When the first generation of ‘90s rude cartoons hit the air, burping and farting their way into our hearts, no one suspected that cartoons could be capable of much more. It took a few good cracks at the genre to gain traction but a few good shows would become prototypes for cartoons in need of parental disapproval.
The Simpsons was a long-running commentary on popular culture but in a format that could pull off visual gags and characters that became global icons. Cartoons like Rocko’s Modern Life and Ren and Stimpy questioned the maturity of the content they could pull off as showrunners risked their jobs for some jarringly dark story arcs and crude innuendo. These shows among many others would lay the groundwork for mature cartoons and inadvertently inspire an entire generation of kids with ADHD, pencils and too much time on their hands to make the next generation of mature cartoons and completely disregard animation’s kiddie connotation. At the time, they seemed little more than your typical fart jokes, but as fate would have it, these would be the fart jokes that shook the world.
In the midst of formulaic reality TV, overused tropes, watered-down writing and failed TV adaptations, cartoons have become a bastion of creativity for artists, writers and actors alike. The freedom that cartoons provide has been a godsend to TV and, sadly, the Kardashians can only do so much for US television. Animation gives creative teams free rein over reality, making them the medium of choice for talent itching for a new lease on the tired television series. The climate is just right as things have reached critical mass. Actors, producers and distributors alike are scooping these shows up like ice cream after a stressful day. These five shows bring together otherworldly concepts tied in with the grimness of life in a fun animated package.
This situation has been played out by Oscar bait movies and indie directors for years: a washed-up ‘90s sitcom star struggles with regaining the limelight — but this time, he’s an anthropomorphic horse-man. Watch the animal and human denizens of an alternate reality Hollywood pop pills, avoid paparazzi and keep their unparalleled narcissism in check. It’s the social celebrity car crash we would all unashamedly pay to see. The surprisingly dark and realistic character development pushes irony to new heights by showing us how human a cartoon horse can be. Will Arnett and Aaron Paul voice the main protagonists as well as co-produce the show. Also on the bill is a surprising cast of guest voices such as Patton Oswalt, Olivia Wilde, J.K. Simmons, Stanley Tucci and Naomi Watts.
The ‘80s almost seem like a made-up era with neon lights, deep bassy electronic music, an over-devotion to form over function and hairstyles that look more like sculptures than hair. Moonbeam City celebrates the iconic absurdities of the era with what is essentially an animated world based on the art of Patrick Nagel in a fluorescent city of the future as dictated by the ‘80s. Think the art design of Duran Duran’s Riovideo animated as a satire of Miami Vice and the popular cop shows of its era. Rob Lowe is finally at the helm, lending his voice to detective Dazzle Novak, the meat-headed protagonist, along with Elizabeth Banks, Kate Mara and Will Forte. The show premieres Sept. 16.
Rick and Morty
Rick and Morty lays out like a twisted version of The Doc and Marty from Back to the Future. It answers all those twisted hypothetical sci-fi questions you’ve always had brewing in the deepest corners of your mind. Like: Is it ethical to make a brainwashing love serum? How would a civilization with the genders completely separated operate? Irreverent and intelligent, this is a show that is smart enough to use the infinite universe postulate as a plot device but not above peppering it with dick jokes every now and then. The show is co-created by Community creator Dan Harmon along with Justin Roiland, the man behind the voice of Adventure Time’s notorious Earl of Lemongrab.
Almost like a tribute to New York’s diversity,Ugly Americans takes a look at paranormal creatures through the eyes of government employees tasked to shuffle their papers. Issuing feeding license to vampires and helping werewolves get through their time of the month are part of the daily grind when working at the Department of Integration. The show follows the exploits of tough-as-marshmallows government employee Mark Lily as he deals with paranormal misfits, his incompetent wizard co-worker, and dating Satan’s daughter. The show was the brainchild of former Simpsons writer David Stern and lasted for two seasons from 2010 to 2012.