Hard as it is to believe, from time to time mistakes are made by our fine conglomerates' far-seeing execs. For instance:
... Frederator Studios pitched an Adventure Time series to Nickelodeon, but the network passed on it twice. ...
The show is now into its third season at CN, and doing quite nicely in the ratings.
I bring this up because I happened to be visiting the crew today up at Cartoon Network. And a few years back I also attended the screening where the Adventure Time pilot debuted. At Nick. It was inside the studio's makeshift theatre in the main building that doubles as a basketball court. The development slate for "Random Cartoons" was being unveiled, and the pilot called Adventure Time got a big reaction. And favorable buzz thereafter. As a staffer told me:
"It was the short that got the most "Who hoo!" from the audience. Everybody knew it was different, fresh. And most people liked it."
This, as I recall, was pretty much my reaction. The short wasn't like anything else in that batch of Frederator cartoon. For that matter, it wasn't like most other television cartoons on the air.
So what happened? Nick passed. But Fred Seibert, the top-kick whose company developed the shorts, went off and sold the show to Cartoon Network. And lo!
... Regularly winning Monday nights among all boys demos, Cartoon Network has now added key kids demos to its #1 TV destination claim for the night in early evening (7-9 p.m.). Regularly winning Monday nights among all boys demos, Cartoon Network has now added key kids demos to its #1 TV destination claim for the night in early evening (7-9 p.m.). ... Armed with a solid line-up of original animated shows, Cartoon Network ranked #1 for the night among kids 2-11, kids 6-11, boys 2-11, boys 6-11 and boys 9-14.
Original animated comedy series punctuated Monday night—The Amazing World of Gumball (7:30 p.m.), Adventure Time (8 p.m.), Regular Show (8:15 p.m.), and MAD (8:30 p.m.)—ALL ranked #1 in their timeslots among kids 2-11, boys 6-11, boys 2-11 and boys 9-14. ...
How did this come about? It wasn't too many years ago that I would listen to Cartoon Network managers complain about the net getting crappy ratings, how the live-action shows they were trying didn't get traction, how everything seemed to be circling the drain. Which maybe goes a ways to explaining why CN was open to making AT a series in the first place. They were a bit desperate, so they were in a receptive mood for something "different." As one of the artists who's been with the show from the beginning says:
Adventure Time doesn't follow the normal cartoon story arcs. It doesn't usually go where you expect it to go, it's more like improv. The characters do things you don't expect ...
This was all pretty evident when I was watching the pilot, there on the hard wood bleachers on Nick's basketball court. Maybe it's why Nick decided it wasn't for them. The piece was just a little too odd-ball, a little too weird.
Whatever the reason, I think we can stipulate that Viacom committed an unforced error when it passed off to Time-Warner, and so one monster conglom's loss became another monster's gain. But maybe in the end, given their girth and reach, all it amounts to for these behemoths is a rounding error anyway. And Nick can maintain a stiff upper lip and move on.
After all, it will always have SpongeBob Squarepants and Fairly Odd Parents. How many cash cows does it need?