Home  |  Movies  |  TV Series and Shows  |  Family Guy Season 12 - Brian and what death means in cartoons

Family Guy Season 12 - Brian and what death means in cartoons

by James McAllister. Published Thu 28 Nov 2013 10:48, last updated: 02/12/13

The recent passing of Family Guy's Brian has caused outcry among fans who claim the show will never be the same without Stewie's canine sidekick.

The show's creator Seth McFarlane has been accused of killing off the Griffin's pooch in an attempt to sell more merchandise over the holiday period and bump up the show's ratings.

But looking for radical ways to shock their audiences, writers are starting to use the idea of permanent death in cartoons to shake up long running formulas and to keep shows fresh.

After the show, an online petition has launched to demand that the show's creators write Brian back in, highlighting the unusual implications of death in cartoons.

The task of bringing a character back from the dead is easier in cartoons than attempts in live action shows such as Dallas, which are met with total ridicule.

Seth has refused to reverse his decision to kill Brian, marking an end to the days when an acme anvil could be dropped on Wiley Coyote, only for him to bound back onto the screen unharmed.

We take a look at the cartoons that have sacrificed the ink of their characters for the greater good and the reasoning behind the deaths.

Family Guy

The death that has shocked the world is Brian Griffin. A key character to the show since it debuted in 1999, the Griffin families drunk pet pooch was a fan favourite.

According to Family Guy producers they choose to kill Brian off to shake up the show's format.

Steve Callaghan recently said: "This was an idea that got pitched in the writers' room, and it sort of caught fire, and we thought it could be a fun way to shake things up."

The show has already cast The Sopranos actor Tony Sirico to voice the family's new dog, but fans argue it is no replacement for Brian.

But, this wasn't the first time Seth chose to kill a character off in Family Guy.

In the episode And Then There Were Fewer, writers killed off minor character and news reporter Diane Simmons in a murder mystery style plot.

Fans of Family Guy are always skeptical when it comes to character deaths because the audience have been played by the show before.

In a two part special called "Stewie Kills Lois" and "Lois Kills Stewie", Stewie finally goes through with killing his mother, following through with a long running joke on the show.

At the end of the two part special writers reveal it was simply a virtual reality simulation run by Stewie, a joke that Seth deliberately made - to provoke a response from the audience.

South Park

Part of South Park's initial mystique was how they killed off main character Kenny every episode, which gave birth to the famous line "You Killed Kenny!" "You B*****ds!"

It wasn't until the sixth season that the writers finally decided to make the mute character's death permanent.

Killing the character with terminal muscular disease was used to make Butters Scotch, a popular minor character amongst fans, more central to the show.

The show's creators admitted it was fun to genuinely shock the audience after they had grown accustomed to seeing Kenny die in every episode.

It also served the writers to kill off Kenny because they were growing tired of the 'prop' role Kenny's character had fallen into.

Show creator Matt Stone said "Kenny Dies was the one episode where all the characters cared he was dying for once. After that, we said, ‘Why doesn't he just stay dead?’

"And it was like, ‘Okay, let’s just do that.’ It was that easy of a decision. I think a lot of people probably haven’t noticed. I couldn't care less. I am so sick of that character."

Many fans angered by the death of Kenny and boycotted Comedy Central as a result.

Writers Matt Stone and Trey Parker initially spoke about never reviving the character but ended up reversing their decision in the season finale to give him a bigger role in order to appease their angered fans.

The Simpsons

The cartoon that started it all, The Simpsons has run for 25 seasons, spanning nearly a quarter of a century.

Inevitably running for such a long time, means characters have departed the mortal coil of Springfield and unlike other shows, The Simpsons have laid their characters to rest when the voice actor chose to leave.

It was reported that the actress who voiced Maude Flanders and many other characters on the show, Maggie Roswell, left twice, once in 2000 fed up with commuting from Denver and more recently after a heated dispute over pay that ran between 2008 and 2011.

The actress has since returned in recent episodes, but the show's writers decided it was best not to bring Maude back from the dead and help keep the show's grip on reality.

Matt Groening has since admitted that he regretted killing off another character, as Maude joined other minor characters like Dr Monroe and Bleeding Gums Murphy who had previously left the show.

More recently the show lost Marcia Wallace, the actress who voiced Bart's teacher Edna Krabappel after she sadly passed away.

In a tribute, Bart will write “We’ll really miss you Mrs. K.” during the shows opening chalk board gag, and a final HA! will be played in tribute on her final episode.


It's not just cartoons that use death to shock the audience and shake up the formula. Marvel comics writer Brian Bendis decided to kill off Peter Parker as Spider-man in issue 700.

Ultimate Spider-man, the series that finally pulled the trigger on Peter Parker was started ten years before.

Bendis, the man responsible for the Marvel Ultimate Universe, decided to stir things up for long time Spidey fans.

The Spider-man writer said: "We've never seen a world without Spider-Man, a world without Peter Parker, so his death is a significant event for the Ultimate Comics Universe and we're going to see how quickly it changes everything."

But, Peter Parker's death didn't mean the end of Spider-man.

Bendis goes onto say, "It occurred to me that if Peter passed away in a meaningful way, he could be the Uncle Ben character to a new Spider-Man, which then continues it to be a real Spider-Man story. Then it became more than just, 'Oh my God, you killed him!'"

Spider-man now exists in the Superior Spider-man series which features Otto Octavius who has inhabited Peter Parker's body. Having let Peter die in Octavius' body, he is now affected by Peter's memories.

The use of death in Cartoons and comics isn't a new thing.

But, writers are starting to look for new ways to shock their audiences and shake up long running formats.

Permanent deaths are a brilliant way to keep your audience guessing. But, they are not always as permanent as you might think.

Comments are not permitted on this article.