Sunday, October 1, 2017

Twenty-Five Years Ago Today*

Cartoon Network was born.

Media mogul Ted Turner (also known as "the mouth of the South"), had been accumulating Warners and M-G-M cartoons, and then went ahead and bought Hanna-Barbera, mostly for its library of TV shorts and half hours. He wanted to launch an all-cartoon cable network, but he needed animated content, and so went out and acquired LOTS of it.

But in the process, he also purchased a cartoon studio named Hanna-Barbera, and he needed an executive to run it. After asking around, Ted hired MTV's first creative director, and young go-getter named Fred Seibert. And Fred S. described to Animation World Network how he had some fresh idea about how to create new cartoon content:

“I arrive at Hanna-Barbera knowing I want to make a lot of short cartoons like the way Looney Tunes used to be done. I want to try lots and lots of talent. … I said we’ll make a short cartoon every week. … We’ll run the cartoon primetime Sunday evenings just before a cartoon movie, and every other week for two years … Lo and behold, Cartoon Network bought it.”

Siebert’s “new cartoon every week” proposal ended up being Hanna-Barbera’s “What a Cartoon!” incubator. (“Throw a lot of different short entertainments onto the TV screen, see which ones the public likes.”) Within twenty-four months, “WaC!” had created four dozen original shorts pitched by staff employees and outside artists. Pitches the studio liked were greenlit into shorts. And the shorts the viewing public liked were expanded into series: Genndy Tartakovsky’s Dexter’s Laboratory, David Feiss’ Cow and Chicken and I Am Weasel, and Craig McCracken’s The Powerpuff Girls (among others).

All this creative ferment became the nucleus for a new animation studio bearing the name of Ted Turner’s cable channel: Cartoon Network Studios, which today is a quarter century old.

* Unless my impeccable sources are wrong.

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