Animation's No Child's Play AnymoreAnimation

Animation's No Child's Play Anymore

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Shake Off Those Ideas of Cartoons Being Just For Kids, They're Now The Rudest Comedies In Town. Cartoons were the staple diet of kids TV for so long. They still are now, but while before they were once only for the kiddies, now us grown ups are getting cartoons of our own. And no, not that kind, get your mind out of the gutter.

It's not completely sudden though. For Japanese audiences, animation has for years been the hub for some of their biggest, bravest and most controversial work. But while anime has tended to lean towards the serious and philosophical, western animation has been straight for the funny bone.

As with many things we know and love about modern TV, this was mostly down to The Simpsons. While a family show, it boasted writers such as Conan O'Brien and was aimed to get not just the kids, but everyone in the family. Even if that meant a bit of the ruder stuff for mum and dad every now and again.

That torch was taken up by Mike Judge, hopping on the MTV bandwagon with a little toon about a couple of losers called Beavis and Butthead. He then spearheaded the long running King of The Hill, a show about a middle-management Texan that simply just happened to be animated. Simply a drawn sitcom, King of The Hill managed to run quite happily for a decade until getting the axe eventually.

That slight grip on reality was soon to go though, thanks to South Park. Dreamed up by duo Trey Parker and Matt Stone and crudely animated as a love letter to Monty Python's cartoon interludes, this show follows the foul adventures of the four young boys in a small mountain town.

Well, that's how it started anyway, but the show has made the most of it's basic animation, taking the four boys from the depths of hell to space via a brief jaunt to the middle east to save Santa. South Park has even made being animated a bonus, with an incredibly swift production method making South Park always the first to the cultural or satirical punch.

Having opened the door, Seth Macfarlane and his team of writers positively jumped through it. In 2003 he launched Family Guy, a show dripping in bizzare pop culture references that split audiences like a marmite sandwich. Soon after American Dad and later The Cleveland Show followed from the Macfarlane brain trust, offering their own strands of bizarre humour. While the show's quality has dipped over the last couple of years, there is no underplaying of the impact Macfarlane has made, with the show has always been a forefront of controversy.

Those are the trademarks of animated comedy. Craziness and pushing barriers. Over the last few years, there has been an explosion of cartoons hoping to hop on this exact same market ranging from the incomprehensible insanity that is Aqua Teen Hunger Force to the giddily silly Harvey Birdman: Attorney Of Law.

The best and brightest of the new crowd though is undoubtedly Archer. Focused on the world's worst secret agency and their misogynist, drunken lead agent, Archer is easily one of comedey's brightest stars. Hilarious, ridiculous and never afraid to push the boundaries in every way it can, Archer is leading the cartoon charge.

These show's constant ability to surprise and innovate are an absolute stark contrast to the world of the steady sitcom. But animation's not just taking on the laws of sense and decency, with both the return of Futurama and the highly underrated Bobs Burgers offering those with weaker stomachs a properly good time.

While the UK's wrestled with the ideas of using cartoons of comedy, the frankly disturbing Monkey Dust being the most high profile attempt using traditional animation, the fantastic tales of Wallace and Gromit and the brilliant Mongrels have used alternative ways to make jokes without a real face over on screen.

Although still a growing genre, the adult animated comedy is showing more than enough creativity, guile and success to prove that it's not just a quick fad and something a whole lot more of us should be jumping on board with.

FemaleFirst: Cameron Smith 

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Liezel

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Liezel Vermeulen specialises in rebates and co-production status administration of new international animation shows. When not number-crunching, she indulges her passion for documentary films, further education, freelance writing and is a board member of Animation South Africa.