One of the few areas where animation producers haven’t yet figured out how to profit from is fan art, which is all the unofficial artwork made by fans that is shared online or sold as prints at conventions. Cartoon Network today announced a new initiative that makes them the first major company to address the situation.

The newly-announced Cartoon Network Collective is an outlet for selling exclusive limited-edition products related to Cartoon Network series. The Collective can be accessed exclusively from the Cartoon Network Shop; it’s a collaboration between Cartoon Network Enterprises (the consumer products arm of the network), current CN Shop licensee Bolder Road, and the newly-formed Horizon Line Studios.

The Collective’s launch offering include designs from ten different artists, many of whom are professional illustrators, animators, and comic artists, whose work will be available on limited edition posters, apparel, phone cases, notebooks, and other products. Each month, the collection will be refreshed with new artists who will present their interpretations of different Cartoon Network series.

“Cartoon Network has some of the most loyal, dedicated, and discerning fans out there”, said Pete Yoder, vice president, Cartoon Network Enterprises. “The Collective provides an opportunity for our fans to acquire never-before-seen, exclusive network product interpreted through some of today’s most talented artists.”

This Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems print by Missy Pena is an example of the type of fan art that will be sold on Cartoon Network Collective.
This Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems print by Missy Pena is an example of the type of fan art that will be sold on Cartoon Network Collective.

The Collective will also include interviews with the featured artists as well as other behind-the-scenes content. “This is an exciting time to be in entertainment because pop culture has permeated so many aspects of our lives,” said Rick Blanco, CEO and creative director, Horizon Line Studios. “The Cartoon Network Collective will be more than a store—it will be a community that will offer fans and collectors a new way to engage with their favorite brands.”

Over the last decade, fan art has become an inextricable part of animation fandom, and some of the network’s current show creators, like Steven Universe’s Rebecca Sugar, first attracted attention by drawing their own fan art (though it’s unlikely that Sugars’ eroticized drawings of Ed, Edd n Eddy would ever be sold through The Collective). It’s a smart move on Cartoon Network’s part to work with their fans to monetize work rather than trying to shut them down for selling artwork of copyrighted characters without permission.

It’s hard to say in whose favor the program works because little is known about the financial arrangement between Cartoon Network and the artists participating in The Collective. For example, are artists being compensated? If so, is the artwork being bought outright or do artists receive a percentage of sales? And, of course, the other big question is are fans willing to pay upwards of a hundred dollars for a print of Cartoon Network characters? Time will tell how much control Cartoon Network will be able to take over the work created by its most dedicated fans.

Artists selected to participate in the June launch are:

  • Jason Edmiston, Mahendra Singh, and MAKO – Adventure Time
  • Missy Pena, Ty Mattson – Steven Universe
  • Miranda Dressler, Louie Zong – We Bare Bears
  • Frank Forte – Clarence
  • MAKO – Regular Show
  • Anthony Petrie – Over the Garden Wall
  • CHOGRIN – Dexter’s Laboratory