Thoughtnami Classics | The Cartoon Network Way

Originally Posted 10/11/06 by Jeff Harris

I read something on Cartoon Brew that kind of irked me a bit. No, it wasn't another slam on 3D productions not made by the almighty Pixar, but rather the comment made by Michael Ouweleen about that idiotic live-action movie they just finished producing at The Network:

"[E]ven though we are featuring live-action characters, it still had to be done the Cartoon Network way."

Now, I know Mr. Ouweelen by what he does and who he is. He seems like he has some sense and some of the things he does are, to put it mildly, is okay. Naturally, he wouldn't bite the hand that feeds him and wouldn't condemn what The Network is doing. Afterall, he has a job and has to tow the corporate line. Afterall, for a year (remember, we first got wind of the live-action movie airings about a year ago), The Network has been under heavy criticism from people who feel that they're deviating from their original purpose of airing 24 hours of cartoons every day until the end of time. So, guys like me have to pick up on certain codewords to crack the system . . . or at least crack some heads.

And that whole "the Cartoon Network way" comment was just the bait to get me riled up.

Ah yes, the Cartoon Network way. There was a time when that actually meant something. But now, there are two sides to the Cartoon Network way:

- The Cartoon Network way BC (the Betty Cohen era)
- The Cartoon Network way JS (the Jim Samples era)

The BC way was different, truly revolutionary, rebellious, fun, and surprisingly (and ironicly) anti-corporate. They made fun of themselves because they knew who they were, a channel built up on fond memories of the shows they used to watch when they were growing up but can now show to a new generation of viewers simply because they can. They didn't even TRY to be like their competitors because, well, they felt that their competitors sucked, a sentiment felt by many of the viewers back then. They aired cartoons for the young and the young at heart. Primetime was filled with great programming and familiar characters. Sure, they developed brands to showcase their wares like Super Chunk, 70s Super Explosion, Super Adventures, Toonapalooza, Hootnanny, Boomerang, and Toonami, but there was a sense of unity and fun on a channel they proudly called Cartoon Network.

The JS way is the total antithesis of the BC way. It's more or less a lemming, the equivalent of a high-school wallflower trying to be like the other guys down to wearing similar clothing. The JS way keeps it safe and corporate. They try to pretend to mock themselves, but by looking at how they promote themselves, it's tamer than in years' past. The JS way believes that cartoons are just for kids and tries to separate anything that may remotely attract older audiences from the rest of the lineup, which is why Toonami is now on Saturday nights at 8 PM (the 7 PM hour is dead to me), why Adult Swim is now considered a separate network, and why cartoons with huge teen and adult followings like Sheep in the Big City, the original Cartoon Cartoons, Looney Tunes, Tex Avery shorts, Popeye, and Sunday Pants are not on the lineup anymore. Primetime is filled with cartoons that basically rely on gross-out gags and kids creating chaos. Adults are rarely seen on the network these days because they don't want kids to know what they'll eventually become.

But the most disturbing part about the JS way is that they have a very loose definition of what defines a cartoon. They think that "cartoon" is a fluid concept that could be used for any medium when in reality, cartoons are cartoons. Whether it's called anime or if it was drawn, modeled, rendered, or cut out, cartoons are cartoons. There's a reason why Dude, Where's My Car? or Austin Powers can't be considered for a Best Animated Picture nomination. There's a difference between "cartoony" (aka camp) and "cartoon." It's not the same as "flammable" and "inflammable," and yet, Cartoon Network the JS way feels embarrassed by the fact that they have to actually show animation on their network, so much so that they wish they they weren't called Cartoon Network.

The JS way is, sadly, the Cartoon Network way that Mr. Ouweleen is referring to. The BC way is gone and will never come back. Wish that it did because CN had fun back then and wouldn't be caught dead showing live-action anything.


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