A Warner Bros. official confirmed that 82 employees spanning scripted, unscripted, and animation were let go on Wednesday. A total of 43 open positions will remain unfilled at the organization. Warner Bros. Animation (WBA), Cartoon Network Studios (CNS), and Hanna-Barbera Studios Europe (HBO) will all continue to operate independently, but their respective development and production teams will be combined into a single department.
Many in the animation business have identified the Warner Bros. Television Workshop’s pipeline as crucial in assisting underrepresented creators to break into a highly competitive sector, and according to Deadline, Warner Bros. has reversed its intention to close the workshop. The Discovery division charged with promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion will now host the session.
Some of Cartoon Network Studios’ animations have become more difficult to access in light of these alterations. After Discovery’s purchase of Warner Media from AT&T, the layoffs are a natural next step. By the year 2023, HBO Max and Discovery Plus will have merged into a single streaming service. Upon taking the helm in April, CEO and former Discovery executive David Zaslav aggressively set out to fulfill his promise to reduce annual expenses by $3 billion.
In the realm of genre entertainment, namely, Zaslav has delivered. This past August, Discovery axed the Batgirl movie and slashed 14% of the HBO Max workforce. The next month, HBO Max abruptly cut off access to a number of classic cartoons with no warning to the producers of the shows.
Numerous Sesame Street episodes were eliminated, as with entire seasons of other shows including OK K.O.! – Let’s Be Heroes and Infinity Train, none of which are now airing on Cartoon Network but which were once popular with kids. (Fortunately, it’s still accessible via other video-streaming sites.) Even if you can’t locate series like Summer Camp Island or Victor and Valentino on HBO Go, Cartoon Network still airs them regularly.
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Variety claims that the merger of WNA and CNS will have no effect on production levels, while many who work in and comment on the animation industry are less enthusiastic. An employee at Cartoon Network responded negatively to Cartoon Brew’s declaration that the studio was “gone.”
A Warner Bros. representative assured us that CNS is not going away and that the studio is working on a number of exciting projects. How this new entity decides what to prioritize will likely be determined by viewership and financial considerations.
While many of us who grew up watching and obsessing over Cartoon Network’s various cartoon blocks could clearly notice this distinction even before the consolidation and layoffs, a deeper dive into the back catalogs of both animation companies highlights the changes that have occurred over the years. It’s unclear how these two studios will merge, particularly considering that these firings would result in the loss of numerous skilled workers.
Tom and Jerry, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, and of course Looney Tunes are just a few of the classics that Warner Bros. Animation (WBA) produced in the 1950s and 1960s. WBA has, however, stuck to this tried-and-true method, airing new iterations of its iconic intellectual properties (IPs) on Cartoon Network. When I was a youngster, I used to watch reruns of Scooby Doo, Looney Tunes, and Tom and Jerry. To this day, and not only in reruns, I like watching these same characters on screen.
While Warner Bros. Animation’s stamp evokes simpler times, the episodes that Cartoon Network Studios has created over the years are just as timeless and groundbreaking as those from Warner Bros. The Powerpuff Girls and several variations of Ben 10 are just two examples of the many successful shows from the late ’90s and early ’00s that have received reboots.
There are also groundbreaking shows like Samurai Jack and Powerpuff Girls that solidified the idea of an all-female action team. The Toonami block on Cartoon Network, which aired Pokémon for years and introduced many American youngsters to anime before it became popular in the West, is another example.
Bubblegum and marceline leaned against each other in bed. Both of them have teacups in their hands. CNS was also one of the few prominent animation studios in the 2010s to highlight queer characters, notably those involved in sapphic romances. Princess Bubblegum and Marceline’s “Bubbleline” romance was not resolved until season 10 of Adventure Time (which premiered in 2010 and ran for 10 seasons), following their initial meeting in the episode “Go With Me.”
Later, Princess Bubblegum snoozes in Marceline’s clothing, and the two share a passionate kiss in the series season finale for 2018. With a non-binary Crystal Gems cast, multiple LGBT characters, and a fantastic wedding episode, Steven Universe (2013) quickly rose to prominence as one of the most adored and influential modern queer cartoons.
Thanks in large part to these mammoths at Cartoon Network Studio, there is now a trickle of LGBTQ+ animated television available across streaming sites. Velma, from Warner Bros., is a lesbian. This was unfathomable years ago, even with Hayley Kiyoko (dubbed “Lesbian Jesus” by her admirers) playing her in TV movies that aired in 2009 and 2010.
Despite the fact that CNS will continue to exist after the merger, the effects of layoffs will be felt nevertheless. A significant majority of the HBO Max executives who were let go in August were persons of color.
According to The Daily Beast’s reporting at the time, former Warner Bros. employees felt that this was due to an ideological change, in which material was aimed at a less diverse and more “Middle America” audience. Now, even at an animation company recognized for its cutting-edge shows, things are shifting.
It’s unclear how WBA and CNS will collaborate, or if groundbreaking cartoons that push the boundaries of the medium will continue to be a top focus for a conglomerate whose guiding ideology is based on reality television.
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