Adult animated TV shows have been around for a while, but it’s surprising to find out how far back they go.
The writers at Film School Rejects have a great article on the topic of our favorite television genre. Here is a short excerpt about the history of cartoons for adults.
Going way back to the 1920’s and 30’s, there had been adult-like cartoons in films. Disney, for example, had a few mildly risque shorts that dealt with themes of alcohol and prohibition, as well as some sexuality. According to a book titled “Forbidden Animation,” by Karl Cohen, there were various Disney shorts that made gags out of the female animals’ underpants (10). There was also Betty Boop, who stood as a cartoon sex symbol in the early 30’s during her debut in Talkartoons. She did not appear on television until around 1955. Her role, as well as the role of many other cartoon characters during the 30’s, had to be tamed down once the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 also known as the “Hays Code” came into play and began to censor what went through films. While we’re mentioning adult animated movies though, perhaps one the most notorious from the genre is Fritz the Cat which was an animated film released in 1972 in which adult themes were so prominent that it became the first “X-rated” American animated movie.
Aside from these films, however, defining adult in the case of relatively modern animated TV pertains more to stories that deal with adult themes and situations, use explicit language, and make jokes that adults and sometimes teens are more likely to understand. Animated adult shows typically run later in the evening when it is more likely that adults will be watching television, with the exception of re-runs. Therefore, when saying adult, in this case, the label “adult” is not synonymous with “dirty” or “pornographic” but rather just refers to programs that are overall directed toward an older age group.
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