It also broadcasts many shows, ranging from action to animated comedy. Original series started in 1994 with Space Ghost Coast to Coast, along with Cartoon Cartoons original programmings like Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, I Am Weasel, The Powerpuff Girls, Ed, Edd n Eddy and Courage the Cowardly Dog. In 2009, it started airing live-action programming, including movies from Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema.
In 1986, Ted Turner's cable-TV conglomerate acquired most of the pre-May 1986 MGM film and television library (which also included Gilligan's Island and its animated spin-offs, the U.S. rights to a majority of the RKO Radio Pictures library, and the Associated Artists Productions catalog which includes the pre-1950 Warner Bros. feature films, the pre-September 1948 Warner Bros. short subjects, the Harman and Ising Merrie Melodies except Lady, Play Your Mandolin!, the pre-August 1948 color Warner Bros. cartoons, and the Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios Popeye cartoons released by Paramount Pictures). In 1988, its cable channel Turner Network Television was launched and had gained an audience with its film library. In 1991, it purchased animation studio Hanna-Barbera Productions and acquired its large library as well as most of the Ruby-Spears library.
At 12PM ET on October 1, 1992, Cartoon Network was launched as an outlet for Turner's considerable library of animation, and the initial programming on the channel consisted exclusively of reruns of classic Warner Bros. cartoons (the pre-August 1948 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 a 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".
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 in their programming. In each of these cases, until 11:59AM ET on October 1, 1992, cartoons were only broadcast during the morning or the early afternoon. Prime time and late night television 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-hours 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 could hope that the Network could also find success.
Initially, the channel would broadcast cartoons 24/7. 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, which 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 the early years). The majority of the classic animation that was shown on Cartoon Network no longer airs on a regular basis, with the exception of Tom and Jerry, Looney Tunes, The Flintstones, and The Jetsons as of January 12, 2012.
The first challenge for Cartoon Network was to overcome its low penetration of existing cable systems. When launched in October 1992, the channel was only carried by 233 cable systems. However, it benefited from package deals. New subscribers to sister stations TNT and WTBS 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".
The network's first original show was The Moxy Show (produced by Hanna-Barbera Cartoons) and was first aired in 1993. The first series produced by Cartoon Network was Space Ghost Coast to Coast (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 that Space Ghost Coast to Coast was 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) featured new takes on Yogi Bear's supporting cast by John Kricfalusi. Their "tasteless" humor, sexual content and lack of respect for the source material was rather out of place among the rest of the Cartoon Network shows. These shorts do not seem to have much of a fan-following 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 (promotionally known as World Premiere Toons). This show debuted in 1995, offering original animated shorts commissioned from Hanna-Barbera and various independent animators. The Network promoted 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 was spearheaded by several Cartoon Network executives, plus John Kricfalusi and Fred Seibert. Kricfalusi was the creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show and served as an advisor to the Network, while Seibert was formerly one of the driving forces behind Nicktoons and would go on to produce the similar animation anthology series Oh, Yeah! Cartoons and Random Cartoons.
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 debuted in 1997: Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, and I Am Weasel (the latter two as segments of the same show; later, I Am Weasel was separated and got its own show). These were followed by The Powerpuff Girls in 1998 and concluded with Courage the Cowardly Dog and Mike, Lu & Og in 1999 . The unrelated series Ed, Edd n Eddy was also launched in 1999.
These original series were 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 managed to be "visually bold and energetic" in its own way.
In 1996, Turner merged with Time Warner. This consolidated ownership of all the Warner Bros. cartoons, so now post-July 1948 and the former Sunset-owned black-and-white cartoons (which Warner Brothers had reacquired in the 1960s) releases were being shown on the network. Although most of the post-July 1948 cartoons were still contracted to be shown on Nickelodeon, the network wouldn't air them until September 1999. Newer animated productions by Warner Bros. also started appearing on the network—mostly reruns of shows that had aired on Kids' WB, plus certain new programs such as Justice League.
Adult Swim debuted on September 2, 2001 with an episode of Home Movies. Adult Swim was also where Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, Sealab 2021, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force made their official debuts, although they first aired in December 2000, while Space Ghost Coast to Coast was on hiatus.
The first theatrical film The Powerpuff Girls Movie was released on July 3, 2002, which received mixed to positive reviews by critics.
At 5AM ET on the morning of June 14, 2004, Cartoon Network debuted its second logo with a new theme and new bumpers (designed by Animal Logic) and its slogan, “This is Cartoon Network!” The bumpers now featured 2D cartoon characters from their shows interacting in a CGI city composed of sets from their shows. By now, nearly all of Cartoon Network's classic cartoon programming had been relocated to its sister network Boomerang to make way for new programming.
Jim Samples, president of the Cartoon Network since August 2001, resigned on February 9, 2007 due to the 2007 Boston bomb scare. Following Samples's resignation, Stuart Snyder was named his successor. On September 1, 2007, the network look was revamped, and bumpers and station identification were themed to The Hives song Fall is Just Something That Grown-Ups Invented. On October 15, 2007, the channel began broadcasting in 1080i high definition. Every October since 2007, Cartoon Network would air 40 episodes of the former Fox Kids program Goosebumps, though Cartoon Network lost the rights to the show on October 31, 2009 and stopped airing the program.
Starting in the end of 2007, the network has also began to air some imported programs from Teletoon such as George of the Jungle, Atomic Betty", 6teen, Chaotic, Bakugan Battle Brawlers, Stoked, Total Drama Island and its successors Total Drama Action and Total Drama World Tour.
Cartoon Network announced at its 2008 Upfront that it was working on a new project called Cartoonstitute, which was headed by animators Craig McCracken as executive producer and Rob Renzetti as supervising producer. Both reported to Rob Scorcher, who created the idea. It would have worked similar to What A Cartoon!, by creating at least 150 pieces of animation within 20 months. Cartoonstitute was eventually cancelled, and out of all the shorts, two Regular Show and Secret Mountain Fort Awesome were selected, after animator Craig McCracken (the creator of The Powerpuff Girls and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends) eventually left the network after 15 years in 2009. On September 20, 2008, Cartoon Network ended Toonami after its 11-year run.
Beginning May 25, 2008, Cartoon Network began airing animated shorts, called Wedgies, to fill in spots between two programs. On July 14, 2008, the network took on a newer look created by Tristan Eaton and was animated by Crew972. The bumpers of that era had white, faceless characters called Noods, based on the DIY toy, Munny. The standard network logo was then completely white, adopting different colors based on the occasion in the same style.
On Saturday September 20, 2008, Cartoon Network ended Toonami after it's eleven year run on the network. At the end of Toonami's final airing, the host, TOM (voiced by Steven Blum), ended the block with its final monologue.
In June 2009, a block of live-action reality shows, The Othersiders, Survive This, BrainRush, Destroy Build Destroy, Dude, What Would Happen and Bobb'e Says, began airing in a programming block promoted as CN Real. The network also aired some limited sports programming, including basketball recaps and Slamball games, during the commercials.
A new identity for the station was introduced on May 29, 2010, along with a new theme and new bumpers. The network's current branding, designed by Brand New School, makes heavy use of the black and white checkerboard which made up the network's first logo, as well as various CMYK color variations and various patterns. Since December 27, 2010, Adult Swim began starting 1 hour earlier at 9 PM. In February 2011, Cartoon Network aired their first sports award show, called Hall of Game Awards, hosted by Tony Hawk. The second Hall of Games Awards will air in 2012 and will be hosted by Shaquille O'Neal.
At its 2011 upfront, Cartoon Network has announced 14 new series, including The Problem Solverz, formerly known as Neon Knome, The Looney Tunes Show, Secret Mountain Fort Awesome, Level Up, a scripted live-action comedy series which will have a 90-minute starting film, Tower Prep, Green Lantern, How to Train Your Dragon, the series based on the Dreamworks film, The Amazing World of Gumball, Total Drama: Revenge of the Island, the sequel of Total Drama World Tour; and ThunderCats. The network also has a new Ben 10 series planned. The network announced a new block planned to air called "DC Nation"; this block will focus on the titular heroes, the first being Green Lantern. 9 Story's Almost Naked Animals, an animated comedy about a group of shaved animals in their underwear running a hotel called the Banana Cabana, was also picked up by the network and made its US debut on June 13, 2011, the same premiere date as another Canadian-acquired animated series, Sidekick.
After announcing two new reality live action shows in Unnatural History and Tower Prep, which were both cancelled after their first seasons, Cartoon Network acquired the game show, Hole in the Wall. By the end of 2011, Hole in the Wall and the final two CN Real shows, Destroy Build Destroy and Dude, What Would Happen were removed from Cartoon Network's schedule completely, but returned in January. In 2012, Cartoon Network will add an adaptation of the popular web series The Annoying Orange to its lineup. Cartoon Network also returned two 1960s cartoons, The Flintstones and The Jetsons, to its daytime lineup, after several years of being seen only on Boomerang. The series join existing Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry blocks.
Main article: List of programs broadcast by Cartoon NetworkMany of the programs were actually aired including the original series that were produced by Cartoon Network Studios, like Dexter's Laboratory, Cow and Chicken, Johnny Bravo, I Am Weasel, The Powerpuff Girls, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Codename: Kids Next Door and The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, including non-productions like Ed, Edd n Eddy, Courage the Cowardly Dog and Adventure Time. The network also carries acquired programs that some of them were produced by Warner Bros. Animation and third party animation studios, which were not produced by Cartoon Network Studios. It also has original live-action series like Out of Jimmy's Head, The Othersiders, Destroy Build Destroy and Dude, What Would Happen. A Spanish language audio track is accessible via SAP, some cable and satellite companies offer the Spanish feed as a separate channel.
Cartoon Network benefited from having access to "the largest collection of animated programming" available. The titles available for broadcasting included the libraries of threatrically-released shorts produced by both Warner Bros. (Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies) and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon studio (Tom and Jerry and other series), the television series produced by the Hanna-Barbera animation studio (The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, and many others), syndicated shows from Kids' WB (Batman: The Animated Series and others), and licensed anime shows (Dragonball Z, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing).
By the early 2000s, Cartoon Network had established programming blocks aimed at different age demographics. The shows broadcast during the early morning had preschoolers as their target audience and mostly had prosocial behavior as a theme. The Toonami programming block, featured later in the day, mostly included anime shows and their target audience were tweens and teenagers. Prime time shows mostly included classic cartoons, featured as part of theThe Tex Avery Show, The Chuck Jones Show and The Bob Clampett Show.
Jason Mittell considers Cartoon Network to have helped the "cartoon genre" (animation in general) reach a wider audience in the 1990s. Mittell noted that Disney feature films starting with The Little Mermaid (1989), prime time animated series starting with The Simpsons (1989–present), and the success of Cartoon Network all helped end the "stigma" of animation only appealing to children, allowing adults to enjoy animation once again. He also credited the Network for returning cartoons initially designed for mass audiences back to their original purpose, but noted that in the case of the Hanna-Barbera shows, Cartoon Network only broadcast the most successful and well-regarded of them, largely overlooking the "lesser efforts" of the company in an apparent belief that these would turn off their adult viewers. The Network's target audience, however, is stated to include "people who love cartoons" in general, regardless of their age or whether the viewers approach cartoons as a form of nostalgia, due to an appreciation of the art form, or simply seeking entertainment.
Cartoon Network shows with established fan followings, such as the The Powerpuff Girls, 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 the corporate parent, distributed Cartoon Network as part of its packages. Turner Broadcasting System, the subsidiary overseeing various Time Warner-owned networks, helped cross-promote Cartoon Network shows and at times arranged for swapping certain shows between the networks. For example, Samurai Jack, one of CN's original shows, was at times seen at Kids' WB, while Cardcaptors, an anime show licensed by Kids' WB, was at times seen at Cartoon Network. In each case the swap intended to cultivate a shared audience for the two networks. Time Inc., the subsidiary overseeing the many magazines of the corporate parent, ensured favorable coverage of Cartoon Network and advertising space across its publications. Printed advertisements for CN shows could appear in magazines such as Time, Entertainment Weekly, and Sports Illustrated Kids. AOL, a sibling company to Time Warner covering Internet services, helped promote Cartoon Netwoerk shows online by offering exclusive contents for certain animated series, online sweepstakes and display advertising for CN.
Warner Home Video, the home video subsidiary, distributed VHS tapes and DVDs featuring Cartoon Network shows. Rhino Entertainment, a record label subsidiary, distributed cassette tapes and CDs wirh Cartoon Network-related music. All such products were also available through the Warner Bros. Studio Store. DC Comics, the comic book subsidiary, published a series featuring the Powerpuff Girls, indicating it could handle other CN-related characters. Warner Bros., the film studio subsidiary, released The Powerpuff Girls Movie in 2002. Kevin Sandler considered it likely that the film would find its way to HBO or Cinemax, two television network subsidiaries which regularly broadcast feature films. Sandler also viewed book tie-ins through Warner Books as likely, since it was the only area of marketing not covered yet by 2001.
Cartoon Network has, during its history, broadcast most of the Warner Bros. animated shorts originally created between the 1930s and the 1960s, but the censorship practices of the Network and its corporate parent resulted in editing out scenes depicting discharge of gunfire, alcohol ingestion, cowboys and Indians gags, and racist humor. The unedited versions were kept from both broadcasting and wide release on the video market. "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs" (1943), a racist but critically well-regarded short, was notably omitted entirely, while "The Scarlet Pumpernickel" (1950) and "Feed the Kitty" (1952), both well-regarded, had their finales heavily edited due to violence.
There was controversy in 2001 over a Network decision concerning further omissions from broadcasting. The Cartoon Network scheduled a 49 hour-long marathon promising to broadcast every Bugs Bunny animated short in chronological order. The Network originally intended to include 12 shorts that had become controversial for using ethnic stereotypes, albeit broadcasting them past midnight to ensure no children were watching, with introductions concerning their historic value as representatives of another time. The Network's corporate parent, however, considered it likely that there would be complaints concerning racial insensitivity. This led to all 12 being omitted in their entirety. Laurie Goldberg, vice-president of public relations, defended the decision, stating, "We're the leader in animation, but we're also one of the top-rated general entertainment networks. There are certain responsibilities that come with that."
Following complaints by its adult fanbase, the Network offered a compromise solution: the 12 omitted animated shorts would be included in upcoming documentaries. The first such documentary was a special on "The Wartime Cartoons". It notably included "Herr Meets Hare" (1945) in its entirety, but only certain clips of "Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips" (1943). Kevin Sandler considered it a positive sign of the Network being willing to "confront and unveil" some of the dishonorable aspects of animated history, but noted that so far only the Warner Bros. shorts got this serious treatment, not the MGM animated shorts also broadcast by the Network.
When Cartoon Network began rerunning the original Looney Tunes again in March 2011 (given their own timeslot this time in place of marathons during new years day), most censored scenes in some cartoons (along with original title cards) have been reinstated, such as gunfire and alcohol, though the network still edits out racist scenes. The network's two most popular shows, Adventure Time and Regular Show, have shown scenes of violence and mild profanity. Sometimes, the network may remove the scenes once more after the first broadcast, or will leave them unedited. Examples of cartoons that have had their censored scenes/title cards reinstated include "Scaredy Cat" and "For Scent-imental Reasons", two cartoons that have shown gunfire.