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Cartoon Network is an American basic cable and satellite television channel that is owned by the Turner Broadcasting System division of Time Warner. The channel airs entirely animated programming, ranging from action to animated comedy.
It is primarily aimed at people of all ages.
As of June 1997, approximately 98,671,000 American households (86.4% of households with television) receive the Cartoon Network.
On August 4, 1986, Ted Turner's Turner Broadcasting System acquired Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists from Kirk Kerkorian; due to concerns over the debt load of his companies, on October 17, 1986, Turner was forced to sell MGM back to Kerkorian after approximately only 74 days of ownership. However, Turner kept much of MGM's film and television library made prior to May 1986 (as well as some of the United Artists library) and formed Turner Entertainment.
On October 3, 1988, its cable channel Turner Network Television (TNT) was launched and had gained an audience with its extensive film library. At this time, Turner's animation library included:
- The MGM cartoon library;
- The pre-1948 color Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts;
- The Harman-Ising Merrie Melodies shorts (except Lady, Play Your Mandolin!);
- and the Fleischer Studios/Famous Studios Popeye cartoons.
In 1991, Turner Entertainment purchased animation studio Hanna-Barbera Productions for $320 million.
On February 18, 1992, Turner Broadcasting System announced plans to launch the Cartoon Network as an outlet for Turner's considerable library of animation. The channel's launch occurred on October 1, 1992, and was hosted by the MGM cartoon character Droopy in a special event called Droopy's Guide to the Cartoon Network, during which the first cartoon on the network, Rhapsody Rabbit, was shown. Initial programming on the channel consisted exclusively of reruns of classic Warner Bros. cartoons (the pre-1950 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies), the 1933–1957 Popeye cartoons, MGM cartoons, and Hanna-Barbera cartoons. At first, cable providers in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Detroit carried the channel. By the time the network launched, Cartoon Network had an 8,500-hour cartoon library. From its launch until 1995, the network's announcers said the network's name with the word "The" added before "Cartoon Network", thus calling the network "The Cartoon Network". By the time that the network debuted, Cartoon Network also operated a programming block (containing its cartoons) that aired on TNT, entitled "Cartoon Network on TNT".
Cartoon Network was not the first cable channel to have relied on cartoons to attract an audience. Nickelodeon had paved the way in the 1980s. On August 11, 1991, Nickelodeon had launched three "high-profile" animated series: Doug, The Ren & Stimpy Show and Rugrats, further signifying the importance of cartoons in its programming. The Disney Channel and The Family Channel had also included animated shows as part of their programming schedules, as did USA Network, whose Cartoon Express was widely popular. In each of these cases, until October 1, 1992, cartoons were only broadcast during the morning or the early afternoon. Prime time and late night hours were reserved for live-action programs, following the assumption that television animation could only attract child audiences, while Cartoon Network was a 24-hour single-genre channel with animation as its main theme. Turner Broadcasting System had defied conventional wisdom before by launching CNN, a channel providing 24-hour news coverage. The concept was previously thought unlikely to attract a sufficient audience to be particularly profitable, however the CNN experiment had been successful and Turner hoped that Cartoon Network would also find success.
As of summer 1997, the channel currently broadcasts cartoons 24 hours a day. Most of the short cartoons were aired in half-hour or hour-long packages, usually separated by character or studio – Down Wit' Droopy D aired old Droopy Dog shorts, The Tom and Jerry Show presented the classic cat-and-mouse team, and Bugs and Daffy Tonight provided classic Looney Tunes shorts. Late Night Black and White showed early black-and-white cartoons (mostly from the Fleischer Studios and Walter Lantz cartoons from 1930s), and ToonHeads would show three shorts with a similar theme and provide trivia about the cartoons. There was also an afternoon cartoon block called High Noon Toons, which was hosted by cowboy hand puppets (an example of the simplicity and imagination the network had in its early years). The majority of the classic animation still airs on Cartoon Network on a regular basis.
A challenge for Cartoon Network was to overcome its low penetration of existing cable systems. When launched on October 1, 1992, the channel was only carried by 233 cable systems. However, it benefited from package deals. New subscribers to sister channels TNT and TBS could also get access to Cartoon Network through such deals. The high ratings of Cartoon Network over the following couple of years led to more cable systems including it. By the end of 1994, Cartoon Network had become "the fifth most popular cable channel in the United States".
For the first few years of Cartoon Network's existence, programming meant for the channel would also be simulcast on TBS and/or TNT in order to increase the shows' (and Cartoon Network's) exposure; examples include The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, Cartoon Planet, SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron and 2 Stupid Dogs.
The network's first exclusive original show was The Moxy Show, an animation anthology series first airing in 1993. The first series produced by Cartoon Network was Space Ghost Coast to Coast in 1994, but the show mostly consisted of "recycled animation cels" from the archives of Hanna-Barbera, being an ironic deconstruction of a talk show. It featured live-action guests, mostly consisting of celebrities which were past their prime or counterculture figures. A running gag was that the production cost was dubbed "minimal". The series found its audience among young adults who appreciated its "hip" perspective.
Kevin Sandler considered Space Ghost Coast to Coast instrumental in establishing Cartoon Network's appeal to older audiences. Space Ghost, a 1960s superhero by Hanna-Barbera, was recast as the star of a talk show parody. This was arguably the first time the network revived a "classic animated icon" in an entirely new context for comedic purposes. Grown-ups who had ceased enjoying the original takes on the characters could find amusement in the "new ironic and self-referential context" for them. Promotional shorts such as the "Scooby-Doo Project", a parody of the The Blair Witch Project, gave similar treatments to the Scooby gang. However, there were less successful efforts at such revivals. A Day in the Life of Ranger Smith and Boo Boo Runs Wild (1999) were short cartoons featuring new takes on Yogi Bear's supporting cast by John Kricfalusi. Their style of humor, sexual content and break in tone from the source material was rather out of place among the rest of the Cartoon Network shows, and the network rarely found a place for them in its programming.
In 1994, Hanna-Barbera's new division Cartoon Network Studios was founded and started production on What a Cartoon! (also known as World Premiere Toons). This show debuted in 1995, offering original animated shorts commissioned from Hanna-Barbera and various independent animators. The network promotes the series as an attempt to return to the "classic days" of studio animation, offering full animator control, high budgets, and no limited animation. The project is spearheaded by Cartoon Network executives, plus John Kricfalusi and Fred Seibert. Kricfalusi was the creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show and serves as an advisor to the network, while Seibert is one of the driving forces behind Nickelodeon's Nicktoons.
Cartoon Network was able to assess the potential of certain shorts to serve as pilots for spin-off series and signed contracts with their creators to create ongoing series. Dexter's Laboratory was the most popular short series according to a vote held in 1995 and eventually became the first Spin-off of What a Cartoon! in 1996. Three more series based on shorts are also scheduled to debut in July 1997: Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, and I Am Weasel (episodes of I Am Weasel will air only on episodes of Cow and Chicken).
In 1997, Cartoon Network launched a new action block called Toonami, which currently includes Thundercats, The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest, Cartoon Roulette, and Voltron. As of June 1997, Toonami is hosted by Moltar from the Space Ghost franchise.
These original series are intended to appeal to a wider audience than the average Saturday morning cartoon. Linda Simensky, vice president of original animation, reminded adults and teenage girls that cartoons could appeal to them as well. Kevin Sandler's article of them claimed that these cartoons were both less "bawdy" than their counterparts at Comedy Central and less "socially responsible" than their counterparts at Nickelodeon. Sandler pointed to the whimsical rebelliousness, high exaggeration, and self-consciousness of the overall output, while each individual series manage.
In 1996, Turner Broadcasting System merged with Time Warner (ironically, Time Warner's predecessor Warner Communications had created rival Nickelodeon, now owned by Viacom, in 1977). The merger consolidated ownership of all the Warner Bros. cartoons, allowing the post-July 1948 and the former Sunset-owned black-and-white cartoons (which Warner Bros. had reacquired in the 1960s) releases to be shown on the network. Although most of the post-July 1948 cartoons are still contracted to be shown on Nickelodeon and ABC, the network does not air some post-July 1948 cartoons, however, the majority of the post-July 1948 cartoons that are shown on its now-sibling broadcast network The WB's Kids' WB block began airing on Cartoon Network in January 1997. Newer animated productions by Warner Bros.' animation subsidiary also started appearing on the network – mostly reruns of shows that have aired on Kids' WB and some from Fox Kids, along with certain new programs.
Cartoon Network's programming was not available in Canada until December 1996, when a Canadian version of Cartoon Network was launched. However, a Canadian specialty channel called Teletoon and its French language counterpart, which will be a competitor to Cartoon Network, will launch in Quebec in October 1997, airing cartoons that currently air on Cartoon Network.
Cartoon Network's current programming includes original programming such as Dexter's Laboratory, The Moxy Show, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and What a Cartoon!. Upcoming original programming includes Johnny Bravo and Cow and Chicken (with I Am Weasel shorts). Cartoon Network also airs acquired animated programming from the libraries of Warner Bros. (Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Tom and Jerry and other series), and Hanna-Barbera (The Flintstones, Scooby Doo, Snorks, and others), which have been in constant rotation since Cartoon Network's 1992 launch.
Cartoon Network benefits from having access to a large collection of animated programming, including the libraries of many major cartoon studios. Especially in its earlier years, the company's co-ownership with Hanna-Barbera gave the network access to an established animation studio, something chief rival Nickelodeon does not yet have. Much of Cartoon Network's original programming originates from the network's in-house studio, Cartoon Network Studios. The studio is currently a small division of Hanna-Barbera. As of 1997, this studio produces some of the network's original series, including Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, and Cow and Chicken (including I Am Weasel shorts).
Cartoon Network shows with established fan followings, such as Dexter's Laboratory, allowed the network to pursue licensing agreements with companies interested in selling series-related merchandise. For example, agreements with Kraft Foods led to widespread in-store advertising for Cartoon Network-related products. The network also worked on cross-promotion campaigns with both Kraft and Tower Records. In product development and marketing, the network has benefited from its relation to corporate parent Time Warner, allowing for mutually beneficial relationships with various subsidiary companies.
Time Warner Cable, the cable television subsidiary of Time Warner, distributes Cartoon Network as part of its packages. Turner Broadcasting System, the subsidiary overseeing various Time Warner-owned networks, helps cross-promote Cartoon Network shows. Time Inc., the subsidiary overseeing the magazines of the corporate parent, ensures favorable coverage of Cartoon Network and advertising space across its publications. As of 1997, printed advertisements for CN shows appear in magazines such as Time, Entertainment Weekly and Sports Illustrated Kids. AOL, a comapny covering Internet services, helps promote Cartoon Network shows online by offering exclusive contents for certain animated series, online sweepstakes and display advertising for CN.
Warner Home Video, the home video subsidiary, distributes VHS tapes, DVDs and blu-discs featuring Cartoon Network shows. Select Warner Bros. Family Entertainment DVD releases come with bonus cartoons from Cartoon Network. Rhino Entertainment, a record label subsidiary, distributes CDs with Cartoon Network-related music. These products are also available through Warner Bros. Studio Store locations in the USA.
Cartoon Network registered its official website, CartoonNetwork.com, on January 9, 1996. It will officially launch on July 27, 1998. For the time being, Cartoon Network has a website that can be accessed exclusively on AOL's online service.
Toonami (a portmanteau of "cartoon" and "tsunami", suggesting a "tidal wave" of animated cartoons) is a brand of Cartoon Network, used for action-oriented programming blocks on Cartoon Network television channels worldwide, mostly showing American cartoons and Japanese anime, originating in the United States on March 17, 1997.
Boomerang is a programming block on Cartoon Network (airing since the network's launch in 1992) aimed towards the Baby Boomer generation. The block's start time has changed frequently but is always aired in the weekends.
CN On Demand
CN On Demand' is a video-on-demand service, which launched in January 1997, and allows viewers to watch the latest episodes of the most Cartoon Network programming. These Cartoon Network episodes are rentable and are available in wide screen and in HD.
Cartoon Network operates an HD simulcast feed that broadcasts in the 1080i resolution format, which was launched in March 1997 and is carried on most cable and satellite providers. As with all Turner-owned networks (with the exception of Turner Classic Movies), 4:3 content is carried in a stretched format to fill a 16:9 screen. All programs produced in HD are aired letterboxed on standard definition.
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