Animation Domination is a block of time on FOX television network on Sunday nights that shows adult cartoons. It was first aired during sweeps week in May 2005 with the introduction of American Dad and the three-year revival of Family Guy, supported by the comedic anchors of The Simpsons and King of the Hill. Since these properties are all owned by FOX, the possibilities for crossovers in a shared universe are unlimited. Animation makes the crossover potential more appealing and feasible due to the low-level of commitment from the stars of the other shows. Frequently the crossover is just a sight gag, while others are a bit more involved and intricate.
D.K. Latta, a pop culture writer for the Huffington Post, has compiled three reasons why do crossover episodes:
1. Just for the fun of it.
2. To grab a bit of press coverage. When a series has been going a few years, the press tends to ignore it, so “gimmick” episodes (celebrity guest stars, “very special episodes,” and crossovers) are a way of convincing the press to write about you for that week.
3. To win new viewers by getting fans of one series to try the other and, with luck, decide they like it and so stick around for future episodes.
Family Guy is the unofficial king of meta pop culture references, so it tends to be the catalyst for most crossovers. One of the main characters from Family Guy named Cleveland got his own show called The Cleveland Show.
American Dad and Family Guy cross paths frequently, but none as epic as the Night of the Hurricane. In this special television event, the same hurricane is the center point of the story in the shared universe of Seth MacFarlane’s three shows. In addition to the fact that all three of his shows have the exact same animation style, they all live in the same time/place/setting which is what allows the crossovers.
Granted, King of the Hill and The Simpsons don’t live in the same universe, but creative strings can be pulled when you’re owned by the same network.
Crossovers even happen across different channels when owned by the same larger company. Bob’s Burgers is currently a part of FOX’s Animation Domination, led by the voice talent of H. Jon Benjamin as Bob. On FX, a cable channel owned by Fox Entertainment, there is Archer, also led by the voice talent of H. Jon Benjamin as Archer.
For the fourth season premiere of Archer, the titular character is living the life of Bob from Bob’s Burgers, but set in the animation style of Archer. It was great for ratings and helped build bridges between the two shows’ viewership based solely on the love of H. Jon Benjamin’s voice work. That is actually exactly how I started watching Bob’s Burgers so there is proof that it works.