Cartoon Network: 20 years of cartoons




Hi folks, Gene Scallop here! Today is a special milestone for Cartoon Network. For today, October 1st, 2012, is the network’s 20th anniversary!


Sure, they’ve been missteps during the network’s history such as the Boston Bomb scare or the demise of the Cartoon Cartoon era, but that’s later on. But for now, let’s journey ourselves to the beginning and see what can be done to prevent these disasters from happening again. What’s the story Perch?


Perch Perkins- Cartoon Network currently owned by Turner Broadcasting which primarily airs animated programming was a channel for all cartoon fans of all ages. The channel was launched on October 1, 1992, after Turner purchased the animation studio Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1991. It was originally a 24-hour outlet for classic animation properties from the Turner Broadcasting libraries and was all-ages-oriented, but now the channel targets children and teens with mature content handled by its Adult Swim division.

It also broadcasts many shows, ranging from action to animated comedy. Original series started in 1994 with Space Ghost Coast to Coast, along with Cartoon Cartoons original programs like Cow & Chicken, Dexter’s Laboratory, I Am Weasel, The Power puff Girls, Johnny Bravo, Ed, Edd n Eddy, and Courage the Cowardly Dog. In 2009, it started airing live-action programming, including movies from Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema.

On August 4, 1986, Ted Turner’s Turner Broadcasting System acquired Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists from Kirk Kerkorian, but due to the over the debt-load of his companies, on October 17, 1986 he was forced to sell MGM back to Kerkorian for approximately after only 74 days of ownership. However Turner kept some of MGM’s film and television library made prior to May 1986 (as well as some of United Artists library) and formed Turner Entertainment.

On October 3, 1988, its cable channel Turner Network Television was launched and had gained an audience with its film library. At this time Turner’s animated library included;

The MGM cartoon library
The Pre-1948 color Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies
The Harman-Ising Merrie Melodies (except Lady, Play Your Mandolin!)
and of course, The Fleischer Studios/Famous Studios Popeye cartoons.
In 1991, it purchased animation studio Hanna-Barbera Productions.

At 12 p.m. ET on October 1, 1992, Cartoon Network was launched as an outlet for Turner’s considerable library of animation, and the initial programming on the channel consisted exclusively of reruns of classic Warner Bros cartoons (the pre-1950 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies), the 1933–1957 Popeye cartoons, MGM cartoons, and Hanna-Barbera cartoons from their recent purchase back in 1988. At first, cable providers in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Detroit carried the channel. The very first program that Cartoon Network ever broadcast was a Bugs Bunny cartoon from 1946 titled “Rhapsody Rabbit.” By the time the network launched, Cartoon Network had a 8,500 hour cartoon library. From its launch until 1995, the network’s announcers said the network’s name with the word “The” added before “Cartoon Network”, thus calling the network “The Cartoon Network”.

Cartoon Network was not the first cable channel to have relied on cartoons to attract an audience. Nickelodeon had paved the way in the 1980s. On August 11, 1991, Nickelodeon had launched three “high-profile” animated series: Doug, The Ren & Stimpy Show, and Rug rats, further signifying the importance of cartoons in its programming. The Disney Channel and the Family Channel had also included animated shows in their programming, as did USA Network, whose Cartoon Express was widely popular. In each of these cases, until October 1, 1992, cartoons were only broadcast during the morning or the early afternoon. Prime time and late night television hours were reserved for live-action programs, following the assumption that television animation could only attract child audiences, while Cartoon Network was a 24-hour single-genre channel with animation as its main theme. Turner Broadcasting System had defied conventional wisdom before by launching CNN, a channel providing 24-hours news coverage. The concept was previously thought unlikely to attract a sufficient audience to be particularly profitable, however the CNN experiment had been successful and Turner could hope that the Network would also find success.

Initially, the channel would broadcast cartoons 24/7. Most of the short cartoons were aired in half-hour or hour-long packages, usually separated by character or studio—Down Wit’ Droopy D aired old Droopy Dog shorts, The Tom and Jerry Show presented the classic cat-and-mouse team, and Bugs and Daffy Tonight provided classic Looney Tunes shorts. Late Night Black and White showed early black-and-white cartoons (mostly from the Fleischer Studios and Walter Lantz cartoons from 1930s), and ToonHeads, which would show three shorts with a similar theme and provide trivia about the cartoons. There was also an afternoon cartoon block called High Noon Toons which was hosted by cowboy hand puppets (an example of the simplicity and imagination the network had in the early years). The majority of the classic animation that was shown on Cartoon Network no longer airs on a regular basis, with the exception of Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes.

The first challenge for Cartoon Network was to overcome its low penetration of existing cable systems. When launched on October 1, 1992, the channel was only carried by 233 cable systems. However, it benefited from package deals. New subscribers to sister stations TNT and TBS could also get access to Cartoon Network through such deals. The high ratings of Cartoon Network over the following couple of years led to more cable systems including it. By the end of 1994, Cartoon Network had become “the fifth most popular cable channel in the United States”.

For the first few years of Cartoon Network’s existence, programming meant for Cartoon Network would also be simulcast on TBS and/or TNT in order to increase the shows’ (and Cartoon Network’s) exposure; examples include The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, Cartoon Planet, and 2 Stupid Dogs.

The network’s first exclusive original show was The Moxy Show, first airing in 1993, but it only lasted a year. The first series produced by Cartoon Network was Space Ghost Coast to Coast in 1994, but the show mostly consisted of “recycled animation cels” from the archives of Hanna-Barbera, being an ironic deconstruction of a talk show. It featured live-action guests, mostly consisting of celebrities which were past their prime or counterculture figures. A running gag was that the production cost was dubbed “minimal”. The series found its audience among young adults who appreciated its “hip” perspective.

Kevin Sandler considered Space Ghost Coast to Coast instrumental in establishing Cartoon Network’s appeal to older audiences. Space Ghost, a 1960s superhero by Hanna-Barbera, was recast as the star of a talk show parody. This was arguably the first time the Network revived a “classic animated icon” in an entirely new context for comedic purposes. Grown-ups who had ceased enjoying the original takes on the characters could find amusement in the “new ironic and self-referential context” for them. Promotional shorts such as the “Scooby-Doo Project”, a parody of the The Blair Witch Project, gave similar treatments to the Scooby gang.  However, there were less successful efforts at such revivals. A Day in the Life of Ranger Smith and Boo Boo Runs Wild (1999) featured new takes on Yogi Bear’s supporting cast by John Kricfalusi. Their “tasteless” humor, sexual content and lack of respect for the source material was rather out of place among the rest of the Cartoon Network shows. These shorts do not seem to have much of a fan-following and the network rarely found a place for them in its programming.

In 1994, Hanna-Barbera’s new division Cartoon Network Studios was founded and started production on What A Cartoon! (also known as World Premiere Toons). This show debuted in 1995, offering original animated shorts commissioned from Hanna-Barbera and various independent animators. The Network promoted the series as an attempt to return to the “classic days” of studio animation, offering full animator control, high budgets, and no limited animation. The project was spearheaded by several Cartoon Network executives, plus John Kricfalusi and Fred Seibert. Kricfalusi was the creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show and served as an advisor to the Network, while Seibert was formerly one of the driving forces behind Nicktoons and would go on to produce the similar animation anthology series Oh, Yeah! Cartoons and Random Cartoons.

Cartoon Network was able to assess the potential of certain shorts to serve as pilots for spin-off series and signed contracts with their creators to create ongoing series. Dexter’s Laboratory was the most popular short series according to a vote held in 1995 and eventually became the first spin-off of What A Cartoon! in 1996. Three more series based on shorts debuted in 1997: Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, and I Am Weasel (the latter two as segments of the same show; later, I Am Weasel was separated and got its own show). These were followed by The Power puff Girls in 1998 and concluded with Courage the Cowardly Dog and Mike, Lu & Og in 1999. The unrelated series Ed, Edd n Eddy was also launched in 1999.

These original series were intended to appeal to a wider audience than the average Saturday morning cartoon. Linda Simensky, vice-president of original animation, reminded adults and teenage girls that cartoons could appeal to them as well. Kevin Sandler’s article of them claimed that these cartoons were both less “bawdy” than their counterparts at Comedy Central and less “socially responsible” than their counterparts at Nickelodeon. Sandler pointed to the whimsical rebelliousness, high exaggeration, and self-consciousness of the overall output, while each individual series manage.

In 1996, Turner merged with Time Warner. This consolidated ownership of all the Warner Bros. cartoons, so now post-July 1948 and the former Sunset-owned black-and-white cartoons (which Warner Brothers had reacquired in the 1960s) releases were being shown on the network. Although most of the post-July 1948 cartoons were still contracted to be shown on Nickelodeon, the network wouldn’t air them until September 1999. Newer animated productions by Warner Bros. also started appearing on the network—mostly reruns of shows that had aired on Kids’ WB, plus certain new programs such as Justice League and the entire Warner Bros. library.

Cartoon Network’s programming wouldn’t be available in Canada until 1997, when a Canadian specialty network entitled Teletoon and its French language counterpart launched.

Adult Swim debuted on September 2, 2001 with an episode of Home Movies. Adult Swim was also where Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, Sealab 2021, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force made their official debuts, although they first aired in December 2000, while Space Ghost Coast to Coast was on hiatus.

The first theatrical film The Power puff Girls Movie was released on July 3, 2002, which received mixed to positive reviews by critics.

At 5AM ET on the morning of June 14, 2004, Cartoon Network debuted its second logo and its slogan, “This is Cartoon Network!” The bumpers now featured 2D cartoon characters from their shows interacting in a CGI city composed of sets from their shows. By now, nearly all of Cartoon Network’s classic cartoon programming had been relocated to its sister network Boomerang to make way for new programming.

Jim Samples, president of the Cartoon Network since August 2001, resigned on February 9, 2007 due to the 2007 Boston bomb scare. Following Samples’s resignation, Stuart Snyder was named his successor. On September 1, 2007, the network look was revamped, and bumpers and station identification were themed to The Hives song Fall is Just Something That Grown-Ups Invented. On October 15, 2007, the channel began broadcasting in 1080i high definition. Every October since 2007, Cartoon Network would air 40 episodes of the former Fox Kids program Goosebumps, though Cartoon Network lost the rights to the show on October 31, 2009 and stopped airing the program due to viewer decrease and popularity.

Starting in the end of 2007, the network has also began to air some imported programs from Teletoon such as George of the Jungle, Atomic Betty, 6teen, Chaotic, Bakugan Battle Brawlers, Stoked, and Total Drama Island.

Cartoon Network announced at its 2008 Upfront that it was working on a new project called Cartoonstitute, which was headed by animators Craig McCracken as executive producer and Rob Renzetti as supervising producer. Both reported to Rob Scorcher, who created the idea. It would have worked similar to What A Cartoon!, by creating at least 150 pieces of animation within 20 months. Cartoonstitute was eventually cancelled due to the lack of ideas for new cartoons, and out of all the shorts, two Regular Show and Secret Mountain Fort Awesome were selected, after animator Craig McCracken (the creator of The Power puff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends) eventually left the network after 15 years in 2009. On September 20, 2008, Cartoon Network ended Toonami after its 11-year run.

Beginning May 25, 2008, Cartoon Network began airing animated shorts, called Wedgies, to fill in spots between two programs. On July 14, 2008, the network took on a newer look created by Tristan Eaton and was animated by Crew972. The bumpers of that era had white, faceless characters called Noods, based on the DIY toy, Munny. The standard network logo was then completely white, adopting different colors based on the occasion in the same style.

In June 2009, a block of live-action reality shows, The Othersiders, Survive This, Brain Rush, Destroy Build Destroy, Dude, What Would Happen and Bobb’e Says, began airing in a programming block promoted as CN Real. The network also aired some limited sports programming, including basketball recaps and Slamball games, during the commercials.

A new identity for the station was introduced on May 29, 2010, along with a new theme and new bumpers. The network’s current branding, designed by Brand New School, makes heavy use of the black and white checkerboard which made up the network’s first logo, as well as various CMYK color variations and various patterns. Since December 27, 2010, Adult Swim began starting 1 hour earlier at 9 PM.

In February 2011, Cartoon Network aired their first sports award show, called Hall of Game Awards, hosted by Tony Hawk. The second Hall of Games Awards aired February 20, 2012 was hosted by Shaquille O’Neal.

At its 2011 upfront, Cartoon Network announced 14 new series, including Adventure Time, The Problem Solverz, formerly known as Neon Knome, The Looney Tunes Show, Secret Mountain Fort Awesome, Level Up, a scripted live-action comedy series with a 90-minute starting film, Tower Prep, Green Lantern, Dragons: Riders of Berk, the series based on the DreamWorks film, How to Train Your Dragon, The Amazing World of Gumball, Total Drama: Revenge of the Island, the 4th season of Total Drama; Thunder Cats, Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu and Ben 10: Omniverse. The network announced a new block planned to air called “DC Nation”; this block will focus on the titular heroes, the first being Green Lantern. 9 Story’s Almost Naked Animals, an animated comedy about a group of shaved animals in their underwear running a hotel called the Banana Cabana, was also picked up by the network and made its US debut on June 13, 2011, the same premiere date as another Canadian-acquired animated series, Sidekick.

After announcing two new live action shows in Unnatural History and Tower Prep, which were both cancelled after their first seasons, Cartoon Network acquired the game show, Hole in the Wall. By the end of 2011, Hole in the Wall and the final two CN Real shows, Destroy Build Destroy and Dude, What Would Happen were removed from Cartoon Network’s schedule completely, In 2012, Cartoon Network acquired TV rights to the famous Web series, The Annoying Orange and added it to its primetime lineup. For a short time, Cartoon Network also returned two 1960s cartoons, The Flintstones and The Jetsons, to its daytime lineup, after several years of being seen only on Boomerang.

It was announced on Thursday, February 2, 2012 that Teletoon would be launching a Canadian version of Cartoon Network. It will also include a Canadian version of the overnight block Adult Swim. This channel launched on July 4, 2012.

On March 18, 2012 Cartoon Network aired its first documentary, Speak Up, about bullying. Later that month on March 30, 2012, the block Cartoon Planet was revived, now airing the channel’s original programming from the 1990s and early 2000s.

It has been a tough year for CN under pressure and under criticism from many others. All of these factors up to this point have put the the network under tough times. Some viewers think that the old CN should come back, but others say, the network still has juice left in its tank to fulfill its goals. What will the next 20 years be in store for CN? That answer is up to the viewers to find out.


From The Flintstones and Dexter’s Lab, from Chowder to Flapjack and from Mordecai and Rigby to Gumball and Darwin, Cartoon Network can relive their entire history from the 90’s to today. What can be done in the future so their mistakes can’t be repeated again? Now’s their chance to atone for all of their missteps and mistakes! If you’ve watched the launch from the beginning or if you’re new to CN, then you’re invited to their 20th birthday party this weekend!


From all of entertainment central to the entire Bikini Bottom News team, we’d just like to say Happy Birthday Cartoon Network, and wish you well for another 20 years ahead!

  1. #1 by andrew on November 26, 2012 - 1:14 am

    you could at least include some sources… because it seems as if all of this was taken from Wikipedia


    • #2 by gtnjr17 on November 27, 2012 - 1:49 am

      Perphaps I should. I should’ve searched for news reports on Cartoon Network’s 20th anniversary milestone instead of Wikipedia. My aplogies.


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