Animation is not so much a genre as a medium, communicating ideas that are often overused or underused by others. But, of course, given how stigmatized it is as mindless child labor, it’s become too easy for many audiences to ignore.
And yet, many cartoons of recent years have managed to communicate complex characters and difficult storylines that rival their contemporaries in live television. Whether attacking directly important topics for adults or using imaginary scenarios to express unique ideas about life, identity and humanity for children, there’s so much more to these cartoons than just meets the surface.
‘Green Eggs and Ham’ (2019-)
Now in concept, this series seems like a terrible idea, but in practice, it might be the best adaptation of Dr Seuss‘ work. The book itself is a 50-word story about a guy named Guy who doesn’t want to eat a specific type of food. But the series expands on the book’s theme of trying new things and that some things aren’t quite what they seem, good or bad.
For example, the titular dish looks like nothing more than a running gag, but in one of the last episodes of the first season, he is revealed to have a deep personal connection to Sam I Am and why he is the way he is. .
‘Steven Universe’ (2013-2019)
The main character is a young boy, the son of an alien warrior named Rose Quartz, living with his battle partners, the Crystal Gems. Early episodes seem to reveal that this is a show about a boy living with superheroes, often going on adventures to ruins to destroy monsters and learning to struggle with his superpowers.
But as the series continues, it quickly becomes apparent that there’s a lot more going on with the Crystal Gems and Rose Quartz than anyone realized, even themselves. latest episodes and epilogue season deals heavily with gender identity, abuse, trauma and growing up.
‘Dead End: Paranormal Park’ (2022-)
This recent netflix hit is based on the graphic novel series Dead Endia. An autistic girl named Norma, a transgender boy named Barney, and her pet dog Pugsley went to live and work in a theme park haunted by ghosts, demons, and otherworldly beings.
Among its supernatural dark comedy, it deals heavily with various themes of acceptance. Barney, for example, left for the park because he didn’t feel accepted by his family for the person he really is. On the other hand, Norma has dedicated her entire life to being a fan of the woman who runs the park, but she’s less willing to accept that she wasn’t the right person she thought she was.
‘Rick and Morty’ (2013-)
There’s a reason it’s one of the most acclaimed animated shows in recent history. The premise is simple on the surface; an alcoholic scientist and his grandson embark on sci-fi adventures across the universe.
But in as little as the sixth episode, the series reveals that the premise is merely a framing device for exploring ideas of nihilism and existentialism. Rick is a nihilist who acts like he’s the coolest guy for his unlimited knowledge that justifies his selfish behavior. This attitude deeply hurts the people around him and himself.
“Over the Garden Wall” (2014)
This miniseries may be less surprising than others, but the reveal doesn’t make it any less remarkable. As the series begins, audiences are immediately drawn to a welcoming yet mysterious atmosphere. Two young brothers walk through the forest to find their way home and, in each episode, meet strange and absurd characters. They help/defeat these characters with creative issues.
The later chapters of the series reveal that this forest sits in some sort of space between life and death, though there are hints that it isn’t just a place in their imagination. Instead, it’s a revelation watching the idea of fear and what it means to those controlled by it.
“Gravity Falls” (2012-2016)
Twins Dipper and Mabel Pines go to live with their great-uncle in a small town in Oregon that’s a hotbed of mysterious and supernatural activity. Not only does it contain several jokes that passed the censorship board in an unusual way for a disney show, but it also contains one of the most substantial discussions of sibling relationships.
The twin sibling pairs at the heart of the show share similar issues; one wants to grow right away, and the other doesn’t want to grow at all. Both are afraid of getting lost, and only by communicating openly can they manage the changes in their lives in a healthy way.
This disney channel hit revolves around three girls who are magically thrown into another world populated by anthropomorphic amphibians. The three land in different areas and all play different roles in a larger conflict. By comparison, much of the narrative deals with world-conquering toads and newts, while the central subtext analyzes friendship in all its forms, from positive to toxic.
Specifically, Anne is something of a pushover, Sasha is controlling and manipulative, and Marcy becomes engrossed in her interests due to a lack of attention from those around her. However, the girls eventually realize their individual contribution to an unhealthy dynamic and know that overcoming these flaws helps them become better people.
‘BoJack Horseman’ (2014 – 2020)
famous television star BoJack Rider copes with life after starring in a sitcom in the 90s. The first season defines the show as nothing particularly groundbreaking with a standard adult animation formula; a drunken pest makes the lives of people around him painful for the sake of laughter.
But unlike other shows that follow this formula, these “schemes” often lead to much darker and more realistic consequences. Each subsequent season deals with themes of abuse, trauma, and death, but more often than not it doesn’t put on a neat little arc and wraps it all up. Instead, he simply acknowledges that life isn’t that simple.
‘She-Ra and the Princesses of Power’ (2018 – 2020)
This ’80s reboot brought back many characters and villains while multiplying them in ways audiences didn’t expect, especially with two key villains, Catra and Hordak. Catra is someone who stabs in the back and resents anyone around her and refuses to accept the damage she causes to herself or the people she loves until someone gets her. say.
Meanwhile, Hordak is someone who acts like a typical Darth Vader warlord, but it’s revealed that all he did was please someone who doesn’t care about him at all. In both cases, it is only by listen to the people who came to love them that they begin to grow and recognize the true evil in their world.
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