Since the sudden cancellation of the Batgirl and Scoob films back in July, both of which were basically done, the newly rechristened Warner Bros. Discovery has been mired in questionable business choices. In addition to maintaining a pretty transparent desire to use The Flash as a cinematic reset despite Ezra Miller’s troubling recent history, the megacorporation has been on a tear removing series, film, and people from HBO Max.
For fans of Warner Media’s animation slate, a good chunk of series, including 200 Sesame Street episodes and cult classic shows like Infinity Train and OK KO, were yanked from the streaming service earlier in the week. In some cases, such as Summer Camp Island, the series were preparing to debut new seasons that now just won’t air. (Per the AV Club, Cartoon Network will air the final season of Summer Camp Island, along with the new season of Victor & Valentino, sometime in the near future.) While some of these shows can be seen on other services, the creators and employees of those shows straight up weren’t aware of what was going on until the removals were on the cusp of happening.
No matter how one wishes to slice it, and even before you learn that it’s allegedly being done in the name of saving money on residuals, WBD’s decision just comes across as needlessly cruel. Several of these shows were specifically made for HBO Max, and as such lack physical releases or legal ways to watch them. Going so far as to wipe any trace of these shows from other social media channels, and prevent related media from being experienced, is just twisting the knife.
It’s especially damning because in several respects, animation is Warner Bros. Whether one grew up on Looney Toons, the Powerpuff Girls, or Steven Universe, WB’s slate of cartoons and films are a big part of western animation. Cartoon Network’s had arguably the best lineup of animated shows for decades, and they’ve always been pretty good about calling back to their history while looking forward. Cartoon Network is turning 30 years old in a couple of months, but it hardly feels like a time to celebrate when it has this current stink around it, to say nothing of if the new shows and animated films that were previously announced for Warner Media actually still exist under this new regime. And it’s not a good sign if even the DC animated slate is getting caught in the crossfire when those things have generally been allowed to do their own thing.
Warner Bros. Discovery’s bloodbath will more than likely continue through the rest of the year, depressing as it sounds. It sucks that as the animation industry was making strides to being recognized as a vital part of the entertainment machine, especially as it wasn’t kneecapped by the pandemic like live-action productions were, that CEO David Zaslav has such contempt for the company he bought. We’ve known for years that mergers are bad, but more than previous instances, what’s happening to Warner Bros. has really emphasized how bad it is for corporations to have control of everything.
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