Cartoons that are a middle ground between being for kids and being for adults?

Chronic Insomniac

New Member
Joined
Feb 21, 2022
Messages
7
Location
New Jersey
What are some western cartoons (old or recent) that are a compromise between being for kids and adults in terms of the target audience and maturity of content? One example I can think of is early Regular Show, which was a step up from most cartoon network shows at the time but still tamer than most of Adult Swim. I know tamer adult cartoons are often watched by younger audiences and mature, well written kids cartoons can be enjoyed by older audiences, but are there any others where the prime target audience is about 12-14ish?
 

Peter Paltridge

RUN!
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Sep 24, 2003
Messages
38,136
Location
Stars Hollow
I don't understand why there aren't more of them. The most successful cartoons of all time have had cross-generational appeal. The Simpsons, for example, is clean enough for kids but risque enough for adults, and so both latched onto it and made it a mega-success. Most everything that followed in its wake did not figure this trick out; an "adult" cartoon had to be for "adults" period, limiting its audience size.

To this day, most animated shows are created either strictly for kids or strictly for adults. My only explanation is that businessmen are obsessed with "demographics" and can't figure out anything that doesn't fit a specific box. Their blindness is their loss.
 

Mr HooPoe

What do I feed the children? Lengthy sermons!
Joined
Oct 9, 2017
Messages
177
I always assumed there were plenty of such shows, just confined to niches that are less age-based than genre based. Hearing about a new kiddie or adult cartoon gives you an idea of what to expect in terms of content, even if they are either tamer or more explicit than one would expect. Hearing about a cartoon in terms of genre, such as an action or fantasy series, seems an attempt to bridge the age gap.

The most successful cartoons of all time have had cross-generational appeal. The Simpsons, for example, is clean enough for kids but risque enough for adults, and so both latched onto it and made it a mega-success. Most everything that followed in its wake did not figure this trick out; an "adult" cartoon had to be for "adults" period, limiting its audience size.

The Simpsons was a real sensation in its own right, the kind of show that could become popular because it subverted family sitcoms in such major ways and entered risque territory. (Although at the time The Simpsons was considered fairly edgy, such that deciding how it blurred the age gap is rather divisive even if it comes across as tame nowadays.) If a so-called adult cartoon wanted to blur the line in terms of age range and be a hit it would have to fill in some kind of significant niche that speaks for itself without excessive use of risque material. But I don't know if such cartoons really wanted to do that after The Simpsons because at the time, again, it was considered fairly edgy and suggested a means of pushing the envelope. Something that became more obvious as edgier cartoons like South Park and Family Guy emerged.

I feel something like Animaniacs would be a more suitable model here. Even though that was very much aired on a children's network, it had a sizeable adult audience. And I think it's easier to make a case for a show geared at children that attracts adults than vice versa, given how various adult cartoons have children watching them. (And I very much consider The Simpsons an adult cartoon in this case.)


I don't understand why there aren't more of them. The most successful cartoons of all time have had cross-generational appeal. The Simpsons, for example, is clean enough for kids but risque enough for adults, and so both latched onto it and made it a mega-success. Most everything that followed in its wake did not figure this trick out; an "adult" cartoon had to be for "adults" period, limiting its audience size.

To this day, most animated shows are created either strictly for kids or strictly for adults. My only explanation is that businessmen are obsessed with "demographics" and can't figure out anything that doesn't fit a specific box. Their blindness is their loss.

Advertising by genre does make the show come across as rather geeky, the kind of thing that seems geared to appeal to only people that are into the niche. Advertising by age group makes the show more inherently appealing I think, since there's no better niche to be a part of than your own age range.
 

[classic swim]

SwimShady
Joined
Sep 26, 2022
Messages
314
Location
USA
When it comes to slice of life and core development, King of The Hill always felt like the prime example to set.

Lots of times it can be crude and stupid, but there’s also profound respect for whoever is watching.

EDIT: So so sorry! I didn’t see that you didn’t wish to include tame adult cartoons. KOTH is something where I would classify it as more middle ground, sometimes I think it truly is decent enough for general audiences.
 
Last edited:

Dr.Pepper

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 10, 2006
Messages
18,900
Location
In A House
Adventure Time, maybe. How about Dan Vs? I’ve only seen it once or twice but it felt like it wasn’t really for kids but not really for adults either.
 

LinusFan303

Rerun Van Pelt's fan
Joined
Mar 26, 2018
Messages
4,177
Location
Colorado
I get to mention "O'Grady" a cartoon that ran on The N, it was for around the older end of kids market , rated TV-PG . I'd say about 12-14 years old market. It fit with what the N was going for with Viacom for kids older than Nick but younger than MTV. It's a show that might fit well for older kids and still have something for adults.
 

JoeMabbon

Patient Pokemon
Joined
Aug 8, 2014
Messages
9,073
Location
Johto
Just looking at my household growing up, it's pretty difficult to make something that appeals to kids and adults. I mean, The Simpsons appealed to kids and adults when it came out, but I think at least some of that was due to Bart Simpson, the 90s kid appeal character. After his star faded, the show really just became another adult animated sitcom.

I know this thread is focused on shows, but I think animated movies have succeeded at this in a way that television hasn't. And I think part of that is because they cheat. Parents and kids are basically forced to the engage with the material at the same time. Whereas tv and online devices encourage segmentation.
 

Petran Markou

Active Member
Joined
Aug 30, 2012
Messages
132
Captain Power used a mix of live action and animation, appealing to both kids and adults but it was the reason for its failure, along with the big production budget.

Too violent for kids, yet too unappealing for adults because of the toys.
 

TheMisterManGuy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 23, 2014
Messages
1,345
I think what you're asking for is cartoons for tweens. That's a demographic that has arguably never really existed. It's probably because execs don't think teens and preteens are a big enough audience for western animation when they'll often just watch anime or popular live-action shows for adults. Plus, middle schoolers are notoriously cliquey and fickle as an audience. It's an age group known for trying to figure out who they are and exploring their interests, and kids are just way too fragmented at that age. 6-11 year olds and adults are more reliable demos since they're easier to entertain on a mass scale.

That said, there are kids cartoons that have appeal to the middle school crowd. Kim Possible, As Told By Ginger, Ed Edd n Eddy, Regular Show, Total Drama, Owl House, Amphibia, Avatar. All children's shows, but are edgy, developed, and well written enough that they can appeal to tweens as well.
 

Pooky

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 14, 2010
Messages
1,357
Location
UK
I think there are a lot of cartoons nominally aimed at 7-11 age group that crossover to the younger teen set, and a lot of adult animated shows that wouldn't have become anywhere near as popular if older kids and younger teens weren't in to them, with or without their parents permission; I wouldn't be surprised if at their peak South Park, Family Guy and Rick & Morty weren't more popular with this age group than any other, particularly in terms of merchandising. But an American cartoon aimed squarely and directly at the 12-14 year old age group? I can't think of one.
 

Ace

Ace
Joined
Mar 1, 2011
Messages
1,486
Location
United States
I think there are a lot of cartoons nominally aimed at 7-11 age group that crossover to the younger teen set, and a lot of adult animated shows that wouldn't have become anywhere near as popular if older kids and younger teens weren't in to them, with or without their parents permission; I wouldn't be surprised if at their peak South Park, Family Guy and Rick & Morty weren't more popular with this age group than any other, particularly in terms of merchandising. But an American cartoon aimed squarely and directly at the 12-14 year old age group? I can't think of one.
Tell me about it. In middle school every edgy 12 year old boy in my class knew what Family Guy was. Rick and Morty kind of had a similar appeal in that age group when it was at it's peak (with those annoying Pickle Rick memes you couldn't avoid).

I think what you're asking for is cartoons for tweens. That's a demographic that has arguably never really existed. It's probably because execs don't think teens and preteens are a big enough audience for western animation when they'll often just watch anime or popular live-action shows for adults. Plus, middle schoolers are notoriously cliquey and fickle as an audience. It's an age group known for trying to figure out who they are and exploring their interests, and kids are just way too fragmented at that age. 6-11 year olds and adults are more reliable demos since they're easier to entertain on a mass scale.

That said, there are kids cartoons that have appeal to the middle school crowd. Kim Possible, As Told By Ginger, Ed Edd n Eddy, Regular Show, Total Drama, Owl House, Amphibia, Avatar. All children's shows, but are edgy, developed, and well written enough that they can appeal to tweens as well.
More often that niche was filled by live-action teen sitcoms rather than animation (unless they were adult animated shows). That stuff was insanely popular especially in the 2000s when teen sitcom tropes were everywhere. Not just on Disney and Nick but on ABC on MTV etc. The closest thing I could think of to being something animated being "made for that audience" was Total Drama. Though those other examples are great too. These days that audience is more interesting in gaming and social media which explains why that genre dissipated.

Though if you ask me I kind of like the appeal of PG level shows. It's something you won't grow out of as a kid and get to appreciate more as you become an adult and innocuous enough to watch with your kids who will then grow-up watching it.
 
Last edited:

Golden Geek

Gera Gera Po
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Dec 31, 2013
Messages
1,376
Location
United States
Daria is about on that line. MTV's demo is roughly 12-24 (or, now, anyone high enough to sit through hours of Ridiculousness), but it also got aired on The N (which aimed at preteens and teens), and aired during regular children's programming in some countries like Australia.

I think every episode is TV-PG, though The N edited them for whatever reason (considering much worse was happening on Degrassi and South of Nowhere).
 

Rick Jones

fan-man
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Feb 27, 2008
Messages
11,599
Location
177A Bleecker Street
Daria is about on that line. MTV's demo is roughly 12-24 (or, now, anyone high enough to sit through hours of Ridiculousness), but it also got aired on The N (which aimed at preteens and teens), and aired during regular children's programming in some countries like Australia.

I think every episode is TV-PG, though The N edited them for whatever reason (considering much worse was happening on Degrassi and South of Nowhere).
Daria felt perfect for me as a teenager. It very much matched my sarcastic sense of humor with minimal swearing or raunchiness while feeling very relevant to me. I couldn't enjoy it with my parents like I could with The Simpsons or King of the Hill but I also didn't have to feel uneasy watching it in front of them like I did with Family Guy.

Sent from my SM-G975U using Tapatalk
 

Checkerboard

THE HOME OF THE TOP TOON STARS
Joined
May 25, 2010
Messages
7,907
Location
Cartoon Headquarters
I think I would put the following shows, based on what I saw ignoring their rating, in that category for example:

Infinity Train, Adventure Time, Regular Show, Steven Universe, Beavis and Butthead, The Head, The Maxx, Daria, The Flintstones, The Addams Family 92, Spawn/Men In Black/The Mask/Jumanji/Aeon Flux Animated Series, Avatar/Legend of Korra, Swat Kats, Animaniacs, 90s Batman/Superman/Spiderman/Xmen cartoons, Ed Grimley, Teen Titans/Justice League, Sealab 2020, Jonny Quest, Gargoyles, GI Joe/Transformers G1, Ren and Stimpy, Rugrats.
 

Zorak Masaki

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 6, 2002
Messages
8,799
I'd say the DCAU count. The storytelling, for the most part, is sophisticated enough that adults could enjoy it, while the kids can just enjoy the superhero action.
 

Spotlight

Staff online

Who's on Discord?

Latest profile posts

It's fun to see James Sie talk about Jackie Chan Adventures.

No mention for Sam & Cat nor Wendell & Vinnie since those two also premiered in 2013.
Since it's the animated show that was produced in France, ''Xiaolin Chronicles'' sure deserves a redub into English. Do you want to see this happening?
Norm of the North was released 7 years ago today.
The paradigm shift of “it’s 2011 and I want all my cancelled shows back on TV!” to “you better not so much as GLANCE at Moral Orel.”

Featured Posts

Top