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.