Putting the Cartoon back in the Network

Posted: May 10, 2010 by Sketch in Animation, Animation Editorials, Animation News, Sketch
Tags: , , , , ,
Salutations dreamers and true believers, my name is Andrew Thomas Hingson but on the internet they call me Sketch, Sketchor or The Sketchor but I prefer Sketch. I’m an animation enthusiast and an amateur voice actor and I aspire to create my own comics and cartoons some day.

In the meantime I continue to do my research *coughsquandertimewatchingcartoonscough* and have devoted countless hours to speaking about my various passions in life not the least of which are animation and comics. I hope you will find my ramblings to have some level of insight but more importantly I hope that they entertain you because that’s what I’m here for to discuss some of my favorite topics and do my best to amuse you the reader. Let us begin.

I have a great many different topics I would like to touch on in the coming months and I may dabble between reviews, opinion pieces and most likely some count downs and retrospectives but for my first contribution to The Scratch Pad I decided to discuss everyone’s favorite on again off again animation channel The Cartoon Network. More specifically their latest programming decisions and some of the news from the 2010 Upfront presentation.

If you’ve never read my ramblings before then I’ll get you up to speed by simply stating that I have had much criticism for The Cartoon Network over the years due to their various programming decisions. I will likely delved deeper into that in an opinion piece but lets not dwell on the past and instead look towards the brighter future.

At their 2010 Programming Upfront Cartoon Network reassured me that they once again understood the value of cartoons and offered an impressive slate of new series along some bold programming strategies in light of giving up an extra hour in prime time to Adult Swim in 2011. It seems they have every intention of getting the most out of their remaining hour of true prime time.

Recently Cartoon Network premiered Adventure Time a series which Nickelodeon could have produced but passed on. Their loss may be Cartoon Network’s gain. So far the ratings have been strong. Likewise the new series from the creators of Ben 10, The Men of Action called Generator Rex is doing it’s job to put buts in seats as the new kid on Cartoon Network’s Friday night action block. Both series are rated PG mostly as a buffer but also for some themes and content presented in them. It has become clear than Cartoon Network is trying to edge up their prime time programming to offer what some might call “Adult Swim Lite”. Which goes hand and hand in giving more time to Adult Swim. Adult Swim is the most successful part of the network so it is only natural for them to try to follow its example with their programming strategies. They are even going as far as to present shows in quarter hour slots the way Adult Swim has done from the beginning. You can read more about that in chdr’s discussion on that topic here.

Adventure Time and Generator Rex are a taste of things to come. I’m not too sure I like the idea of Cartoon Network edging up their original programming to include questionable content but if they use that extra leeway wisely we could see some great cartoons come out of it. Going along with that are unique players such as The Regular Show which seems considerably more off-beat than your typical Cartoon Network show. Once again feeling more or less “Adult Swim Lite”. PG programming is nothing new to CN however, Naruto pretty much made it the norm and other acquisitions such as Star Wars the Clone Wars and Total Drama Island continued the trend. PG is however a relatively new thing for original series made by Cartoon Network. Nickelodeon, Nicktoons, Disney Channel and Disney XD generally do not delve into that territory beyond movies and a few shows.

The prospect of an edgier Cartoon Network was interesting enough on its own but the remarkable slate of animated series coming to CN in the 2010-2011 season really cemented to me that once again CN knew how to be the best network for cartoons. Previously announced shows The Regular Show, Robotomy and Sym-Bionic Titans are joined by Secret Mountain Fort Awesome from the creator of The Uncle Grandpa Cartooninstitute short along with four new series from Warner Bros. Animation.

After what seems like ages, Warner Bros. Animation is bringing Cartoon Network multiple series again including a new re-envisioning of Scooby-Doo and a brand new Looney Tunes series. Scooby-Doo gets a new series every so often so that was no shock but Looney Tunes has not had a new series in quite some time after Baby Looney Tunes and Loonatics Unleashed. Some animation enthusiasts are skeptical about the new Looney Tunes show due to the nature of it being set in the suburbs where Bugs and Daffy live together with many of the other characters but when I think of Looney Tunes and situational comedy I’m instantly reminded of Tiny Toon Adventures from the silver age of Warner Bros. animation. I’ll remain cautiously optimistic for now.

After a lot of rumblings and rumors it was finally confirmed that WBA has been working on an animated Young Justice series and better yet Greg Weiseman the man who brought us Gargoyles and produced W.I.T.C.H. and the best Spider-Man series to date is on board to produce the series. Needless to say as an action animation fan I am thrilled. It is good to know that something worth while is coming out of Sony ending The Spectacular Spider-Man well before its time.

However the most intriguing of all the WBA offerings is without a doubt a MAD magazine animated series that will feature parodies of popular media much like the magazine does along with MAD icons such as Spy vs. Spy. This is most likely another key player in Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim Lite” prime time strategy and will also be a quarter hour program along with The Regular Show, Robotomy and Secret Mountain Fort Awesome. They plan to present these four shows as an hour block and thus get more shows into their one hour of true prime time than they would have if they were all half hour shows. I have always enjoyed parody shows such as Robot Chicken and if this series can offer a more family friendly version of the same concept then you can bet I’ll be watching.

There were also a number of new movies announced along with some that have been in development for a year or longer such as a CGI movie based on the comic Fire Breather which was announced at last year’s Upfront if not even before that.

Yes, Cartoon Network also announced more live-action programming but thankfully not all that many series or movies to speak of. There were the two live-action drama series that were announced previously along with a new comedy pilot called KROG which is about a monster band that cannot seem to understand why people aren’t afraid of them. As with all their live-action pilots you can pretty much expect this will become a show at some point and it is a shame that the idea is being presented as live-action rather than animated because it seems like a better idea for a cartoon. Along with those Dude What Would Happen? and Destroy Build Destroy will continue the existing CN Real block. Then of course there were more movies including another Scooby-Doo live-action feature to follow-up The Mystery Begins which to its credit did very well in the ratings as did both Ben 10 live-action features.

The most puzzling part of CN’s live-action programming strategy remains the unnecessary sports shows and specials. With how badly Slam Ball and various other shows have bombed you’d think they’d have learned their lesson by now but rather than scaling back on sports shows they are actually going the extra mile now with hour long weekly NBA game play-backs, another round for My Dad’s a Pro and even their own Sports award show following in the foot steps of Props. All of these are fairly easy to ignore however. I guess someone at CN just thinks sports fits their image for whatever reason. Hopefully all of these sports additions will be as short lived as the previous ones and after they all bomb they’ll finally take the hint.

Overall I was impressed and excited by the majority of Cartoon Network’s 2010 Upfront announcements. They seem to be heading in the right direction after several years of suffering from an identity crisis. Many series will be returning for new seasons including Flapjack, Ben 10, Star Wars, Batman, Total Drama, Pokemon, etc and the only real unfortunate loss in recent years is a pre-mature cancellation of Chowder. To this day I am not sure why they felt Chowder needed to end. It always did well with their target demographic and is a very entertaining show. Many people were enraged by its cancellation and I’m disappointed that it happened. However, worries that CN is throwing out their cartoons should be able to be set to rest now. There is no way to know what the future may hold but from what I can tell a lot of it will be animated and really that’s all I wanted. Here’s to a brighter future for the network for cartoons.
  1. Chowder was ready to go.
    However, I’m still outraged at the number of full hour blocks they’re giving to live action. I can’t believe so many cartoons are only getting short, quarter hour seasons, when we’re seeing live action hour blocks.

    Sports are pretty much the most boring thing I can think of to watch too.

    However, the new shows sound awesome, especially Secret Mountain Fort Awesome. I think that if they must go with the quarter hour thing it would be cool to see that paired up with AT and Flapjack to create an adventure block.

  2. Spaceman says:

    I can’t imagine what CN was thinking when they greenlight live-action HOUR LONG DRAMA series. Think about it. After a long day at school full of stressful classes, relationship drama, peer pressure, bullying etc, the average preteen comes back home and flicks to CN hoping for some good laughs alongside their favorite cartoon characters. Instead, (s)he greeted with a dramatized rendering of the same crap (s)he endures daily in his/her real life, except with cheap special effects and laughable action sequences. In short, (s)he want funny escapism but instead have third-rate teenage copycat show concepts from Nick/Disney thrown in their faces. Brilliant move, Snyder.

    And why does CN need a live-action teenage hero? Hasn’t Ben Tennyson and his 10,000 spinoffs made enough money for them? At least he’s animated (very poorly and lifelessly IMO, but still).

    Nonetheless, the forthcoming animation slate is indeed their strongest in years. It’s a shame that it probably took losing the 9PM slot for CN to finally create a stylistic bridge between daytime and [as] with the upcoming 15-minute shows. I’m also holding faith in the Looney Tunes Show (aside from the CGI Runner/Coyote shorts).

  3. I have faith in LT too. At the very least because Eric Bauza is involved.

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