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 2020 race. Voting for the 2021 Emmys will be held from Thursday, June 17 through Monday, June 28 (with polls closing at 10 p.m. PT). Emmy nominations will be announced Tuesday, July 13. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out in September, at a date (or dates) to be announced. The 73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place Sunday, September 19. CBS is broadcasting the ceremony.
The State of the Race
With two of the 2020 nominees out of the running, the race for Best Animated Series is poised for a few surprises — 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 more past seasons have highlighted “Phineas and Ferb,” “Over the Garden Wall,” and “Regular Show,” among other unexpected inclusions.
Not among them are titans “Bob’s Burgers” (nine nominations, two wins) and “The Simpsons” (29 nominations, 11 wins). The two category stalwarts have shown no signs of slowing down, and each Fox comedy should tack another nomination tally to their historic totals. Another likely nominee is “Big Mouth.” The Nick Kroll co-created and co-voiced Netflix series has been recognized for two years running already, and there’s no reason to think voters would sour on Season 4.
Setting those three programs aside is where things get a bit trickier. On the one hand, “South Park” — with 17 nominations and five awards — is arguably even more of a legend in the category than “Bob’s Burgers.” But it’s been three years since the Comedy Central gem made the final five, and this year’s submission is an hourlong special, not your typical season — might voters look to honor a more serialized endeavor? “Archer,” after all, is also still eligible, and FXX’s satire has four nominations and a win already… though it, too, is a few years removed from competition (last recognized in 2017), as is “Family Guy,” which hasn’t been nominated since 2008.
What about the new blood, you ask? Fox has another well-reviewed animated comedy in “The Great North,” so anyone tuning in for “The Simpsons” and “Bob’s Burgers” might be well-acquainted with the Alaskan family adventures created by Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin, Wendy Molyneux, and Minty Lewis. There’s also “Invincible,” an Amazon Prime Video original series that breaks from expectations in format and substance. (It’s an hourlong superhero drama filled with plenty of clever twists.) Meanwhile, “Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal” is looking to make another run after winning three trophies last year, and “Star Trek: Lower Decks” hopes to bring Gene Roddenberry’s franchise back to Emmys’ good graces.
If TV Academy voters were looking for a true out-of-the-blue shocker, “F Is For Family” on Netflix is certainly deserving, while nominating “Bless the Harts” would make for a nice goodbye gift to the axed Fox comedy. Still, predicting the unpredictable kind of spoils the moment, so maybe it’s best to sit back and see what resonates with voters come Nominations Day.
- “The Simpsons” (Fox)
- “Big Mouth” (Netflix)
- “Bob’s Burgers” (Fox)
- “South Park: The Pandemic Special” (Comedy Central)
- “Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal” (Adult Swim)
Contenders: “Archer,” “The Great North,” “Invincible,” “Disenchantment,” “Harley Quinn,” “Yasuke,” “Final Space,” “Family Guy,” “Solar Opposites,” “Duncanville,” “M.O.D.O.K.,” “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” “Castlevania,” “Lazor Wulf,” “Crossing Swords”
In a Perfect World: “F Is for Family,” “Bless the Harts,” “No Activity”