Happy 25th Birthday Cartoon Network!
Today (01/10/2017) is the big day, twenty-five years today (1st October 1992), Cartoon Network – the world’s first 24 hour channel focusing purely on animation first hit the airwaves in the United States. The blog post is a continuation of the Hanna-Barbera 60th Birthday post I wrote on 7th July (which was part one), where I briefly mentioned how the channel came into fruition, more specifically this post will cover the channel’s history between 1992 to 1999, with two more parts coming later this month. Before I start, I must mention that I don’t live in the United States, however when Cartoon Network launched in the United Kingdom in 1993, it did share a lot of similarities to the original U.S. version including programming blocks, presentation and of course, the shows, it was only up until 1999-2003 when things started to become more localised.
At launch, Cartoon Network first aired the national anthem of the United States – “The Star Spangled Banner”, which was a long running tradition of when a new channel from Turner Broadcasting is launched, the first programme to air was “Droopy’s Guide To Cartoon Network” which was an introduction to the channel. The first actual cartoon to air on the channel was a Looney Tunes cartoon named “The Great Piggy Bank Robbery”, at the time, Cartoon Network’s owner – Turner only owned Warner Bros.’s pre-July 1948 cartoons, the whole MGM animation library and also Fleischer’s/Famous’s library. This huge library allowed the channel to run for a few years without the addition of new original content, and it was an opportunity for the new generation of kids at the time to watch some classic cartoons they’ve never seen before. I was born in 1989, so I can remember Cartoon Network’s early days and by 1993 (just before the European launch), I already had cable. During 1993-1999 era, Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry shorts were given plenty of airtime.
Also during this time, I remember watching The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo!, Yogi Bear, Top Cat, The Jetsons and many more. The USA version and UK version (which was shared with the rest of Europe in different audio languages) of the channel had quite a few programming blocks, including “Super Chunk” which was a marathon block featuring a particular show, there was also “Toonheads” which was a show where they air animated shorts with trivia. There was also breakfast-time block called “The Morning Crew” and also the “Boomerang” block which became a spin-off channel in the year 2000 and became a home for classic cartoons as by then Cartoon Network was focusing more on their own original programming. There was the “Power Zone” block which focused on action animation and was a precursor to Toonami.
The first original show to air on Cartoon Network was “The Moxy Show”, though it was just an anthology show with additional clips made in 3D CGI. The first full production was Space Ghost: Coast To Coast, the series was unusual as it was a reboot of the 1960’s Space Ghost superhero cartoon but reformatted as a spoof talk show, the show featured interviews with high-profile celebrities. The show laid the foundation for Cartoon Network’s future night long block for young adults – Adult Swim which eventually launched in 2001. Also, alongside Space Ghost: Coast to Coast were two new productions from Hanna-Barbera – the animated comedy – 2 Stupid Dogs and much later in 1996 – The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. In 1995, Cartoon Network aired “World Premiere Toons”, which aired new pilots from Hanna-Barbera and occasionally from other studios, World Premiere Toons (which later became the “What A Cartoon Show”). The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory, Cow and Chicken, Courage The Cowardly Dog and Johnny Bravo all had their debut in the World Premiere Toons block.
After the merger with Time Warner in 1996, Cartoon Network was now able to access the rest of Warner Bros. Animation’s library, this includes the post-1948 Looney Tunes shorts, plus also recent hits at the time including Tiny Toon Adventures, Batman: The Animated Series, Animaniacs, Freakazoid!, Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries and Pinky and the Brain. In terms of original content, 1996-1999 was a turning point in Cartoon Network’s history, the network’s attention has shifted over to original content, a full series of Dexter’s Laboratory premiered in 1996, later in 1997 came Cow and Chicken and Johnny Bravo, in 1998, came a full series of The Powerpuff Girls and in 1999, Courage The Cowardly Dog. In 1999, Cartoon Network USA launched a new block which became a cornerstone of the network – Cartoon Cartoon Fridays, a programming block that’s purely dedicated to the channel’s original programming and also new episodes.
Today (01/10/2017), Cartoon Network USA started up this morning at 6am ET/PT with a lengthy one and half minute colourful dance montage featuring its most famous characters throughout its 25 year history:
The blog post forms a part of this blog’s celebrations for Cartoon Network’s 25th Anniversary, part three will be about the era between 2000 to 2006.