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Emmy Predictions: Best Animated Program — Another Close Race, Another Surprise Winner?

Will the old guard come through once more, or will the TV Academy recognize one of the younger nominees?

"Primal"

“Primal”

Adult Swim

Animation

Last Year’s Winner: “Rick and Morty”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: The Best Animated Program category hasn’t seen a repeat winner since the category was divided into “One Hour or Less” and “More Than One Hour” divisions, and “South Park” took home the latter prize in 2008 (for its “Imaginationland” episodes) and the former in 2009 (for “Margaritaville”). That being said, “Rick and Morty” has won both times it was nominated (in 2018 and 2020), so one could argue it’s a dominant force whenever it’s eligible.
Fun Fact: The Simpsons” and “South Park” are the only two programs to win more than two trophies in this category. The iconic Fox series has 11 wins (most recently in 2019) while Comedy Central’s landmark program has five wins (with the last coming in 2013). With one more win, still-active shows like “Bob’s Burgers” and “Rick and Morty” could become the third to join these elite ranks.
Notable Ineligible Series: “Rick and Morty” (Season 5 did not premiere in time to be eligible); “Adventure Time: Distant Lands” (submitted at the Daytime Emmys); “Tuca & Bertie” (Season 2 did not premiere in time to be eligible); “BoJack Horseman” (the series has ended)

At the bottom of this page are IndieWire Deputy TV Editor Ben Travers’ predictions for Best Animated Program. This article will be updated throughout the season, along with all our predictions, so make sure to keep checking IndieWire for the latest news from the 2021 race. Voting for the 2021 Emmys was held from Thursday, June 17 through Monday, June 28 (with polls closing at 10 p.m. PT). Emmy nominations were announced Tuesday, July 13. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out Saturday, September 11 and Sunday, September 12. The 73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place Sunday, September 19. CBS is broadcasting the ceremony.

The State of the Race

The race for Best Animated Series is poised for a surprise — which, of course, isn’t all that unique. In 2018, “Big Hero 6: The Series” broke in, alongside that year’s winner, “Rick and Morty.” The prior batch saw “Sofia the First” join the expected contenders, while past seasons have highlighted wild card picks like “Phineas and Ferb,” “Over the Garden Wall” (which won), “The Penguins of Madagascar” (which also won), and “Regular Show,” among other unexpected inclusions.

That being said, the titans haven’t exactly disappeared. “Bob’s Burgers” (10 nominations, two wins) and “The Simpsons” (30 nominations, 11 wins) are two category stalwarts that have shown no signs of slowing down. Each Fox comedy tacked another nomination tally to their historic totals, as did “South Park” (18 nominations, five wins) for its “Pandemic Special.” Meanwhile, “Big Mouth” earned its third consecutive nomination, and the Nick Kroll-created comedy could very well be the hot hand at this year’s Emmys.

Given the unpredictable nature of the animation branch, it’s hard to say any one show has the edge. “Bob’s Burgers” remains beloved. “The Simpsons” won as recently as two years ago. “South Park” delivered something entirely different this year, which could be enough to shake things up in its favor. And yes, “Big Mouth” has put in the years, earned the nods, and seems primed for a well-deserved victory.

But I’m betting on the new guy. “Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal” won three trophies last year, before it was eligible for the Best Animated Program race. The Adult Swim series earned a nomination this year (in a competitive category) and won another juried award in late August, marking four total trophies in two years. Clearly, the voters are responding to “Primal,” and given their bold choices of the past, it’s got a clear path to victory here.

Anything could win. But don’t be shocked if “Primal” comes out on top.

Power Rankings:

  1. “Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal” (Adult Swim)
  2. “Big Mouth” (Netflix)
  3. “Bob’s Burgers” (Fox)
  4. “The Simpsons” (Fox)
  5. “South Park: The Pandemic Special” (Comedy Central)

Will Win: “Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal”
Could Win: “Bob’s Burgers” or “The Simpsons”
Should Win: “Primal”

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