The market for children’s shows has never been more broad or diversified than today. While long-time syndicated shows like the Muppets or Sesame Street have been running in more or less the same format for decades now there are new cartoons, claymation shows and live-action productions targeted at children than ever before and the number is growing each year.
It is interesting to notice, though, that in many cases these shows greatly surpass their audience figures as well as their target audiences. Many shows nowadays bridge the age gap between child tween and teen and attract audiences from older age groups. Ben 10 and Teen Titans are now classic examples of cartoons becoming mainstream enough to warrant their own action figure lines, something unattained since the merchandise-driven cartoons of the eighties.
A stranger phenomenon than this unexpected popularity of some cartoons is the extreme case of this unexpected marketing miracle – the attraction of an adult audience.
The popularity of such shows like Adventure Time, Dora the Explorer or My little Pony amongst an adult fandom, mostly consisting of mid to late twenties males has been unexpected and has sometimes led to confusion amongst programming officials. What would compel an adult to watch a children’s show, after all?
And while it’s hard to capitalize with merchandise on a captive audience of young to middle aged me while holding ratings amongst your initial audience steady that was never something to stop marketing departments from trying. Models, especially amongst the My Little Pony line were quite popular but video games starring famous characters proved even more appealing to the ‘digital’ generation. These games, often very basic and targeted at children were nonetheless very popular with the adult audience. Dora the explorer and her sidekick Boots provide an excellent example with literally dozens of games starring the two available on line.
But where is the appeal for children’s games and shows coming from for a generation that is supposed to be either working or learning? Why are people who grew up in the 90s or even 80s adopting their children’s cartoons and games?
The answer, at least in part, is nostalgia. With the digital generation approaching middle age they are constantly bombarded with images of their own childhood ranging from He-Man to G.I Joe. There are movies produced based on beloved childhood memories like Battleship or the Avengers and a general Peter Pan feeling of not growing up. Childhood nostalgia seems an effective if easily exhausted product to sell but now adults are expanding their interest from their own childhood into that of their children.
So strap on your Boots and turn on the computer now. A world of ponies, adventures and sassy explorers awaits you!