Nearly ten years ago, San Diego Comic-Con 2010 laid waste to a crowd that was still getting warmed up to the superhero genre making it’s way into feature film. Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy hadn’t concluded just yet, The Avengers had JUST debuted, and most of the panels still featured live-action comedy movies and showcases from distributors who were wondering whether or not they should jump into superheroes and go from there. Over the next ten years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe would go from a fledgling operation to an empire thereby making people we didn’t even know about 10 years ago, like Sebastian Stan, Tom Holland, and Chadwick Boseman into verifiable and bankable stars. Adult animation? As if. This was 2010 and your choices were Seth MacFarlane, South Park, The Simpsons, and Adult Swim. If you did have a new animated series premiering, it was on television, and public relations departments seldom spent any money, if at all, at any large-scale events in which to promote their series. The year 2010 would be a graveyard year for adult animation in terms of getting any new franchises to see any long-term success. Comedy Central continued to struggle to find a companion series for South Park, FX didn’t even know what it had yet with Archer which had just wrapped it’s first season to so-so ratings, and we certainly didn’t have the gamut of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu to help. A year later, I would break ground on the formation of Bubbleblabber for the sole reason to figure out when Family Guy and The Simpsons were on and what the hell they were doing as FOX would constantly interrupt their schedules with NASCAR, MLB, and NFL coverage, all of which I didn’t care as much about.
Fast forward to San Diego Comic-Con 2019 and all of a sudden my decision to start a publication only focusing on adult animation several years ago doesn’t look silly now does it? The nostalgic franchises had some of the Con’s biggest news came from the likes of producers for both The Simpsons and Family Guy teasing fans back and forth as to when feature films will be released with Matt Groening (The Simpsons) saying it’s gonna happen even if it kills his producers (that and another Futurama tease update are yearly traditions at panels for The Simpsons) and Seth MacFarlane a long’s way away from any substantial updates. How ’bout this, a FILLED panel celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Home Movies, a series that hasn’t had a new episode in 15 years getting as rabid a crowd as anything The Walking Dead did this go. And even Kevin Smith appeared to more than tease the possibility of a Clerks: The Animated Series revival announcement happening before the end of the year after fans, most of whom certainly could not have remembered the two weeks in which ABC premiered the primetime series back in 1999, were delighted as hell to hear.
By far though, it was new intellectual property that may have stolen a lot of con-goers’ air. All of a sudden a possible new heir to the Seth MacFarlane throne by way of producer Mike McMahan having THREE series to showcase–Star Trek: Lower Decks, Solar Opposites, and Rick and Morty. And yes Rick and Morty was there, and season four looks strong and both panels (one at the con and the other at “on the Green”) were fun if not standard fair for the Emmy-winning franchise. However, it’s Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal that had stunned viewing audiences, an important pivotal moment in a future for adult animation that’s begging for diversification in every way possible.
Are the streaming wars heating up? Yes. WarnerMedia is teasing new contributions from strong franchises that the newly formed company now owns like DC Entertainment which is looking to build on the success of the return of Young Justice: Outsiders with a fourth ordered season and a Harley Quinn animated series that likes to say “fuck” a lot (fine by us). Netflix’s presence was small, but slowly growing, featuring a stellar reveal for Seis Manos and a jaw-dropping new announcement with Sturgill Simpson’s upcoming feature-length. Amazon’s Undone, while not the first rotoscope-animated effort we’ve seen at Comic-Con, showcased a clear discernible difference in the type of intellectual properties that the one-time online book store wants to take part in instead of trying to compete with Netflix in the areas of anime or animated comedies, both of which they’ve already been crushed on. And Disney+ teased a 2021 What If? series that will see the return of MCU’s biggest stars reprising their roles in animated alternate universes that will hopefully see Disney Television Animation take their Marvel properties more seriously and stop force feeding us with horseshit efforts.
As we look back on Comic-Con 2019, I can’t help but draw parallels between the ascent of the comics-cinematic universes and what we’re seeing right now in the adult animation industry. It’s growing and diversifying and has a bright future. Apple+ (Central Park), WarnerMedia (Gremlins coming in 2021), Facebook Watch (are you guys watching Human Discoveries? You should…), Snapchat, Netflix, and Amazon (Invincibles) all have new properties coming the next year or so and even television is looking to take more stabs which was certainly showcased in Primal and appears to be a focus for FOX with new efforts like Bless the Harts, The Great North, and Duncanville all on tap. TBS’ Stranger Times is currently in pre-production and the network has an additional season of American Dad on the way. And networks like truTV (This Functional Family), Syfy, FX (hey, another season of Archer!), and Comedy Central are all swearing that they are gonna get their acts together and get some new series ordered. And while anime certainly is never the focus at Comic-Con, it was this time around and for more important reasons than the My Hero Academia Season Four trailer.
So, don’t worry about if The Simpsons or Family Guy are going to release feature films…they will. Enjoy animated television which is getting ready to destroy your weekend plans for the foreseeable future.