We’re going more shorts crazy around here than ever before. Aside from the long-awaited Random! Cartoons (Nickelodeon will eventually play these on TV, really), and The Meth Minute 39 launching this next week, we’ve got plans for millions more! You read it right, millions! What better time than now to continue the tale of our journey.
Now, what was the pitch going to be to my Turner Entertainment colleagues, a bunch of high flying, smarter than the room, young cable television executives? Why in hell would they want to do cartoon shorts like the old school?
There were some really smart people at Cartoon Network like Mike Lazzo (the original programmer and soul of the place, and not incidentally the brains behind [adult swim]) and Scott Sassa (Turner’s entertainment bossman and mine too), but it looked like some others around there were going to have to be finessed into agreeing to our wacky plan to go back-to-future and make cartoon shorts.
First up was the question “Does Cartoon Network really have to work with Hanna-Barbera on its original programming? There are a lot of other newer, cooler studios.” Yes, came the answer from on-high. Why else would we have paid hundreds of millions of dollars for the joint and kept the studio running?
Next, “Well, what have you got for us?”
This issue was more challenging. Everyone was used to a certain kind of programming (animated sitcoms) pitched in a certain way (character drawings, story premises, “bibles”) which would be picked to death by network executives. I had no interest in this system and wanted to give cartoonists freedom to make cartoons the way they wanted: funny, short, and funny.
Besides, Cartoon Network’s agenda wasn’t actually making good cartoons. The agenda was to get the network distributed across the world (they were in less than 5 million of 95million+ homes in America) and the cable companies wondered why Nickelodeon wasn’t enough. Original programming was one of the answers.
So, essentially my pitch went thusly:
The studio just released two series with a lot of seeming promise (2 Stupid Dogs and SWAT Kats). They cost over $10million and failed within six weeks and everyone at Cartoon Network had liked them. With all said and done they essentially failed.
Since cable companies don’t really watch cartoons, the quality of the cartoons didn’t particularly matter to them that much (not that it didn’t matter to us), it was the ability to promise new programs. Spending $10million for two public ‘promises’ (that is, two new cartoon series) didn’t seem like that great a deal to me.
Instead, why not let Hanna-Barbera spend the $10million to make forty eight promises. That’s right, Hanna-Barbera will produce 48 brand new cartoons for the Cartoon Network in two years. That would be a public relations announcement of an original program every two weeks for two years. Original premieres would debut at 7pm before every other Sunday night movie on the channel.
Additionally, it would add to the thousands of cartoons already in the Turner Entertainment library. And hadn’t the company been running hundreds of non-famous early Looney Tunes on their networks and selling ads around them 50 or 60 years after they were made and seemingly forgotten?
And besides, one of them could be spun off as a hit series. It was clear to everyone I had no experience making cartoons, but ignorant though I was, how stupid would I have to be to produce 48 shorts and not have one of them be good enough for a series?
(More next time.)