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New White Paper Shows Adult Animation is More than Booming

According to veteran producer John Evershed, streamers and broadcasters have ordered more than 100 new series across different genres, an incredible 100% increase from a year ago.

“Adult animation has quietly replaced live-action sitcoms as young adult's preferred vehicle for consuming comedy,” notes veteran producer John Evershed in his just released “Adult Animation White Paper,” the follow-up to the first edition he published last spring. The new edition, sponsored by Toon Boom, is now available as a free download.

Evershed is the head of High Concentrate where he consults and advises studios, buyers, and creators on adult animation. He is currently EP'ing two upcoming adult animated series. As the former CEO of Mondo Media, he oversaw the company's adult-focused animation channel on VRV and generated over 6 billion views on YouTube. He has produced many popular animated series and films, including the multiple Annie Award-winning Happy Tree Friends (TV series and shorts), and Dick Figures: The Movie, winner of the Berlin Film Festival award for best animated movie for adults. Evershed also executive produced Gary and His Demons - currently airing on Syfy.

According to Evershed, in 2017, Rick and Morty surpassed Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory as the most watched comedy in all of television (broadcast, cable and the streamers). “If you do a Google search on current comedies, it will list shows like Reno 911, Schitt's Creek, and Modern Family. But, they're no longer in production. Do the same search for animated comedies and you’ll find a dozen or more current series like Rick and Morty, Bob's BurgersArcher that are still being produced.”

“In response to this trend,” he continues, “Comedy Central announced they were shifting their originals focus to adult animation, so they're rebooting Viacom shows like Ren & Stimpy, Beavis and Butthead and a Daria spinoff. When Comedy Central cancelled Tosh.O, their longest running series, to make room for the new animated reboots, Tosh jokingly said ‘I look forward to doing an animated reboot of my show on MTV in 25 years.’”

The new white paper greatly expands upon the foundational research presented in the first edition, looking deeper into areas such as genre diversification. “In addition to the popularity of comedy, audience (and buyer) appetites for more ambitious storytelling beyond comedy has jumped to a whole new level,” Evershed shares. “The sheer volume of upcoming ‘non-comedy genre series’ is virtually unprecedented. Today, there are only a handful of adult animated shows that are not comedies (shows like Undone, The Liberator and Castlevania come to mind). I am showing a virtual explosion of genre shows (not comedies) - including action, horror, sci-fi and fantasy. There are at least 20 of these upcoming non-comedy genre series including Dantai, an afro-futuristic sci-fi series EP'd by Idris Elba and his wife Sabrina; Cover, an espionage thriller; and Heaven's Forest, an epic drama from Powerhouse, the people who made Castlevania.”

Evershed also describes the influence of Japanese anime and the cultural significance of multiple generations that have grown up with comic books and video games, along with their expanded entertainment franchises across multiple platforms. “YouTube and Twitch are home to massive video game communities,” he says. “If you think about it, these are more inclusive experiences than traditional Hollywood. You actually enter these worlds in many cases. You play with your friends. You dress up as your favorite characters in cosplay. The old myth was that video game players are anti-social misfits holed up in their rooms. Today it's a communal experience. 66% of gamers are between the ages of 18 and 54. They're used to seeing animated video game cinematics. As a result, there's pent up demand for video gamers to see their favorite characters in linear story-telling formats. The natural linear format for video games is animation.”

“The trend of accepting that animation is not just for kids has been going on for a while but it's really accelerating,” he adds. “So much so, that we anticipate adult animated series will start to account for at least 10% of the premium drama spend (largest category for the streamers) or as much as $12 billion within the next 5 years.”

“The Adult Animation White Paper” highlights include:

  • QUANTITY OF UPCOMING ADULT ANIMATED SERIES DOUBLES. In the past year, the total number of upcoming adult animated TV series grew from 50 to 103.
  • ANIMATED COMEDY HAS UNOFFICIALLY REPLACED LIVE-ACTION SITCOMS. Young adults prefer animated comedy over live-action sitcoms. 
  • REBOOTS AND SPINOFFs from Good Times to Masters of the Universe comprise a disproportionately large crop of upcoming adult animated reboots and spinoffs. 
  • NON-COMEDY GENRE shows suddenly surge. In the past year there was only a handful - Undone (drama), Castlevania (horror) and Primal (action). Today there are over 20 new non-comedy series in production.
  • Japanese ANIME is in demand. Sony acquires Crunchyroll from WarnerMedia while Netflix and HBO Max continue to buy new anime at a rapid clip. The line between the Western and Japanese animation continues to blur. 
  • VIDEO GAMES exploded on the scene with 15 new video game IP-inspired series in production, up from 2 last year. Many of these adaptations will be produced as anime or in an anime style. 
  • THE STREAMERS, especially Netflix, are by far and away the most active buyers of adult animation, accounting for 50% of all new projects in development or production. 
  • NETFLIX is the most aggressive buyer in the adult animation space with 22 new series on order. FOX is the only major broadcast network actively airing adult animation. The channel continues to ramp up development and production of new series. 
  • CABLE’S APPETITE FOR ADULT ANIMATION CONTINUES TO GROW. Most cable channels targeting 18-34s with scripted programming have ordered at least one adult animated series. 
  • YOUNG ADULTS watch less traditional TV. In percentage terms, the amount of time 18-34-year-olds as a whole spent watching traditional TV in Q1 2020 dropped by about 15.3% from the previous year.
  • PACKAGING IS ESSENTIAL. Most buyers are looking for fully-formed packages with proven writers, artists, and voice talent leaving fewer opportunities for quirky, off-beat series.

As he did last year, Evershed, with Toon Boom’s support, is making the white paper available for download free of charge, hoping the information will encourage creators to consider using animation to tell stories they’d never previously considered feasible.  “Adult animation is booming in so many exciting ways,” he concludes. “There’s never been a better time for studios to consider animation for any of their storytelling development.”

Click here to download your free “Adult Animation White Paper.”

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.