Why We Need to Get Rid of the Notion that Cartoons Are Just for Kids or Adults.
Ahh, cartoons. We know them, we love them, and we probably remember that one cartoon from our childhood that we were obsessed with. They’ve been entertaining people for close to a century now, and with the way animation is going, will continue to do so for a long time. However, despite their widespread proliferation in global culture, there seems to be a misconception among some people about cartoons. That misconception being that they’re geared towards little kids and tweens or meant only for adults. That there’s no middle ground whatsoever.
Here’s what I have to say I response: it’s a load of garbage. The notion that cartoons should only appeal to one demographic is deeply flawed and counter-productive. Cartoons are capable of appealing to people across every demographic, and the fact that companies like Warner and Disney fail to see that is only hurting them in the long run. In other words, the suits need to get it through their thick skulls that Cartoons Are For Everyone! And here’s why.
Infinity Train Got Derailed For the Dumbest Reasons
The event that spurred me to write about this topic was the release of the fourth, and apparently final, season of the cartoon Infinity Train on HBO Max. For those who don’t know, Infinity Train is an anthology series from Cartoon Network that started back in 2019. The premise behind the series is a mysterious, seemingly endless train in the middle of nowhere, with each car capable of housing an entire pocket dimension. The train seeks out those it deems in need of emotional help or character growth, brings them aboard, and has them go through cars until they resolve whatever issues they have.
The series has been absolutely adored by both fans and critics for its main concept, as well as the deep, emotional subjects it can touch upon. In a perfect world, this would be the kind of cartoon that Warner would not hesitate to continue to support. However, shortly after Season Three came out, fans were shocked to learn that Warner had yet to renew Infinity Train. We eventually got the fourth season, but that’s it. For the moment, Infinity Train is cancelled.
And the reason why Warner bailed on a potential gold mine? It’s as asinine as one could expect. In a Reddit AMA done on the same day the final season came out, series creator Owen Dennis revealed why the show got canned:
Dang it, Suits!
That’s right. Cartoon Network canned Infinity Train because they thought it was too dark for kids. It’s a decision that I find to not make any sense whatsoever. If Infinity Train came out in the years before the rise of streaming services, they might get away with this. However, since we do have streaming, with its far looser restrictions regarding what shows can and can’t do, this excuse doesn’t hold water. If that’s the case, then they can air it on HBO Max, like they already have been!
Cartoons Are Dealing with Some Heavy Stuff
Not only is axing Infinity Train upsetting the show’s fanbase, it also shows how stuck in the past the execs at companies like Warner Bros and Disney have potentially become. They are clinging to the notion that cartoons either have to be for kids or for adults. However, they are completely ignoring two important things. Firstly, cartoons have begun to deal with mature subjects for some time now. Secondly, they fail to recognize that cartoons are gaining a significant fanbase outside their intended demographic.
One need look no further than at the last ten years of cartoons on TV to find proof. Adventure Time set the tone for the decade with its initally light-hearted and whimsical world of Ooo. However, as time went on, that show started to deal with some pretty heavy subjects that older shows wouldn’t dream of touching. Case in point, Finn had to watch as his biological dad abandoned him while also losing an arm in the process. I watched when that episode first aired, and I still can’t believe that happened! Yet Adventure Time was still considered a “kid’s show”.
Then we had Steven Universe. Like Adventure Time, it started out lighthearted and silly. But then it turned into this epic about an interstellar war while dealing with issues like toxic relationships, identity, family of choice, and the norms that society sets for us. Not to mention how it’s one of the most prominent examples of LGBTQ relationships in any kids cartoon. That’s some pretty deep stuff they have to talk about.
The bottom line is that over the past decade, cartoons have started to become less and less afraid to touch on mature themes. Everything from parental abandonment, self-worth, toxic personalities, to how traumatic moments in our lives can shape our worldview. And they’re not doing it in a condescending manner, either. They’re doing it in a way that encourages kids to think about these things as they get older. In other words, they’re trying to start a conversation with the audience.
Grown-Ups Can Like Cartoons, Too!
I know that all the cartoons that I’ve mentioned are ones that were meant to be watched by kids. However, the truth is that these days, plenty of teens and adults are into them, as well. I think that it’s a possible byproduct of the widespread use of the Internet and geek culture assimiliating pop culture as a whole. However, it’s a change for the better in my opinion.
Once upon a time, if a grown-up were to come and say that they still liked a kid’s cartoon, they would be ridiculed for it. But if you were to take a look at the cosplayers at conventions and the fans on social media, it’s apparent that this is no longer the case. More and more teens and adults are remaining interested in cartoons geared towards kids. In some cases, the teen and adult fanbase may end up outnumbering the intended kid audience.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a convention or gone on social media and see teens and adults profess their love for shows like Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, Regular Show, and more. Heck, I’m one of those people. I’m a grown adult, and I watched Adventure Time from day one. I consider Regular Show one of the best cartoons ever. I ship Star and Marco in Star vs. the Forces of Evil. I’m a casual Brony, and I’m proud of it!
The point is, a lot of cartoons these days are beginning to attract a wide-ranging audience, and with the rise of streaming services, I don’t think this is going away anytime soon. If anything, it’s going to continue growing. In other words, the big execs that make these cartoons should be taking notice of this trend and capitalize on it.
Cartoons Are For Everyone
For the time being, fans will have to accept that Infinity Train has been derailed. It’s a victim of suits that fail to understand the potential goldmine they’re sitting on. Basically, they’re acting like this:
They think that a show like Infinity Train is too dark for kids, yet given how they have a streaming service that would let them make the age rating as high or as low as they want, this argument makes no sense. Moreover, in this age where we can watch shows on our phones and shows meant for kids are willing to deal with more mature issues, it doesn’t just fail to hold water; it’s a ship that’s sinking at the docks!
I doubt that this issue is going to be resolved anytime soon, as it can a long time for big business to change its tune on something. However, given how many adult fans many of the shows I’ve mentioned here have, I think it’s only a matter of time before the suits have to recognize the fact that Cartoons Are For Everyone. If they don’t, then someone will come along, realize what a stupid mistake that was, and fire the people responsible. Until then, fans can save Infinity Train through the power of social media.