Thursday, June 19, 2008

At Cartoon Network

Nice cool 100 degree day in Burbank, but the air-conditioning was working at Cartoon Network yesterday. I bopped through the main building in the afternoon and didn't pass out from heat stroke.

The Foster crew is hard at work on the second floor, one of the few animated teevee shows in production in L.A. Such is not the case for 13 half-hours of the Transformers. With its tight budget, the Monster Robot show is being boarded and produced overseas, with only scripts, design and postproduction happening in Burbank.

But happily for CN, previously lacklustre ratings seem to be looking up:

Recently re-launched as a bastion of comedy for the children's entertainment network, "Har Har Tharsdays" -- which airs on Thursday evenings from 7:30pm-10:00pm (ET) -- is earning a quality return in viewership for airing new episodes of original and acquired animated programming. In related news, Cartoon Network's Saturday morning programming block "Dynamite Action Squad" has also found success in the recent week of ratings.

Recently acquired animation for broadcast such as Total Drama Island and Johnny Test have performed well alongside network originals, like the eclectically designed Chowder and the adventure-packed comedy The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. It's not always easy reinventing the program guidance of an entire cable network, but after some time, Cartoon Network is looking to produce a series of weeks that build on one another, edging closer to success on a larger, seasonal level.

While key demographics showed up for Thursday comedy animation, Cartoon Network also earned double-digit growth on Saturday mornings ...

Artistic staff is steadily being hired for the CN shorts project now underway, and half-hours for Flapjack, Chowder and the newer version of Ben 10 continue in work. A director told me:

"They've ordered a bunch more Chowders after the first order of seven, and Ben 10 and Flapjack are doing well. I'm pretty sure they're going to pick up more Bens, since it's a good performer..."

I spent a bunch of time in an animation veteran's office, somebody who's been in the 'toon business considerably longer than I have, but still has energy to burn. We reminisced about how we were once the young punks who got guff from old-timers: "Whatta you know? I've been in this damn business thirty damn years!" and how we hated it.

Both of us acknowledged how we are now the old farts saying Whatta you know?! I been in this business (etc.)... And then he said to me:

"Guess what I tell the kids now? 'Look at me close. I'm what you're going to become. You see me, you see your future.'"

Since this artist is one of the stronger players in the game, the whippersnappers will be lucky and blessed if he's the future they have before them.


Anonymous said...

"Total Drama Island" is quite possibly the worst piece of crap i have seen grace the screen in over ten years. The incessant needless dialogue, the horrible generic designs and the brutal pacing and rhythm of the show, made me want to throw my tv out the window. For CN to feature that abortion of a show in their new lineup is a grim sign that some things are not changing for the better over there.

On the other side of that, Flapjack is funny, appealing and so incredibly well crafted in its first season that I'm staggered at the potential for how great this cartoon can be. I love everything about it(with the casting of Brian Doyle Murray as a total stroke of genius).

Anonymous said...

Looking at the ratings, it seems that Total Drama Island is the second highest rated show on their "Har Har Tharsdays" block. Looks like kids are enjoying it.

So, aside from the mentioned shows, are there any more new animated shows in development for CN?

Chris Battle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Battle said...

Artist-Driven Shows + 1st Rate Talent = Ratings Success

Hopefully we'll continue to see more of that equation at CN!

Unknown said...

With Cartoon Network being my favorite channel, not only for showing my favorite shows, but also introducing me to animation in the first place, I'm really and truly glad that the channel is catching up with the others in the ratings, and that CN Studios is lively and under way with these projects.

Anonymous said...

cartoon network still ranks really low on the quality meter. if kids are watching the shows it doesn't mean that they like them. if your an executive that has the power to green-light a show and it airs 25 times week a kid will inevitably wind up watching that show. why?... because it runs all the time to make sure it generates commercial revenue because some exec said "I like to air ...this one."

doesn't make it a viewer's choice favorite. I have seen a great deal of shows that never received the time of day because they weren't conceived or chosen by the executive in charge of programming. But i have seen them and they were creatively driven and produced by some very talented folks.

Anonymous said...

I like Ben 10: Alien Force a lot, but Flapjack is yet another Spongebob ripoff (just like Chowder). Oh well, both those shows are better than that George of the Jungle resurrection and that horrible My Gym Partner's A Monkey.

Anonymous said...

Flapjack is a ripoff of Spongebob?!?
Because its actually funny? What a mixed up world we would live in if all cartoons were actually... humorous.

Its nothing like Spongebob. The art direction is completely different. Its more episodic in its storylines, and the characters don't resemble those of Spongebob.

I watched it and I think its quite good. If you don't care for it, then at least come up with something more accurate than "its a ripoff of Spongebob", which would probably be crowed about Bullwinkle if it debuted tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Exec's have been trying for years to find the next Spongebob. CN has not been able to find it yet.

Anonymous said...

At least Johnny Test survived the cw4Kids transition. I can't find Eon Kid anywhere & they had at least 2 more episodes until the end of the season!

Anonymous said...

Flapjack? Chowder? Who are these shows for? A bunch of cartoon nerds maybe, but not for kids. My boys can't turn off the TV fast enough when either of those shows comes on. Yes, they're well made and have interesting design, but they are just simply not connecting with an audience. CN can spin all they want, but the fact is, the numbers are WAY down across the board since they cancelled the comedies kids were actually watching - Lazlo and Gym Partner - for these shows and that live action/animated thing they made about the kid with the brain transplant. And more Foster's? Come on, CN, give it a rest. It's never gonna be the big hit they want it to be.

Anonymous said...

So your boys are the focus group representing kid viewers? Get Nielsen on the phone.

First, Foster's Home is just about finished. Second, Lazlo, and less-so Gym Partner, did nothing for Cartoon Network. Lazlo was a ridiculously exposition-filled show with uninteresting dialog and barely any funny visuals, and Gym Partner didn't offer anything new or interesting and had no funny visuals. The suits probably saw the school theme and said "GREENLIGHT THIS!" because they seem to love anything involving kids and school. Both shows will get to fall into a cartoon vault as shows that people sort of remember in 20 years.

Chowder had a very impressive debut (for CN) with 1.13 million kids 2-11, but the following week it managed to beat that and snag 1.35 million kids 2-11, and then 1.51 million on the Sunday repeat. CN has done nothing but tout its success. It's the best show they've got going right now, and has fun, funny, lively visuals, as well as great dialog (written by board artists, nonetheless).

And while I don't like the live action move more than anyone else, currently the most watched program in the history of Cartoon Network is the Ben 10: Race Against Time tv movie, which is not a cartoon.

Anonymous said...

Yes Chowder did well initially - but really no better than other CN premieres in the past. When the network was posting fairly solid ratings, everything premiered with numbers close to that, and then they HELD those numbers. Chwoder hasn't been able to hold an audience past the first few weeks.

The Ben 10 Live Action movie had an impressive debut, and then tanked in repeats. Not sure what your point is about Chowder's dialogue. If you mean the constant repetiion of the same joke over and over (i.e. Chowder burps for 3 minutes), then kudos to these geniuses "writing" the show.

But back to the ratings - there is no more justification in calling Chowder a hit than there is with Out of Jimmy's Head. The movie it was based on did very well. The series premiere did well. Then the viewers went away. That's what's happened with Chowder. Don't get me wrong, it's a pretty show, but the fact is, it's dull. Obviously we disagree on Lazlo and Gym Partner, but if you look back at the ratings when those shows were premiering every week, they were consistently drawing audience.

My point is, CN has lost its way, and is not servicing the audience they claim to want - namely boys 6-11. No matter how you paint it, and how much Cal Arts grads love them, Chowder and Flapjack feel as if they're skewing more toward a pre-school audience.

And yeah, I think I will call Nielsen now.

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