The New Cartoon Network

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Here’s a roundup of news related to our earlier post about Cartoon Network’s rebranding efforts, and its new programming direction, which is showing less cartoons and more live-action programming. In the past few months, the network had begun airing live-action features like DUMB AND DUMBER, ACE VENTURA 2 and HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS, but tonight, CN began airing reruns of SAVED BY THE BELL, the first time in its history that it has aired a completely live-action TV show. The news of CN’s live-action shift has not been well received in the online community. Cartoon fans have good reason to be concerned, and one person has already started a PETITION asking the network to stop airing live-action programming.

A recent article in TV WEEK had this quote from Cox cable spokesman David Grabert addressing Cartoon Network’s shift in programming: “We always closely watch what programmers do, especially if they make changes that take them away from how they sold us the service. This is the first we’ve heard of these plans, but if we feel like they’re going too far, we’ll let them know.” Grabert’s statement suggests that if enough viewers complain to cable operators like Cox, they may step in and take some action forcing Cartoon Network to return to its original programming charter.

Brew reader David Silva wrote in from Mexico to let us know that the Latin American version of Boomerang (the classic cartoons arm of Cartoon Network) has also switched from showing older cartoons to a mixture of cartoons and live-action. He writes:

Boomerang Latin America (English version here) is no longer for classic cartoons… it has been turned into a children and teenage-oriented channel. Yes, the channel still has classic TV shows, but it’s also showing a bunch of teenage dramas and edutainment shows. Which, of course, are not cartoons. The focus has changed completely.

I’m emailing you because, as far as I can see, this change has not happened in the United States. But I am afraid that it will, and sooner than you’d expect. Cartoon Network’s situation is frightening, and the more I see these things happening, the more it makes me think that they’re trying to turn the channels into another version of The Disney Channel.

UPDATE: Animation artist Jamie Badminton writes from the UK:

Just wanted to let you know that the Toonami channel we have in the UK has been showing ‘Parker Lewis Can’t Lose’ of all things since March, along with a science program and and an extreme sports magazine show!! Worryingly, the allotted timeslots for these shows increased the following month so it can’t have been a total failure with audiences. It baffles me that they would ever consider sacrificing their once-focused broadcasting plans for early 90s teen comedies!!

We’ve had ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on Cartoon Network-UK several times too. I’m sure there are enough talented animators that could fill these slots with shows if given the half the chance. Thanks for highlighting it the problem – I have quite a lot of affection for what Cartoon Network once was. ‘Foster’s Home’ and ‘Samurai Jack’ have been the most outstanding animated series of the last 10 years and that is primarily because the artists have had a solid rock of studio support around them ever since the days of World Premiere Toons, letting them hone their skills in one place with the same constant team (something that had not been possible since animation’s golden age). I’d hate for that to be compromised just because some bright spark decides that ‘kids don’t like cartoons anymore’ based on one month’s viewing figures!!