All Adult Animation Is South Park

"There's something that's called 'adult animation' and it usually means it appeals to adolescent, teenage boys and that's not really adult in my view."
George Griffin, independent animator

Good news! The mainstream Western audience finally accepts that animation can also be for adults!

Bad news! The mainstream Western audience thinks that all adult animation is full of graphic violence, sex jokes, swearing, and, to a lesser extent, Toilet Humor!

In The Dark Age of Animation, when the Animation Age Ghetto was the norm, people like Ralph Bakshi made vulgar cartoons out of a desire to make animation that wasn't "just for kids" by making something that couldn't possibly be shown to kids. They thus avoided the annoying statement "It can be enjoyed by the whole family" (with the implication that it's meant for children) and a Cult Classic or two emerged from the era.

During The Renaissance Age of Animation, thanks to the popularity of Beavis And Butthead, The Ren & Stimpy Show, and (to a milder degree) The Simpsons, the idea that animation could be expanded beyond the family market began to take off again. With the establishment of the TV ratings system, it also became easier to make it clear to audiences that a show wasn't for children. As the Renaissance Age began to shade into The Millennium Age of Animation, King of the Hill became a quiet success for FOX, and Cartoon Network starting with the success of the spoof Space Ghost Coast to Coast began to create its own adult-oriented shows, eventually launching the [adult swim] lineup. But the biggest shake-up to the ghetto came in 1997 when Comedy Central debuted the MA-rated South Park, a vulgar but often uproarious comedy that immediately became a smash hit.

Unfortunately, due to Follow the Leader, most of the adult-oriented shows that followed in South Park's wake were similarly vulgar, envelope-pushing fare most successfully FOX's Family Guy. Thanks to creators following the example of that, people now believe that any western animation that isn't just kids' shows are sitcoms and/or Vulgar Humor, which is far from the truth. So anyone wanting to create serious, intelligent animated fare for adults will find it very hard to convince its potential audience that it isn't all Toilet Humor and Comedic Sociopathy.

This thinking has similar effects to the Animation Age Ghetto. Animation may not be seen as exclusively for kids anymore, but it is seen as exclusively childish. Compare with All Anime Is Naughty Tentacles and Rated M for Money. Contrast with All (Kid-Oriented) Animation is Disney.


Examples:

Anime & Manga

Magazines
  • In a review in Metro (free newspaper on public transport) of Goro Miyazaki's Tales from Earthsea, the reviewer made a remark along the lines of, "but its main problem is that it's not very funny; it's a cartoon, so what's the point if it's not funny?"

Video Games

Western Animation
  • Family Guy is one of the primary culprits for encouraging this trope. Its particular style of pop-culture centric humor and cutaway gags proved a big hit with audiences (especially following its uncancellation), and made it arguably just as influential as its brethren, for better or worse.
  • Being the Trope Namer, it's a given that South Park is going to be listed on this page. It's almost single-handedly responsible for creating the audacious, line-crossing brand of humor that has become so prevalent in adult animation. Hard as it is to imagine these days, in 1997 the sight of cartoon characters telling each other to "suck balls" was totally wild and crazy (the closest The Simpsons had ever come to that was, of course, "Eat my shorts!"), and the show drew huge viewership numbers purely from the novelty factor. Like all popular things, it was quickly aped and imitated, and soon it became standard practice for adult cartoons to take a page out of Parker and Stone's book.
    • Once the series began to move away from pure Vulgar Humor and into social satire, a new wave of imitators sprung up to capitalize on it. The Simpsons, Futurama, and Family Guy all made their own ham-fisted attempts to adapt, with little success.
  • Part of the reason for The Simpsons Seasonal Rot was pressure to become more "edgy" and "adult" in order to compete with South Park. This resulted in an increase in mean-spirited gross-out gags that weren't particularly funny and didn't fit the show's milder, more laid-back tone, culminating in the infamous panda rape scene in "Homer vs. Dignity."
  • This trope might as well have originally been called "All Adult Animation Is Ralph Bakshi" for two reasons: one, when he was still making films, it was, as nobody was making animation for adults as noteworthy as him (relatively speaking). Two, the only others who were only aped the gratuitous sex and nudity, which Bakshi only included in his films as a form of rebellion. His gritty violence and themes of corruption and racism, however, all came from personal experience and were never played for laughs. To be fair, the only reason he got away with this is because he worked independently, a big part of the reason Cool World, produced by Paramount, played this trope straight.
  • A big reason Father of the Pride lasted as briefly as it did was that it simultaneously played this trope straight and failed at it.
  • Brickleberry can be best described as every single vulgar and offensive adult cartoon times one hundred. It's as if the creators wanted to see just how much vulgar, offensive, and tasteless content they could cram into a 22-minute timeslot.
  • Probably the worst offender of this trope played straight would be "Drawn Together", which is 90% Cringe Comedy. You can count the amount of jokes that are not shock value, bodily function-related or at the expense of any kind of social/racial minority on one hand.
  • We can now add Mr Pickles Good Boy to the list of shows that play this trope straight. While some of the most saccharine cartoons for children have unrealistic plots and characters because they try too hard to be safe, cartoons like these for adults have unrealistic plots and characters because the stories are needlessly dark, all of the characters are terrible people and excess Body Horror and cruelty tends to overshadow the plot.
  • Eight Crazy Nights is one of the few feature film examples of this trope played straight.
  • Part of the reason that "Ren and Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon" lasted as briefly as it did was Spike TV's insistence that the show's already vulgar humor be made even more vulgar to appeal to the post-South Park crowd.
  • One of the reasons why Allen Gregory lasted very briefly was that it had so much vulgar, offensive, and tasteless content to the point that it alienated its target audience.
  • Bill Plympton is a noteworthy aversion as, while his films DO feature completely unfiltered vulgarity and violence, they're strictly Author Appeal and not intended to appease some kind of demographic.