Adult animation, also known as mature animation, and infrequently as adult-oriented animation, is any type of animated motion work that is catered specifically to adult interests and is mainly targeted and marketed towards adults and adolescents, as opposed to children or all-ages audiences.

Characteristics and themes

Animated works (includes animated films, television series, and web series) in this medium could be considered adult for any number of reasons, which include the incorporation of toilet humor, nudity, sexual content (either explicit or suggestive), graphic violence, profanity, dark comedy, political themes, or other thematic elements inappropriate for children and/or younger viewers. Works in this genre may explore philosophical, political, or social issues.[1]

Some animated productions are noted for their complex and/or experimental storytelling and animation techniques, the latter with many distinct styles have defined such unique artistry.[1]


Adult animation is typically defined as animation that skews toward adults.[2][3][4][5] It is also described as something that "formative youths should stay far, far away from"[6] or has adult humor[7][8] and comes in various styles,[9][10][11][12] but especially sitcoms and comedies.[13] Some have stated that it refers to animations with "adult themes and situations", which uses "explicit language" and make jokes that adults, and occasionally teens, are "more likely to understand" than others.[14] On television, such animations often run in the evening, but they are not generally pornographic or obscene.[15][16] AdWeek called adult animation "animated projects aimed at grown-ups, not kids."[17] They also focus on issues that adults handle,[18] and have cheeky, and occasionally crass, humor "that has no limits—bouncing between funny and offensive," while evoking a "balance of reality and fantasy". They may also contain violence or sexual themes.[19][20]


Main article: Adult animation in countries

Wax statues of the main protagonists in The Simpsons, one of the most famous and recognizable animated series for adults

International animators and filmmakers were among the notables of adult animation works:[21][22]

Channels, segments and blocks

Some television channels and their segments or blocks that focused on broadcasting adult animation:


Several highly-acclaimed adult animated films and television series were immensely recognized by international organizations and critics. They influenced animators and filmmakers over the course of the late-20th century and the to 21st century, catering such important artistic and narrative structures with mature subject matter.[21]

Conversely, several works have been largely ignored by many detractors for their depiction of graphic subject matter and sensitive topics, such as violence, race, gender, and sexuality. They still show a bias towards live-action and raunchy animated sitcoms, compared to early pioneers. However, the result is a new audience that is ready for narratively-sophisticated adult animated works and a new crop of creators exploring the adult animation space. This development allows creators to continue challenging the perceived limitations of animation.[23]

Many animators and adult animation fans, both international and non-Disney respectively, boycotted the Academy over remarking that animation was synonymous with "kids" during the 94th Academy Awards in 2022. The award for the Best Animated Feature was presented by three actresses who portrayed the Disney princess characters in live-action remakes of their respective animated films: Lily James (Cinderella), Naomi Scott (Aladdin), and Halle Bailey (The Little Mermaid). While introducing the category, Bailey stated that animated films are "formative experiences as kids who watch them," as James put it, "So many kids watch these movies over and over, over and over again." Scott added: "I see some parents who know exactly what we're talking about."[24]

The remarks sparked controversy and triggered most employees and filmmakers working in the animation industry as infantilizing the medium and perpetuating the stigma that animated works are strictly for children, especially since the industry was credited with sustaining the flow of Hollywood content and revenue during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. An addition to the controversy was that the award for Best Animated Short Film (the nominees for which were mostly made up of shorts not aimed at children) was one of the eight categories that were omitted in the live broadcast; some speculations suggested that the speech played a role in the decision to not broadcast the award.[24][25] The winner for the Best Animated Short award was The Windshield Wiper, a multilingual Spanish-American film which is considered adult animated,[26] while another nominee in three categories: Best Animated Feature, Best Documentary Feature Film, and Best International Feature Film, was Flee, a PG-13 rated animated documentary about an Afghan refugee.

Phil Lord, co-producer of one of the nominated films, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, tweeted that it was "super cool to position animation as something that kids watch and adults have to endure." The film's official social media account responded to the joke with an image reading: "Animation is cinema."[27][28] A week later, Lord and his producing partner Christopher Miller wrote a guest column in Variety criticizing the Academy for the remark and how Hollywood has been treating animation. The column commented that "no one set out to diminish animated films, but it's high time we set out to elevate them." Alberto Mielgo, director of The Windshield Wiper, later gave an acceptance speech for the Oscar: "Animation is an art that includes every single art that you can imagine. Animation for adults is a fact. It's happening. Let's call it cinema. I'm very honored because this is just the beginning of what we can do with animation."[25] They also suggested to the Academy that the category should be presented by filmmakers who respect the art of animation as cinema.[29]

Another factor is that numerous animated films have been made for older audiences or with ranges of PG-13 or more, for those including South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, The Triplets of Belleville, Persepolis, Waltz with Bashir, Chico and Rita, The Wind Rises, Anomalisa, My Life as a Courgette, The Breadwinner, Loving Vincent, Isle of Dogs, I Lost My Body, and Flee. Most of them were nominated in various categories, though none have won until The Boy and the Heron, officially rated PG-13 by the MPA. For the 22-year history since the inauguration, it became the first adult animated film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 96th Academy Awards; all the previous winners were either rated G or PG.[30]

See also


  1. ^ a b Martinez, Sam (5 March 2024). "Adult animation: An ever-changing industry". The Butler - Collegian. Retrieved 5 April 2024.
  2. ^ Motamayor, Rafael (10 March 2020). "11 Adult Animation Shows We Can't Wait to See in 2020". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 3 October 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  3. ^ Vargas, Alani (1 October 2018). "7 Animated TV Shows On Netflix That Adults Will Absolutely Love". Bustle. Archived from the original on 10 November 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  4. ^ Jaworski, Michelle; Riese, Monica; Weber, Sarah (10 January 2019). "The 17 best cartoons for adults". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  5. ^ Collider Staff (21 April 2020). "The 25 Best Cartoons for Adults Streaming Right Now". Collider. Archived from the original on 4 October 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  6. ^ Fowler, Matt (25 March 2019). "The 25 Best Adult Cartoon TV Series". IGN. Archived from the original on 13 November 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  7. ^ Krell, Jason (8 April 2014). "Why Saying Animation Is Only For Kids Is Bullshit". Gizmodo. Archived from the original on 31 May 2019. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  8. ^ Laux, Cameron (27 November 2019). "Is Japanese Anime Going Mainstream?". BBC. Archived from the original on 20 May 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  9. ^ Baron, Reuben (23 December 2019). "Adult Animation Is Better Than Ever - So Why Does It Draw Ridicule?". CBR. Archived from the original on 23 December 2019. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  10. ^ Barrett, Duncan (2 November 2020). "Animation nation: how Covid fuelled the rise of adult cartoons". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 20 November 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  11. ^ Sarto, Dan (19 March 2020). "What Future Lies in Store for Non-Comedy Adult Animation?". Animation World Network. Archived from the original on 10 November 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  12. ^ Silliman, Brian (2 November 2019). "SYFY drawing in more animation with a midnight-ish block of adult genre fun". SYFY. Archived from the original on 26 October 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  13. ^ Sanderson, Katherine (30 June 2020). "The Future of Adult Animation (With and Without Comedy)". Animation Ave. Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  14. ^ Mokry, Natalie (15 July 2017). "A Brief History of Cartoons for Adults". Film School Rejects. Archived from the original on 14 August 2019. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  15. ^ Kunkel III, Earl Monroe (2009). Why ARE people laughing at rape? American adult animation and Adult Swim: Aqua Teen Hunger Force as contemporary humour (Masters). Lehigh University. pp. 5–6, 9. ProQuest 304916287. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  16. ^ Mak, Phillip (10 July 2020). "Why is everybody talking about adult animation?". Toon Boom Animation. Archived from the original on 30 August 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  17. ^ Sutton, Kelsey (12 April 2020). "How Adult Animation Became the Hottest Genre for Streaming Services". AdWeek. Archived from the original on 26 April 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  18. ^ "Advertising Embraces Adult Animation's Existential Turn". LBB Online. 12 March 2020. Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  19. ^ Habib, Ayesha (20 May 2020). "Why Adult Animation Shows Like Netflix's Midnight Gospel Are the Perfect Form of Escapism Right Now". Nuvo Magazine. Archived from the original on 10 August 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  20. ^ Heckleton, Jeff (27 October 2017). "The Double-Edged Stigma Faced By Western Animation". The Artifice. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  21. ^ a b "The Rise Of Adult Animation: A Mature Take On Cartoons". Toons Magazine. 26 January 2024. Archived from the original on 26 January 2024. Retrieved 18 March 2024.
  22. ^ 10 Worst Adult Animated Shows -
  23. ^ "Let's Get Animated: Reaching the Adult Animation Audience". Disney Advertising Insights. Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution. 21 March 2023. Archived from the original on 2 March 2024. Retrieved 18 March 2024.
  24. ^ a b "Wake Up, Oscars: Animation isn't just for kids". Mashable. 28 March 2022. Archived from the original on 12 March 2024.
  25. ^ a b "During The Biggest Oscar Trainwreck In History, 'Encanto' And 'The Windshield Wiper' Won Oscars (Commentary)". Cartoon Brew. 28 March 2022. Archived from the original on 5 February 2024. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  26. ^ Arthouse Advisory: This year’s Oscar-nominated animated films are creative and compelling, but also are for adult eyes - TheBurg
  27. ^ Fuster, Jeremy (27 March 2022). "Phil Lord and Hollywood's Animators Slam Oscars for 'Belittling' Animation Categories". TheWrap. Archived from the original on 15 January 2024. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  28. ^ Amidi, Amid (28 March 2022). "'The Mitchells Vs. The Machines' Twitter Account Reacts To The Academy's Disrespect Of Animation". Cartoon Brew. Archived from the original on 28 March 2023. Retrieved 18 March 2024.
  29. ^ Lord, Phil; Miller, Chris (6 April 2022). "Phil Lord and Chris Miller: Hollywood Should Elevate, Not Diminish Animation (Guest Column)". Variety. Archived from the original on 26 September 2023. Retrieved 6 April 2022.
  30. ^ Amidi, Amid (11 March 2024). "'Boy And The Heron' Is The First Hand-Drawn Animated Feature To Win Oscar In 21 Years". Cartoon Brew. Archived from the original on 12 March 2024. Retrieved 18 March 2024.