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Genre Turning Point

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"I thought that the business, the industry, the presentation needed to change in the same way that music had changed, because music was all about Poison and Mötley Crüe and Winger and all these hair bands, and then along came Nirvana, and BAM! The whole industry changed. So in the same way, I thought wrestling needed to change, in that wrestling had become the equivalent of hair bands, and we needed wrestling's version of Nirvana to come along and just shake everything up."
Paul Heyman, The Rise and Fall of ECW

While a Wham Episode can change a single series forever... sometimes, something comes out that permanently alters an entire genre. It wasn't the first entry into the genre, nor was it the last, but things were never the same after it came out. This often — but far from exclusively — happens with particularly notable Deconstructions; once one story has pointed how a certain genre will play out in reality this can cause a ripple effect across other stories in the genre. However, it doesn't always have to be a Deconstruction. Some shows can radically redefine a genre without taking it apart. Reconstructions can have the same effect; incorporating realistic elements into the old-school storytelling can make the genre look new again. Some works can demonstrate that the genre can be done without a trope that was seen as necessary evil of the genre.

Usually seen as a good thing, although there are genre fans who will feel negatively about it. Negative reception of genre turning is often given when the success of the work causes the genre to be homogenized, or causes tropes that increase the apparent profitability of the work at the expense of integrity to become widespread.

Compare Wham Episode, Genre-Killer, Genre Relaunch, Follow the Leader. Good chance of being a Trope Maker or Trope Codifier.

Not to confuse with Genre Shift, where the work itself shifts its genre at the middle.

No examples are allowed for works released within the last 10 years, as it takes time to prove that the genre has indeed changed.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Harem Genre was invented by Urusei Yatsura, but was re-invented by Tenchi Muyo!, which refined and popularized the "harem anime" formula (ordinary guy lives with a bunch of attractive, quirky girls). In addition to the episodic plots it had longer story arcs and a protagonist one would want to root for instead of smack. Six years later, Love Hina further tweaked the formula by dropping the action/fantasy elements of Tenchi in favor of a straight-up romantic comedy, making The Protagonist more of a sadsack, upping the wacky hijinks and setting new rules for the genre: namely, an Unlucky Everydude male protagonist who lives with a bunch of girls (the Tsundere, the Hard-Drinking Party Girl, the Ojou with the Hime Cut, the Shrinking Violet and the Exotic Foreign Girl) who all fall in love with him simply because he's a nice and sensitive guy, with the gaps in the plot smoothed over with dollops of fanservice. Almost every harem series since has followed its lead. Haters of this genre cannot forgive Ken Akamatsu.
  • It was NOT okay for men to cry in anime before Fist of the North Star. Afterwards, however, tears became a symbol of honorable masculinity tempered by a kind and gentle heart. It was also the first long-form shonen series to utilize supernatural martial arts as its main hook, predating Dragon Ball by two years.
    • It also wasn't the first fighting series, but was the first one to become incredibly popular and is one of the former "manga of the records" thanks to its over 100 millions copies sold. One of the main reasons for its success, is that, unlike previous fighting mangas that simply showed a fighter punching the opponent in the same panel, Fist of the North Star's battle choreography had the directions of the attacks following the reading order, making it much easier to understand and much more appealing. Since then, every popular battle shonen followed the same rule, in particular Dragon Ball, whose editor studied Fist of the North Star to understand its success, that would end up perfectioning battle direction in comicbook form and take Fist of the North Star's popularity.
  • The original Mobile Suit Gundam revamped the Humongous Mecha genre, single-handedly invented most Real Robot plot devices, and, along the way, ushered the Otaku subculture into existence (though to be fair, other shows helped it in the latter).
  • And before that Mazinger Z is generally credited with changing Humongous Mecha as piloted craft as opposed to something controlled by The Kid with the Remote Control. Its near contemporary Getter Robo added the Combining Mecha to the mix.
  • Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito and Destiny of the Shrine Maiden showed that Yuri anime could be profitable; Simoun showed that it could be True Art.
  • AKIRA. Before it came out, it was distressingly common to see anime films and shows targeted toward older audiences horribly Macekred so they could fit into the Animation Age Ghetto. After it came out, people in the West finally got the idea that anime movies didn't have to be targeted towards kids at all. Ironically, Akira was released by Macek's Streamline Pictures studio.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • The effect it had on the mecha genre was similar to the effect a hammer has on an egg. While not the first giant robot show based around the concept that being a naive teenager thrown into the cockpit of a massively powerful war machine and forced to fight titanic alien invaders to save humanity would really suck, it was the first to successfully popularize it. Since the release of the show, a lot of genre anime (mecha or otherwise) has been influenced by the show's themes.
    • Evangelion can easily be pointed towards as a turning point for the entire medium of TV Anime. Before Evangelion the vast majority of TV Anime properties were (and still is) either manga adaptations or family oriented programs. Evangelion turning out to be a surprise breakthrough hit paved the way for several Anime First properties which were more experimental and explored significantly darker and more mature themes, such as Cowboy Bebop, The Vision of Escaflowne, Now and Then, Here and There, and Revolutionary Girl Utena for starters.
    • Its influence in anime and animation as a whole can also be found in the main cast, while Rei Ayanami became the most notorious example of the character archetypes that Evangelion brought, there were many others as well: the archetype of the socially-awkward, snarky protagonist whose bravery is mostly limited to the battlefield can be traced back to Shinji Ikari (although Shinji himself was heavily influenced by Mobile Suit Gundam's Amuro Ray); the red-haired/themed, hotblooded and aggressive Tsundere girl with a dark past (and arguably, foreign accent) is traceable to Asuka Langley Soryu; and finally, the mysterious, white haired character with an ambiguous attraction to the main character is the product of Kaworu Nagisa.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • The series introduced and/or codified many Shonen tropes such as the innocent Idiot Hero with a large appetite, the Tournament Arc, etc. Its influence can be seen in many different anime and manga series to this day.
    • Critically, Goku had the potential to learn and grow, in contrast to predecessors like Kenshiro of Fist of the North Star, who rarely learned new techniques or increased his physical abilities, instead existing in a constant state of badassery.
    • It also pioneered the villain-centric plot arc. As Super Eyepatch Wolf put it in his DBZ video essay:
      What's interesting about how Dragon Ball Z uses its villains is how dramatically differently they were framed compared the standard villains that were popular in both western and eastern children's media of the time. Most children's entertainment of this era was structured to be highly episodic, with entire plotlines developing and concluding in a single episode, and so if there was a villain, they were usually designed to be introduced, fought and defeated in the same 22 minute span, and for decades, this was how children's television worked, clinging rigorously to the Monster of the Week formula, as seen in shows like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987), He-Man and ThunderCats (1985). This kind of villain had actually been around even longer on Japanese television, coming to prominence in the mid-70s with classic Sentai shows like Kamen Rider, and eventually permeated its way into the power-obsessed anime and manga of the 80s, where underpowered, disposable villains were routinely obliterated by hyper-powerful heroes like Kenshiro. The advantage of these disposable, replacable bad guys was that it was a simple, repeatable episodic formula, one that wouldn't alienate new viewers, but would constantly introduce new opportunities for merchandise, while also consistantly framing our heroes in the most powerful and victorious possible light.

      But then came the villains of Dragon Ball Z. Ultra powerful, near-invincible demigods, beings whose mere existence was so cataclysmic that they would dominate entire story arcs, committing atrocities on a mass scale and forcing our heroes into tense, desperate battles where survival seemed unlikely and victory felt impossible. No longer monsters of the week, these were just monsters, routinely and soundly defeating our heroes, ones that shattered the 22 minute structure, and planted their feet deep in the story, staying there for dozens and dozens of episodes, during which the entire plot would centre solely around their existence. The story framed these villains in a way that made them feel so dominant and powerful that the idea of their defeat seemed genuinely impossible, but this created an exhilarating tension, as you really felt every blow, every energy blast, as our heroes inched their way forward in the face of such monstrously overwhelming odds, so when victory did occur it felt profound and earned.

      One of the reasons Goku's victory over Frieza feels so monumental is that at this point in the story, you've watched Frieza decimate our heroes for dozens of episodes, defeating Nail, Gohan, Piccolo, Vegeta, Krillin... in a climate where 22 minute villains reigned supreme, Frieza felt like nothing less than a god, and watching Goku put everything he had into battling Frieza and eventually surpassing him, it was nothing short of inspirational. It really felt like this character had gone through a monumentally punishing ordeal and somehow come out the other end and survived.

      This aspect of Dragon Ball Z was one of the main elements that would come to define what shonen battle manga is, and be echoed in many classic arcs that followed throughout the years: One Piece's Enies Lobby, YuYu Hakusho's Dark Tournament Saga, Hunter × Hunter's Chimera Ant Arc. These are some of the greatest arcs in shonen history, and each one uses the same fundamental villain-centric structure that was defined and popularized in Dragon Ball Z.
  • Saint Seiya was another 80s shonen series that marked a transition from the old style to the modern style, contributing much in terms of promoting the values of friendship and teamwork in a Fighting Series, in contrast to lone-wolf heroes like Kenshiro, as well as featuring a far more shoujo-like art style, which was later seen in series like Ranma ½ and Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl, along with numerous attractive male characters.
  • Naruto took all the tropes established by earlier Shonen battle manga and packaged it all together into a formula that Shonen mangaka are still using. Recent smash successes like My Hero Academia, Black Clover, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba all owe something to the smash success of Naruto.
  • The Magical Girl genre has shifted several times:
  • The development of sophisticated CGI that allowed elaborate dance sequences to be created on a TV budget led to the boom in the Idol Singer genre from the late 2000s to present. Said dance sequences can also be seen in some anime outside the genre, such as Pretty Cure.
  • Princess Knight is one of the first narrative-driven shoujo manga and had massive influence on manga aimed at a young female audience, with notable examples including an androgynous lead heroine.
    • What Princess Knight started, The Rose of Versailles continued and solidified, as it was the first shoujo manga to achieve mainstream critical and commercial success. At the time it was first published in 1972, most shoujo manga series were simple stories aimed at elementary school-aged girls, but Berubara proved that manga aimed at teenage girls and women, with more complex plots to draw them in, could be just as successful.
    • The aforementioned The Rose of Versailles is the most famous (in the west, at least) work of the 1970s "Showa 24 Group" consisting of names such as Riyoko Ikeda, Moto Hagio and Keiko Takemiya, who revolutionized shoujo manga. Shoujo manga creators had previously being mainly men, and the rise of the Showa 24 group marked a transition to being dominated by female creators, added an emphasis on drama and heavy subject matter and more fluid artwork and panel arrangements that allowed shoujo manga to be taken seriously as an artform, with Hagio and Takemiya also becoming pioneers of the Yaoi Genre along the way. The 1970s is now regarded as the "Golden Age" of Shoujo.
  • While Megazone 23 was the first OVA to be commercially successful, Fight! Iczer-One took full advantage of the lack of content restrictions in the direct-to-video format, containing sex and violence that would not be acceptable on TV (even in Japan), and setting the stage for the kind of content that characterised the mid-late 80s OVA boom.
  • While it was the works of Kiyohiko Azuma, Azumanga Daioh and fellow sister series Yotsuba&!, that became known as the pioneers of School Girl Series manga during the Turn of the Millennium, it was Ume Aoki's mid-to-late 2000s Hidamari Sketch that what would refined it moving forward and especially for its publisher, Manga Time Kirara, as it was the first manga from them to be given an anime adaptation. In terms of Moe anime and manga, most would follow a very similar formula, mainly cute girls composed of four main members doing cute things with a type of extra hook or gimmick. This became true for most of Kirara's later works that follow this format and many others that would try to copy what Kirara did, including the likes of Comic Cune in the 2010s. More notably there was K-On!, which was released only a few years later and also had a similar impact on its genre.

  • From pretty much the dawn of humanity, most art was dedicated to capturing its subject matter in as realistic a depiction as possible... until the invention of photography, at which point artists had to reassess what "art" meant, opening the way for more abstract forms of art.

    Comic Books 
  • The publication of Action Comics #1 in the summer of 1938 heralded the birth of the superhero genre when it introduced the American public to Superman, the ultimate escapist hero for a beleaguered country struggling through the The Great Depression and the dark days preceding World War II. While it might be difficult to appreciate this today, the character was truly like nothing anyone had ever seen before: he was a herculean strongman from the Heavens who effortlessly invoked the awe and wonder of a mythic hero from the Ancient World, yet his adventures took place in an unmistakably modern cityscape bedeviled by contemporary social ills like poverty and crime, and his backstory — as an immigrant from a distant world raised by a pair of honest farmers from the Heartland — unmistakably marked him as a uniquely American bastion of virtue. Almost overnight, The Golden Age of Comic Books began in earnest, and superhero stories became a major cultural phenomenon. American pop culture has never been the same since.
  • In the American comic industry, the creation of the Justice Society of America in 1940 began a pivot for the medium that nobody would've anticipated. While simply made to be a place to put characters who didn't sell that well, this was the first time that original works were in the same book together in the medium. This began building up the idea for creating a Shared Universe for their characters, and the beginning of the Crossover in the medium, ideas that would lock the two big main comic companies into place in the far future for the worlds they would create.
  • Peanuts, which ran from 1950 to 2000, changed Newspaper Comics permanently. It gave strips the license to address deep and (sometimes) dark issues and not just be simple gag-a-day escapism. However, Charles M. Schulz's signature simple artwork gave newspapers the idea to reduce the size of the comic panels and force all the future artists to simplify their artwork to the point where all the art look like rushed cut-and-paste jobs.
  • An example that isn't actually a "work": the outrage caused by Fredric Wertham's 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent led to the creation of The Comics Code. This killed horror and crime comics, then among the biggest hits for the industry, while saving the superhero genre, which was sinking at the time. This also led Marvel Comics to give Stan Lee and Jack Kirby the green light to experiment, as they were hurting in the wake of this turn in the medium. (Which in turn led to the Marvel Age.) All of this led to the terms "comic book character" and "superhero" being almost interchangeable in the North American market.
  • The Silver Age of Comic Books in the late '50s and '60s was when the modern superhero comic took form. It introduced more flawed and relatable characters, more sophisticated themes, and more complicated plots, leading to an eventual shift in the target audience for comics from children to late teens/young adults.
    • It is generally accepted that Barry Allen, the second Flash, was the character that revived superhero comics in earnest and kicked off the Silver Age upon his debut in Showcase #4 in 1956, complete with sleek, form-fitting, cape-less costume, more scientific(ish) origin, and a Rogues Gallery of gimmick villains.
    • Fantastic Four #1 in 1961 introduced the Fantastic Four, a family team whose members clashed and bickered from time to time, and showed that superhero stories could firmly anchor themselves in the real world without sacrificing any of their inherent fun. The Four lived in the real world of 1960s New York rather than a fictional City of Adventure like Metropolis or Gotham City, they didn't bother with Secret Identities, they were world-famous scientists and philanthropists in addition to being superheroes, their nemesis was the truly dangerous dictator of an Eastern European nation rather than a simple criminal, and their famous blue jumpsuits were a more realistic alternative to the flamboyant costumes that other superheroes wore. On top of that, The Thing pioneered the idea of a superhero who viewed his powers as a curse.
    • The Incredible Hulk (1962): The Hulk got a lot of attention as an ambiguous hero who was neither entirely a superhero nor entirely a monster, and his series pushed the boundaries of the Comics Code Authority by depicting the United States military as antagonists (the Code stipulated that comic books couldn't portray respected organizations in a negative light). With his anger, his inherently flawed nature, and his troubled relationship with authority figures, he also went on to become a counterculture icon, showing the potential for superheroes to act as a voice for the youth.
    • Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962 was the origin story for Spider-Man, who broke the mold as a teenage superhero who was not a sidekick and had no mentor or guide, was hated by most of the public, and initially tried to use his powers to make money.note  His resolve to protect the innocent to atone for selfishly refusing to stop the burglar that went on to kill his beloved uncle definitively established him not as a moralistic crusader out to punish evildoers, but a flawed young man with a lot of growing up to do.
    • In general, Marvel Comics helped breathe new life into the superhero genre with stories that were (for their day) unabashedly contemporary, reflecting the changing status quo of the 1960s. The Fantastic Four's origin story was explicitly tied to the Space Race, Spider-Man and the Hulk's origins were explicitly tied to the onset of the atomic age, Iron Man's origin was explicitly tied to the Vietnam War, the X-Men started out as a thinly-veiled allegory for the Generation Gap (and later reflected the Civil Rights Movement with stories about prejudice and bigotry), and Doctor Doom was effectively the living embodiment of everything that American readers found scary about the Soviet Union during the Cold War. While most of that stuff inevitably became dated with time, it played a major role in the superhero genre moving beyond its Depression-era roots and becoming a true intergenerational tradition.
  • For better or for worse, The Bronze Age of Comic Books in the '70s rewrote the rules of the superhero genre, with a new generation of creators proudly pushing the boundaries of acceptable content after finally breaking free of the The Comics Code's heavy censorship.
    • Dennis O'Neil's Green Lantern/Green Arrow, which started running in 1970, fizzled out pretty quickly in its day, but it's now considered an important part of comic book history for being one of the first explicitly political superhero comics. After reimagining Oliver Queen as a street-smart modern revolutionary who actually did rob from the rich and give to the poor, he built an entire series around the character confronting contemporary social issues alongside his more conservative lawman foil Hal Jordan, with plenty of Both Sides Have a Point moments. Many of its more dramatic moments — like Hal being called out for failing to fight for African-American rights, and Oliver discovering that his sidekick Speedy has become addicted to heroin — are still frequently cited as major milestones in the comic book industry's move toward social consciousness.
    • Jack Kirby's move to DC Comics resulted in the creation of New Gods in 1971, often cited as the beginning of the Bronze Age. In its day, it was one of the most unabashedly experimental superhero comics ever published, freely mixing Space Opera and New Age spiritualism with a vividly imagined original mythological system. While not a big hit in its day, it inspired many future creators to push the classic tropes and iconography of the superhero genre in bold new directions, often in ways that challenged the fundamental underpinnings of the genre.
    • Gerry Conway's classic 1973 Spider-Man story "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" was one of the first mainstream superhero stories that unambiguously featured the death of a regular character. Not only was Gwen Stacy's murder treated with the utmost gravity and seriousness, it completely changed the course of the series, and it was made abundantly clear that her death would come with permanent consequences. While arguably the start of a very controversial trend in comics, this helped demonstrate that superhero stories could be more than just joyful escapism, and they were capable of examining mature themes like grief and death. Jean Grey's tragic death in "The Dark Phoenix Saga" (published around seven years later) just cemented that fact.
    • When Chris Claremont took over X-Men in 1975, he got major critical attention for writing superhero stories where drama and characterization were the primary draws over action and spectacle. Most Marvel Comics series had already been soap operas before that point, but Claremont's writing made the soap truly operatic in scope. His focus on drama also came with a degree of moral ambiguity that was previously unheard-of in superhero comics. Most famously: he drastically retooled the X-Men's nemesis Magneto by giving him a backstory, revealing that he was actually a tormented political extremist trying to fight humanity's oppression of Mutants, and that he grew to hate humanity because he was sent to Auschwitz as a child. Most mainstream modern superhero comics, including the deconstructions of Alan Moore and others, were changed forever by the popularity of Claremont's writing style. note 
  • Harvey Pekar's American Splendor, running from 1976 until Pekar's death in 2010, showed that comics could depict adult life without idealizing it. An autobiographical story, it told the tale of an ordinary man living an ordinary life, demonstrated that simple Slice of Life stories could work in comics and still be compelling without a focus on action.
  • Luther Arkwright was an independent New Wave style Science Fiction comic made by Bryan Talbot starting in 1976. The techniques and storytelling he used have had large impact on many other writers and artists. Warren Ellis has said "LUTHER ARKWRIGHT invented the tools. ARKWRIGHT informs Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, me, and all the rest of us. It's probably Anglophone comics' single most important experimental work."
  • In 1983, Alan Moore started writing Swamp Thing. From one writer no one in America had heard of on a dying third-string title at DC we eventually got the whole of Vertigo Comics, Marvel's Max Imprint and not a few smaller publishing houses (Avatar, for example).
  • The cult success of Albedo: Erma Felna EDF (1983-2005), with its deadly serious and sophisticated political Military Science Fiction story featuring Funny Animal characters, marked the true beginning of the Mature Animal Story genre and a kickstarter to Furry Fandom as something for adult fans.
  • Calvin and Hobbes, running from 1985 to 1995, carried forward the intelligent and philosophical underpinnings of Peanuts but also marked the beginning of a pushback in newspaper comics against the artistic simplification that Peanuts heralded, earning renown for its beautiful, highly detailed artwork and ability to tell complete stories without any dialogue and encouraging other comic artists in the funny pages to get more detailed and experimental.
  • Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's Watchmen (both published in 1986) are credited with kicking off The Dark Age of Comic Books.
    • The Dark Knight Returns was a grim classical tragedy that presented a hypothetical look at an aging Bruce Wayne's final days as Batman, portraying the character as a violent and antisocial loner driven to bitter self-destruction in his twilight years. Watchmen, meanwhile, was a sprawling postmodern epic set in a painstakingly detailed Alternate History version of the late 20th century where superheroes really existed, and it featured a cast of broken and self-doubting antiheroes who subtly satirized common character archetypes in the superhero genre. While fundamentally different in many ways, both stories explicitly set out to deconstruct the superhero genre by introducing political subtext and psychological depth to a popular juvenile escapist fantasy, showing that it was possible to write superhero stories for adults.
    • Both books also included levels of sex and violence that were unheard of in mainstream superhero comics at the time, which quickly became the things that made them notorious and the source of their most immediate impact on the medium. When later creators tried to copy the most superficial aspects of Miller and Moore's work without bothering to copy their writing quality or their thematic richness (possibly encouraged by editors and executives who wanted to replicate their success), it fueled persistent criticisms about mainstream comic book publishers aggressively pandering to adult fans with excessively racy content—which arguably played a major role in codifying the modern "fanboy" stereotype, and likely contributed to the decline of the comic book industry in the 1990s.
  • Starting in 1988, Todd Mc Farlane gained much acclaim for his artwork on The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man, especially because he drew with exaggerated details and body contortions and extremely dynamic action scenes. This style later paved the way for Rob Liefeld as writer and artist of New Mutants, where he created Cable. His work on Cable and X-Force kicked off the art style of The Dark Age of Comic Books.
  • Image Comics did a lot in the '90s to change what was possible for both creators and the comic book medium.
    • Before they were formed in 1992 by seven former Marvel Comics creators, the only mainstream options were Marvel and DC Comics when it came to reaching a wide audiences that wasn't Archie Comics. Neither company allowed the creator to own what they made, and only gave them modest pay despite playing a part in the creation of Cash Cow Franchises. This in turn lead to the seven creators to form Image, under the idea that the creator will always own what they make. It was an instant success, even beating out DC at the time. Furthermore, it pushed the boundaries of what was possible for a comic book to reach for an audience. With the only option before being superhero comics, the only way to make comics more mature, often non-superhero fare was through small indie companies. Image, having become a place where creators can make their own original IP and succeed, meant there was much greater diversity on the market, especially after the success of...
    • The Walking Dead, published by Image starting in 2003, was the catalyst for changing the landscape of comic book industry. Before, Image was largely superhero-oriented and attempted to be a part of a Shared Universe. The Walking Dead, being part of its own independent continuity with a non-superhero storyline and mature themes, was an instant success that few could've predicted would happen. This was the point where Image would greatly diversify their lineup, and comics that wouldn't have been possible to be successes before were becoming sellers, especially since neither Marvel or DC would want anything to do with them. Comics like Phonogram, Morning Glories, East of West, and Saga were made possible by the success of The Walking Dead.
  • Mark Waid and Alex Ross' Kingdom Come (published in 1996, exactly a decade after Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns) is generally credited with ending the Dark Age of Comic Books. Presented as a hypothetical look as a future incarnation of the DC Comics universe, its story painted a grim portrait of a world overrun by violent and amoral superheroes with no qualms about using lethal force, and no regard for the innocent people caught in the crossfire of their pitched battles. Notably, the story presents the aging Superman and his compatriots—who cling to a more old-fashioned breed of heroism—as a superior alternative to the new generation of heroes, with the crimefighter "Magog" (the first of the new generation) symbolically portrayed as a harbinger of the End Times. Most readers at the time recognized this as a pretty unsubtle condemnation of trends in the industry at the time, and Kingdom Come is now regarded as one of the first major works to attempt to push back against the Darker and Edgier direction of comic books in the 1990s.
  • Despite of Marvel's changes to the genre in the 1960s, by the turn of the millennium the superhero genre was a large Fantasy Kitchen Sink. Starting in 2000, the Ultimate Marvel reimaginations took the characters back to their basic premises, and made them work in a strictly grounded context, with a cinematic narrative style. Most fantastic stuff was either removed or introduced by Doing In the Wizard, rather than just played straight. And rather to be Holding Out for a Hero, the civilian world has S.H.I.E.L.D., the Government Agency of Fiction that keeps all potential threats under watch and control. The most successful titles were Ultimate Spider-Man, which introduced Miles Morales, a Black Spider-Man, and The Ultimates, a super hero team reimagined as a US military task force. The style was soon adopted by the mainstream Marvel titles, and also by DC Comics.
  • Children's and YA comics and graphic novels had existed long before Raina Telgemeier, but they flourished in popularity after her work on The Baby-Sitters Club from 2006-08 and her 2010 graphic novel Smile, using the medium to tell Slice of Life Coming of Age Stories based on her own childhood in a manner akin to Judy Blume in literature. Her success showed publishers that there was a vast, untapped market of kids and teenagers interested in comics that weren't about superheroes, such that Gene Luen Yang, creator of American Born Chinese, credited her with creating an entire new category of comic books, the "middle-grade graphic memoir".

    Fan Works 
  • "A Fragment out of Time", published in Spockanalia (a Star Trek fanzine running through the seventies), was the first known Slash Fic to hit wide distribution. Virtually every Yaoi Fangirl can thank Diane Marchant, who originally published anonymously.
  • Prior to Dragon Ball Z Abridged, most Abridged Series tended to run on wacky No Fourth Wall humor, general disregard for the actual plot of the series, Shout Outs, exaggerated Flanderization of characters, being often devoted to making Take Thats at whatever official dubs of the series exist. In contrast, DBZA (from the second season onwards) instead moved towards more low-key, character driven humor that tried to retain most of the drama of the actual plot while making genuine attempts to improve upon the original. Nowadays, modern abridged series, such as Sword Art Online Abridged, use this formula instead.

    Films — Animation 
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs showed that not only can animation be entertaining and longer than 7 or 8 minutes, but that the audience can be emotionally connected with animated characters. During production, the film was seen by skeptical industry followers as a potential failure in the making, but it ended up becoming a massive success that helped launch the entire medium of animated movies in the process.
  • Fritz the Cat is widely considered to be one of the most influential and groundbreaking animated films in history. Among other things: it was one of the first animated films aimed exclusively at adults to become a major box office hit, one of the first independently produced feature-length animated films, and one of the first animated films to extensively use improvised dialogue. For that reason, it's often credited with paving the way for later independent animated films aimed at adults, and for inspiring many later animators to break out of the mold developed by Disney.
  • The Little Mermaid was a surprise sensation in 1989, revitalizing interest in animated features (and helping to kick off The Renaissance Age of Animation in the process) and originating many of the tropes of the Disney Renaissance. For years afterward, its musical fantasy structure was the default setting for Western animated features, until it was eventually overtaken by the Pixar CGI boom.
  • Aladdin may not have invented the Celebrity Voice Actor trope note  but Robin Williams' performance as the Genie was the definitive Trope Codifier that almost single-handedly opened voice-acting up to all of Hollywood. With the overwhelmingly positive response to Williams' take on the character—which utilized his trademark comedic style to great effect—he turned voice-acting into a "respectable" gig that practically every actor in the business wanted to take a crack at. For perspective, Bea Arthur had previously turned down the role of Ursula in The Little Mermaid just three years before Aladdin hit theaters—but after it was released, we got James Earl Jones and Matthew Broderick in The Lion King (1994), Mel Gibson in Pocahontas, Jason Alexander in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Danny DeVito in Hercules, Eddie Murphy in Mulan, and Minnie Driver in Tarzan.
  • Toy Story (1995):
    • This film spawned the CG boom in animation, which eventually took over Western animated film. The massive success of the first-ever completely computer-animated film, coupled with the lukewarm critical reception to Disney's big movie that year Pocahontas, began an increasing trend of computer-animated films outperforming their 2D hand-drawn equivalents. The rise of DreamWorks Animation's CGI films furthered this trend, as did the failures of multiple traditionally-animated films in the early part of the Turn of the Millennium such as Titan A.E., Treasure Planet, and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. Today, hand-drawn animation is very uncommon, being mostly relegated to television series and independent animated films, while the All-CGI Cartoon dominates mainstream animated cinema.
    • Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of Disney's prior animated canon — and a decent majority of animated films in general — took place in fantasy worlds, often based in medieval times. This film's contemporary American setting would become more the norm in the decades ahead, though there have still been plenty of films with fantasy settings (albeit usually done in a more self-aware manner, thanks to the success of Shrek and its sequels).
    • Also, in prior Disney films, as well as those which tried to copy their formula, the musical numbers generally took up around a third to a half of the runtime. This heavily scaled it back and went with a more dialog-focused approach, with only a couple of musical numbers, something which became much more standard for animated films starting in the following decade.
    • It was also the major turning point for celebrity voice casting as a major selling point. While this had existed as far back as Pinocchio, and The Lion King (1994) had been another earlier example of an animated film where most of the main characters were played by Celebrity Voice Actors who were more well-known for their live action work, usually such roles had been typecast and were often relegated to minor characters. Toy Story featured two main voices that really weren't bringing anything special to the table (in contrast to far more notable voices like, say Vincent Price brought to a villainous role, or Paul Lynde to a sneaky role), but were marketed as a big thing, cementing the trend of celebrity voice acting as the standard approach for the industry.
    • Finally, the movie had an unprecedented impact over family films in general, as live-action ones became increasingly unpopular with young children. As a result, they became less common, and most live-action films would become increasingly raunchy vehicles for established actors, dramas, or DTV material.
  • Shrek (2001) had a major, lasting impact on animated films when it came out. Its snarkier, more parodic take on the traditional fairy-tale animated movie format became a huge influence on all animated children's movies that came after it, resulting in movies like Enchanted, Happily N'Ever After, and Hoodwinked!. Even after Disney animation experienced another revival, and the Fractured Fairy Tale-type movie eventually died out, most kids animated films, such as other movies by Shrek creator DreamWorks Animation and movies by Illumination Entertainment, are a lot snarkier than pre-Shrek animated films and still follow the formula started by Shrek. The traditional Disney fairy tale films of today, such as Tangled and Frozen (2013), deliberately have to subvert and deconstruct the tropes commonly involved with those movies, arguably all because Shrek robbed the studio of ever playing those tropes straight again.
  • Ice Age (2002) isn't exactly viewed as a cinematic classic by most, but it's notable for being the first major CGI-animated feature film that wasn't made by Pixar or DreamWorks Animation, being a Blue Sky Studios production distributed by 20th Century Fox (although, Pixar's owner Disney would later buy the film when they brought 20th Century Fox). As a result, it played a major role in establishing CGI-animated movies as a permanent fixture at the American box office—instead of just a minor novelty controlled by two competing studios.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Pro wrestling had existed in Mexico since the 1800s, not much later than it had in the USA. Big business Lucha Libre didn't exist until Salvador Lutteroth was inspired to start his own enterprise by the visiting Masked Marvel. Even then, masks themselves didn't really catch on until Lutteroth presented one of the Guzman brothers with a gimmick called El Santo.
  • George Hackenschmidt traveled at least two continents wrestling rival claimants to the "World Heavyweight Champion". It was Lou Thesz who used this idea to not only unify championship status, but the entire "territory" where such a claim was made, cementing the power of the National Wrestling Alliance. The first major governing body for pro wrestling and only pro wrestling, the NWA would have a strong presence on no less than three continents at any given time for the next forty years and dictate most of pro wrestling's direction. Commissioners and boards of directors would be used as stock plot devices for years even after the NWA's decline.
  • Gimmicks have been in pro wrestling since the Catch As Catch Can days. Even the Gorgeous George gimmick is older than Gorgeous George himself. It was the combination of George being that over the top and the increasing affordability of television that made The Gimmick truly synonymous with pro wrestlers.
  • Pro wrestling in Japan was private clubs and concert intermissions. Big money television business and sporting arenas did not happen until Rikidozan, fresh from a trip to the USA, recruited several sumo wrestlers and judoka to form the JWA. Rikidozan's untimely assassination was also a turning point, as it lead to the births of the two longest running Japanese feds, All Japan and New Japan.
  • Women wrestlers had a world championship belt before men did, but from the very start Minerva was much more famous as a weight lifter, with the fact she also wrestled being treated as an afterthought. Women wrestlers saw their stock rise in the US during World War II and afterwards were promoted as special attractions in early NWA years. They lost a lot of stock in the US after the double crossing and banishment from the NWA of Mildred Burke in favor of June Byers, but this caused the stock of women wrestlers to rise in Japan as Burke took her WWWA promotion overseas and the Japanese in particular imitated it, and eventually absorbed it into Zenjo.
  • "Superstar" Billy Graham did this for heels in the mid-1970s. He was just as flashy and entertaining as any face, and proved that the heel didn't always have to be a Straw Loser. He was actually hoping to have a Heel–Face Turn during his 1977-1978 title run, and was extremely disappointed when that didn't happen, although he eventually did become a face when he returned to the WWF years later. He was the first major heel to hold a world title for more than a few weeks at a time.
  • Mary Ellison, aka The Fabulous Moolah, left a major impact on women's wrestling from the '60s through the '80s, though how good an impact she left, especially compared to the efforts of Byers to minimize the damage from the double cross on Burke, is very much up for debate. As the leading women's wrestling trainer and booker during that time, Moolah helped forge the then-WWF's women's division and bring it into the spotlight. However, for better or worse, this was at the expense of the already ailing NWA and she was also a driving force behind the "Diva" style of wrestling that would predominate until the 2010s. Said style was heavy on fanservice and catfighting but often accused of being low on athleticism. That's before getting into the accusations made about how she treated the women who trained under her, as well as her sabotage of Wendi Richter's career and the WWF's Women's Tag Team division. As such, many wrestling fans have blamed Moolah for setting back women's wrestling in the United States by decades, between the wrestling styles she promoted and the backstage moves she made.
  • El Santo didn't have a successor, he had three. Los Tres Fantasticos taking over his feud with Los Misioneros De La Muerte cemented Tag Teams and Power Trios as big money in lucha libre, with three on three being the main match type for decades to come, and also cemented the in and out rules that for whatever reason never caught on in the US.
  • Satoru Sayama, Akira Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada's Universal Wrestling Federation solidified, among other things, tapping out over verbal submission, that collar and elbow displays were unnecessary, that clean finish booking could make a lot of money, that wrestlers could legitimately beat and stretch each other while sticking to planned finishes. From these efforts, "shoot style" pro wrestling was born, and people took the claim "pro wrestling was the strongest martial art in the world" far more seriously than even New Japan Pro-Wrestling had ever managed to make them. Giant Baba's renowned booking of "traditional puroresu" in All Japan Pro Wrestling was moslty refined from UWF's example and applied to a different style. Showcasing martial arts bouts of other styles, as seen on Zenjo, early FMW, Pro Wrestling ZERO1, and later even "Puroresu Love" era All Japan, was also inspired by UWF.
  • The WWF's active effort to destroy the territorial system changed pro wrestling forever. While Jim Crockett was responsible for shutting down more territories, JCP only began doing so after Vince Jr did in a misguided effort to stop Vince. In the NWA's heyday there were always at least 39 good money pay off promotions to work for in the USA alone. In the WWF dominated era wrestlers would be lucky to see three good options in the USA, and thus would have to work a lot more different companies at once if they didn't get into "The Big Three", go to another country, or both. The territorial system did encourage a revolving door to a lesser degree, so conversely wrestlers of the big three moved around a lot less, due promoters being less willing to work together and "Big 3" wrestlers all the way down to the jobbers fighting to keep their "spots", where before overstaying one's "welcome" was considered rude outside of especially high drawing faces. Big 3 rosters also ballooned in size, as one of Vince Jr's tactics was signing numerous wrestlers to contract to prevent "competition" from using them, often resulting in dozens of wrestlers the WWF could not realistically expect to get their money's worth out of being kept around for the sake of it. WCW, in an effort to beat Vince, signed over a hundred wrestlers it had no intent to use. Giantic power stables like the nWo became more common while traveling special attractions, Loser Leaves Town and Charlie Brown from Outta Town really lost their piss. Most smaller, "independent" comapnies were fan or wrestler driven projects that would have been branded outlaw by "legit" NWA promoters and didn't even pretend to recognize one another, which combined with more static Big 3 rosters made Face–Heel Revolving Door a lot more noticeable. "Big 3" gimmicks became more exaggerated, promos became longer and more scripted, work rate deemphesized as hour long title matches gave way to five minute ones, entrances became more elaborate with music and or pyrotechnics being a must, much more emphasis was put on upper bodies and shaving became more common. Anything McMahon didn't care for also became less prominent in the USA, which meant fewer masks, fewer managers, less emphasis on tag teams, no attention given to weight classes, no mention of time limits, Asians became even less prevelent despite continued Japanese excursions, women wrestlers had fleeting presence and matches became less technical and less violent. Since three companies can't do as much outreach as thirty nine, pro wrestling enterprises around the world could no longer count on the USA to prop them up in times of trouble and many were in fact wary of Vince Jr's predatory practices and or dismissive of the product he promoted.
  • When Bret Hart defeated Ric Flair on October 12, 1992 to win his first ever World Wrestling Federation world title, it officially symbolized the end of dominance for big, muscular men who could barely wrestle in the '80s WWF and put more emphasis on in ring skills along with Shawn Michaels and Curt Hennig/Mr. Perfect. Brian Zane in his Wrestling With Wregret video on the least likely world champions equated Bret Hart's victory over Ric Flair to when Nirvana and Grunge killed off Hair Metal for good, as it too was a much needed step away from the '80s.
  • World Of Sport being canceled was the end of big money pro wrestling in the United Kingdom. Fairly or not, many wrestlers laid the blame for declining viewership at the feet of Big Daddy Crabtree, who was accused of killing opponent King Kong Kirk with his famous Belly Flop Crush. As UK wrestlers often had to make more overseas trips to continue their careers, the island's pro wrestling circuit also got heavier and dreerier(when they weren't parodying the USA product anyway). The technical, almost acrobatic Good Versus Good "blue eyes" bouts giving way to rougher chain wrestling, brawling, cheating, death defying dives and even sometimes Garbage Wrestling.
  • ECW brought hardcore wrestling back to North America, made luchadores popular in the United States, reemphasized the value of mat technique and made professional wrestling Darker and Edgier at a time when the two biggest promotions, the WWF and WCW, were still putting out an altogether Lighter and Softer, more comic-book-ish product. Men such as Dean Malenko, Taz, Eddie Guerrero, Super Crazy and Masato Tanaka were pushed solely on talent and crowd response, while others like Sandman had their weaknesses painstakingly hidden. Amazingly enough, WCW, part of the Time Warner media empire, and WWF, a multi-million dollar entertainment company in its own right, ended up taking their cues from a tiny promotion that ran shows out of a converted bingo hall in South Philadelphia. ECW didn't just bring back Garbage Wrestling, it also brought in elements of shoot style that for whatever reason simply were not catching on in the US, such as tapping out, as well incorporating "puroresu" and "lucha libre" elements and helping those gain traction in the US. Unfortunately WWF and especially WCW raided ECW's lockeroom until only the only things that stood out about it when it closed were garbage wrestling and cat fights.
  • Born out of internal turmoil in the Universal Wrestling Federation, Satoru Sayama's Shooto, the world's first mixed martial arts promotion, took awhile to bare fruit. It was in fact largely ignored and forgotten by the MMA community. Nonetheless, mixed martial arts changed pro wrestling noticeably, most immediately and ironically by pretty much destroying the shoot style pro wrestling it was born out of (a one two punch with New Japan's burial of UWF during an invasion angle). Fans who wanted more serious or realistic pro wrestling simply turned to MMA rather than shoot style, quite a few successful mixed martial artists were more willing than shoot style wrestlers to work with and put over traditional puroresu and strong style in worked matches(understandable after NJPW buried UWF), while several hyped up shoot style wrestlers failed in MMA, with low and mid carders like Kazushi Sakuraba finding the most MMA success(since shoot style wrestlers were legitimately beating each other up the top stars working more matches, longer matches, were too beat up for legitimate fights). MMA also nearly destroyed the strong style shoot style was born out of, although this was less an audience shift as it had been with shoot style and more on Antonio Inoki deciding to push wrestlers in New Japan based on the strength of their MMA records without considering their ability to work matches or appeal to crowds...or that fans who really cared that much about MMA records would just watch MMA. MMA is also behind a lot of the weirder developments of Japan. Several pro wrestling styles("traditional", "strong", "shoot", "lucharesu", "garbage") had long coexisted on the nation's circuit, but MMA is what convinced promoters things like Fighting Opera Hustle could find an audience.
  • The WWF also had one at some point between 1996 and 1998, but mileage varies on what exactly it was. Some people cite Steve Austin's victory at King of the Ring 1996 and resulting Austin 3:16 promo, which made him the only thing to rival the New World Order in popularity. Others cite Austin's match against Bret Hart, face of the WWF along with Shawn Michaels, at WrestleMania XIII, when Austin turned face and Hart heel. Others will cite the formation of D-Generation X, an edgy, raunchy stable that was somewhat nWo influenced (it had members of The Kliq in it as well, after) and feuded with the Hart Foundation, Bret Hart's groupnote . Resulting from that feud was Michaels and Hart's match at Survivor Series 1997, Hart's last match in the WWF under his current contract. The match was to end ambiguously and Hart was to surrender his championship the next day on Raw, but Michaels, Vince McMahon and Triple H conspired to end the match without Hart's knowledge. This event created the Mr. McMahon character and a decade's worth of unmitigated hostility between Hart and those involved. The final event is Austin's match against Michaels at WrestleMania XIV, when Austin defeated Michaels and in the words of JR "The Austin Era (had) begun." This event kickstarted the Austin-McMahon feud, which would be the focal point of the company for three years, in the company's most successful or second most successful era, the Attitude Era. Similarly, at and before WrestleMania X-Seven, the Attitude Era ended. Vince purchased WCW, the company's chief rival, and at WrestleMania, one of the greatest PPV's in history, Austin faced The Rock for the WWF Championship, unbelievably, Stone Cold turned heel in his hometown and sided with McMahon to beat Rock. The central feuds of the Attitude Era, both in real life and kayfabe, had ended within a week of each other.
  • All Pro Wrestling's King Of Indies tournament arc planted the idea that pro wrestlers on the independent circuit in a country virtually monopolized by WWF/E, wrestling for tiny feds with no television, could nonetheless draw money if given the chance. Seeing it caused foreign promotions as large and successful as westside Xtreme wrestling, Pro Wrestling ZERO1, Fighting Opera HUSTLE and even All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling to not only consider signing US indie talent on the strength of tapes alone but actively engage in tape trading and the scouting of small US wrestling schools and promotions to find more. KOI was directly responsible for Ring of Honor both existing and not being yet another ECW knockoff like early IWA M-S and CZW. Without KOI getting international attention TNA's X Division would not have been nearly as big. In the UK a "King Of Europe" cup was imitated in hopes of creating similar opportunities for it's own wrestlers, who were virtually all at indie status with World Of Sport being no more.
  • The 2006-2007 double whammy of the Sports Illustrated steroids report — in which several wrestlers were named for purchasing performance-enhancing drugs, including several high profile fan favorites — and the horrific Chris Benoit murder-suicide of his family put the WWE under the harshest negative light it had encountered since Owen Hart's tragic and preventable death. Sponsors began to leave in droves as the company was painted as a misogynistic, crass, steroid-fueled carny show and the media had ten years worth of Attitude Era footage to drive home that point (they had a field day with the infamous "Vince makes Trish strip and bark like a dog" segment). In 2008, the WWE began a company-wide sanitizing of their product to shed the "Attitude" image, phasing out blood, foul language, and sexually charged gimmicks and angles, cleaning up RAW to a TV-PG product, doubling down on their charity work with children, and implementing a strict drug testing program. They even removed "Wrestling" from its name in order to promote itself as family-friendly general entertainment and sever its association to pro wrestling and its associated stigmas ("WWE" is no longer an acronym outside of legalese). Although long-time fans decry the Lighter and Softer route to this day, the company has repaired its image in the public eye, as kid-friendly companies like Chef Boyardee renewed their sponsorships in the end, the media reports often on their charitable actions, and celebrities and athletes participate on the shows, illustrating that it is no longer a negative connotation to be associated with WWE.
  • SHIMMER was the first USA women's promotion since the WWWA to successfully make headlines while focusing on athleticism, rather than either the blatant T&A that the WWE women's division could degenerate into at times, or Camp like GLOW and its successors. It started as an invitational talent showcase not unlike early ROH, specifically to help women get respect, and bookings, after the closing of Zenjo and GAEA, the world biggest women wrestling feds. It also did double duty as the "women's division" of other independent feds like All American Wrestling, gradually eating away at the open msyogeny in the ROH fanbase in particular to the point that when the two companies parted ways there was a Vocal Minority that consistently demanded ROH give them a replacement to the SHIMMER showcases for four years until ROH complied. New women's divions and promotions sprang up much more rapidly in the USA as well, some being more openly SHIMMER inspired than others(Absolute Intense Wrestling boasted their women's division would beat SHIMMER at its own game and as far away as AUS the GLIMMER fed initially had the exact same logo font). The tiny Berwyn fed made such a buzz older efforts like PGWA and ChickFight actually benefited from it. As Pat Laprade and Dan Murphy wrote in Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Women's Wrestling, "Without a doubt, a case could be made that the first shots of the 2015 WWE Women's Revolution were actually fired at the Berwyn Eagles Club a decade before."
  • After WCW and ECW closed their doors in 2001, most wrestlers in the US and Canada thought that the only viable option for making it in wrestling was WWE... until Christian chose not to re-sign when his WWE contract expired in 2005, and instead go to TNA. While many wrestlers like Sting and AJ Styles had turned down numerous WWE offers, while former WWE wrestlers had gone to TNA before, he was the first wrestler with a comfortable spot in WWE to choose TNA of his own volition, and set the ball rolling on the idea that WWE was not the be-all and end-all of wrestling, which has gathered steam in the decade-plus since with things like indy wrestler Steve Corino revealing he could make more money working in the indies than on a WWE developmental contract, CM Punk's "pipe bomb" promo where he mentioned New Japan and Ring of Honor by name, Cody Rhodes becoming a bigger star outside of WWE than he ever was with them, and Rhodes going on to play a huge role in the establishment of All Elite Wrestling. A major factor in this has been the advent of internet streaming, as it means wrestlers and companies no longer need TV pay-per-views to gain exposure.
  • The sudden popularity of women's wrestling in NXT (particularly the Four Horsewomen of Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair and Bayley) resulted in the decline of the model-type wrestler as well as the Divas moniker in favor of the more athletic type female wrestler.

    Public Safety Announcements 
  • For the longest time airline safety demonstrations by flight attendants while the plane taxis for takeoff were all pretty much the same from airline to airline, being mandated by government aviation rules and international agreements — how to buckle your seatbelts, no smoking, how to put on your oxygen mask, stow your tray tables and put your seat upright for takeoff, yada yada. The introduction of in-flight entertainment screens at first just outsourced the requirement to technology, with the videos all pretty much conveying the same info with maybe a "Thanks for flying with (airline)" to differentiate. Low-cost carriers were the first to look into making these part of the flying experience: Virgin Atlantic began toying with making the videos entertaining around 2000 by animating them, while Southwest Airlines began having their attendants inject one-line humor into their demonstrations (them being a carrier who couldn't afford video entertainment on their planes). But it wasn't until 2008 when Delta's "Deltalina" safety videos became a viral hit that the major carriers realized that these videos were a potential way to advertise their brand by making them really entertaining and memorable to passengers. Several commissioned their own series that both convey the necessary safety information in a memorable manner (yes, volcano in Italy, when United says no smoking that means you) and impart the airline's own marketing and branding (compare these from Air France, ANA, and especially Air New Zealand).

    Radio and Podcasting 
  • In 1927, the American radio network NBC needed a way to alert network control engineers and announcers on their stations whenever programming was about to change. To do that, they came up with a seven-note series of chimes, later shortened to just three notes (G-E-C)... and in doing so, invented the Theme Tune as the "NBC chimes" became the network's calling card.
  • On October 20, 1930, the Chicago radio station WGN premiered the Radio Drama Painted Dreams, generally considered to be the first Soap Opera. While Painted Dreams was canceled in 1943, the shows it inspired would go on to outlive radio as a medium for dramatic storytelling and profoundly shape the early history of television. Show Runner Irna Phillips, remembered as the "Queen of the Soaps", went on to create several landmark shows in the genre, among them Guiding Light, As the World Turns, and Another World — and moreover, her fight with WGN in 1932 over the rights to Painted Dreams (which she wanted to sell to a national network) led her to seek full creative and financial control over her properties from then on out, allowing her to build a creative empire in the mid-20th century.
  • Dragnet (1949-57 on radio, 1951-59 on television) invented the modern Police Procedural, using law enforcement as the basis for a series in which the plot of each episode would revolve around the investigation of a crime. Jack Webb used his contacts within the Los Angeles Police Department to ensure authenticity, including using fictionalized versions of real cases as subject matter for his show, popularizing the use of Ripped from the Headlines plots in police procedurals along the way. It also marked a sea change in how American pop culture depicted the police. Beforehand, police officers were targets of mockery, portrayed as bumbling and incompetent by the likes of the Keystone Cops and many others inspired by them, while Webb's steely, lantern-jawed Sgt. Joe Friday was a morally upstanding figure who commanded respect and authority, the prototype for generations of heroic police officers in television and film. Bob Chipman, in this episode of The Big Picture, called it "one of the most influential and culture-shaping shows in history", and described most fictional portrayals of the police since as either "descendants of, or reactions to, Dragnet in some way."
  • The payola scandals of 1959.
    • For starters, they are the reason why disc jockeys at commercial radio stations in the United States no longer have the freedom to choose what songs they want to play. The Congressional investigations into payola revealed that many DJs were being paid under the table to play songs that the record labels were promoting, a deep conflict of interest (especially for those, like Dick Clark and Alan Freed, who had ownership stakes in labels whose records they were pushing). The result was that many radio stations stripped their DJs of the authority to make programming decisions, with more power concentrated in the hands of the station manager.
    • The investigations into payola were also, together with the Day the Music Died, one of two Genre-Killers for Rock & Roll in 1959, giving it an image as manufactured pop music pushed by the labels rather than an organic fanbase. It took The British Invasion to break rock out of that image.
  • In 1981, Scott Shannon, then a host and operations manager at WRBQ in Tampa, Florida, invented the "morning zoo" program, a Denser and Wackier morning radio show focused on zany antics and interactions between the hosts in addition to straight news, weather, and music. Morning radio shows would become a lot more lighthearted and humorous as a result, especially after Shannon took his show to the struggling WHTZ in 1983 and turned it into New York City's biggest radio station almost overnight.
  • In Australia, prior to the premiere of The Coodabeen Champions in 1981, shows analyzing sport in general and Australian Rules Football in particular were Serious Business. The Coodabeens' laid-back, often comedic style influenced many shows, both on radio and television, to take a more casual approach, more a bunch of friends chatting about the game than experts talking about statistics and tactics.
  • Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh, upon their respective national debuts in 1986 and '88, both revolutionized the American radio Talk Show. Stern's eponymous show pushed the boundaries of Vulgar Humor on the radio while riding the ensuing controversy to ever-greater heights of success and infamy, leading to a wave of Shock Jock radio hosts in The '90s each trying to outdo Stern and each other. Limbaugh, meanwhile, took the same confrontational style and applied it to politics rather than comedy, exploiting the repeal of the FCC's "Fairness Doctrine"note  in 1987 to create a program that wore its right-wing partisanship on its sleeve, leading to a similar proliferation of conservative talk show hosts. Together, Stern and Limbaugh also demonstrated that there was still a lot of life left in non-music radio formats, which had been in decline for decades since the rise of television.
  • The fallout from Janet Jackson's Wardrobe Malfunction at the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in 2004, described in more detail on the Live-Action TV page, spread beyond just television. Not only did more sexualized and foul-mouthed musicians (including Janet herself) get pushed off of American pop radio playlists, the affair also ended the heyday of the radio Shock Jock, with many of them vanishing from the airwaves as crackdowns on indecent content gathered steam. This led to a long boom in satellite radio in the late '00s and '10s as edgier music and talk shows became its Killer App compared to a sanitized terrestrial radio landscape, one that would only peter out in the late '10s with the rise of streaming and podcasting. Howard Stern moving his show from terrestrial radio to Sirius satellite radio (now SiriusXM) in October 2004 after Clear Channel pulled his show off their stations is perhaps the most visible symbol of how the incident marked the End of an Age in radio and the start of a new one. And with that...
  • Joe Rogan, with the launch of his show The Joe Rogan Experience in 2009, did this for podcasting.
    • He brought the radio Talk Show to the internet with a hip, edgy program filled with content that would never fly on terrestrial radio, while also being more accessible than satellite radio's paid subscription service. Many people who, before Rogan, would've become radio hosts instead started podcasts after seeing the far lower barrier to entry that the medium enabled, while many existing radio programs and networks (such as NPR) brought their shows to podcasting as well in order to reach younger listeners.
    • His brand of humor also marked a shift in radio programs geared towards young men. While his show still kept one foot firmly planted in unapologetic fratbro culture, Rogan embraced an Erudite Stoner image that was simultaneously more laid-back and more intellectual than the Shock Jocks of the '90s and early '00s, with many episodes being long-form "shoot the shit" interviews with various public figures of interest to him, including athletes, authors, business leaders, comedians, politicians, and scientists. Many of the podcasts that followed in Rogan's wake embraced his more casual style.
  • Welcome to Night Vale changed the podcast game in one episode in 2012 with "A Story About You", highlighting the flexibility of the narrative and taking full advantage of the medium of the podcast. Since it did not have to show anything, it could tell one story and immerse the listener in a way that had never been done before. With attention on this one episode, Night Vale demonstrated the potential of the podcast as a medium for storytelling outside of small critical circles and gave it credibility as a legitimate art form, helping to revive and modernize the Radio Drama for a new generation.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the mid-1980s, the appearance of Warhammer and Battletech popularised fantasy and science fiction settings in wargaming, which had until then been dominated by historical games, and brought a new generation into the hobby.
  • Dungeons & Dragons was created when a couple of friends decided to see what would happen if, instead of playing wargames representing thousands of troops in huge, usually realistic, battles, you used similar rules to control just a few individuals. This quickly led to the idea of following them through a series of small encounters and building up a story rather than just a single battle, and thus the modern roleplaying game was born. The idea was so influential that even more traditional wargames like Warhammer these days focus on much smaller, more character-focused battles than had historically been the case, while for the most part roleplaying games took over from wargaming almost entirely.
    • Dragonlance was TSR's first attempt to go beyond simple Dungeon Crawling and create a plotline reminiscent of epic fantasy novels, with the fate of the world at stake. And speaking of novels, it was the also the first instance of tie-in novels for a game setting.
    • Critical Role proved that people were willing to watch an RPG that they weren't playing in. (At least, in the West. RPG "replays" had been a thing in Japan for a long time by then, although usually in text or audio format.)
  • The World of Darkness took the Urban Fantasy revolution that Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire had started in fantasy literature and brought it into gaming and beyond. Its portrayal of vampires, werewolves, and other horror monsters and fantasy creatures as being organized into various factions with different supernatural abilities, a concept created mainly for gameplay purposes, soon leaped out of tabletop gaming altogether and influenced various modern portrayals of those creatures in books, movies, and TV, with concepts from the games having a heavy influence on vampire lore in particular. It was also a key popularizer of gothic style and fashion, pulling it out of the '80s underground and making it into a sexy, cool, and edgy fixture of the '90s counterculture — and, in the process, coining the term Gothic Punk for how its style doubled back on the urban fantasy stories it influenced.

  • Aeschylus did this for drama — 2500 years ago — when he made drama by introducing two characters and a chorus and used mythical themes to address contemporary concerns.
  • Euripides reinvented theater again by pioneering many stage and narrative techniques for tragedy. In fact, it was his plays that were studied by scholars that led to the birth of the Renaissance as a whole and tragedy in particular. Some notable techniques that he introduced and was hugely influential included:
    • The framing of heroes as ordinary, relatable people under extraordinary circumstances.
    • The focus on female and minority characters as figures of pity and tragedy.
    • The comedic elements within Tragedy. Most notably, his main characters are as equally be the butt of a joke as everyone else while his contemporaries if they employ comedy within tragedy is relegated to background characters.
  • The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd was the Trope Maker and Trope Codifier for Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama, paving the way for Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare. Kyd introduced the classic revenge plot, Feuding Families in fancy exotic settings and most importantly the use of iambic pentameter and blank verse to tell a tragedy. The English rather than feeling second fiddle to the tragedies of Spain and Italy, could have a homegrown version in colloquial language, and this marked the start of the Golden Age of English Literature.
  • Shakespeare's plays probably didn't change theatre so much as the world, but his plays, quite unintentionally, demonstrated that the so-called "classical unities" (i.e. what some authors thought Aristotle was prescribing in Poetics) of time-place-action did not really get in the way of crowd participation and interest. Shakespeare's plays had action in many different places, rooms and settings, took place over many days and had many different actions. This wasn't as radical in England as it was in "the Continent" where French and German artists saw Shakespeare as an avant-garde writer.
  • Henrik Ibsen changed theatre by introducing psychological realism and everyday settings for his dramas. Ibsen was also one of the first dramatists that tried to represent social issues and problems (pertaining to marriage, divorce, women's liberation and nonconformism) as a deliberate object of critique.
    • He paved the way for Bertolt Brecht (who was far more radical and less realist than Ibsen, but nonetheless was a social critic and used theatre to address it) and Arthur Miller (whose Death of a Salesman was highly inspired by Ibsen).
    • Ibsen paved the way for Anton Chekhov (plays where "nothing" happened) and Samuel Beckett (where even less than nothing happened). After Ibsen, the living room and people's houses became the center of battle for stage. The problems of everyday people became the stuff of high drama, no less grand and capable of arousing pity and fear as the Kings, Demigods, heroes and schemers of Greek and Elizabethan Theater.
  • In the mid-late 19th century, the London stage was full of all kinds of vulgar, lewd, and risqué shows (so were stages in all the European capitals); the works of Gilbert and Sullivan showed there was room for family-friendly fare in the theatre. This in itself would be a turning point, but after Gilbert and Sullivan, those making "light opera" or "operetta" began following the G&S model... and a little while later, people realized that G&S had invented The Musical.
  • Oklahoma!, upon its debut in 1943, elevated musical theater from fluffy entertainment into a legitimate form of artistic storytelling. While it was not the first musical to use song, dialogue, and dance (those have long been staples of the genre), it did combine these three elements in as mature and realistic a fashion as was possible in a story where characters routinely broke into song, organically integrating the musical numbers with spoken dialogue without trying to justify it.
  • A Streetcar Named Desire's original production in 1950 changed American (and by extension global) culture forever. Not only for the play and its great writing (by Tennessee Williams) but also for its starring role by Marlon Brando and direction by Elia Kazan. Its approach to psychological realism, focus on sexual neurosis and sympathy for mental turmoil, shifted theatre away from social problem issues to personal, identity issues dealing with human psychology and family hangups. Brando's performance introduced greater standards of realism and led to Method Acting becoming the dominant school, for better and worse.
  • In The '60s, Lenny Bruce became one of the most notorious comedians of all time with his live act, based around a mix of political, racial, and religious satire with a large dose of Vulgar Humor, which got him blacklisted from television and made him a target of law enforcement but which also earned him a deeply devoted cult fandom. His battles with censors and obscenity laws were not only galvanizing moments in the history of freedom of speech in the US, they also made him a template for later comics like George Carlin and Richard Pryor, both of whom cited him as a key influence. While modern stand-up comedy has its roots in vaudeville, the Borscht Belt, and the chitlin' circuit, Bruce made stand-up into the vehicle for edgy, boundary-pushing humor that it would come to be known for in the late 20th century.
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber revolutionized the high-end Broadway and West End theater by popularizing the "megamusical", the musical theater equivalent of the Summer Blockbuster in its emphasis on spectacle, melodrama, theatricality, lavish production values, and a mostly sung-through script. His 1981 show Cats is often specifically pointed to as marking the birth of the megamusical, though his earlier shows Jesus Christ Superstar (1971) and Evita (1978) also contained elements of it.
  • Cirque du Soleil accomplished this trope three times over:
    • Starting with its 1987 tour Le Cirque Réinventé, Cirque did a lot to raise circus out of the kiddie entertainment ghetto it had fallen into in North America. Now, there are numerous successful "contemporary circus" troupes/companies that play to a wide variety of audiences, without even counting the blatant imitators of Cirque's style (which was derived from European and Asian circuses) that have sprung up.
    • On a related note, it also played a major role in killing off the use of wild animals in the circus. As the use of captive elephants, bears, big cats, and other creatures grew increasingly controversial from The '90s onward, many animal rights activists pointed to Cirque as a model for how to create an engaging circus show while relying entirely on human performers. While Siegfried and Roy's infamous mishap with their tiger marked the ultimate tipping point for such (in addition to permanently ending their own show), Cirque helped lay the groundwork for their decline before then.
    • Their first Las Vegas resident show, Mystère, helped change that city's entertainment scene. Siegfried and Roy's magic show at the Mirage had opened four years prior and was also a big game changer after years of increasingly stale showgirl revues, but Mystere was actually taken seriously as theater, to the point that Time magazine's theater critic named it one of the best shows of 1994. While it would lead to many acclaimed sister productions in the city, other Vegas casino-hotels imported such productions as Blue Man Group, Jersey Boys, and The Lion King, often with huge success, resulting in a more diverse range of entertainment for tourists.

    Theme Parks 
  • Walt Disney didn't want to bring his kids to the same sleazy, ratty carnivals that he went to growing up, so he created Disneyland in order to raise the bar with a park more reminiscent of a World's Fair where parents and kids could have fun together. When it opened in 1955, Disneyland set a new standard for the industry, and many older parks had to step up their game if they wanted to compete. Virtually every theme park today follows some form of the template that Walt Disney originally laid down.
  • The Racer at Kings Island in Ohio revolutionized roller coasters upon its opening in 1972, giving them a second wind in The '70s after decades of decline while demonstrating that wooden coasters, seen as increasingly obsolete in the face of faster, looping steel coasters, still had plenty of life left in them.
  • In 1973, Knott's Berry Farm in California decided to juice up the park for Halloween by going beyond just static props and scenery and having Bud Hurlbut, the designer and operator of the Calico Mine Ride, put on a gorilla suit and scare the people riding it. It was an instant success, and became the genesis for Knott's Scary Farm, which took Halloween attractions to a new level by having not just one dedicated haunted house or a handful of them, but an entire real-life Amusement Park of Doom filled with hundreds of "scareactors" in costume there to scare the bejeezus out of guests. It became the inspiration for similar Halloween attractions at other parks, including Six Flags' Fright Fest, Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights, and Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream, as well as any number of smaller, independent haunted house operators in the years to come.
  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
    • The opening of the first Wizarding World area at Universal Islands of Adventure in 2010 decisively pulled the Universal Orlando Resort out from the shadow of nearby Walt Disney World and made it into an attraction in its own right, demonstrating that parks not named Disney could compete with it on its bread-and-butter of production values and licensed properties.
    • The later opening of the Diagon Alley expansion to Universal Studios Florida in 2014 brought perhaps a bigger shift in the theme park world. What it proved was that theme park lands that were deeply immersive and themed to a single IP, as opposed to the broader collections of loosely connected attractions of lands passed, were deeply appealing to both guests and the parks themselves; Universal's research after opening the land showed them that guest satisfaction and spending was up in these immersive areas compared to outside of it. Both sides took note: Disney responded with Toy Story Land, Pandora – The World of Avatar, and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Universal meanwhile would retool their under-construction Universal Studios Beijing to follow the "immersive lands" concept a bit more closely, and would design their fourth Orlando park, Epic Universe, around the concept of enclosed IP-based lands entirely.
  • The 2013 documentary Blackfish, an exposé of animal abuse and unsafe working conditions (including spotlighting the 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau) at theme parks like SeaWorld that boasted marine animals like orcas and dolphins as major attractions, kicked off a backlash against such parks that forced them to heavily change their practices. SeaWorld announced the retirement of its famous Shamu orca show, many other marine parks and zoos introduced new animal welfare guidelines, and more broadly, such parks shifted their focus from entertainment and stunt shows featuring animals performing tricks to conservation, education, and letting people observe animals in simulacra of their natural environments. Parks that didn't adapt to this shift, such as the Miami Seaquarium, came under growing pressure from regulators and animal rights activists.

  • In 1956, Ruth Handler saw a German Bild Lilli doll while on a trip to Europe. While Bild Lilli, based on a bawdy character from a German comic strip, was aimed at adult men, Handler thought that little girls like her daughter Barbara would be interested in a doll portrayed not as a child like most of the American dolls made at the time, but as a glamorous fashion model and career woman. What's more, since she and her husband were the co-owners of Mattel, she had a way to get it made. And thus was born Barbie in 1959, who changed dolls and girls' toys forever. To paraphrase a quote from Handler, she changed the paradigm of the doll industry from a fantasy of motherhood to a fantasy of being all grown up, an impact that stretched beyond just toys as the first stirrings of what would become the women's liberation movement arrived in little girls' toyboxes. The prologue for the 2023 Barbie movie demonstrated this metaphorically.
    Narrator: Since the beginning of time, since the first little girl ever existed, there have been... dolls. But the dolls were always and forever baby dolls. The girls who played with them can only aspire to be mothers. Which can be fun... at least, for a while anyway. Ask your mothers. This continued until...
    <cue Also sprach Zarathustra as little girls smash their baby dolls in favor of Barbie, in homage to the Stone Age scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey>
  • Another Mattel product, Hot Wheels, likewise changed toy cars upon its release in 1968. Before, toy cars were typically either all-metal or all-wood, based on real-world cars, had narrow wheels, and were designed to be rolled around by hand. Hot Wheels cars, meanwhile, were more inspired by customized hot rods, and with their innovative suspension and wide plastic wheels, they could be smoothly raced on both flat wood and linoleum surfaces (like tables or kitchen floors) and specially designed tracks at speeds that would cause other toy cars of similar size to crash and go flying. Other toy companies, most notably Matchbox, had to scramble to catch up with Hot Wheels' innovations, which are now the standard for toy cars save for some "boutique" collectible companies.
  • For years, the concept of virtual pets was limited to Raising Sim games on computers. In November 1996, Bandai released the Tamagotchi virtual pets, a 2-inch tall plastic egg with a screen and buttons, with a simple, intuitive interface to raise a virtual pet. Rather than raising an ordinary pet like a dog or cat, a Tamagotchi's appearance and lifespan are both directly impacted by how well the owner cares for it. And because the Tamagotchi couldn't just be turned off during the day like its computer-based predecessors, the owner had to be attentive of it all day to ensure it didn't die. Over 20 years later, virtual pets, handheld toys and otherwise, are still built upon many of the the principles that Tamagotchi introduced.

    Visual Novels 
  • Dōkyūsei revolutionized the entire Dating Sim genre upon its release in 1992 by taking full advantage of the fresh, new generation of computer hardware it arrived on, delivering a multi-hour experience with several different routes and made extensive use of a In-Universe Game Clock for timed story events, and as such it ended up being both the Trope Codifier and Trope Maker for many of the tropes that would come to define the whole genre from there on out. In fact, it is probably what can mainly be credited for love interests in Dating Sims having a personality outside "living love doll".
  • What can be argued to be next big leap in Dating Sim genre's evolution after Dōkyūsei, came with the release of Tokimeki Memorial in 1994, which can be credited with successfully pulling a Tamer and Chaster on the entire genre. By exorcising the pornographic content that the genre was otherwise known for, and instead focusing on lighter, more innocent romances and learning more towards more family-friendly comedy, Tokimeki Memorial became a mainstream smash hit and proved that Sex Sells didn't necessarily hold true for Dating Sim or even Visual Novels in general.
  • Kanon is responsible for giving the male protagonist a personality, as well as making Porn with Plot eroge just as marketable as Porn Without Plot games (though the developers had previously done ONE -kagayaku kisetsu e-, Moon., and Dousei before forming their own studio, none of these games had the impact that Kanon had).
  • Katawa Shoujo helped make visual novels a viable genre in the Western world, even though it was a Western-developed game. Combined with Steam allowing smaller publishers mentioned earlier, official localizations of visual novels are becoming more common.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue wasn't the first web series by a long shot, but it was the first successful one, showing that internet video could support popular scripted series. It also wrote the book for all future machinima, raising the bar and setting a new standard for the genre while elevating it beyond the realm of cheaply-made fan films, demonstrating that it could appeal to far more than just fans of the games.

    Web Video 
  • And the other half of the mid-late '00s web video revolution, lonelygirl15, did for live-action shows what Red vs. Blue did for machinima and animation. It demonstrated that independent producers on YouTube could make series with real production values and engaging long-term storylines, setting the stage for everything from The Guild and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog all the way up to the emergence of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Studios as serious players in television. Furthermore, lonelygirl15 was the Trope Maker for the Vlog Series, a format later employed by other popular web shows as diverse as Marble Hornets and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.
  • In the short-term, the success of The Angry Video Game Nerd led to a string of copycats making their own Caustic Critic web shows. In the long-term, his success helped pioneer the Video Review Show, the concept of which would later be refined and expanded on by future online reviewers such as The Nostalgia Critic and JonTron.
  • Mr. Plinkett Reviews pioneered and popularized long-form, detailed video essays in its 70-minute review of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. An online video of that length, particularly a critique of a film, was rather unheard of at this time. It helped that this was back when YouTube only allowed videos of 10 minutes in length, requiring the essay to be broken into seven parts. Nowadays, lengthy and detailed analyses on a wide range of subjects are very common.
  • The Abridged Series genre, thanks to Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series (which pioneered the concept), for a good while tended to run on wacky No Fourth Wall humor, general disregard for the actual plot of the series, Shout Outs, exaggerated Flanderization of characters, being often devoted to making Take That's at whatever official dubs of the series exist. And then Dragon Ball Z Abridged came along - while the first season certainly had some of these traits, season 2 (which is also where the series was considered to have grown the beard largely by viewers but especially its own creators) shifted away from this approach more and more over time, and instead moved towards more low-key, character driven humor that tried to retain most of the drama of the actual plot while making genuine attempts to improve upon the original and delve more into the Affectionate Parody aspect of the genre. Nowadays, modern abridged series, such as Sword Art Online Abridged, use this formula instead. Ironically, this this shift in writing and tone also inspired LittleKuriboh, the creator of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series (as well as a friend of the creators of DBZ Abridged and regular cast member of the series) to also do much the same thing with his own series, starting in season 3.

  •, a youth-focused, "Generation X" online magazine from the latter half of The '90s that offered commentary on pop culture, politics, technology, and more, wrote the book for the likes of Cracked, Buzzfeed, the Gizmodo Media (formerly Gawker Media) group, and countless other sites with its ironic, Deadpan Snarker house style. One of its innovations, the use of hyperlinks to drive a point or as a punchline, is now de rigeur even on many "serious" websites. Even though the site was ultimately done in by the dot-com bubble in 2001, its legacy lives on in the many sites its writers and editors would go on to create or otherwise write for.

    Western Animation 
  • In Warner Bros. cartoons, Tex Avery revolutionized both the Warner cartoons and the animation industry itself. At a time when Warner and almost all other studios were bent on imitating Disney, and in which Warner cartoons in particular were suffering from deathly mediocrity, Avery came along in 1935 with his zany, faster-paced, smartassed, fourth-wall-breaking comedy, and cartoons haven't been the same since. If you watch the Warner cartoon library in sequence and look at what the studio was doing by 1937 or '38, it's amazing to think that this same studio had been producing terminally boring cartoons just two or three years earlier. When Warner cartoons finally became funny, they had Tex to thank for it.
  • The Dover Boys (1942) is a double turning point for American animation. It marks the point were Warner's animators stopped aping Disney and started experimenting with much more stylized action. It also marks the point when Chuck Jones went from the junior director who did the Sniffles the Mouse cartoons to a major innovator.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) (1983-1985) proved that adapting a popular toy line into a television show as a form of cross-promotion, instead of the other way around, was a financially viable concept. Without it, many long-running, popular series like Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles might not exist.
  • Starting with Adventures of the Gummi Bears in 1985, the many animated television series made by Disney, with their higher budgets, better animation, and better writing and storytelling, played a huge role in the birth of The Renaissance Age of Animation, showing how television animation could be as capable of genuinely good works of fiction as animated films could be and breaking the taboo that television animation was all cheap, badly-made Merchandise-Driven schlock.
  • The short lived Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures (1987-1988) completely overhauled the expectations of what a television cartoon could do and began the practice of cartoonist-controlled animation and en-masse pop culture references.
  • The Simpsons (1989-present) is one of the most groundbreaking shows in American history, responsible for numerous innovations in not just TV animation but TV comedy in general.
    • It was one of the first animated series in decades that was aimed squarely at adults and not at children (even if children thought Bart Simpson was awesome, to the horror of Moral Guardians), breaking the Animation Age Ghetto by demonstrating that grown adults will happily watch a "cartoon" provided it had witty, mature humor that didn't treat them like idiots. Shows like Family Guy, South Park, and Rick and Morty would have never been possible without The Simpsons. To quote Seth MacFarlane:
      The Simpsons created an audience for prime-time animation that had not been there for many, many years ... As far as I'm concerned, they basically reinvented the wheel. They created what is in many ways — you could classify it as — a wholly new medium.
    • Moreover, it accomplished this by fusing lowbrow slapstick, highbrow satire, pop culture homages, and surreal meta comedy in such a way that had never been seen in a sitcom before, animated or live-action. After The Simpsons, TV comedy was free to get a lot more experimental than it had before, paving the way for everything from the postmodernism of Community to the philosophical exploration of The Good Place.
    • It has also been cited as the show that killed the Laugh Track. Most, if not all, sitcoms at this time had a laugh track, a tradition that The Simpsons bucked, demonstrating that it was not particularly necessary for a sitcom to have one in order to be funny. While Malcolm in the Middle would be the first successful American live-action sitcom that lacked one, it was The Simpsons that started the trend.
  • Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995, 1997-1999) allowed comic book superhero animated series to move past the Animation Age Ghetto of the Super Friends, with heroes and villains that have complex motivations and (often) tragic backstories, and spawned a very well-remembered franchise. It also proved that an animated show could be darker and deeper and have epic story lines while still appealing to children, and without alienating adults, which remains a major aspect in action/adventure shows to this day. Finally, it was the first TV cartoon to feature realistic handguns instead of Star Wars-inspired laser blasters.
  • South Park (1997-present), the show that put Comedy Central on the map, had a big impact on adult animation and TV as a whole:
    • In the short-term, the show’s success (with some help from Family Guy) would lead to a boom of adult animated series loaded with Vulgar Humor, swearing, and other types of raunchy comedy, codifying the Animated Shock Comedy genre, which dominated the animation landscape in the 2000s. With relatively few exceptions, it would not be until The New '10s when less raunchy adult animation would return.
    • In the long run, the show, one of the first to be rated TV-MA, helped break new ground for the kinds of content television in general could show, and was one of the first shows on cable TV with uncensored swearing.
    • And on a societal level, the show’s “both-sides”, take-no-prisoners approach to sociopolitical satire, mocking everyone from conservative parents' groups to moralistic liberals and not just one or the other. This helped birth what became known as the “South Park Republican,” a type of conservative that holds libertarian views on social issues and free-market views on fiscal issues, views influenced by how South Park tackled politics.
  • Steamboat Willie While it wasn't the first sound cartoon, the quality of its sound, on top of the quality of drawing and storytelling showed the world that animation had chops as a serious art form.
  • Adventure Time (2010-18) was released to massive popularity, and in the early days, fascinated viewers with its bizarre yet fantastical nature. Then the show started delivering a slew of Wham Episodes and monumental revelations, which are jarringly emotional compared to the wacky, experimental silliness that makes up the rest of the show. Several members of the show's crew would eventually go off on their own to create critically acclaimed shows of their own with similar blends of comedy and emotional depth, such as Rebecca Sugar with Steven Universe. The show today is recognized, along with Phineas and Ferb and Regular Show, as having helped start an era of more artistic and critically-acclaimed television animation, one that gave us shows like Gravity Falls, Infinity Train, and the aforementioned Steven Universe.