The Future Is Here: How Animation Has Changed

by Tito W. James

Last year I wrote down my predictions for the future of animated TV. My predictions are coming to fruition faster than I could have hoped. Here’s a rundown of topics I covered last time and how animation has changed.

Cell-Shaded Animation

Warner Brothers is producing a CGI film adaption of Batman Beyond. With the success of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, I’d speculate that the film will try to capture the comic book aesthetic. I’m down to see more animated films like Spider-Verse based on superhero or indie comics.

Subscription Service Shows

It’s an open secret that creating cartoons with female lead characters has been systematically suppressed on cable channels. The rationale is that young female viewers won’t buy action figures, merchandise being cartoons’ major source of income.

Subscription services like Netflix don’t have this problem and are able to produce good quality shows with female protagonists. Hilda, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Carmen Sandiego and Next Gen are all beautifully animated and have unique heroines. Networks would do well to remember that good stories will always find an audience.

Mature Animation

Another advantage of subscription service cartoons is that they are unencumbered by the expectations of advertisers. Premium channel shows can explore subject matter that would normally be censored and serve older audiences. Netflix’s upcoming animated anthology Love, Death & Robots seeks to push the boundaries of stories that can be told in animation.


Of all the animation forms to make a comeback who’d have guessed it would be stop-motion? With Missing Link, The Shivering Truth and Rilakkuma and Kaoru, we’re seeing stop-motion used in film, TV and anime. The stop-motion train is really picking up steam and I hope to see clever uses of mixed-media very soon.

Animated Shows Based On Indie Comics

TMNT has had so many animated adaptions that audiences forget that it started out as an indie comic. I’d like to see this trend continue with more independent comics. There’s a current push to have indie comics adapted into live-action shows: Happy, Deadly Class and Umbrella Academy, just to name a few. However, it makes even more sense to adapt indie comics to animation because everything is already drawn and stylized anyway. The short animations in Deadly Class would work as a full show.

Hour-Long Episodes

Hour-long TV dramas are commonplace but can get dull due to stock sets and limited special effects, but in animation you can travel to more places and do more things within a single episode. This is why Amazon’s Invincible series is so exciting! It’s a subscription-based show with hour- long episodes based on an independent comic intended for mature audiences.

Originally I thought we’d have mature animated content accepted as mainstream by 2030. But if last year’s animated Renaissance is any indication, we could see this happen as early as 2025!

I, like many of my colleagues have wanted to see Western animation companies embrace the storytelling potential in the same way anime companies have. It appears that comics’ influence on pop-culture has moved the needle to a place where this is possible. Just as Manga birthed anime, comics have changed Western animation. We are entering a new age of animated content for adult audiences and I can think of no better guides to lead the way than our comic book heroes.

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