Opinion What adult animation should be: Invisible to You Documentary


Rob note:

One of my pet peeves is that I love reading about how a lot of animation fans want more mature content. Hell they almost demand it.

But when pressed of what they think is “mature” their definition is more anything but (Extreme Sex,Violence).

Well my good friend Erben shared with me an amazing documentary series about childhood abuse called “Invisible to You”

The clips are very powerful statement of what animation can do.

You can checkthem out here:



BTW All video links are safe for work. Do share them.


So if sex and violence isn’t mature, then what is it?


How about religion, politics, crime, death and grief, racism, GMO, chronic illness or terminal disease? These are all subjects which could be tackled in a mature animated project. In Japan, they have shows like Bartender, Sanctuary, Monster, Jin-Roh and others which can delve into mature content without sliding into extreme sex and violence. (well, okay Jin-Roh and Sanctuary are still pretty violent but…)

I think extreme sex and violence are immediate indicators of mature content to western audiences. (In Japan some children’s or teen shows have some level of both) Todd Macfarlane said, in his commentary on the HBO Spawn series that he put these things up front to “get the soccor moms out of the room”. I think without these a show might immediately be thought of as for children and not given a chance.


I don’t think there’s any one thing that makes animation mature. Most of the so-called mature animation I’ve seen, it’s as if the directors got so caught up on being able to have sex and violence in their film, they forgot that those things still need to serve the story.

Also “mature” isn’t quite the same thing as “adults only”. Childrens’ shows can sometimes cover some weighty subject matter in a mature way, while the few adults-only cartoons I’ve seen were incredibly childish. :shrug:


I remember when I helped with an interview about Deus Ex 2 and we’ve asked Warren Spector about what he thinks about how the expression “adult entertainment” basically means porn… This is not a new issue :frowning:


Princess Mononoke is my favorite Miyazaki film.
Violence and environmental issues. (o;


And my personal favorie by Miyazaki is Nausicca and the Valley of the wind.
Kinda like a Disney fairy tale with a higher body count.

I like the movie a lot becuase the violence is a BIG PART of the tale.
After all this idealistic young girl wanted to stop an ongoing war all by herself.


Porn and Violence can’t define ‘Mature’. It’s more about the theme. ‘Waltz with Bashir’ was an incredibly well made mature animation feature. Sadly, there are very less films like that.


Well animation is just a medium.

Say you make an animated film in the vein of “Fatal Attraction” or “Disclosure”. Those types of stories can use sexual content in effective ways.

You also have things like “Dirty Dancing” that kind of cross-over with romantic physical intimacy.

And if you turn the dial down a bit further you have things like Underworld, Resident Evil “Alice” movies, or Wonder-Woman where there is this inter-breeding of muted sexuality and action themes.

Which to me… all the above are fair game.

I think an animated film about a Bank Robbery can be a good one too - cause these are situations where you might have something to say.

Another classic example of “something to say” is Brian De Palma’s “Scarface” which was bordering between an R and an X rating. Supposedly law enforcement groups in Miami said the film helped people to understand the bad effects of drugs because of its graphic portrayal of the multi-layered downward spiral of the lead character so the ratings board were persuaded to let the film have an R rating and go to theatres, where an X rating would have reduced its viewership.

It’s in the hands of the artists (especially in animation) to choose what they can do for “mature audiences”. The concept of mature audiences is that you are going to talk about things “Mature people can grasp”.

I’ve always thought that was the idea.

P.S.: “Invisible To You”, posted by Rob above, is a brilliant series, but if I may be frank… I’ll be damned if these are the only forms of “mature animation” people will allow. :stuck_out_tongue:


And my personal favorie by Miyazaki is Nausicca and the Valley of the wind. Kinda like a Disney fairy tale with a higher body count.

That is what I’m talking about. It has a pg rating. It does not have to have to be sex, violience and cussing to be mature.

I think some who try to do mature kind of stick to that formula or stick to the poop jokes and talking happy animals.

There are so many stories that can be told that are mature and still suitable for even kids.
I think animation could be used to portray many messages and does not have to be just that.


In Japan those are children’s films. They have very different expectations of what their audience can handle. Children’s shows like Ranma 1/2 have tons of nudity and sexual innuendo. Evangelion has a child character masturbate and blow in front of a half naked girl in a hospital bed. Surprisingly that happened to be very important to the story and development of that character.


I’m wondering how long it will take for this discussion to have people start comparing (lack of?) prudishness between American, European and Asian societies :slight_smile:


Some of the so-called “mature” titles with sex and violence (dumb Hollywood action blockbusters) are actually a lot more simple-minded and juvenile in actual thematic content compared to really well-written animated films that we think of as for children (Pixar’s best work comes to mind).

Mature to me means how deeply the thematic focus delves into the complexities of human nature and philosophical explorations. Sex and violence has little to do with that, although they can be used to support the themes, if they are used with intelligence (as opposed to exploitation and gratuity).

I think a lot of the whining about the lack of “mature” animation is simply that people want to see more realistic stylizations (instead of cartoony ones) and more extreme action/violence/sex, as well as more genre-specific tropes they enjoy (sci-fi, fantasy, horror, action/adventure). It’s really the smaller minority that actually wants “maturity” instead of simply more visceral excitement.


Perhaps you meant True Maturity is demanded by the minority of audiences and the majority want “maturity” (which is Visceral Excitement)?

If so, my opinion is: “The best entertainer can ring all the bells. Even a film full of swimsuit wearing girls carrying laser guns can have higher meaning.” :stuck_out_tongue:


Generally speaking, when the gratuitous/exploitation aspects become too prominent, they start to dilute and distract from the more serious aspect of the message behind the storytelling.

I think the tone is really important. Look at Boogie Nights; it’s about porn stars, but there’s no gratuitous exploitation, regardless of the sex scenes and nudity.


Of course you’re right… I’m just balancing from the people who might be thinking the message is to make sure all the films from now on feature nothing but happy families having tea.

I always tell my guys that a film is built in layers… You have this element for the young crowd, these elements for the older crowd… something for the people who want explosions… And then later you have something for them to think about… a question or something that they might relate to - even if that wasn’t the original reason they tuned in.

And it’s not about selling necessarily… It’s because … in Communication Art… you need the audience to LISTEN to you… and sometimes that means you need to find that “language” that gets you in.

It’s like if you start with Leather-wearing bikers and women in shorts… but what you’re really doing is talking about maybe Status Quo issues, or “putting down the little guy”, or it’s a star-crossed love story thing and the gangs the boy and girl joined up with to enable them against an “oppressive system” become the things that stand in the way of them being together…

And of course if that was your story maybe there might have to be some kind of violent end… Or maybe they leave their old lives behind? It all depends on the creator.

Every creator is like a mixer at a switchboard. You got all these dials you can turn up: Sex, Violence, Romance, Betrayal, Opulence, etc. etc. Only the narrow-minded would always have to turn Sex and Violence to zero… but of course if you dial it up to 11 you make things harder for yourself.


Great point, and that’s exactly what I think of when I want more mature animation. I want to see more films like Jin-Roh, Magnetic Rose: Her Memories, or even American Pop, none of which resort to extremes, but all of which are mature in content. Compare that to, say, Heavy Metal, which is a film I love by the way, which uses extrem sex and violence as its “mature” elements, but is otherwise quite juvenile.

The Incredibles, when you delve into the family aspects of it, is more mature than most cartoons in existence. Still, I would like to see more 3D shows like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which lean on the realistic side.


My greatest disappointment as an adult was seeing what they did to the Heavy Metal franchise. So much potential to do something great for the adult animation genre and they wasted it with animation that was of the same quality of Saturday morning TV programming. I suppose it’s not bad if you’re drunk or stoned. But, by comparison to the animation and craftsmanship of any Disney film created decades earlier, it was painful to sit through.

This is what it could be. And until someone has the balls to put the proper time, money, and talent into the genre you’ll continually get crap in return.


Nah, This is what it could be.


Meh, really don’t care to watch a video game at the cinema. Especially one with a character that already has his own series of CGI heavy movies available. We really need new ideas and new techniques to showcase if there is any hope of sparking public interest.