This week, I’ll be covering the recent trend of fifteen-minute premieres and what this may mean for the future of television animation. Read more below the break.
In the early days of television animation, cartoons often imitated the silver screen. Previously, most if not all animation consisted in the form of theatrical shorts that aired before movies. A lot of these shorts would feature recurring characters such as Bugs Bunny or Droopy Dog, and could be seen as precursors to the modern animated series. For the most part, theatrical shorts were funded and produced by major studios at the time, and had big budgets and exposure. Television, on the other hand, was a fledgling medium with a handful of networks, a relatively small base of viewers, and vastly lower budgets. Animated series were almost identical to their theatrical counterparts, consisting of seven-minute shorts centering around a recurring character. What television didn’t have though, was the budget. To save on costs, multiple series were farmed to single studios such as Filmation or Hanna-Barbera, which created animation on the cheap with recycled animation and character designs. To save money, various series were paired up with each other in the same timeslot, with only the most profitable characters getting full shows of their own.
Flash forward over half a century later. Television is booming, with budgets and audiences rivaling or even topping the movie industry. Television animation is more diverse than its ever been, with a return to the high-quality animation and art that the theatrical age brought in. With the exception of action shows and adult sitcoms (both of which became more common), the act of bundling series together is a thing of the past. Most cartoons consist of two fifteen-minute segments paired up in a convenient thirty-minute slot. With the advent of higher budgets, any series could not afford thirty minutes, regardless of popularity or the studio backing it. But now, things seem to be going in the opposite direction.
The trend started a few years ago, when the kids network Nickelodeon came up with a brilliant idea: instead of showing the full episode all at once, show episodes one segment at a time! More premieres means more ratings! Pretty soon, all of their animated series resorted to this format, save for half-hour episodes or special events. This way of premiering cartoons soon made its way over to Disney Channel and Cartoon Network. Cartoon Network has taken this a step further, announcing that all future comedy series in production will be shortened to one 15-minute segment only. Whether or not the others will follow suit is unknown. While this could be seen as a rip-off, moving backwards in a way, I have a few reasons why the discussion on 15 minutes should go from “Why go backwards?” to “Why go back?”.
On the point of rising animation budgets, studios can currently produce high-quality animation with their current budget. Fifteen minutes of less runtime means that more money and effort that can be concentrated into creating vivid, fluid shorts. Less time means more space for more shows. Theoretically, the amount of funding that goes into one half-hour show could create two quarter-hour shows, increasing network diversity. As an extension of that idea, less time means that more shows can be crammed into a timeslot, leading to more diversity on a network’s schedule.
So, what are your opinions on the end of segments? Make a comment!
If you enjoyed this post, or even hated it, there are a few things you can do to voice your opinion. First of all, click the “post a comment” button up above, and tell The Scratchpad your thoughts. Then, feel free to follow us on Twitter, by searching the hash-tag #thescratchpad. If you’re still hungry for more, you can click on the name of the author of this post below to see more posts by them.