The Warner Bros. Discovery merger has thus far been a train wreck in slow motion. Earlier in the week, a variety of shows, including animated series like Infinity Train and Summer Camp Island, were suddenly yanked off of HBO Max, and the reaction thus far has been overwhelmingly negative. Even as still airing shows like Island and Victor & Valentino will have their new seasons air on Cartoon Network, the abruptness by which these shows have been removed has a left a bad taste in the mouths of creators and fans alike.
On Saturday, Infinity Train creator Owen Dennis took to Substack to discuss his feelings on the matter, and how things were meant to shake out. According to him and those he reached out to, the plan was for the affected shows to be removed next week, so as to give the Powers That Be the time to inform the show creators and employees of the change. Dennis further states that Discovery just didn’t heed Cartoon Network’s insistence on being transparent. “Cartoon Network warned them not to do this as it would hurt relationships with creators and talent, but they clearly do not care what any of this looks like publicly, much less about how we feel about it,” he wrote.
Like everyone else, Dennis presumes that the reasons for this boil down to money and not paying artists and animators residuals. Pay for the show isn’t complete without the ongoing residuals, he added, which go to the animation union to pay for healthcare, which now can’t happen as those residuals have stopped. Additionally, music and voice acting residuals will soon stop, and if this all actually boils down to saving money, Dennis speculated that the money Discovery’s attempting to save isn’t so much as to warrant the current PR crisis.
Further into his blog, Dennis admits that he’s just straight up not sure why all traces of Infinity Train or other shows have been wiped from social media or YouTube accounts. (The ones who may potentially hold the answers may have just been straight up fired in the aftermath of the merger.) He’s also not sure on the metrics being used to justify why the various HBO Max shows and films were getting removed. The only thing he is sure of is that all of this is pretty shitty.
“I think the way that Discovery went about this is incredibly unprofessional, rude, and just straight up slimy. I think most everyone who makes anything feels this way... What is the point of making something, spending years working on it, putting in nights and weekends doing their terrible notes, losing sleep and not seeing our families, if it’s just going to be taken away and shot in the backyard? It’s so incredibly discouraging and they’re definitely not going to be getting their best work out of whoever decides to stay. We’re working at the intersection of art and commerce, but the people in charge have clearly forgotten that they’ll have no commerce without the art.”
Dennis is positive the show will make its way back to HBO Max eventually, and added that’s still available on services like iTunes and Amazon Prime. Talking about the show will ensure its chances of winding up on another platform, he said, and advised that watching it wherever it ends up will get more eyes on the series as he works to make that happen on his end. At the same time, he also acknowledged that piracy may be a valid course of action in moments such as these.
Should someone choose to pirate, Dennis expressed hope that it would be done for the right reasons, ie, in the sake of preservation that corporations are clearly not interested in. “Just think about what you’re doing ethically and don’t try to justify it post hoc,” he advised. His further thoughts are down below.
“Most well known art is, for the most part, owned by about five gigantic, multinational corporations. That means they also own our culture. If you own our culture, then you also own our history and our access to it. Should a handful of companies own that, much less have the monopoly they have on it right now? I don’t think so. So the question you have to ask yourself becomes: if a giant corporation has stopped me from having the ability to access my own culture, is it ok for me to watch a copy that doesn’t funnel any money toward them, doesn’t create scarcity of the art, and doesn’t make a mark on some algorithm’s metrics?
Only you can answer that for yourself.”
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