Does Cartoon Network Disrespect Its Old Shows?

Via:  randyadr on deviantArt/a>
Via: randyadr on deviantArt

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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.

Home Media

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.

16 thoughts on “Does Cartoon Network Disrespect Its Old Shows?”

  1. Agreed. I would love to pick up Sheep in the Big City on DVD or at least catch it again on streaming.

    1. Yup, it’s an area that Nickelodeon deserves credit for. Some of their less popular shows (like My Life as a Teenage Robot) have seen DVD releases thanks to the availability of DVD-on-demand services; the kind that bascically don’t make the discs until you order them.

      The releases may be super sparse on the extras, but its way better than the big ol’ box of nothing that Cartoon Network currently offers us.

      1. amazon prime has lots of good old nick shows. It maybe $107 a year but you get a years worth of a bunch of good nick shows. (The 2 day free shipping is awesome to)

  2. Okay, now this is depressing… My DVD collection will never be complete?

    This will tick me off until the end of time.

    1. Well, I’ve been waiting over 5 years for anything beyond season 2 of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and I can’t see a release for that happening any time soon. 🙁

  3. I know you guys are upset about the lack of proper respect for Cartoon Network’s older shows but I will tell you guys this:

    One of my wishes to come true someday is that for a definitive special edition box set release collecting the whole, entire complete series of the 1990’s kids cartoon Dexter’s Laboratory and especially the Ego Trip TV special on Blu-Ray, done at the highest level, with such a release on BluRay containing newly restored and remastered 1080p HD video transfers of everything in the orignal series run of Dexter’s Lab from the very first pilot episodes up to Last But Not Beast and Ego Trip (while the last 2 seasons of Dexter’s Lab will most likely get 1080p HD transfers taken directly from the digital source), maximum bit-rate encoding and, in addition to the original 2.0 stereo broadcast audio mixes, all new 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound remixes for the best and highest quality A/V presentation plus a whole lot of extensive supplemental extra bonus features that even go beyond the pale (including materials not yet seen before) as well as being aimed not just at Dexter’s Lab and/or Cartoon Network fans, but also even the collector, especially in ways that previous home video releases of even Cartoon Network’s more classic shows never were…


    The original series run of Dexter’s Laboratory from the very first pilot episodes up to Last but not Beast and Ego Trip (and including the Ego Trip movie itself) might also undergo a massive restoration process in order for Dexter’s Lab to be fit for a high definition BluRay presentation, and since the 1995-1998 seasons of Dexter’s Lab and the Ego Trip TV special were shot on film but edited on videotape(?) and in order to restore and preserve the original series run of Dexter’s Laboratory from the very first pilot episode up to Last But Not Beast and the Ego Trip movie in their original unaltered broadcast forms and in excellent high quality and in 1080p HD, they will need to go back to the original source, and re-edit everything in the original series run of Dexter’s Lab from the very first pilot episode up to Last But Not Beast and Ego Trip together from scratch; for example, each and every episode in the older, 1995-1998 seasons and the Ego Trip movie as well will have to be cleaned up and reassembled frame-by-frame from the original film elements, the dialogue and voice tracks had to be reinserted and much of the sound effects had to be completely redone to fit the show’s 7.1 DTS-HD MA remixes, etc.

    And this will mean a lot of time and a lot of money, probably more money than has ever been spent to bring something that is animated, used to air on TV during the obscure yet simple and happy time before the 9/11 attacks in 2001, and have garnered a small cult following, to home video, had to be spent in order to make such a release happen.

    But at least I wanted such a future release of Dexter’s Lab on BluRay to be not only among the best Blu Ray sets of all time, and not only among the most complete TV on DVD/BluRay sets ever, but also a love letter to fans of Dexter’s Laboratory and even the people behind Dexter’s Lab, Samurai Jack, Powerpuff Girls and the like, a unique labor of love touched with obsessive genius and among the perfect examples of what can happened if a DVD or Blu Ray set will be motivated by love for the subject and show like Dexter’s Laboratory instead of by profits.

    So, what do you think?

    1. Well Timothy, you’re certainly right in that it will cost a heck of a lot of money to do a first class release of Dexter’s Laboratory.

      Unfortunately, companies (not just large corporations) only like to send love letters to fans when the fans send dollars (and enough of them at that) in return.

      What you’re proposing would be something along the lines of a Criterion collection for animation. A fine concept until you realise that the expense put into producing it would send the price of the actual product well beyond what many fans are willing (or even able) to pay. To that end, does such a product really serve the fans at all?

  4. And Charles, I wish that Cartoon Network’s disrepect for its old shows, like Samurai Jack and Dexter’s Lab, must end…once and for all. This is why someday I may well have to fight a long, if very public battle with CN, Turner and Time Warner for proper respect for Cartoon Network’s old shows like Dexter’s Lab and Samurai Jack. And eventually, I will hopefully win the battle for proper respect for Cartoon Network’s old shows.

        1. If you ever do fight it I will happily be there with you. Shout out tony favourite show; “What’s That Cartoon” awesome guitar riff.

  5. Pingback: Dexter’s Rude Reveal | Opinion. Uncensored. :: Smart When Shouting

  6. The problem with the re-runs on modern TV is the “old format box” issue. Kids can and will complain about “old-looking” TV shows, and the advertisers know that.

    That said, it makes no sense whatsoever to not push these videos out to Amazon for sale/rent to those “kids” who now have the $ and want to enjoy them as they see fit. Talk about zero over-head.

    Lastly, in honor of the old-school CN classics, I’d like to post a shout-out to one of my personal favorites, “Courage, the Cowardly Dog”. Very dark, very funny – it very well must have taken some courage for the execs to put this on a kid’s network.


  7. I agree. Seems like they are forcing all home media to miss out on good old Cartoon Network shows. I notice it the most on Amazon video and netflix. Netflix is actualy lucky to only get two season out at a time on their good CN shows from the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

    Amazon video barely has any CN shows. They seem to have stronger relations with Nickelodeon. Almost all of their classic shows are there. They have hey Arnold, rocket power, Doug, rockos modern life, all that, the Amanda show, rugrats, drake & josh, icarly, the wild thornberrieies, jimmy neutron, farly odd parrents, Danny phantom, back at the barnyard, and more.

    Netflix however seems to be able to get a few seasons at a time on their streaming service from various classic CN shows. They get shows like KND, ed, Edd n’ Eddy, courage the cowardly dog, johnny bravo, dexters lab, power puff girls & the Grim adventures of billy & Mandy, at least that’s what I’ve found.

    Nether service can’t provide all episodes or all seasons of all shows but Amazon video seems to do this better than netflix. Netflix seems to want to be cheap and ether waste the profits on them selves or waste it on more netflix origonals instead of spending some profits on getting more completed shows. Netflix has the money to get more CN content but they don’t want to spend it on what members really want.

    Amazon prime however spends as much money as they can on member satisfaction (they care more) even tho their apps need major overhauled to become easier to navigate and more user friendly.

    P.S. Wish somebody other than itunes could get Megas XLR on a streaming site. It may have only lasted about 3 seasons but it gained major popularity.

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