Lets face it. TV animation has been a weak link in the cartoon business for a while now. Disney TVA has, of late, been a shadow of its mid-nineties self. Universal Animation Studio has dwindled away to nothing. Nick is doing fewer hand-drawn shows and shifting to three-dimensional computer graphics. Even non-signator Mike Young has cut lots of people loose.
In the midst of all this, it's nice to receive at least a little good news ...
For instance, yesterday at Disney TVA, a veteran director told me:
"This place is going to fill up in the next six months. We're going to have a lot bigger staff working and more shows being made ..."
I didn't ask him how he knew this. I also didn't ask him for specifics, but I know that Jake and the Nverland Pirates is ramping up, as is Inspector Oso, and of course Phineas and Ferb soldiers on.
And then there is this snippet about Cartoon Network:
Cartoon Network’s weekly prime time performance earned solid ratings and delivery gains among all kids demos compared to the same time period last year. Across the third week of November, average kids 2-11 delivery (845,000) climbed by 9% and ratings (2.1) by 11%; average kids 6-11 delivery (566,000) climbed by 4% and ratings (2.3) by 5%; and average kids 9-14 delivery (453,000) climbed by 1% and ratings (1.9) by 6% ...
Animated originals BEN 10: ALIEN FORCE (Friday, 8:30 p.m.) and BATMAN: THE BRAVE & THE BOLD (Friday, 7:30 p.m.) both charted double-digit growth among their key audiences. Compared to the same time period last year, BEN 10: ALIEN FORCE advanced kids 2-11 delivery (1,013,000) by 26% and ratings (2.5) by 25%, while boys 2-11 delivery (769,000) and ratings (3.7) both rose by 16%. BATMAN: THE BRAVE & THE BOLD advanced kids 9-14 delivery (501,000) by 33% and ratings (2.1) by 40%, while boys 9-14 delivery (379,000) jumped by 17% and ratings (3.0) by 15%.
My take on TV animated product is, it's a highly cyclical creature. For as long as I can remember, the television cartoon has been a rollercoaster, with huge surges of production (and employment) followed by big declines. This pattern goes all the way back to the Bronze Age of TV animation, when a big leap in production (1959-1961) was followed by a depression (1962).
Small screen cartoons have followed this pattern ever since. But despite declining license fees and corporate determination to do things as cheaply as possible, animated TV shows are sturdy performers in the market segment, playing to sizable audiences decade after decade.
That's something you can't say about live action specimens such as Have Gun, Will Travel or Bat Masterson. Those pieces of entertainment ... and many others like them will never make anybody any kind of cash flow. They are as dead as the proverbial dodo.
But cartoons like The Flintstones, Scooby Doo and Yogi Bear? Those shows are anything but extinct. Which is why animation keeps getting produced.