The tone of adult animation has been slowly shifting in the last few years. The rise of digital streaming has brought the media to a new golden age of raunchiness and dark humour. Even still, relatively youthful streaming source, Hulu, is leading the charge to take adult animation to new heights.
Hulu took centre stage at this year’s USC Comedy Festival, with a whole day of panels. But at the top of the docket for most fans was the chance to hear from the creators behind some of the service’s best content.
The Spotlight on Hulu’s Adult Animation panel brought together creators from hit shows Crossing Swords and Solar Opposites, as well as the upcoming Marvel-based series, M.O.D.O.K.
Representing everyone’s favourite wooden knights were Tom Root and John Harvatine IV. Josh Bycel and Mike McMahan came to discuss the aliens with things living in their walls. And with a month to go before its premiere, Patton Oswalt and Jordan Blum continue their promotion of M.O.D.O.K.
The guests have a combined resume of some of the greatest animations to hit television from Rick and Morty to Robot Chicken. For the USC Comedy Festival, which focuses much of its efforts on educating the next generation of film and television writers, this panel brought a substantial amount of value.
As such, comedic writing and plotting for animation was a main theme of the discussion. For fans, this gives some great insight into the creative minds behind the beaming brand of humour. In particular, is the inspiration that these talented writers gain from the cartoons that they watched as children. Oswalt makes strong points of how the old animations were always directed at adults. Adult animation today keeps that theme alive of not talking down to their audience. Additionally, some references can be played with that are not possible in other media formats.
Each of these three programs introduces an unconventional family, which is a step away from the FOX style animations that dominated much of the 90s. Solar Opposites introduces (sort of) homosexual parental figures. M.O.D.O.K. will split up the family in the first episode. This new design of the family stereotype is much more aligned with the way the world is today. Plus, it leaves the doors open for new brands of humour unseen on television.
One thing that all the creators agreed on is the form of humour that comes naturally from adult animation, fast. They admit to cutting beats and breaths and even speeding up voice tracks to help build the momentum of the comedy. While it is useful when trying to fit a story inside of a 22-minute episode timeslot, it also helps to drive the laughs.
These are three very unique shows. One takes place in a fantasy world, another is a suburban premise with aliens, and the newest addition shows the vulnerability of a supervillain. They all play by their own rules. But all these creative minds find a connection with their approach to writing thanks to animation. The basis of having an open universe to explore sets the media far apart from the limitations of live-action.
Hulu may be new to the adult animation scene, but it is driving things forward at a breakneck pace. Each of these young series are breaking the mould while offering unique premises. It will not be long until Hulu is setting the pace for other services to catch up to. And we have not even seen what M.O.D.O.K. is going to bring to the table yet.