Though 2021 was a big year for animation in the west thanks to hits like Arcane and The Mitchells vs. The Machines, 2022 has had a bit of a shaky start for the medium. There’s been some pretty good series and films released thus far, but the larger industry is going through a bit of an upheaval in an effort to ensure its workers get proper pay, along with more respect from the rest of the entertainment industry. Netflix also recently canceled a number of animated series that had yet to even be released, including the animated adaptation of Jeff Smith’s acclaimed graphic novel Bone, in turn raising questions about the state of western animation.
In a recent interview with Vulture’s John Maher, the Cartoon Network president Sam Register talked about his plans to make the network behind hits such as Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Lab a place where creators can thrive. Because he’s also the head of animation over at Warner Bros. Animation, studios have been signing creators to “cross-studio overall deals,” meaning that if you make your own original series on Cartoon Network, you could wind up working on a WB Animated feature, or the other way around. “Do you love Looney Tunes? You can do that,” suggested Register. “Do you have your own original idea? We have a studio for that, too. Having a suite of studios allows us to have a different strategy when we talk to talent.”
On some level, we’re already seeing this plan play out, as current hits Craig of the Creek and We Bare Bears have or will soon be receiving their own animated features, and Amazing World of Gumball is getting both a film and follow-up series for Cartoon Network and HBO Max. Though the network’s had no trouble with legacy IP in recent years like Teen Titans Go! and Jellystone, it’s been the original series that have helped it stand out over the last decade. Register openly admitted at having a “great reverence” for WB’s old animated slate, but emphasized his responsibility to “the creators of the future.” To that end, among CN’s upcoming animated slate is Driftwood, a movie-length adventure about a mouse traveling through space from Victor Courtwright (Aquaman: King of Atlantis); and Juston Godron-Montgomery’s (DC Super Hero Girls) half-hour series Invincible Fight Girl, about a young girl who decides to become a wrestler on her home island where everyone is an accountant. And that isn’t taking into account other shows like Genndy Tartakovsky’s Unicorn: Warriors Eternal due later this year.
Both Driftwood and Fight Girl are just pieces of a larger game that Register’s playing, a game that includes the upcoming reboot of the Cartoon Cartoons anthology series, which to the eventual birth of hit 90s shows like Powerpuff and Courage the Cowardly Dog. His hope for Cartoons is that it’ll “celebrate animation by opening the aperture as much as we can,” along with the broader goal of partnerships and celebrating diverse talent such as Black Women Animate. The new tagline for Cartoon Network is “Everything Original,” and if Register has his way, everything he has planned will ensure the network’s success for audiences and creators in the years to come.
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