The 75th Emmy Awards may have been pushed to early 2024, but voting kicked off this week, so we’re taking a closer look at the nominees for outstanding animated program.
This year’s field features a roster of familiar names in Bob’s Burgers, Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal, Rick and Morty, and The Simpsons, all of which have previously won the award. Rounding out the field is Netflix’s special Entergalactic, the only newcomer from the group.
Bob’s Burgers “The Plight Before Christmas,” Fox (20th Television Animation)
Bob’s Burgers is adored for its ability to mix humor and heartfelt family-focused narratives. Few episodes in the series’ 13-season run have managed to do both so expertly as “The Plight Before Christmas.” Fans of the show certainly seem to agree, the episode has a 9.6 score on IMDB.
In the episode, each of the three Belcher kids has a different Christmas-themed performance planned at the same time, leaving Bob and Linda in a Sophie’s Choice situation, unable to attend all three events. “The Plight Before Christmas” mixes three different storylines and delivers a payoff that surely had many viewers tearing up. Any fan of the show is likely to count this episode among their favorites, and in terms of writing, it feels like a worthy contender for this year’s Emmy.
Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal “Shadow of Fate,” Adult Swim (Cartoon Network Studios)
In this episode of Genndy Tartakovsky’s very adult series, main characters Spear and Fang are separated after washing up on shore in a strange new land. There, each encounters another of their species, and after rocky starts finds common ground with their new colleagues. Things come to a head when the native Celtic-looking tribe and Fang’s new red-skinned dino-friend cross paths.
The technical execution of the episode is everything one would expect from a Tartakovsky series. Primal has no dialogue, at least none that an average viewer can interpret, meaning that emotions must be shown through facial expressions and body language. No show does that better than Primal.
Rick and Morty “Night Family,” Adult Swim, (Rick and Morty LLC, Williams Street)
The most recent season of Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty saw its protagonists lose access to Rick’s portal gun, which created a much more grounded narrative arc and brought the show closer to its early season roots. Fans, by and large, responded positively to the change.
In “Night Family,” a bit of alien tech allows the Smith’s to leave instructions for their sleeping selves to do overnight. The benefits are instantly noticeable but come at a cost. The episode blends classic sci-fi narratives and horror tropes to create a story that is at times predictable, but no less enjoyable for it. If season six was a return to form for Rick and Morty, “Night Family” probably proves it better than any other episode from the season.
The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror XXXIII,” Fox, (A Gracie Films Production in association with 20th Television Animation)
Little innovation can be expected from a standard episode of The Simpsons as the show heads toward its 35th season, but that’s not the case for the show’s annual Treehouse of Horror episodes, which occasionally allow Simpsons artists to flex their creative muscle and try entirely new art styles that would otherwise be relegated to the opening credits.
“Treehouse of Horror XXXIII” is split up into three separate pieces, each spoofing a piece of popular media. The first and third bits are animated like any other episodes from the season and parody The Babadook and Westworld. The middle chapter is the most interesting though, drawn in an anime style and paying tribute to the ultra-popular series Death Note. Aesthetically it’s a joy to watch as viewers wait to see how each classic character is interpreted and the story, while brief, is rewarding with a fun payoff.
Entergalactic, Netflix (Mad Solar, Khalabo Ink Society, Edelgang)
The most visually innovative nominee this year has to be Netflix’s Entergalactic, which was animated by DNEG in London. The special was directed by Fletcher Moules and tells the story of 20-something Jabari, a street artist-turned-comic book creator who moves into a posh new flat in Manhattan after scoring a new job. As he’s settling in, Jabari becomes aware of his neighbor Meadow when a party at her place goes long into the night, disturbing his sleep. From there, a whirlwind relationship kicks off.
Entergalactic benefited greatly from a creative team that included Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi and Black-ish creator Kenya Barris. It feels authentic from the opening scene to the end credits and boasts by far the best music of any of this year’s nominees (although there is a banger xylophone number in the Bob’s Burgers episode). The characters are wonderfully designed and the show’s version of New York is stunning. Going up against four previous winners likely marks Entergalactic as an underdog, but it is the only of the four nominees that gave us something really different and it deserves credit for that.
Pictured at top: Stills from nominated episodes of Bob’s Burgers, Primal, Rick and Morty, The Simpsons, Entergalactic