Cartoon Network: The Beginning - Part 2
Part 2 of my tribute to the best place for cartoons.
Welcome to part 2 of my two-part Cartoon Network: The Beginning series of articles. In part 1, I covered how Ted Turner came up with the idea due to acquiring a wide variety of classic cartoon libraries, and their most well-known action-adventure brand at the time (Toonami). Unfortunately, due to being so rushed, I wasn't able to go more in depth about the history of the network, but I promise you that you will be informed more about this great network. In this article, I will talk about their foray into original programming in the late 90's, three of their most well-known shows at the time (and some shows in the early-to-mid 2000s), some of the mishaps that happened throughout their history (including the infamous Boston Bomb Scare of 2007; and of course the dreaded failure that was the CN Real block), and of course, what I believe the channel will have in store in the future. When I said CN has had a bumpy road throughout its history, and I mean it was bumpy. And that is why I decided to split my article into two parts. Alright, enough with the chatter, Let's move on.
Let's start with the first of the original "Cartoon Cartoons" I ever watched, Dexter's Laboratory.
This show is about a boy genius named Dexter, who has a secret laboratory filled with highly advanced technologies hidden behind a bookcase in his bedroom. His sister Dee Dee likes to not only taunt him all the time, but enter his secret lab without permission. Quick history lesson, did you know that Dexter's Laboratory actually didn't debut on Cartoon Network when it premiered in 1996? That's right. Oddly enough, it actually debuted on TNT (yes, TNT did air animated content at the time). This show was awesome, and technically, it's my favorite work from creator Genndy Tartakovsky. Unfortunately, when he created two more very ambitious TV shows, Samurai Jack and Sym-Bionic Titan, CN screwed him over due to the fact that they couldn't get a toy deal. Today, Tartakovsky is now working at Sony Pictures, where he directed the animated Adam Sandler vehicle Hotel Transylvania, and is currently working on the sequel, Hotel Transylvania 2.
Next up is Cow and Chicken.
Now this is the kind of show my parents just couldn't understand as a kid, and as a result. This is understandable, because like Ren & Stimpy, this was a pretty demented cartoon. The humor was also kind of crude. The strangest thing about this cartoon was both Cow and Chicken are suppsed to be biological siblings, although they're both different animals, and another thing, they're both voiced by Charlie Adler, who's best known among Warner Bros. fans for voicing Buster Bunny in Tiny Toon Adventures. To this day, I have no idea how this idea was thought up.
Finally in the list of the three most well known Cartoon Network originals of the 90's is The PowerPuff Girls.
This is another show my parents couldn't understand, and I wouldn't be able to watch it until I was 10 years old, mainly due to the over-the-top violence it had (despite the girls being made to look cute in a Japanese Anime-esque manner). Want me to tell you the whole premise of the show? Well let me just quote the narrator in the intro (voiced by Tom Kenny of SpongeBob SquarePants fame).
"Sugar, spice, and everything nice. These were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect little girls, but Professor Utonium accidentally added an extra ingredient to the concoction... Chemical X!!! Thus, the Powerpuff Girls were born! Using their ultra superpowers, Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup, have dedicated their lives to fighting crime, and the forces of evil!!!"
This show was created by Craig McCracken, and like Dexter's Laboratory, it became an immediate smash hit for the network. It had its own popular product line, a feature film (which unfortunately bombed at the box office when it was released), and two TV specials released after the original show ended. One special was made by original show creator Craig McCracken to celebrate the show's 10th anniversary. Another special, which is animated in CG and does not have McCracken's involvement, is set for release next year, and features the voice of former Beatle Ringo Starr as its main villain.
So what did Craig McCracken do once PPG ended? Well, in 2004 he created Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, which also had a successful run on CN, 5 years to the exact, which ended in 2009. McCracken would later leave CN once Foster's ended. Today, he's working on a show called Wander Over Yonder for the Disney Channel, which I don't exactly care for, but shows us that he's at least having fun doing what he loves.
Overall, the success of Dexter's Lab, PPG, and Cow and Chicken paved the way for other successful original series, including Ed, Edd, 'n Eddy, Johnny Bravo, I Am Weasel, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, the aforementioned Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Chowder, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, and most recently, Adventure Time, Regular Show, Uncle Grandpa, and Steven Universe.
Now we move on to the what is perhaps Cartoon Network's dark period from 2007-2010.
I had to admit, from 2007 to 2010, it was a pretty dark era for Cartoon Network (especially for fans of animation like myself), and it all started with the dreaded Boston Bomb Scare on January 31, 2007. It all started when two stupid pricks working at the network's Adult Swim lineup decided to install LED placecards all over the city of Boston featuring the Pixel characters from the lineup's Aqua Teen Hunger Force program just so they could advertise the movie that was based on that show which was being released in April of that year. I'm all for aggressive advertising for a movie, but come on, there are better ways other than to do what the two morons working for Adult Swim did just to get attention was inexcusable, and gave the entire Cartoon Network name a bad rep in my opinion. After this idiotic publicity stunt, CN president and CEO Jim Samples resigned, and was replaced by Stuart Snyder. Under Snyder's rule, Toonami met its end in 2008, and in 2009, the wretched CN Real block of reality TV programming was born.
CN Real made Cartoon Network look like an MTV for pre-teen boys, and was a very stupid idea on the network's part. It was here that the network began to lose a lot of hardcore fans, and featured ripoffs of Syfy's Ghost Hunters and CBS's Survivor, and a show called BrainSurge, which is basically Cash Cab on a roller coaster. Predictably, it was a colossal failure of epic proportions, and met its end the year it began.
In 2010, in an effort to recover from the CN Real disaster, Cartoon Network introduced a new logo (which can be seen in Part 1), and a new look. This new look features mostly animated programming. Live action shows are still being made as a result of Snyder's leadership (and the CN Real debacle), but are now kept to a minimum, and are likely cancelled after 6 episodes or less.
Today, Cartoon Network still remains a powerful force in TV animation, and its legacy in the animation business lives on. What do I think of Cartoon Network today? Well, most of the shows that are being made today are very creative, and the reviews I read seem to be giving these shows praise, but I just haven't had the time, and I don't think I'll ever have the time to watch them to tell the truth. However, despite that uncertainty I have to face, there's no denying Cartoon Network's impact on my life, TV history, and animation history.