Think animations are just for kids? Think again! From the toe-curlingly awkward (yet hilarious!) Big Mouth to the down right horrifying The Shivering Truth, there are plenty of animated TV shows and films out there geared towards a more grownup audience.
Whether you’re looking for the cartoon version of Broad City (try Tuca & Bertie!) or a thought-provoking flick (watch the shattering Anomalisa), there’s scores of brilliant adult animations that are well worth a watch.
Not sure where to start? We’ve got you! Here ten NME writers recommend the best adult animations for your viewing pleasure.
There’s no shortage of teen comedies, and there hasn’t been since the 1980s – but rarer are the comedies, genuinely funny ones, that go all the way back to puberty and dare to poke fun at the most nightmarishly awkward time in a person’s life. Family Guy’s Andrew Goldberg and comedian Nick Kroll relish this opportunity with Big Mouth, a brazen comedy that finds John Mulaney a perfect voice role as Andrew Glouberman, an anxious teenage boy coming to terms with the way his body is changing. It’ll make you squirm and laugh until your sides split.
The Iron Giant
Before Brad Bird made The Incredibles. Before he made Ratatouille. Before joining Pixar at a time where the company was most creative and ambitious. He made a film for Warner Bros called The Iron Giant. Loosely based on the Ted Hughes book of the same name, it tells the story of a young boy befriending an alien robot at the height of the Cold War. A bomb at the box office, this deeply emotional movie has garnered a cult following in the years that have passed. No person who’s seen the scene where the giant learns what a soul is has ever been the same since.
Initially debuting to a mixed reception on Netflix in 2014, BoJack Horseman rapidly blossomed into not only one of the best animated shows on TV, but one of the best shows, period. Centring on the trials of a washed-up ’90s sitcom horse, the show’s hybrid world of people and talking animals has ironically proved to be the perfect vector to tackle very human topics such as mental health, addiction and celebrity culture. While BoJack sadly came to an end earlier this year, it still stands as one of most relatable animated series around.
A lot of the time, animation is used to depict things that couldn’t be possible in the real world. It’s quite ironic, then, that it’s a medium put to sublime use in Anomalisa, 2015’s stop-motion masterpiece from introspective auteur Charlie Kaufman – a film that’s all about the human condition where everyone in the universe is voiced by the same one actor (Tom Noonan), bar our two love-bound leads (David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh). It’s a perfect Kaufman trick, hammering home the sheer boredom and mundanity that Thewlis’ character – world-weary author Michael Stone, who writes motivational books about customer service – feels in his own life.
Luke Morgan Britton
Tuca & Bertie
Following the antics of best pals Tuca – a carefree toucan voiced by Tiffany Haddish – and Bertie – an anxious and loyal song-thrush played by Ali Wong – as they navigate their lives in Bird Town, Tuca & Bertie is beyond brilliant. On the surface it’s an uproarious comedy filled with kaleidoscopic visuals and pithy quick-fire dialogue, but look a little closer and you’ll find a TV show that tackles mental health, sexuality and the power of female friendship with sensitivity and warmth.
Happy Tree Friends
Take the slapstick antics of Tom and Jerry and the murderous violence of The Simpson’s Itchy and Scratchy before cranking the debauch-o-meter up until it breaks – around this point, you’ll land on Happy Tree Friends. A monumentally messed up splatter comic created by Aubrey Ankrum, Rhode Montijo and Kenn Navarro, this pastel-hued world looks just like any other kid’s cartoon until the extreme gore begins – each episode features a series of adorable woodland creatures meeting fates so grisly you have to watch through your fingers. So intensely dark and gruesome that you have to laugh, I constantly wonder how I was ever allowed to watch this fucked-up parade of horrors as a teenager.
The Shivering Truth
The Shivering Truth is like your nightmares if you happen to be a very whimsical psychopath. A series of barely connected vignettes – a man with weird sort-of spaghetti arms becomes entranced by a girl who lives in the static of a TV screen; a woman forces a man to pray that he can fly, then rides him across a park – are brought to horrifying life by wobbly stop-motion animation. The human hand is visible in the wonky creations, which makes it all the more troubling as you stop to think: “Wow, some freak actually came up with this stuff.” Wallace and Gromit would shit themselves.
Bob is an ambitious but humble burger chef who just can’t catch a break. Working in his restaurant are his overzealous, drama-loving wife Linda and three troublesome kids Tina, Gene and Louise. While on the surface it feels like wholesome family fun, the show is actually a trojan horse filled with wicked in-jokes and surrealist musical comedy. Voiced by an all-star cast that includes Kristen Schaal, H. Jon Benjamin and Dan Mintz, and with many of the musical numbers covered by the likes of The National, St Vincent and Sleater-Kinney, this is the holy grail for indie fans who need to chuckle and binge.
A cult classic, this spooky sci-fi isn’t for any scaredy cats out there; to follow the story you’ve got to endure a little bloodlust. Full of gore and the odd moment of cannibalism, it documents the journey of average bookworm Ken Kaneki, who has a near-death experience and becomes a ‘half-ghoul’. As he battles between being half-human and half otherworldly spook, this beautiful coming-of-age story is an emotionally taxing watch.
The Midnight Gospel
If you’ve ever watched Adventure Time, you’ll know all about creator Pendleton Ward’s love of sneaking adult content into kids cartoons. That show ended in 2018, but Ward’s latest project on Netflix is aimed at grown-ups, which means he can stuff it with all the innuendo he likes. Add to that a ton of gory violence, extremely fruity language and philosophical discussion (the kind you only have while hotboxing your mate’s tent at Reading) and you’ve got an episode of The Midnight Gospel. Precisely what’s going on is anyone’s guess, but following Clancy, a spacecaster with a malfunctioning multiverse simulator, as he hops betweens virtual planets is surprisingly addictive.