On 69 million homes around Asia Pacific, Tom and Jerry play out their perpetual tug-of-war alongside more recent comedy hits The Amazing World of Gumball and Adventure Time. We’ve all seen the cat-andmouse scenario a hundred times during our childhood but it still never fails to raise a smile. Boys and girls of all ages love to watch comedy – the genre is the greatest equaliser.
Since the very first cartoon was created, comedy has been an integral part of animation. Research shows that kids on average laugh 200 times per day, compared to just 15 – 18 times for adults. Animators therefore have an extraordinary responsibility to keep that quota up and keep kids sense of humour fuelled with funny toons. At Cartoon Network we are driven by a desire to animate lives and inject a sense of humour – a sixth sense – into everything we create.
The DNA of Funny
Since the early days of Hanna and Barbera’s Tom and Jerry, the tools of “toon creation” have naturally evolved with technology. But the time-honoured fundamentals of character development, story-telling, and, perhaps above all, the fine-art of comedic timing remain the raw ingredients to make the perfect toon.
What makes a cartoon funny? It’s not as straightforward a concoction as you might think. Cartoons should naturally have great stories and characters that are smart, fun, fearless, surprising and relevant to kids. But all comedy is at its best when it is character-driven first – with memorable, endearing and carefully-crafted characters first out of the gate in any show. You can then unlock the full potential of limitless situational storytelling through the storyboards that only animation can then fully realise as the creator intended.
The Theories behind the Funny
Academics have isolated some universal theories of humour: Superiority, Incongruity and Relief/ Release Theories, along with a Grand Unified Theory of Humour that explains it all. Just Wiki it!
The success of our shows has naturally led us to focus on developing smarter, more confident and kid-relatable characters, and also avoiding anything that’s at all meanspirited.
We also try to inject humour that’s upbeat, driven by the contrast between our characters and extraordinary situations. Shows that feature a close, small core group of characters (at least two), focusing on their relationship to their peers and/or family are usually optimal – think of all the buddy comedies and “two-name” show titles that support this. In our experience, we’ve found that people actively seek out funny situations. Humour is a very social thing – just look at the number of comical YouTube clips there are flying around from outbox to inbox!
Humour is an essential part of the human condition no matter where you are from. There are always cultural nuances that come into play in different markets, but when it comes to entertaining an audience and keeping them coming back for more, you can’t beat a good laugh.
It is not only important for characters to be relatable to kids, but also exist in an environment that has a unique visual language that is accessible to our audiences’ sensibilities. These characters can then be equipped with personalities that can drive any story in the unique world they inhabit. This allows the hero to take any form – be it a cat, mouse, human or otherwise! Adventure Time is a fabulous example. The verbal and visual humour works on many levels, but it’s also the design of the Land of Ooo, with its bright, colourpositive palette, that really travels across borders.
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