Along with news of Batwheels being renewed for a second season, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim president Michael Ouweleen gave some comments on the life and future of Cartoon Network. Very aware that many have concerns and questions about what is to become of both networks as David Zaslav continues to tighten the budgeting and canceling of many projects, regardless of how close to finished they are, Ouweleen agrees that things have changed, but “we’re not dead“.
In response to the reaction to news about the death of Cartoon Network back in October, Ouweleen said, “It was weird to wake up a couple of weeks ago and read our obituary as we were alive. We’ve got more stuff coming next year than we had this year.”
With all the changes going on at the animated network, “It’s definitely a pivot, through the merger and through this kind of industry-wide correction that we’re all seeing and navigating through.”
Even with all the massive cancellations that have happened at the network, Ouweleen says, “We’re not looking to cancel shows. It’s just we have to allocate the money we have in ways that we think are going to have the biggest impact and please the most number of people. You want to keep those creative relationships with people and see what else you can do.“
“The go-forward notion is Cartoon Network and Adult Swim will be the main source of animation at Max and we’re gearing up to share with them all the stuff we have in development right now,” Ouweleen says. “We talk to those guys every week, pretty much and coordinate and plan our activity together.”
Ouweleen explains that the plan to build an ambitious kids and family business (“to compete with Disney, frankly,” he adds) had to be shelved in the new conglomerate, which also included most of the now canceled live action plans. Basically he’s saying the shows planned were too wide and open and not focused. Too much was focused on trying to compete with Disney.
Now the new plan is to go back to the roots of what made Cartoon Network a successful place for cartoons to be. “When I joined the network (in 1996), to our minds it wasn’t a kid network, it was an animation network. We said it was for a psychographic, not a demographic. The best animation works on a couple levels and works for a couple of different audiences at once. And I think that’s where Cartoon Network proper is coming back around to. The remit I think for us now is to go back to being the best animation across Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, and serve the audience that is still there, starting on linear, which is adult.”
According to Ouweleen, Cartoon Network always attracted audiences in the 18-49 year age range, which is part of why Adult Swim was created. “When we started Adult Swim, that was the first moment where we were like, ‘Oh, wait, if there’s a thing just for adults, what is Cartoon Network now?’ It took us I’d say a couple of years to figure out what Cartoon Network was. Now it’s more natural for it to be aimed at doing great animated shows for everybody at once. And linear still has a healthy adult audience.”
Ouweleen uses “Adventure Time” as the guiding factor in the type of shows the network wants to create as they move forward. “Our median age is 29 during the day. So, the path forward is to lean into that and make really great stuff that appeals to young adults and kids can watch it too.
Cartoon Network Studios and Warner Bros. Animation will still exist as individual labels, and continue to fall under the oversight of president Sam Register. Sam Register is best known as the creator of Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi and The Looney Tunes Show, as well as being the executive producer of such shows as Teen Titans, Ben10, Transformers: Animated, and Teen Titans Go!
“We’ve known each other for so long and both see our responsibility as humans on the planet to make sure that the words ‘Cartoon Network’ stay as vibrant and strong as possible. Cartoon Network Studios is still a distinct creative entity and aimed at all the things that Cartoon Network Studios has always aimed at, which is unique creators, first time creators. Building shows that are worlds and new ideas. Pushing the conversation forward in terms of animation.
Sometimes people think we’re niche, or think animation is small and don’t understand the power of it. It helps having ‘Rick and Morty’ for everyone to understand. Like, oh, this can be big. This could be a popular thing. And we’ve been expanding Adult Swim globally.”
Ouweleen finishes off his comments by stating, “When we get out of thinking of Cartoon Network as just living and dying based on kid revenue, it actually frees us up to do more stuff and lean into really what our core always was, which is, let’s advance what the animation art form can do, and create iconic stuff.“
What do you think of Cartoon Network seemingly going back to the roots of the network?