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Cartoon Network really is the odd man out of the three US kids channels. Originally a division of Turner Broadcasting, it now operates as an arm of the vast Time Warner empire. However, despite this trait shared with Nickelodeon and Disney, Cartoon Network has shown an almost remarkable attitude to the content it has created over the years.
How The Original Series’ Popularity Fares Today
To start off right at the beginning, how are the very first batch of original cartoons treated today? Well, they’re still relatively popular among fans. Plenty of GIFs and screenshots can be found on social sites like Tumblr. Dexter’s Laboratory seems to be the current favourite, but Powerpuff Girls and Johnny Bravo can be found too.
How Newer Series’ Fare Today
After the original group of shows, a second wave of Cartoon Network originals hit the airwaves in and around 2001 and continuing thereafter. These shows varied as to their length; some lasting only two years but others, such as The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy made it all the way to 5 or more. This wave of shows brings us to around 2009-2010, at which point he current crop of shows took over and continue to this day.
These shows hold less nostalgia than those from the 90s, but they remain embedded in the consciousness of older fans.
How Cartoon Network Disrespects Both Types of Show
The signs have never been good for an animated show on Cartoon Network having much of a life off the small screen, or even after their original run has ended. Such a state of affairs has only very recently begun to change, which we’ll discuss further down.
Reruns (or rather lack of)
I never had the Cartoon Network until I came to the States, and it very quickly became apparent to me that current series are broadcast ad nauseum. Yup, when a series is “in production”, episodes will be broadcast non-stop with new ones appearing as necessary. I can safely say that I watched many episodes of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends multiple times.
That said, once a show has ended, it all but disappears from the schedule. Ostensibly this is to make way for the new show that replaces it, but in reality, it only serves to accelerate a show’s move into the history books.
Once a show is old enough, it is likely to get shifted onto Boomerang, but the lag between vanishing on one network and appearing on another can be years. By which stage the original audience has all but evaporated.
This one was apparent even to me, as I tried in vain to find some nice Foster’s merchandise. At best, all I could find were some figurines and a [very] expensive ‘cel’ of the characters. Could I find a t-shirt? Nope. Could I find a poster? Nope. I was grateful there were even wallpapers I could download for my desktop. Believe me when I say that Foster’s was not alone in that regard. All the shows suffered the same glut of merchandise.
The sole exceptions have been the Powerpuff Girls, which rode the fad all the way until it was too late for the feature film to succeed, and Ben 10, which through some magical twist of fate, has had a first rate merchandise channel since day one. Other shows in the CN library have been mostly forgotten or regrettably left to the likes of Hot Topic to satisfy fan’s desires.
Of the three areas that are under discussion in this post, the home media efforts of the Cartoon Network are the most appalling. Let me ask you some questions:
- Can you buy Season 2 of Johnny Bravo on DVD?
- How about a blu ray of Megas XLR?
- Can you legally download any season of Camp Lazlo besides the first one?
If you answered yes to any other those questions, you’re either a liar or you’ve mistaken your sources as being legitimate.
Yes, Cartoon Network is in the undeniably unenviable position of having a pretty shite record when it comes to its home media releases. That’s not to say they doesn’t release anything, they do. However, while the initial effort (read: season one) is decent, things quickly come unhinged (for reasons unknown) and subsequent seasons fail to appear.
It’s really quite sad that I can choose almost any of Cartoon Network’s shows and say that season one is available but nothing else is. In the case of a show like Ed, Edd and Eddy, it might be permissible since that show ran for six seasons over 10 years, and that’s a huge cost hurdle right there. But in the case of say, Chowder, which ran for 49 episodes over three seasons, it’s kinda unforgivable that all the fans have are a two DVDs with 5 episodes each.) It’s why I gave up buying Cartoon Network DVDs for the most part, my collections would never, ever be complete.
The one and only consolation throughout all of this was the mammoth boxset that the Powerpuff Girls were afforded on that show’s 10 year anniversary in 2008. It’s a fine set, but did nothing for the fans out there who had already purchased the initial boxset releases that were never completed.
To add further insult to injury, nothing from the libarary of shows is available on the likes of Netflix or Amazon Prime; a situation that Nickelodeon is currently cleaning house with its older shows.
Need Further Proof?
What prompted today’s post in the first place was one by the animated svengali that is Mr. Warburton. Tom was posting pictures of the special book that Cartoon Network put together for its 20th anniversary and featuring original artwork inspired by its shows. It’s a nice book and you should hit up the link to see the pictures, however Tom noticed something was terribly amiss, his show!
Codename: Kids Next Door ran on Cartoon Network for a not inconsequential six seasons and 78 episodes from 2002 to 2008 and yet was completely absent from a book celebrating such shows! Tom also noted that Ed, Edd ‘n’ Eddy were similarly absent.
What does that say about how a network treats its shows? If it’s willing to sideline them entirely for its official history then it can’t think very highly of them can it?
The current methods are almost certain to continue, at least for the older shows. Newer ones like Adventure Time and Regular Show seem to have spurred the network to take its properties more seriously. DVDs of both shows are available (although only the former as a season boxset) and both can be streamed through Amazon up to the current season. Both shows have also seen much more (and higher quality) merchandise than previous shows, Adventure Time in particular.
Not all shows are treated equally though, with a lot of the criticism over the cancellation of Symbionic Titan levelled at a lack of available merchandise.
All of this is rather depressing from both a fan and a business standpoint. Cartoon Network shows are popular, but it seems that the dunderheads withing the Time Warner corporate monolith are determined that they should be treated like unwanted children once they’ve fulfilled their initial runs.
Do think Cartoon Network have done a poor job of handling their shows? Let us know in the comments!
UPDATE: It would appear that Cartoon Network has started to see the error of their ways. From March 2013, a whole host of content (both new and old) will be available on Netflix. The deal also includes a load of Warner Bros. content although no details are available at the time of writing.
This is most certainly a great positive step in the right direction for the network. Hopefully it’s not the only one.