It’s safe to say that cartoons are not just for kids anymore. The medium has become a popular device for storytelling, often leaning into the absurdity of its visuals in order to make unpleasant truths more palatable or to get away with blurring boundaries.
Matt Parker and Trey Stone have been doing it for decades with South Park, as has Seth MacFarlane with Family Guy and even Matt Groening’s long-running series The Simpsons has featured its share of NSFW moments.
If you’re a fan of animation of the adult variety, then check out one of these series, streaming now.
One of the most brilliantly insightful, hilarious and heartbreaking series of recent years, Netflix’s Bojack Horseman ran for six seasons and earned two Emmy nominations.
The series features the voice talents of Will Arnett as the titualr character, a washed up 90s sitcom star who is drowning in self-loathing and addiction. Oh, and did we mention he’s part horse? Many of the characters in this subversive series, created Raphael Bob-Waksberg, are anthropomorphic but live alongside humans in Hollywood.
The show explores the themes of feminism, mental illness, friendship, substance abuse, discrimination, trauma, sexism and racism, while providing sharp commentary on the transactional nature of the entertainment business — specifically the way it uses and abuses people, yet leaves them desperate for more.
For all of its dark social commentary, there are constant moments of levity throughtout Bojack Horseman by way of clever animal puns, ongoing gags and the wacky adventures of Bojack’s wayward housemate Todd Chavez, voiced by Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul.
The cast is a vertiable powder keg of A-list talent and features Alison Brie, Amy Sedaris, and Paul F. Tompkins alongside Arnett and Paul in the main roles, with guest stars including Lisa Kudrow, Rami Malek, Lin-Manuel Miranda, John Krasinski, Stanley Tucci, Olivia Wilde and many, many more.
Watch it on: Netflix
Created by comedian Nick Kroll, Big Mouth — the series about the pitfalls of puberty that’s made for adults — has evolved over its four seasons on Netflix and yet still managed to maintain its crude and cringey humour.
The popular series, which stars Kroll and John Mulaney as best mates Andrew and Nick, saw a casting shake up for season four, when Jenny Slate stepped down from voicing bi-racial character Missy so that a Black actress may inhabit the role. Ayo Edebiri has now taken over and Missy has started to question her racial identity — providing the series with the gravitas it was perhaps lacking before.
The LOLS have never been hard to find when watching Big Mouth, but it’s nice to see some heart in there as well.
Watch it on: Netflix
Tuca and Bertie
Created by Lisa Hanawalt — who was a producer and artist on Bojack Horseman — Tuca and Bertie is pretty out there, and yet serves up relatability in spades.
Voiced by Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong, Tuca and Bertie are best friends (who are also birds) despite being vastly different. Tuca is a recovering alcoholic who doesn’t quite have her life together and is prone to crazy adventures whereas Bertie has a steady job and partner but is plagued with anxiety and self-doubt.
The series is a vibrant exploration of female friendship, sexuality, mental health, self-discovery and the #MeToo movement as well as being a glorious example of the boundaries you can push in an animation. Case in point, the buildings have breasts in Bird Town (the vividly imagined city the friends live in) because why the hell not?
Despite being critically adored, Tuca and Bertie only enjoyed one season on Netflix before being cancelled due to the streamer’s evolving algorithm, but thankfully it was picked up by Adult Swim and fans, and new converts, can look forward to a new season in 2021.
Watch it on: Netflix (Season One) with Season Two coming to Adult Swim.
Another animated series that has undergone recasting of a Black character, Central Park saw Kristen Bell step away from the character of Molly as a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The musical animation is about a family who lives in an old mansion inside New York’s Central Park, as the father Owen (Leslie Odom Jr.), works there as a park manager. Mother Paige (Kathryn Hahn) is a journalist, and they have two kids Molly (Emmy Raver-Lampman) and Cole (Tituss Burgess).
The series also features a narrator named Birdie who is voiced by Josh Gad — who is also a series co-creator — and Stanley Tucci as the evil and wealthy park benefactor Bitsy Brandenham. As if this wasn’t reason enough to watch, the series also features Hamilton‘s Daveed Diggs as Helen — a fast-rapping socialite from Weehawken, New Jersey.
Season two of the popular series sees the Tillerman family continues to navigate living in and caring for the world’s most famous park. Molly is going through awkward adolescence while Cole is challenged by a truly embarrassing moment at school. Meanwhile, Paige continues to chase down the Mayor’s corruption story, and Owen juggles managing the park, his staff, and his family all while belting out some show tunes. Meanwhile, Bitsy inches ever closer to her sinister goal of claiming Central Park as her own — cue the evil music.
Central Park has already been renewed for a third season, but you still have time to brush up on the first two.
Watch it on: Apple TV+