As a follow up to last year’s best animation of 2018, the mature animation movement continues to grow. The diversity of content makes me feel hopeful about shows to come. I anticipate that we will see more cell-shaded CG animation and animation in multiple art styles, like 2D and stop-motion in the year ahead. Subscription services have been the tipping point in making all of this possible. We can expect to see a rise in long-form narrative-focused animation for mature audiences. But first, let’s look back at the strides made in 2019.
Hazbin Hotel is about the Princess of Hell’s quest to save damned souls from the yearly “cleansing” by agents of heaven. The solution is to establish a hotel where evil souls can be rehabilitated. This is the most polished indie animated pilot I’ve ever seen and a bold new vision for adult comedy cartoons.
Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack) uses 25 years of experience in the animation industry to deliver a mature animated epic. The story is conveyed nonverbally and the fight scenes pack an emotional punch. The esthetic beauty and narrative sophistication leave other cartoons in the Stone Age.
SPA Studios returns to its animation roots by delivering a feature-length hand animated film. Klaus is about a young postman who makes an unlikely friendship with a reclusive toymaker. The two of them start the Santa Claus myth in a town in desperate need of Christmas cheer.
Missing Link is about a Sasquatch journeying to Shangri-La to reunite with his Yeti brethren. It’s a globetrotting adventure and a journey of self-discovery rendered in glorious stop-motion animation.
Invader Zim: Enter The Florpus
Whether you grew up on Invader Zim or are watching the show for the first time, nothing can prepare you for the bombastic madness that is Enter The Florpus. It’s a “cluster-fun” of wacky ideas rendered in snappy animation worthy of Studio Trigger.
After a near fatal car crash, 28-year-old Alma discovers she has the ability to manipulate time. Alma seeks to harness this power to prevent her father’s murder. Undone utilizes rotoscoped animation to its full effect to deliver mind-bending sequences.
Cannon Busters follows a group of unlikely allies on their journey across a SciFi western landscape with a healthy dose of magic, mechs and Afrofuturism. The show’s creator, LeSean Thomas, utilizes everything that was great about anime from the 90s into the present day.
Grindhouse isn’t an easy genre to pull off, but Seis Manos embodies the genre while also elevating it. The story follows a trio of Mexican orphans under the tutelage of a Chinese master. Together they use their Kung Fu to battle a supernatural drug cartel. While the show does make use of “stereotypes,” all the characters are rendered three-dimensionally in a way which feels empowering.
I could easily place any of the Gobelins animated shorts on this list. I chose In Orbit because of its use of horror iconography to convey guilt and loss. It’s a story that transcends the trappings of Sci-Fi and focuses on emotion.
Juan Pablo Machado’s twisted vision of Rapunzel blends Eastern and Western esthetics into an original fantasy world. Knights climb a tower beyond the clouds to find Princess Rapunzel and deliver her from a monster.
Seoro Oh captures what it feels like to have a cold in his surreal animated short (00). Oh’s use of visual metaphor combined with tight color and design sensibilities has created an unparalleled directorial perspective.
I Lost My Body
I Lost My Body tells two interconnected stories simultaneously. One story is about a boy trying to find love and discover who he is. The other tale is about a severed hand that goes on a harrowing journey through perilous environments to return to its owner. Combining drama, magical realism, and high adventure, I Lost My Body is in a genre of its own.
Underground Comix artist Dave Cooper brings his demented sensibilities to computer animation with The Absence of Eddy Table. The short explores how sometimes your true love and your greatest fear can be the same thing.
In Yin by Nicolas Fong, a jealous god creates a universe with an androgynous creature whom he separates into two complementary beings. The short explores the paradoxical nature of the Yin-Yang dynamic in a world comprised of optical illusions.
Tulip is a girl running away from her problems at home and gets trapped on a never-ending train. The show is rich in humor, character development, and world building. It’s the kind of story-focused mystery cartoon that we need more of. I eagerly await season 2.
Love Death + Robots is an adult animated anthology series developed by directors David Fincher (Fight Club) and Tim Miller (Deadpool). The episodes can be watched in any order and my personal favorites were “Good Hunting” and “Zima Blue.” Love Death + Robots is a great platform for animation studios to experiment with adult content. I believe that this series will open the door to even greater projects in the future.