Cartoon Network is not Sure about its Future

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Written By Sristi Dumre

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A Warner Bros. official confirmed to Polygon that 82 employees from the scripted, unscripted, and animation divisions were let go on Wednesday. 43 of the open posts will remain unfilled by the organization. The development and production teams for Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios will be combined into one entity, but the three brand names Warner Bros. Animation (WBA), Cartoon Network Studios (CNS), and Hanna-Barbera Studios Europe will stay separate.

Deadline reports that Warner Bros. has also changed its mind about shutting down the Warner Bros. Television Workshop, which was created to develop new talent and serve as a pipeline. Many in the animation industry have praised this program for its invaluable role in assisting underrepresented creators to break into a highly competitive industry. The training will be transferred to Discovery’s.

These adjustments at Cartoon Network Studios come at a time when it has already become more difficult to find and watch some of its animated series. Additionally, the cuts follow AT&T’s sale of Warner Media to Discovery. In 2023, HBO Max and Discovery Plus will merge to form a single streaming service. CEO David Zaslav, who formerly managed Discovery, made a commitment to reduce $3 billion from the corporation after assuming office in April. He has pursued this goal aggressively.

Zaslav has largely delivered on its promise in the realm of entertainment. The Batgirl movie was canceled by Discovery in August, and 14% of the HBO Max personnel were put off. Favorite animated series were abruptly removed from HBO Max later that month, shocking the series’ creators. Numerous Sesame Street episodes were removed from the streaming service, and several others, including the popular OK K.O. – Let’s Be Heroes and the four-season Cartoon Network series Infinity Train, were also completely removed. (Fortunately, it is still available on other streaming services.) Even though some episodes, like Victor and Valentino and Summer Camp Island, aren’t available on HBO’s streaming service, they continue to air on Cartoon Network.

Following the merger of WNA and CNS, Variety reports that “production will remain the same.” However, experts and members of the animation business have not been as upbeat in their reactions. When Cartoon Brew pronounced the studio “gone,” a member of the Cartoon Network team objected. A Warner Bros. spokesman told Polygon that CNS still has several projects in development and that the company is not going away. The main issue is how this combined division will decide on its priorities, which will mostly be determined by what viewers actually watch and what the business considers to be profitable.

Most of the time, looking through the archives of each individual animation studio highlights the differences between the two over the years—differences that many of us who grew up obsessing over the various cartoon blocks on Cartoon Network could readily identify, even before the merger and layoffs. It’s unclear how these two studios will collaborate, especially in light of the fact that so many skilled workers have been laid off as a result of these layoffs.

Tom & Jerry, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, and of course Looney Tunes were all animated series produced by Warner Bros. Animation (WBA), particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. But over time, WBA has stuck to this tried-and-true model, airing its legendary IPs on Cartoon Network while essentially repeating itself.

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