Why Action Cartoons Are Not On the Verge of Extinction

Yoinked from The Mary Sue
Yoinked from The Mary Sue

Action cartoons have been around since forever, and despite efforts in the 70s to kill them off, they managed to survive and even prosper. Apparently the ‘golden age’ of the action cartoon is now over, at least according to one of the producers of the latest Batman series. Over on Screen Rant, Mitch Watson had this to say:

To be perfectly frank with you, the action genre of television cartoons right now is sort of on the verge of extinction, so I’m really hoping that if people like Young Justice and people liked Green Lantern, that they’re gonna give this show a chance, because quite honestly, if they don’t go for this kind of show… and you know what? If they don’t like it, they don’t like it, but give the show a chance, because we really set out to make something that was gonna appeal to both fans and new people, and to pull back in the Green Lantern and the Young Justice people.

There’s a good bit going on there, but it can basically be split into two parts: action shows are about to disappear, and we had to compromise when it came to our show.

Ignoring the latter aspect (because it refers to his own show), it’s quite a statement to say that action shows are on the verge of “extinction”. Besides being here before, this time around the supposed culprit is purely commercial in nature. Depending on who you talk to, Young Justice and Green Lantern were canned for various reasons, but the common reason given is that it didn’t flog enough merchandise.

Now you could argue that it was a repeat of the Sym-Bionic Titan saga from a few years ago when not enough toys were sold for the simple reason that not enough were produced in the first place. However, that simply isn’t the case with the likes of perennially-popular Batman.

So are action cartoons really dying or is Wilson making an inaccurate (if impassioned) plea for his preferred genre of cartoons?

Honestly, there is little to back up his claim that action cartoons are about to bite the dust. Legend of Korra isn’t even halfway through it’s total run on Nickelodeon and since Disney bought Marvel, there’s been a ton of shows based on their properties too. If you wanted to stretch things a bit, you could say that there is also no shortage of action-packed anime emanating from Japan either.

Action Cartoons Will Never Die

Action cartoons are too important of a genre too disappear. In all likelihood, Watson is aiming his ire at Warner Bros, Turner and parent, Time Warner for their collective failure to get co-ordinated and synergized when it comes to their DC subsidiary and animating their comics.

Outside of the comic bubble, action cartoons continue to flourish and given past experiences, there will always be a demand for it. Where action cartoons could improve, is their inclusion of more female characters, but that’s a topic for another day.

7 thoughts on “Why Action Cartoons Are Not On the Verge of Extinction”

  1. There was actually a discussion about this a few months ago concerning this over on the Toonzone forums, and you raise a point they’re not going anywyere, since there are still plenty being produced. Aside from the new Batman cartoon, there’s Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters and Transformers Prime on the Hub, TMNT and the aforementioned The Legend of Korra on Nick. Even Monsuno and The Legends of Chima count as action or at least action-comedy.

    1. I look at it this way: if action cartoons were able to survive the onslaught of activists back in the 70s (like those from ACT who had a problem with the original Johnny Quest of all things), they can survive anything.

  2. As someone who has been working on “Action” shows for the past 3 years or so, I do have to say it does seem that some of the studios are starting to try chasing the success of recent comedy Cartoon Network properties and are less likely to get behind pitches of shows that play things pretty much straight with occasional moments of humor. Witness the new Teen Titians show and the direction the DC Nation Shorts have taken. Ninja Turtles is played for laughs for the most part.

    1. I’m not going to deny that cycles do play a part. Networks will chase whatever offers them the most promising return and if that happens to be comedy (or shows with a comedic slant), then that’s what they’ll make.

  3. Titmouse just suggested at a con panel the reason Disney gave Tron and Motorcity the shaft was because those shows were developed before the Marvel and Star Wars acquisitions, and Disney would rather give those big brands their due. So I guess it also helps to have brand recognition.

    1. That wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest, but yeah, action shows outside of the traditional comics/sci-fi franchises are lacking. Avatar/Korra was the biggest of late but I’m willing to bet that was only because Nick/Viacom does not own or have partnerships with any comic book publishers.

  4. The non-hero based action cartoons are pretty much dead. There are no original franchises like Swat Kats or Jonny Quest. Everything action-y just follows the trail left by Batman and The Avengers, and that, for me, just doesn’t cut it. Biker Mice from Mars was weird, and Project Zeta, even being a Batman Beyond spin-off, was able to stand its ground. Men In Black was quite original, and Jackie Chan Adventures hit a sweet spot few could attain. However, those are past glories. That kind of cartoons is going extinct. Heroes are fine, but they shouldn’t be all there is.

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