Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cartoon Network’s 20th Birthday - part 3 of 4

What would it look like if Tuff-Girl and Wichita teamed up with alien-transforming Ben Tennison against their arch rivals The Tar Bear and Dr. Animo?

Digital color over cleaned scan of India Ink
I consider the first half of Cartoon Network’s second decade (2002-2007) the years that the network tried stuff.

By the numbers (which may be as misleading as they might be instructive), CN premiered 16 produced or co-produced cartoon series, more than its first five years (naturally), second five years or most recent five years (4, 9, 14). This period was also busy with seven shows that were still in production from the previous decade. With hits like Codename: Kids Next Door, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and Ben 10 and popular shows like The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy and Chowder this period had a respectable average show life of 2.6 years for it’s new shows, although not quite as healthy as the 3.6 years average for the prior five year period.

While the first decade drew heavily on the legacy of Warner Brothers’s and Hanna-Barbera cartoons, these five years has the Network seemingly trying to dial in on a winning formula. First identified by a colleague, the most repeated set-up popping up in these five years is the “boy and his best thing friend” show. For example, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends featured a young boy (Mac) and his imaginary friend (Blooregard). My Gym Partner’s a Monkey had Adam and Jake Spidermonkey. Squirrel Boy had Andy and Rodney the squirrel. Even “Billy and Mandy” is a little like that too.

Before the its 15th birthday, the Network showed that it was also willing to extend beyond the limits inherent of having a such a clearly and narrowly self-defining name of “Cartoon Network” by trying its hand with a live-action/ animation hybrid show, Out of Jimmy’s Head.

Here I drop Tuff-Girl and Wichita in the middle of the Network’s only second action show, Ben 10 (Samurai Jack being its first). With my choice of Ben’s many alien hero transformations, I thought Diamondhead’s sharp edge, crystal forming abilities would contrast well with The Terrible Tar Bear’s slop slinging. Dr. Animo then becomes a natural addition as the nefarious force that takes control of The Tar Bear’s mind, and perhaps imposes mutant changes on the goopy bruin.

I have worked as a staff illustrator for Cartoon Network since 2001.

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