I've had lots of conversations with directors and execs about how the television cartoon space is doing. Disney, Cartoon Network, Nick and others have had their ups and downs, and lately many have been in the Drop Zone ... down in the dumps.
Which of course hurts animation employment big time, because when the cartoon marketplace is crappy, the number of artists working is also crappy. So I was happy to see this on the front page of the Hollywood Reporter:
A 13-year winning streak on the ratings front and a roster of franchise hits like "SpongeBob SquarePants," "The Fairly OddParents" and the new live-action series "iCarly" -- which drew 21.7 million viewers during the course of its Sept. 9-10 premiere weekend, averaging 3.92 million viewers per showing -- have planted Nick squarely in the driver's seat in ad-supported cable.
"It's quickly becoming a one-horse race with the lead we have and the momentum we've sustained," Perry said. "But we're never going to rest on our laurels. All it takes is one hit and someone's back on their feet." In this case, that "someone" refers to second-place Cartoon Network.
When the Turner network unveils its upfront slate on April 3, the centerpiece of the presentation will focus on a new project from Star Wars creator George Lucas. Cartoon has ordered 22 episodes of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," a CGI-animated series ...
You don't have to be psychic to know that the t.v. side of animation has been hurting. The Disney Channel has filled timeslots with live-action, squeezing out animated shows, and other cable networks have cut back on animation because ratings have been lacklustre. As a Cartoon Network exec said to me some months back (and I reported here earlier): "We've been hurting in the ratings. And lately we've been #3 ... a distant #3 ..."
Maybe I'm being Pollyannish about this, but in the last few weeks t.v. employment has picked up a bit. It's not just that artists are returning to the Fox prime time shows after a three-month writers' strike, it's the daytime stuff as well. Chowder is doing well for Cartoon Network and its staff is now back at work; Nick has greenlit new episodes of Fairly Odd Parents and Sponge Bob Square Pants; even long-hibernating Warners Animation has a Scooby Doo feature and series order.
Maybe it will be nothing more than a short-lived expansion. Maybe the bloom still has not returned to the small-screen animation rose. But the lede in the Hollywood Reporter fills me with hope:
Early reports on the ill health of the kids upfront [ads for teevee cartoons] have been greatly exaggerated, according to network ad sales executives, who hope to swap out Chicken Little projections of a flat to down market in favor of a more blustery Foghorn Leghorn outlook.
Let us pray that it is so.