Sunday, October 1, 2017

Cartoon Network Turns 25

Image source: Liam Biniares
Today marks Cartoon Network's 25th birthday, so I thought I'd do a post about it. This will be done in a similar style as my Nicktoons 25 post. Cartoon Network hasn't gone all out like they did for their 20th birthday, but they aren't ignoring it, either. They made a bumper (though I'm not sure if it will air on TV or not) and had a special sign-on today.

Cartoon Network's history can be traced back to 1986 when Turner Broadcasting purchased MGM/UA. Turner ended up selling the film and television production units back in order to pay off the $2 billion debt that was assumed to by the company, but still held on to much of the film and television library made prior to 1986. This included the cartoon library, which in addition to MGM's own cartoons, included most of the pre-1950 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts, which Associated Arts Productions had acquired for television in 1956 before being bought by United Artists. In 1991, Turner purchased Hanna-Barbera, and on February 19, 1992, Turner announced the Cartoon Network, which would rely heavily on 3,000 half hours of Hanna-Barbera cartoons as well as more than 1,000 hours of theatrical cartoons.

Cartoon Network launched on October 1, 1992. At the time of its launch, it was only carried in 4 of the top 10 markets: New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and Detroit. It wasn't even carried by any providers in Atlanta, where Turner is based. At first, it was just reruns of classics. It sort of started with original programming in 1993 with The Moxy Show, but it was more of a package show of old cartoons. Cartoon Network's first full length show, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, debuted in 1994.

In 1995, Cartoon Network debuted What a Cartoon! (also known as World Premiere Toons). It consisted of new shorts from animators at Hanna-Barbera. The project was headed by then Hanna-Barbera president Fred Seibert. 7 shorts later got picked up as full series: Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, I Am Weasel, The Powerpuff Girls, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and Mike, Lu & Og. One short titled Larry & Steve would later evolve into Family Guy on Fox.

Unlike Nick and Disney, Cartoon Network has never had long term success with preschool programming. They first tried in 1996 with Big Bag and Small World, but neither seem to have left that much of a mark on the network. They tried again with a block called Tickle U in 2005, but that didn't do well either and ended in 2007. I'd be surprised if Cartoon Network tried with preschool programming again.

In 1997, Cartoon Network debuted an action block called Toonami, which went on to be their longest running block (unless you count Adult Swim). From 1997-1999, it was hosted by Moltar from Space Ghost, then from 1999 onward, it was hosted by an original character named TOM. In 2004, it was moved from weekdays to Saturday nights. On weekdays, it was replaced by another new action block called Miguzi, which ran until 2007. Toonami's first run came to an end in 2008, but was revived on Adult Swim in 2012, where it continues to run on Saturday nights.

In 1998, Cartoon Network debuted the Powerhouse Era. It replaced the Checkerboard Era, which Cartoon Network had since it launched. This is probably tied with the City Era for my favorite Cartoon Network brandings. I don't remember seeing too much of it (though I must've seen some of it because I remember watching Cartoon Network as far back as 2002), but I have seen quite a bit of it on YouTube. The Powerhouse Era ran until 2004.

In 1999, Cartoon Network debuted a block called Cartoon Cartoon Fridays, which aired new episodes of Cartoon Network's original shows (although I think it may have just been repeats at first, I'm not entirely sure when the block started airing premieres). At first, live action hosts were used, but in 2000, it started being hosted by characters from the shows, usually with a different character hosting every week.

This format continued until 2003, when Cartoon Cartoon Fridays was rebranded as Fridays. Apart from the name, the branding still wasn't much different at first, but then it underwent a revamp that fall. The new Fridays now featured live action segments and was hosted by Tommy Snider and Nzinga Blake. Blake would later be replaced by Tara Sands, who remained co-host for the remainder of the block's run. Fridays came to an end on February 23, 2007. It was followed by Friday Night Thunder and Fried Dynamite, but both were short lived and Cartoon Network moved premieres of their originals to Thursdays in 2008.

In 2000, Cartoon Network launched a sister network called Boomerang, which was spun-off from a block on CN of the same name and aired classic cartoons. It mostly kept this format until it rebranded in 2015. Now it airs more recent shows. Nowadays, the classics are found on the streaming service of the same name, which launched earlier this year.

On June 15, 2001, Betty Cohen, president of Cartoon Network since its founding, stepped down, stating that she was afraid she would die the queen of cartoons. She was succeeded by Jim Samples.

Also in 2001, Cartoon Network debuted Adult Swim. At first, it just aired Sunday nights with a repeat on Thursdays, but it did well enough that it soon expanded. Eventually, it was expanded to 7 nights a week. Adult Swim is now classified as a separate channel for ratings purposes, and currently airs from 8 P.M.-6 A.M. every night.

In 2002, Cartoon Network released their first feature film, The Powerpuff Girls Movie. Unfortunately, it didn't do too well, grossing only $16.4 million worldwide. From what I know, this could be blamed on the advertising. Based on what I've read, it wasn't advertised much outside Cartoon Network and it made the movie look more like a girls' movie when it really wasn't. To date, it remains Cartoon Network's only feature film. It was announced that an Adventure Time movie was in development in 2015, but I haven't heard anything else about it and the show is ending next year, so I doubt it got past the development stage. The upcoming Teen Titans Go! movie doesn't count because it's actually Warner Bros.

In 2004, Cartoon Network underwent some changes. First, they changed their logo for the first time. They also debuted a new branding known as the City Era. The bumpers featured characters from different shows interacting with each other while doing normal every day tasks. As I mentioned before, this is probably tied with the Powerhouse Era for my favorite Cartoon Network branding. The City Era lasted until 2007, although it was partially replaced by the Yes! Era in 2006.

In 2007, Jim Samples stepped down after a bomb scare in Boston that was the result of a promotion for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie. He was replaced by Stuart Snyder. 2007 is also the year people think Cartoon Network went into decline. The City/Yes! Era ended at the beginning of summer and was replaced by a branding known as the Summer Era. After that, it replaced by the Fall Era, which for some reason continued into 2008.

While I can see why some people didn't like this era, I don't think it was that bad. I didn't mind the song or the branding, and there were still plenty of shows I like. I also actually don't think Out of Jimmy's Head, which was Cartoon Network's first venture into live action programming, was a bad fit because of how it also used animation. I'm not saying it was a good show. Just not a bad fit.

In 2008, Cartoon Network debuted the Noods Era. Based on a toy called Muny, the bumpers featured characters known as Noods. Some were blank, others were colored as characters from shows. While I think Cartoon Network reached their lowest point during the Noods Era, I did like the branding itself. I've seen Noods for Adventure Time, Regular Show, and Gumball. The reason I bring this up is because I feel the need to point out that they're fake. Props to the guy that made them, but he shouldn't be claiming they're real when they're not.

2009 is when a lot of people think Cartoon Network reached its lowest point, and yeah, I will agree with that. I still think there was some good stuff that year. As far as original programming goes, I liked Chowder and Flapjack. There was also Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show The Powerpuff Girls Rule!!!, and the last episodes of Foster's. In the way of acquisitions, there was also Johnny Test (I actually like the first 3 seasons) and Total Drama.

But no new original cartoons debuted that year and instead they debuted some reality shows, even airing them in a block called CN Real. I don't agree with criticisms I see for Nick and Disney airing live action (even though I don't care much for the shows themselves) since they were never cartoon exclusive channels, but Cartoon Network was. I know I said Out of Jimmy's Head wasn't a bad fit, but the shows that aired on CN Real were. They had no place on on a channel called Cartoon Network. However, most of the CN Real shows and the block itself didn't last long (although Cartoon Network wouldn't completely stop making live action shows until Snyder left), and the network started improving the following year.

In 2010, Cartoon Network dropped the Noods in favor of the Check It Era, which still continues (although there have been different versions of it over the years). During this time, I feel Cartoon Network was the best it's been since the Powerhouse Era. Adventure Time and Regular Show were big hits (with Regular Show being one of my all time favorite CN shows). Other big hits for them were The Amazing World of Gumball and Steven Universe. There were other shows that weren't quite as big, but I liked as well.

Cartoon Network went all out for their 20th birthday in 2012. They started by reviving Cartoon Planet, a classic cartoons block that previously ran in the 1990s and was hosted by Brak and Zorak from Space Ghost. The revival featured classic Cartoon Network shows (although some more recent shows were added later on for some reason). Cartoon Network also aired older originals in October, the month of the anniversary.

In 2014, Stuart Snyder left the network. His reason for this was because he did not get along with David Levy, who was named head of sales and distribution that January. He was replaced by Christina Miller. In 2016, the Check It Era was partially replaced by the Dimensional Era, similar to how Yes! partially replaced the City Era in 2006.

Lately, people's opinions on Cartoon Network has been souring again. This is due to the fact that they air too much Teen Titans Go!, not air shows like Adventure Time and Steven Universe much, and have been pushing reboots. Some people even think they're worse now than they were in 2009. Personally, I don't think CN is that bad. I'll admit 2009 had more schedule variety, but the schedule is really my only issue with Cartoon Network right now, and even then, I'm not as obsessed with the schedule as others seem to be. Plus, if there's a show I really want to watch, there is the app, website, and On Demand (options that didn't exist at the turn of the century, when they aired too much Scooby-Doo). Not to say that completely excuses the schedule (I would love for it to improve). I just don't think it's as big a deal as others seem to.

I also don't think the reboots are as big an issue as others are making them out to be. Cartoon Network is still making more original shows and none of their upcoming shows are reboots (not to mention I actually like the PPG reboot). I like most of Cartoon Network's current lineup and I look forward to what they have coming up.

I don't normally give shoutouts, but with this post, I feel there are 2 people that deserve it. The first is a guy named Liam Biniares, who made the image used in the header and gave me permission to use it. The second is Captain B. Zarre, who agreed to look over this for any mistakes I made about Cn's history. He uploads old Cartoon Network, Toonami, and Adult Swim promos/commercial breaks to YouTube, so if that interests you, I recommend checking out his channel.

Like the Nicktoons post, I'll be concluding this post by listing my personal top 5 favorite Cartoon Network shows.

5. The Amazing World of Gumball

Image source: Zap2it

4. Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends

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3. Steven Universe

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2. Regular Show

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1. The Powerpuff Girls

Image source: Zap2it

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