#5: FOX’s Animation Domination Crossovers

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.

H. John Benjamin 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.

Archer's Burgers

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7 Comments

  1. I think the three reasons you listed as to why do animated crossovers is pretty much on target. Sometimes it feels like it was done just for fun, sometimes it’s to get attention, and sometimes it’s to help one of the shows gain viewers. Although in the case of the Simpsons/Family Guy crossovers I think it’s to show that the writers of Family Guy love and respect the Simpsons and it shows that they have a sense of humor about their own product since many people accuse them of ripping off the Simpsons (and, funnily enough, Simpsons often pokes fun of the fact that many people accuse them of ripping off the Flintstones). With the Fox show crossovers you can tell that it’s not just business that motivates crossovers but also a deep respect for their peers.

  2. This is a really interesting post. I personally love it when two shows I like do a crossover. I don’t watch a lot of television, but I think I started watching American Dad because I saw Roger make a cameo appearance on Family Guy. These shows are good at making fun of society as a whole and its nice to know that they can poke fun at themselves and their animated peers as well.

  3. This post is AWESOME! I love animation domination these are all of my favorite shows and I love the crossovers and little hints they put in each show that inter connect them. One of my favorite cross overs was some of the ones that South Park has done! One of which was when they did the “Simpsons Did it” episode another one is when they crossed over with the World of Warcraft. So i agree with everything you say in this post and I think they should do more and expand this into more TV shows! Maybe for one future post you could talk about all the references Family guy makes throughout all of their shows.

  4. Very interesting post. I was totally unaware of the Archer / Bob’s Burgers crossover. While animation crossovers are less demanding than live action, you still are “generally” dependent on voice actors. Many are flexible and prolific. Some are voiced by people who dabble in both the live action and voice over world. Overall, I agree though.

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