24/06/20 • Animation Insights

5 of the best animations for adult audiences

If you thought animation was just for kids, it's time to think again

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Many adults believe that animation is a genre best enjoyed by children. However, animation is one of the most expressive forms of storytelling. And while live action may dominate post-watershed network television schedules, recently animation has been proving itself a worthy contender.

It’s not hard to see why. The genre is a perfect medium for delivering eye-catching, snappy action that appeals to young children, it’s true. However, it is also capable of delivering powerful messaging and complex meaning in a way that is often superior to other genres. While live action characters create gradual meaning through commonly understood body language and outward facing reactions, animated characters create immediate meaning through exaggerated expressionism, colours and limitless displays of emotion. Animation can often take an ambiguous or vague concept and translate it into a visual representation that is real and visceral. It is this which makes animation the perfect genre to push boundaries and challenge the norm.

We asked our crew some of their favourite animations for adults – here’s what they said.


Pond Life

“My favourite adult animation is a Channel 4 classic from the 1990s, ‘Pond Life’ by Candy Guard, a funny funny, tightly written and groundbreaking comedy series following the life of Dolly Pond.” -Gilly Fogg, Series Director.

It’s hard to believe this animated comedy series from Candy Guard is over two decades old. Featuring the 30-something Dolly Pond, this timeless sitcom explores the many dilemmas of a single female living in a London suburb. Unhappy with her current life situation – living in a flat over the shop she works in – Dolly is constantly seeking more from life. Despite being *somewhat* self-obsessed, her attempts to change things usually centre around what others can give her, rather than self-improvement. What ensues is often cringeworthy, hilarious and ever-so relatable.

Last year, our very own Gilly Fogg, Series Director, caught up with Candy Guard at the Kilkenny Animated Festival. Gilly is a huge fan of her work, and said “it was brilliant to meet and talk to Candy at last year’s Kilkenny Animation Festival – I can’t wait to see her next project, which should be appearing in the next year or so.”

We can’t wait! Season one of Pond Life was aired in 1996 by Channel 4. The show returned with a season two in 2000. Luckily for us, you can find both seasons on YouTube on Candy Guard’s channel.

Bojack Horseman

Bojack Horseman

“BoJack Horseman really pushed narrative in adult animation pretty darn far” – Sean Hogan, Storyboard Artist

From the mind of Raphael Bob-Waksberg comes BoJack Horseman, the kind of character you loathe and love all at once. Once a famous sitcom star, he has faded into obscurity, living unhappily and unhealthily in modern-day LA. He turns to ghostwriter, Diane Nguyen, to help him regain his relevance by bringing out a memoir. Does it have the desired effect? You’ll have to wait and see.

With a complex character arc spanning all six seasons, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is The BoJack Show. It’s not. The other characters are just as richly formed, all with their own battles to fight. One character slowly comes to terms with his sexuality. Another struggles to adopt as a single, career driven woman. A former child star battles with adulthood. Fiercely intelligent wit interspersed with slapstick humour and more than a little deep poignancy, BoJack Horseman will have you giggling uncontrollably, squirming uncomfortably, and tearing up more times than you’ll care to admit.

Midnight Gospel

Midnight Gospel

When our new Art Director, Luca Centofanti, was asked for his favourite adult animation, he gave us not one but six titles! Top of the list was Midnight Gospel, created by Pendleton Ward and Duncan Trussell. This new series came to Netflix in late April of this year, and immediately received rave reviews. A departure from the realism of Bojack and Pond Life, the series has been described as ‘trippy’, ‘mind-bending’, and ‘psychedelic’. Yet, despite the fact that its main character, Clancy, hops from world to world through an unlicensed, multiverse simulator, the subject matter of the episodes is often extremely real, profound and raw. For each episode is based around real-life interviews conducted by Trussell for his podcast, The Duncan Trussell Family Hour. Apparently, Ward (creator of Adventure Time) pitched the idea to complement Trussell’s podcast interviews with Ward’s intergalactic visual style with the line “It’s like we replace the dialogue of Indiana Jones with podcast conversations.”

If you’re mentally drawing comparisons between Midnight Gospel and the early videos of the Ricky Gervais Show, then you’re kind of right, yet totally wrong. Catch it on Netflix and see for yourself. If it’s not your thing, then check out some of Luca’s other suggestions; Final Space, She-Ra, Castel Vania, Kipo, Green Eggs and Ham.

Tuca & Bertie

Tuca and Bertie

“For the first time in a cartoon, I could see myself reflected in the characters. They have women problems spoken from a women POV. It talks about friendship, about relationships, sex and about adulthood in a way that it just feels very real. I feel like their conversations could be conversations I’d have with my friends! And I’m just very happy they’re doing a second season!” – Sara Boix Grau, Animator.

Tuca and Bertie comes from the same team as Bojack Horseman, and at first glance they are pretty similar. Both series feature anthropomorphic characters. They share the same type of humour. But despite their commonalities there are some major differences. For a start, Tuca and Bertie’s titular characters are two females, and the show deals with what could be called feminist issues, such as body-image, sexual harassment and casual sexism. It is also more surreal than Bojack, playing around with varying animation styles to communicate a sense of detachment from the norm. Despite its favourable reception, Netflix cancelled the show after one season. Fear not though – Tuca and Bertie has been renewed by Adult Swim, with the second season looking set to air in 2021.

Beavis & Butthead

Beavis and Butthead 

Here at Lighthouse, our crew are always organising events and get togethers. John Atkinson, Animator, runs a weekly Friday club, ‘Crewtoons’, where crew come together to watch cartoons of John’s choosing (read more about how Crewtoons has adapted during Covid lockdown here). We asked John what his favourite adult animation of all time was. “I’m gonna go with Beavis & Butthead,” he said “as they speak to my experience as a not-quite-functioning adult. I share their fondess for heavy metal, toilet humour, and staring blankly at the TV”. Well, when you put it like that…!

Beavis and Butt-head hit the big time back in 1993 on MTV, running at full speed for 200+ episodes over four years, until its creator, Mike Judge, allegedly suffered creative burnout. Which is probably not surprising, considering the huge amount of content he put out in that time.

Beavis and Butt-head were two white American teenagers, whose stupidity, toilet humour, and love of heavy metal music were a hit with audiences across the globe. At the time, the show was seen as pretty controversial. It famously removed all references to fire and arson after being blamed for a five-year old child burning down his family home. It was often referenced as being reflective of degenerative youth culture at the time. Yet despite these negative associations – or perhaps because of them – the show was also somewhat of a trailblazer. In fact, without Beavis and Butthead, we may never have had shows like South Park and Family Guy. It inspired books, movies, albums, video games – you name it! Despite this, the shows revival in 2011 wasn’t a hit. Unfortunately, times had changed, and these nineties kids just didn’t seem to fit in with the new millennial audience.

A true slice of nineties pop culture, this show is essential viewing.

As the genre grows in popularity, we are excited to see more and more adult animations popping up on our favourite streaming platforms. Stay ‘tooned’ for more updates on all our upcoming projects!


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