Breaking: ‘The Tiny Chef Show’ Stop-Motion Studio Factory Transmedia Declares Bankruptcy

Warner Bros. Television Group (WBTVG) laid off 82 scripted, unscripted, and animation employees on Tuesday, and will not fill 43 more vacant positions. The 125 positions represented 26% of the companies workforce across those units.

However, the layoffs, which were generally expected, don’t tell the whole story of what’s going on at Warner Bros. Discovery’s animation units. In fact, there was an even more consequential announcement yesterday that fundamentally alters the structure of Cartoon Network Studios going forward and will have a far-reaching impact on the projects that it produces. The company calls it part of its “strategic realignment.”

In a company-wide memo, chairman Channing Dungey told staff that the company plans to fully consolidate its tv animation divisions, merging Warner Bros. Animation (WBA) and Cartoon Network Studios (CNS). Going forward, Sam Register will continue as head of WBA and CNS, as well as Hanna-Barbera Studios Europe, the latter of which will continue to operate independently from the other two.

According to the memo, all three labels will continue to exist, but perhaps more in name than in action. Both development and production at WBA and CNS will now be merged, extending on the cross-studio teams that were already in place for programming, casting, legal, and business affairs, and artist relations. This means that Cartoon Network Studios no longer has any independent say on either creative or operational matters, something that has never happened before in its existence.

This also seems an ominous sign for the future of new, original Cartoon Network animation. WBA has traditionally been a much more catalog/IP-driven studio, while CNS has been the studio that puts out original series and specials that occasionally become touchstones for generations of viewers.

Over the last decade, CNS produced shows such as Uncle Grandpa, Steven Universe, Clarence, Over the Garden Wall, We Bare Bears, Craig of the Creek, Summer Camp Island, Infinity Train, and Primal, to name just a few. Conversely, WBA’s lineup has been focused on catalog characters, including titles such as Batwheels, Bugs Bunny Builders, Aquaman: King of Atlantis, Teen Titans Go!, Jellystone!, Animaniacs, Looney Tunes Cartoons, Harley Quinn, Justice League Action, and The Tom and Jerry Show.

Under boss David Zaslav, Warner Bros. Discovery has expressed a desire to focus more heavily on IP across all its businesses, so now that CNS has to share development and production resources with WBA, it’s difficult to imagine a future in which the studio’s original animation output can match what it has been in the past. As long as Zaslav is king, Cartoon Network Studios is likely to shift more strongly towards reboots of its existing catalog, as it is currently doing with The Powerpuff Girls, than launching new IP.

The significance of yesterday’s news may have not fully sunk in for a lot of animation fans, but those in the business immediately understood the magnitude of the news and its impact on Cartoon Network Studio’s – and by extension, Cartoon Network’s – future. Brian Miller, former general manager of Cartoon Network Studios and a key figurehead at the company for 21 years, tweeted a quote from the Variety report and a grim two-word summary of what he thinks it means for the future of Cartoon Network Studios: “RIP CNS.”

Under the new setup, kids and family series development at both WBA and CNS will be led by Audrey Diehl, adult animation development by Peter Girardi, and animated longform series development by Sammy Perlmutter, with Bobbie Page leading main production. Ed Adams will continue as executive vp and general manager.

Pictured at top: Over the Garden Wall