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An in-depth look at the development of adult animation

Adult animation, especially series, is growing and becoming more diverse than ever. If you've been following the animation industry over the last few years, you'd agree. And now, it's been reinforced by experts “Adult animation is growing the fastest, with the most growth gaps,” said John Evershed, co-founder and former CEO of Mondo Media. Therefore, to keep up with current trends, let's learn about the development of adult animation and the prospects for this genre.

The early days of adult animation

The misconceptions about adult animation

Since the early days, animation aimed at adults has always had controversies and misconceptions about its target audience. Let's take a look at them here.

Animated films in their early days back in the 1920s to 1930s were actually invented and produced mainly for adult audiences. The concept of an animated film made for children didn't even exist at the time. The reason is that at that time movies were only shown in cinemas in the evening after 9 o'clock, which was bedtime for children, so going to the movies was an activity only for adults.

A good example is Betty Boop, who became a cartoon sex icon upon her debut in Talkartoons in the early 1930s. However, like many other adult animated characters throughout the 1930s, her role was curtailed when the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 came into effect and began to control what was shown in movies. Therefore, she didn’t make an appearance on television until around 1955.

adult animation - The misconceptions about adult animation
Adult Animation - Betty Boop (Source: JSTOR Daily)

Fritz the Cat was the first animated film to earn an “X rating,” which is basically just a pornographic film. Fritz the Cat is more than simply porn. The film has only a small amount of nudity. It is, nevertheless, a striking satire of the 1960s excesses, including sex, drug usage, race relations, and politics.

adult animation - The misconceptions about adult animation
“Fritz the Cat” was the first animated film to earn an “X rating” (Source: Cinema2cinema)

All other cartoons were popular mainly for adults until Disney made Snow White with the exclusive intention of aiming it at children. In general, animation for children at that time was a very new concept except for Disney movies and a few others. Only when television was made popular in the 50s that animation for children became more widely accepted as the norm. However, these films still contained adult elements because there was no clear age classification yet. Only later on when religious groups and government officials started showing concerns about exposing children to content with adult ideas that censoring systems were born to split animation into different genres.

adult animation - The misconceptions about adult animation
Snow White - the first Disney’s animated film directed for children (Source: Den of Geek)

The Simpsons stemmed an entirely new era of animated TV for adults

However, all that has changed since The Simpsons came out. It was the first hugely popular adult animated series. Although nudity, suicide, vulgarity, and practically every vice imaginable have all been addressed humorously on The Simpsons, the show is still popular amongst families.

adult animation - The Simpsons stemmed an entirely new era of animated TV for adults
“The Simpsons” stemmed an entirely new era of animated TV for adults (Source: Genk)

As a result, The Simpsons spawned a new era of animation production on TV. The 1990s were essentially the genre's debut era, and they undoubtedly helped set the way for all that followed years later.

The adult animation channel

The first cartoon channel was Cartoon Network, which showed mainly Hanna Barbera’s old adult animated series from the 1950s-1960s like The Flinstones, The Jetsons, and so on. The channel then became the most popular source for children’s entertainment on TV.

adult animation - The adult animation channel
Cartoon Network - the first animation channel (Source: Internet)

The introduction of Adult Swim was one of the most significant breakthroughs in the American adult animation scene. Adult Swim, which debuted in 2001, was a program that specialized in showing Cartoon Network's oriented shows after 9 pm to separate them from daytime children's content. However, in 2005, it became a separate channel.

Adult Swim has since been home for several popular original adult animated shows such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Robot Chicken and or more recently "Venture Bros" and "Rick and Morty".

adult animation - The adult animation channel
Adult Swim - the very first channel for adult animation (Source: Megazap)

To be specific, Adult Swim, like The Simpsons, is a crucial player in supplying this genre with a direct audience and fan base. By showing shows like The Shivering Truth, Adult Swim has also served as an experimental platform for adult animation. It has even been a type of salvation for occasions such as Samurai Jack.

In addition to adult animated series, mockumentaries, sketch comedy, and pilots have been regularly broadcast on Adult Swim. The shows are noted for their sexual themes, explicit language, nudity, and violence. Many of its programs have an experimental, transgressive, improvisational, and surrealist style. Besides, Adult Swim has partnered with several studios known for their work in bizarre and shock comedy.

Adult Swim, like Cartoon Network, has a cumulative reach of 94 million American households through multiple services as of March 2021.

The future of adult animation

Today, other platforms have begun to produce their ORIGINAL animated adult comedies, such as FX's Archer and Netflix's BoJack Horseman, both of which have gained critical praise and treaded the line between drama and comedy. With newer shows like Bob's Burgers, Fox has maintained its position as a leading network for adult animated comedy.

Besides, With 22 new series on the way, Netflix is the most aggressive buyer in the adult animation industry, while FOX is the only major broadcast network that now shows animated series. Significantly, these channels’ development and production of new shows continue to accelerate.

adult animation - The future of adult animation
Adult animation on Netflix (Source: Metro)

Above all, the development of adult cartoons doesn’t seem to slow down. Cable’s network for adult animation is expanding. Most scripted cable networks targeting 18-34-year-olds have ordered at least one adult animated series. American Adult Animation has always been associated with the comedy genre, but things are slowly changing, with nearly half of the upcoming productions in other genres. From horror to musicals, everything is becoming more prevalent.

adult animation - The future of adult animation
Castlevania on Netflix (Source: Ps4wallpapers)

Overall, animation for adults is really picking up speed. So that we expect adult animated programs to account for at least 10% of the premium drama spend, or up to $12 billion, over the next five years. (As seasoned producer John Evershed points out).

DeeDee Animation Studio’s animated series for adults

If you are looking for a reliable animation studio that produces quality adult content, then DeeDee Animation Studio is the perfect choice for you. Deedee has created several animated series and films for adults that have entertaining values and pose challenging ideas and concepts for the past five years.

For example, in 2019, “General, please mind your manners” - a short comedic animated film inspired by real historical events has achieved a tremendous amount of shares and views online. Released on the first day of the Lunar New Year, after only 48 hours, the video had gained nearly 100,000 likes. Also with more than 4,400 shares on Facebook, it was one of the most exciting and viral videos on the 2019 Tet Holiday, pushing DeeDee to the forefront of the animation scenes on the internet.

adult animation - DeeDee Animation Studio’s animated series for adults
General, please mind your manners

Also, in 2019, "Broken Being: Prequel" is the first high-quality "made-in-Vietnam" sci-fi animated film aimed at adults which brought DeeDee’s reputation around the world. It came from an original sci-fi concept for a series that had been in development among studio founders years ago. This film achieved international recognitions such as the Best 2D Film Award at Khem Animation Film Festival (USA), Finalist at Montreal International Animation Film Festival - Animaze (Canada), Semi-finalist at FILMSshort Online Film Festival; and officially featured at several international award ceremonies.

adult animation - DeeDee Animation Studio’s animated series for adults
Broken Being: Prequel

Other than that, DeeDee has also produced many other adult animated cartoons that have brought joy to audiences, especially in Vietnam, such as Loving Kieu, The Hero.


Overall, animated films were originally intended for adults in the first place. Up to now, along with the development of children’s films, adult animation has huge potentials for thriving. There is a huge demand for them on major networks and smaller channels alike.

Besides, if you are looking for a studio that’s more than excited about producing adult animated content, consider DeeDee. With the experience and some success that we have gained over the years, DeeDee Animation Studio definitely will not let you down.

We hope this article will help you have a better understanding of adult animation. And if this is something you’re interested in, don’t hesitate to dive in!

References:, A brief history of cartoons for adults, How we got to sausage party: A history of adult animation

Toon, Adult animation white paper


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