Throughout Emmy season, IndieWire will be evaluating the top contenders for TV’s most prestigious prize, and it all starts here. At the bottom of this page are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Best Animated Series (or, as it’s more formally known, Outstanding Animated Program). This article will be updated throughout the coming months, along with all our predictions, to reflect an up-to-the-minute state of the race. Make sure to keep checking IndieWire for the latest coverage on the 2020 Emmys, including breaking news, analysis, interviews, podcasts, FYC event coverage, reviews of all the awards contenders, and more. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13. The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, September 20. (See our recent news story for a more detailed breakdown of important dates.) ABC is broadcasting the ceremony.
Last Year’s Winner: “The Simpsons”
Still Eligible: Yes.
Hot Streak: It’s “The Simpsons.” Though last year marked the legendary Fox comedy’s first win in the category since 2008, the series has 28 nominations, 11 wins, and counting — and counting is the key word. Plenty thought the classic show was running out of steam and bound to be cast aside for newer, fresher, and plenty strong animated series. Instead, it not only keeps adding nominations to its high mark, but it’s got another win, too.
Fun Fact: While “The Simpsons” has a pretty good batting average in terms of wins-to-nominations (.392) — better than the second highest winner, “South Park” (.294), as well as “Bob’s Burgers” and “Futurama” (.250) — but of all the series with more than one win, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is batting 1.000, winning in 2004 and 2005, back when the category was split between half-hour animated series and hourlong animated series.
Notable Ineligible Series: “Adventure Time” (HBO Now has not set a release date for the new episodes.)
The State of the Race
Fewer categories are harder to predict than the race for Best Animated Program. If you only had to bet on two or three of the finalists, you’d probably do pretty well: “The Simpsons” is a safe choice, having been nominated 25 times in the last 26 years. (2014 snapped its previous 20-year streak). That being said, “Bob’s Burgers” has its own eight-year run going, giving Fox a perennial double-threat when it comes to animated representation.
The third pick was safe until last year, when “South Park” finally dropped out of the running after six straight nods and 17 total. But that’s what makes the category so surprising: For all the shows that get voted in year after year, new shows pop in seemingly at random.
Look at “BoJack Horseman.” The critically acclaimed Netflix comedy didn’t earn a Best Animated Series nomination until 2019 — why then? Season 5 was a great one, but so were the previous four; it didn’t get an added boost of awareness from Netflix (the company has always pushed Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s comedy); and the apologetic “final season” vote only applies to this year’s batch of episodes. Meanwhile, “Big Mouth” didn’t have to wait as long for its first nomination, snagging a spot last year for its second season.
So who’s going to play spoiler this year? Though hardly an upset, previous winner “Rick & Morty” will be returning to the race after skipping 2019. It’ll have to edge out newcomers like “Central Park,” which hails from “Bob’s Burgers” creator Loren Bouchard and will get the full backing of its streaming distributor, Apple TV+. Not to be outdone with legacy options, Hulu will have “Solar Opposites” — which comes from “Rick & Morty” co-creator Justin Roiland and fellow “R&M” alum Mike McMahan — and Netflix is serving up “The Midnight Gospel” from “Adventure Time” creator Pendleton Ward and comedian Duncan Trussell. (Plus, “Disenchantment” creator Matt Groening is hoping the second time’s the charm for his sophomore Netflix entry.)
Also fighting for a spot are the new Fox comedies “Duncanville” and “Bless the Harts,” both of which reach a wide audience and feature an enticing voice cast to help with the campaign. “Primal” was one of the few programs to squeeze in an FYC event before the TV Academy suspended live events, while former winner “Archer” and former nominee “Family Guy” hope their latest seasons put them back in the race. In this category, it’s hard to tell which way the wind is blowing, so everyone should be actively fighting for their spot.
1. “The Simpsons” (Fox)
2. “BoJack Horseman” (Netflix)
3. “Big Mouth” (Netflix)
4. “Bob’s Burgers” (Fox)
5. “Rick & Morty” (Adult Swim)
Spoilers: “Central Park,” “South Park,” “Archer,” “Solar Opposites,” “Disenchantment,” “Family Guy,” “The Midnight Gospel”
In a Perfect World: “Primal,” “Harley Quinn”