In the U.S., some of the most successful animated series of the last 40 years have been in the adult sphere. Shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Rick & Morty have set examples for American animation houses to follow, something that’s less prevalent in Europe. Recently, though, a new wave of European animated series creators have been making inroads in the adult animation space. CartoonBrew spoke to several of the creators leading the charge about the advantages of creating series for adults as well as the challenges it presents.

Aesthetic Risktaking

For Nexus Studios collaboration with Disney+, Laurie Rowan and Sean McLoughlin (who co-created the comedy series Pleasure Beach), explained that creating shows for adults can be technically liberating. Highlighting that this show intends to communicate the feeling of being “depressed in a fun place.” Tradition would dictate that the show be animated as a 2d sitcom, the way the classics of the adult arena often are. But Rowan’s real-time cg approach demonstrates a desire to change what adult animation can be in the modern day. “We realized that we didn’t necessarily have to fit that mold. It’s not staged in the same way as what we’re familiar with 2d animated sitcoms. We want to do well to be very tactile, and we want things to feel weighted.”

Adult series often allow their artists to craft stories that couldn’t be told in any other medium. That takes bravery in an industry where finding work can be so difficult. “Think about The Simpsons. If you read about how that show went on the air, how much of a battle it was, and how much of an enormous gamble it was viewed as. Even in the writers’ room, they all said there’s no way this show will work or people will watch it,” said Pleasure Beach’s Sean McLoughlin. “But that just kicked the door down for an entire cottage industry over in the States. You just hope or assume that, at some point, something like that will happen here.”

Audience Demand

Regarding audience demand, Nexus Studios Co-Founder and CEO, Charlotte Bavasso, noted that just as Europe sells kids’ shows internationally, America is the great exporter of adult animated programming, and that has created the current paradigm. “The size of the audience they manage in the U.S. is brought naturally by the size of the territory, but they also managed to garner a bigger audience from a couple of shows that worked really well,” she explained, crediting the most popular U.S. series for having a disproportionately large impact on audiences’ taste. “Europe was buying these shows, so your viewers were watching South Park and all this stuff,” she added.

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