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History of Cartoon Network

By the end of the 1980s, Ted Turner’s cable-TV conglomerate had acquired the MGM film library (which included the older catalog of pre-1948 color Warner Bros. cartoons), and its cable channel Turner Network Television had gained an audience with its film library. In 1991, it purchased animation studio Hanna-Barbera Productions and acquired its large library. Cartoon Network was created as an outlet for Turner’s considerable library of animation, and the initial programming on the channel consisted exclusively of re-runs of classic Warner Bros. and MGM cartoons, with many Hanna-Barbera TV cartoons used as time fillers. Most of the short cartoons were aired in half-hour or hour-long packages, usually separated by character or studio—Down With Droopy D aired old Droopy Dog shorts, The Tom and Jerry Show presented the classic cat-and-mouse team, and Bugs and Daffy Tonight provided classic Looney Tunes shorts. Today, only Tom and Jerry remains on the network.

In 1994, Hanna-Barbera started production on The What-A-Cartoon! Show (also known as World-Premiere Toons), a series of creator-driven short cartoons that premiered on Cartoon Network in 1995. It was the network’s third original series (the second was Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and the first was The Moxy Show). The project was spearheaded by several Cartoon Network executives, plus Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi (who was an advisor to the network at the time) and Fred Seibert (who was formerly one of the driving forces behind the Nicktoons, and would go on to produce the similar animation anthology series Oh, Yeah! Cartoons).

In 1996, Time Warner purchased Turner Broadcasting, and with it the Cartoon Network. The Cartoon Network gained access to the complete Warner Bros. cartoon library, which had not been under one owner since 1957. This library includes WB cartoons from the 1950s to the 1980s, and newer cartoons like Road Rovers, Animaniacs, Freakazoid, and Pinky and the Brain.

Time Warner changed the direction of Hanna-Barbera Productions (the production studio now known as Cartoon Network Studios), and focused the studio exclusively on creating new material for the Cartoon Network channel (which were baptized Cartoon Cartoons). These productions include: Dexter’s Laboratory (1996), Johnny Bravo (1997), Cow and Chicken (1997), and The Powerpuff Girls (1998) (all of which were shorts, previously launched on What a Cartoon with the creative work of Hanna-Barbera Art Director Jesse Stagg), and more recently Codename: Kids Next Door (2003), Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends (2004), and Camp Lazlo (2005). To free up air time for new shows, the listed classics were retired.

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