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Adult animation has a bright future, if the bigwigs in charge let it happen

Fionna and Cake and Scavengers Reign prove how desperately we need more adult animated shows.

Right from the beginning of this year, animation fans have been treated to some animated projects that are an absolute feast for the eyes. Puss in Boots, to Across the Spider-Verse, to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, we've had some back to back bangers that really feel like they're pushing the medium forward. Of course, as enjoyable as they are for all ages, they're obviously not for adults. And yet, as luck would have it, those in the latter half of our twenties have had a couple of treats in the animation world recently in the form of Fionna and Cake, and Scavengers Reign.

For some baffling reason, animation in the west is viewed as something that's just for kids, and only in rare circumstances are there works that could possibly be enjoyed by adults. You just need to look at the breadth of projects that come from Japan alone to understand that animation is incredibly capable of being for an older audience, but that same respect isn't given to animation over here. So discovering that Fionna and Cake is quite specifically a show for adults, despite being a continuation of the children's animated series Adventure Time, had me feeling thankful.

A feast for the eyes.Watch on YouTube

I say thankful because, while I do still love a lot of animation targeted at a younger audience (because it often does have something for everyone), sometimes I want to watch something animated that feels closer to where I'm at in life. That is to say, both in terms of the current events happening to me, as well as my stylistic tastes. Adventure Time started 13 years ago, quite literally half my lifetime ago, and so in that time both its protagonist Finn and myself have grown up a lot. Watching through Fionna and Cake, which actually features a range of different Finns, was comforting in a way I don't think it would have been if it retained its (sort of) child friendly roots.

Then, there's the more recent show Scavengers Reign. Based on a short film from 2016 of a similar name, Scavengers Reign follows the various perspectives of characters that have crashed on an alien planet trying to survive. And gosh, it's quite simply gorgeous. I've never seen a show with such well thought out aliens, from their realistic but strange designs, to their surprisingly believable behaviours. If you're familiar with 2021's stunning Sable, or the captivating works of French artist Moebius, you'll likely find yourself just as enraptured with Scavengers Reign. Except, there's an annoying caveat to both of these shows.

The pair of adult animated series come from Max, formerly HBO Max, a US-only streaming service that rebranded as part of a big Warner Bros. and Discovery merger. This particular merger, as many often are, wreaked havoc on a number of Warner Bros. projects, but animation was affected in particular. Numerous animated series were outright removed from the streaming service, making some of them essentially unwatchable legally, and other projects were simply cancelled.

Seriously, Scavengers Reign's vibes are out of this world.

With circumstances like these, animation, particularly adult animation, feels like it's teetering on a tightrope that's held together by a single strand. It feels like luck that both Fionna and Cake and Scavengers Reign exist at all, especially when you consider how easily they could be deleted from Max at the drop of a hat

There's also the issue that many animated series aren't covered by the Writers Guild of America, meaning the recent successes gained from the strikes won't necessarily be in animation writer's favour. Much like writers, and the currently striking actors, those in the animation industry have little job security as a result of poor contracts, making it all the more scary that certain animated projects won't come to fruition though.

Thankfully, though, there are pockets of potential hope. Next year will see the Animation Guild's contract with the big studios expire, meaning if concessions aren't made we're likely to see more strikes in 2024. Considering the result of the writer's strike, I personally feel hopeful. Adult animation has a bright future, Fionna and Cake and Scavengers Reign are great signs of that. We just need those at the top to stop getting in the way.

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