ignoring the laws of physics. Although it’s possible to use computer graphics to make objects float in orbit around an overweight character, it seems more plausible in a cartoon world.
      This cartoon-ness is noticeably absent in the show King of the Hill. I’m not as familiar with this one, but from what I have seen it is much more like a live action series whose characters happen to be animated. Some of the show’s appeal may actually come from seeing animated characters behaving like real people.

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