Cartoon Network: The Beginning - Part 1

The beginnings of America's best place for cartoons!
August 05, 2013

Yes, Cartoon Network, the very first cable television network dedicated to animation! Throughout our childhoods, and for many of the kids of this generation, there has always been Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, and Cartoon Network to tune into for children's programming. However, compared to the alleged "family-friendliness" of Nickelodeon and the even worse Disney Channel, Cartoon Network continues to take more chances; it's edgier and riskier. It's a home to so many great animated series that are now considered classics by many cartoon fans, including The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter's Laboratory, Camp Lazlo, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, and current hits like Adventure Time and Regular Show.

Disney and Nick have changed a lot, with Disney changing for the worse with their teenybopper sitcoms about pop stars, and Nick, although changing drastically, continuing to fulfill its mission of catering to kids of all ages. But Cartoon Network has had a bumpy road over the years. Sometimes it had good shows (Adventure Time comes to mind here), sometimes it had bad shows (Level Up, Incredible Crew, and CN Real anyone?), but there's no denying its impact on television, and animation with it. In this article I will be talking about the beginnings of the network, and what its main purpose and goal was (and still is today). Ready to come with me on a trip back in time? if so, let's roll!!!

Our story of Cartoon Network's beginnings takes place in Atlanta, Georgia in 1986. Ted Turner, through his Turner Broadcasting System (who also owned TBS, CNN, and TNT), acquired the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio and its sister company, United Artists. But, due to Turner getting into too much debt, he was forced to sell MGM after owning it for only 74 days. Ouch! That must be pretty short if you ask me. Despite this, MGM allowed Turner to keep its pre-1986 film and television library, and Turner Entertainment was formed as a result. TNT aired most of MGM's cartoon library in the mornings, but Turner wanted a way that these old cartoons (along with most of the Looney Tunes cartoon library they acquired around that same time) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So, what did they do? Bingo! Cartoon Network was officially created.

The network officially launched in 1992, which meant that a wide variety of Turner's acquired animated content could be aired on a single TV network 24/7. This included the following.

-The MGM cartoon library, including Tom & Jerry

-The pre-1948 Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies cartoons from its eventual corporate cousin Warner Bros.

-Paramount's Popeye cartoons

-The entire Hanna-Barbera Productions library

The first regions to carry the channel were New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Detroit. I know what you're thinking, "Why isn't Atlanta included in that list?" Well, a lot of people couldn't catch the Cartoon Network in its home-place at that time. But today, CN is not only seen in Atlanta, but they've expanded all across the globe (yes, even in Japan).

In 1997, Toonami launched as their primary programming block for action-adventure cartoons. This block not only had many great action cartoons such as The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, ThunderCats, and SuperFriends (as well as the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons), it also introduced me and other CN fans to Japanese animation, or anime. The first anime shows I watched were Speed Racer (which actually was never on Toonami, although it did air on the network), Voltron, Sailor Moon, and of course the wildly popular Dragon Ball Z. Toonami unfortunately came to an end in September 2008, leaving fans of anime and viewers of the network devastated. However, due to the demand of many fans, Toonami made its triumphant return in May 2012, this time on Adult Swim.

Well, this concludes Part 1. In Part 2, I will chronicle their foray into original programming, from Dexter's Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls to Camp Lazlo and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, to current offerings such as Regular Show and Adventure Time. I know this article was pretty short, but I promise you that part 2 will be jam-packed with more about this great network. Stay Tooned!!!
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