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, mind screws, 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 statement "It can be enjoyed by the whole family" (with the implication that it's meant for children) in 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 note  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, because of this, 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 a raunchy cartoon, which is far from the truth. Thus, it's very hard for aspiring animators/creators to create animated shows without Vulgar Humour and Comedic Sociopathy in mind (unlike in Japan, where this stereotype is nonexistent), so they never get green-lit, which leads to people creating more South Park-esque shows; lather, rinse, repeat.

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.


Anime & Manga

Asian Animation
  • The creators of The Nutshack say that their animated series is the very first adult Asian cartoon. It seems that Japanese animation is not adult in the slightest.

  • 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

Web Animation
  • Lobo Webseries counts due to the high amount of violence, profanity and sex due to the R-rated DC comics character involved. It's humor is actually very good and funny compared to other adult animation.

Western Animation
  • South Park, the Trope Namer, is 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, offensive and tasteless adult cartoon times one hundred. In 22-minutes.
  • One of the more notable examples 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.
  • 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.
  • Tripping the Rift a rare CG example (the only other one being Father of the Pride apparently) of this being played straight, with gross outs and sex jokes galore.
  • While Aqua Teen Hunger Force definitely qualifies as this in its later seasons (earlier episodes were much tamer, while episodes from season 4 onwards were often extremely vulgar and violent), the extremely short-lived Spin-Off Soul Quest Overdrive took this Up to Eleven, featuring a non-stop barrage of crude sex references, random gratuitous violence, drug references, and Comedic Sociopathy crammed into every 5-minute episode.
  • The short-lived British series Full English was roundly panned for being a very blatant Family Guy rip-off, right down to the cutaway gags. The series featured much more graphic content than Family Guy, however, with constant swearing, nudity, sex, and shock humor in every episode.
  • Good Vibes, which was originally intended to air alongside Seth MacFarlane's series but ended up airing with the revival of Beavis and Butt-head.
  • Hell and Back is another rare feature film example as well as one of the few claymation examples besides Robot Chicken.
  • Most of Animation Domination High-Definition, especially High School USA!, plays this straight.
  • Mr. Pickles was harshly criticized for playing this trope dead straight. Plots are incredibly, some would say unrealistically dark, the artstyle is dead in the middle of the Uncanny Valley, and many viewers find the characters bland at best and terrible excuses for human beings at worst. Critics say that the excess Body Horror and cruelty tend to overshadow the plot.
  • Rick and Morty is an aversion. Critics and audiences alike both agree that the show is well-written with likable characters, and only a spare amount of vulgarity for vulgarity's sake. If anything, audiences find it to be a much-needed answer for shows that play it straight. That said, Rick and Morty does thoroughly earn its TV-MA rating, which may initially scare off viewers who are aware of this trope and expect the show to be more of the same.