Why do Adult Cartoons tend to look ugly or bland?

  • Enter to win two tickets to MIRAI plus Merch. Details here.

Latest News & Videos

Oct 23, 2014
976
Ratings
320 5
28
#1
One thing I noticed about Adult-Oriented animation is that the art style for most of these shows looks either super generic, or ugly as hell. Shows like Family Guy, Brickleberry, F is for Family simply look uninspired. While, shows like Nutshack, King Star King, and countless others are a visual mess. As always, there are exceptions. South Park's cheaply made, paper-cut-out style gives the show a sense of uniqueness, while Beavis and Butt-Head's rough, almost sketchbook animation helps convey the grungy, High School-metal aesthetic the show was going for. But with nearly every other adult cartoon I've seen, the art is at best, the weakest aspect.

I know there's ugly kids cartoons too, but I'd say kids shows on average tend to have more appealing visuals IMO. So what is with creators' habits of trying to make adult cartoons look super bland, or as ugly and gross as possible? What's wrong with a little color and stylistic flair in these shows?
 

Dudley

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Aug 10, 2003
28,554
Ratings
2,741 29
113
31
East Coast of USA
www.dtoons.com
#2
Probably to look similar to Family Guy and The Simpsons. If one adult show looks similar to another one, viewers have a visual cue to know that this show is for adults and not kids. So adults will know this is something for them to watch, and kids to stay away from (which they won’t)

I keep thinking about how often people complain about Big Mouth’s art style. Though a good style is subjective, the content in this show would be even more visually upsetting if the character designs were something similar to that of a preschool cartoon. Heck, I sometimes feel it gets away with a lot of because it’s visually ugly.

Speaking of preschool cartoons, they all have cute designs for the same reason adult cartoons have ugly designs, for reasons explained in the first paragraph.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

PapaGreg

Drinking my sorrows
Nov 1, 2013
5,090
Ratings
1,556 10
113
23
#3
Probably to look similar to Family Guy and The Simpsons. If one adult show looks similar to another one, viewers have a visual cue to know that this show is for adults and not kids. So adults will know this is something for them to watch, and kids to stay away from (which they won’t)
I think this is a pretty good reason, its one of the reasons why Happy Tree Friends was so controversial, it had a preschool design but it was ultra violent.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
Jan 19, 2004
24,361
Ratings
2,755 7
113
43
Framingham, MA
#4
The Simpsons designs are actually really appealing and Futurama is gorgeous. Other cartoons took the wrong lesson from the idea that Groening's designs are simple. They made them ugly too which The Simpsons designs most certainly are not.
 
Oct 23, 2014
976
Ratings
320 5
28
#5
The Simpsons designs are actually really appealing and Futurama is gorgeous. Other cartoons took the wrong lesson from the idea that Groening's designs are simple. They made them ugly too which The Simpsons designs most certainly are not.
Simpsons and Matt Groening's art in general is another good example. As you mentioned, they're simple, but also memorable. But again, those seem to be more the exceptions. Most of the other adult cartoons I've seen seem to think Ugly = Adult, or that Adults don't like heavily stylized characters or settings.
 

jaylop97

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Oct 5, 2014
15,490
Ratings
5,305 36
113
21
Austin, Texas
#6
When I was a really young kid I always assumed South Park was always a kids show, the designs and animation always gave it such a children's show appeal. Still to this day I kind have a hard time remembering it is an adult show because of the animation style, I enjoy it but it's a little too innocent looking to really have an adult cartoon's inner feeling.
 

SourSweetGone

Canterlot High Class of 83.
Mar 31, 2017
413
Ratings
281 5
43
US
#8
Because most Adult animation ironically is actually more base & juvenile then animation aimed at all-ages/kids.

Personally the only "Adult" toons I care for these days are Bojack Horseman, Castlevania & Final Space. As they actually have characters that develop over the course of the series instead of just being bland characatures.
 

I.R. Shokew

DISGRACED and Rooting ONLY for Underdogs
Sep 26, 2011
10,034
Ratings
1,794 10
113
Who wants to find me that badly anymore?
#9
To answer the question in my own way... You're looking at the core reason adults/teens prefer anime. And that stinks, IMHO, as it only further brings down Western/some European fare and its ability to ever be taken seriously in general, as a result. Myself? This is why I don't watch a lot of adult-aimed cartoons, as by looks alone, they look more insulting then shows aimed at kids - which, especially today, look so much better in comparison. Heck, I've sat to pre-school aimed shows that look better, without saying examples, of course.

And being further honest, money is not the issue here - with all the profits some of these adult shows make... You think they could afford to make their shows look more... enticing/inviting to watch on a regular basis.
 

JoeMabbon

Autobot Leader
Aug 8, 2014
6,833
Ratings
3,428 3
113
Ark-7
#10
I don’t know if I can comment on something as broad as all adult animation. I mean, Superjail, The Boondocks, Mike Tyson Mysteries? All wildly different, interesting looks. Even stuff like 12 oz mouse or Xavier: Renegade Angel is clearly going for a distinct aesthetic.
 
Oct 23, 2014
976
Ratings
320 5
28
#11
I don’t know if I can comment on something as broad as all adult animation. I mean, Superjail, The Boondocks, Mike Tyson Mysteries? All wildly different, interesting looks. Even stuff like 12 oz mouse or Xavier: Renegade Angel is clearly going for a distinct aesthetic.
Of course there are adult cartoons that look good, but a large majority of them don't have very memorable or appealing art styles. Even then, some ugly looking shows doesn't mean its bad. Xavier uses its ugly animation as clever joke fodder, as well as to enhance the surreal tone of the show. Though I get that art is subjective, and something that looks good to one person may not to another.
 

Leviathan

"It's against nature!"
Staff member
Moderator
#13
Of course there are adult cartoons that look good, but a large majority of them don't have very memorable or appealing art styles. Even then, some ugly looking shows doesn't mean its bad. Xavier uses its ugly animation as clever joke fodder, as well as to enhance the surreal tone of the show. Though I get that art is subjective, and something that looks good to one person may not to another.
The Boondocks puts an insane amount of detail into its art. It just intentionally owes more of its aesthetics to anime than American animation.

For another example, While the actual character designs aren't anything to write home about, the animation of Superjail is nothing short of phenomenal. I could also name Rick and Morty's awe inspiring alien worlds and unique designs. Good art isn't just all about style.
 

Leviathan

"It's against nature!"
Staff member
Moderator
#14
The Simpsons designs are actually really appealing and Futurama is gorgeous. Other cartoons took the wrong lesson from the idea that Groening's designs are simple. They made them ugly too which The Simpsons designs most certainly are not.
I think Seth MacFarlane was a bigger influence than Groening in this respect. His shows' designs are completely indistinct compared to the ones on The Simpsons and Futurama, and most of the lesser adult shows are obviously cut from that jib.
 

I.R. Shokew

DISGRACED and Rooting ONLY for Underdogs
Sep 26, 2011
10,034
Ratings
1,794 10
113
Who wants to find me that badly anymore?
#15
Yeah... My last comment was mostly focusing on how shows look too much like MacFarlane's work. I know there are plenty of adult-aimed fare that look like much more effort was put into them, by comparison. Biggest examples do include the work put into
The Boondocks, Black Dynamite, Venture Bros., Ugly Americans, Final Space... Superjail, Metalocalypse, Castlevania.... The list goes on and those who pointed this out aren't wrong.

It's just that THOSE examples are we need to see more of going forward. That kind of effort need not be lost, but built upon to keep this industry alive and well.
 

SourSweetGone

Canterlot High Class of 83.
Mar 31, 2017
413
Ratings
281 5
43
US
#16
Yea the fact that so many Adult Animations are "inspired" by Seth McFarlen's awful style is disheartening. Again though there is still a decent amount of good stuff out there both old and new. Space Ghost Coast To Coast and Brak Show, Harvey Birdman, etc are still fun to revisit. I'm really glad Venture Bros. is still around. Final Space is one of my favorite new animated series to premier this year, and Rick and Morty while it can be annoyingly nhilistic and problematic it can still be mildly entertaining at times in small doses.


Heck i'm even looking forward to the 120z Mouse revival! But overall I agree we need more diverse "adult" animation. Preferably more stuff like Bojack that touches on real life/social issues though maybe not in quite as depressing a manner. Then again i'm just a sucker for shows with slice of life type stories.


As for the anime comparisons though that is a bit unfair as anime can oft be extremely juvenile as well with its desire to pander with hyper-sexualization of female characters and Michael Bay style explosions and various other types of over the top action scenes. That said though I will admit if I had to choose between watching Family Guy clone #489 or Generic Shonen Action Anime #1890489 i'd probably go to the latter cause at least witch the generic action anime I might not have to worry about profuse puke and fart jokes.
 
Jul 24, 2016
626
Ratings
466 3
43
18
#20
Two main reasons:

PULL IN ADULT AUDIENCES: Adult audiences don't necessarily tend to focus much on style, more like plot. If an adult cartoon has bright fast paced imagery, they'll assume it's for kids. A simple animation style will intrigue them to stay for a while.

KEEP THE KIDS AWAY: Lots ofkKids like bright fast paced animation, a "bland" style will keep them away