Recent Pop Culture trends are revealing a new generation of grown-ups that can’t let go of their favorite childhood indulgences. As a result, characters and cartoons originally created for a much younger market find a fan base with an entirely different set of needs and desires. Briteshiny talks a lot about the lack of products to meet the demand of this growing “Forever Young” adult market, but why did this generation get so attached in the first place? Popular Animation has existed for almost a century now, but in the last couple of decades it has become a more refined and respected medium for complex story writing, even while maintaining it’s G rating.
Keep in mind that we’re not talking about the often pedantic animated shows targeting the young adult crowd, but rather shows created for kids first and foremost.
The original Dark Knight
Serious, thought provoking animated series may have existed in the US prior to the 1992 release of Batman the Animated Series,but most people forgot about those other shows halfway through their first episode. It’s just that good. To appease the sensors Batman managers to keep the Arkham inmates inline without drawing any blood, but the dark depression era art style and somber soundtrack supply the necessary danger. I remember truly loving this show as a kid, but still revere it as an adult. So do a lot of other people, including the good folks behind the latest string of Batman Box office successes.
Following in it’s furious wake came Samurai Jack, Batman Beyond, and the Justice League series. Really, US created kids cartoons with a serious subplot are few and far between. I’m certain I missed a few though, please leave comments so I can check out your favorites!
In Japan, cartoons have been serious for much longer. Only in the 90′s did anime start to make accepted headway into children’s TV, with exceptions being made for highly edited versions of other shows like Speed Racer and Voltron. All of a sudden a vast explosion of REALLY passionate adult characters and themes were being worked into after school programming, to great success. Dragon Ball Z is memorable for it’s length, over dramatic plot lines, and lasting fan base. Over the next 20 years, US cartoons would continue to be influenced by their Eastern Cousins, creating an anime crossbreed with no cultural identity, and huge eyes.
Dragon Ball Z and it’s adjoining series are still going strong, even in America! If you are all grown up and don’t want to deal with all the recaps, Dragon Ball Z Kai is an abridged version, celebrating the epic battles without all the plot summaries.
Sometimes, a kids show is really just a kids show. Or sometimes it’s extra awesome, like Adventure Time. There is no doubt that the writers and producers know just how much fun the grown ups are having when this show comes on. Still, it is pretty kid friendly, and what might be deemed inappropriate should fly right over their heads. What used to be a happy accident in childrens programming is now happening on purpose, and shows like Sponge Bob Square Pants, the Power Puff Girls, and Fairly Odd Parents, all supply kiddo distraction with a sly wink and a nod to any passing grownups. Maybe one day we’ll start seeing grown-up products to follow that wink, I think we’re all mature enough to admit that all we really want in life is more toys!