This claim won’t surprise anyone who’s been observing the industry in recent years. But it is now backed up by a comprehensive new white paper, “Adult Animation Finally Breaking Free of its Comedy Shackles.”
Written by John Evershed, co-founder and former CEO of Mondo Media, the paper maps the scene in two dozen pages of stats, quotes, and other materials. Evershed focuses mostly on North American shows that are currently airing or in development/production. He concludes that “adult animation is arguably the fastest-growing animation category with the most headroom for growth.”
The full document can be downloaded for free from Evershed’s website (it’s free but requires sign-up).
Here are five takeaways:
- The boom in adult animation is being driven primarily (but not exclusively) by streaming platforms. The paper identifies streamers Netflix, Hulu, and Quibi as the biggest buyers for upcoming adult animated tv series (learn more in our ultimate guide to streaming animation). But many linear buyers — both new entrants like Syfy’s TZGZ block and established players like Fox — are also fueling the growth.
- Cable is losing viewers. The young adults (18–34) that this animation targets are increasingly turning to SVODs, but also Youtube and gaming. The paper proposes that video game spin-offs could prove an important ancillary business around adult animation, which typically opens up fewer merchandise opportunities than kids’ animation. Netflix’s Castlevania (image at top), for instance, is based on a game property.
- The scene is expanding beyond comedy. Sitcoms and irreverent comedies have long been the staple of adult animation, but almost half of upcoming series belong to other genres. Everything from horror to musical is becoming more popular; Hulu is greenlighting multiple superhero series from Marvel Animation.
- This could help adult animation expand globally. In contrast to kids’ animation, which is truly global, English-speaking markets still dominate the adult market. But non-comedy shows are less culturally specific and therefore, in principle, easier to export.
- There’s a shortage of talent. And office space. Producers are struggling to meet the sheer demand for adult animation, and the trend for major buyers to sign exclusive deals with creators/studios is exacerbating the shortage as far as other buyers are concerned. At least, this is true of L.A. The paper argues that this creates an opportunity for producers elsewhere.