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The 13 “Deaths” of Cartoon Network (Editorial)

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With the recent merger of Cartoon Network and WB studios, and with Adult Swim now coming on at 5pm Eastern Time Monday through Friday, people are once again pronouncing the “death” of Cartoon Network. But the thing is, Cartoon Network has been around long enough, it has experienced many “deaths”.

It was former Cartoon Network President Stuart Snyder that himself once said that Cartoon Network needs to refresh itself “every 5 years” in order to attract a new wave of kids. But if you’re refreshing the identity of the channel every 3 or 5 or 7 years, you’re going to have a set of “kids” who feel the network has changed and is no longer for them. For them to feel that Cartoon Network had “died”.

What I’m advocating for here is that we keep some perspective, to see where things have been before now. Cartoon Network might eventually come back revitalized, stronger than ever. But it’s also going to change again (and shed more “old school” fans). So with having said that, here’s the 13 times that Cartoon Network “died” (the end of one era, and the start of another):

Tommy Snider and Tara Sands

Death #1: October 2003 – “Cartoon Cartoon Fridays” becomes “Fridays”. “CCF” on Friday nights had been one of Cartoon Network’s pre-eminent programming blocks from 1999 to 2003, featuring animated hosting segments starring Cartoon Network characters from the Powerhouse era. In October, 2003 it was renamed “Fridays” and the cartoon hosts were replaced with “live action” host segments starring Tommy Snider and Nzinga Blake (and later Tara Sands). Though this version eventually gained a level of popularity, this was a blow to fans of the old CCF, and a sign that the Powerhouse era was drawing to a close.

Also, the final episode of “Dexter’s Lab” aired shortly thereafter (in November 2003), but between the two, I felt the launch of “Fridays” was more of a sting.

Death #2: April 2004 – Toonami moved to Saturdays. Yes, Toonami was still on the air, but weekday afternoon action carton blocks just were not the same after this date. Miguzi (while it had it’s moments) was just not a proper replacement. Also around this time: 2 months later (in June 2004) the Powerhouse era ends. So these two events are somewhat tied together, but I chose to list the removal of Toonami from weekday afternoons as the moment something “died” for Cartoon Network.

Death #3: February/March 2007 – “Fridays” is cancelled and Toonami is rebranded (introducing “Tom version 4”). Yes, I kinda lumped these two in together. This is around the start of the dreaded wave of cancellations that occurred in 2007 (this is also around when the “City” era bumpers went away). Yes, Fridays was initially hated (by some) back in 2003, but it was eventually accepted. But this wasn’t a retooling of the block, this was an outright cancellation. Also, one month later (in March 2007), Toonami would try and re-invent itself. They were trying to appeal to a different generation of kids, and it just didn’t work.

TOM 4.0

Death #4: September 2007 – “Out of Jimmy’s Head” premieres. “CN Real” was in 2009, but this was the true start of live-action programming on Cartoon Network. Also this month, this was the start of the hated “Fall 2007” era (Because “Fall is just something that grown-ups invented”, right? That was a great song, but no one really liked the bumpers of this era). Also, “Billy and Mandy” and Codename: Kids Next Door” would be cancelled just a couple months later (in November, 2007).

Death #5: September 2008 – Toonami is cancelled. “Bang”. Yes, just like I had the “Fridays” rebrand and “Fridays” cancellation as separate events on here, I similarly have Toonami’s rebrand and Toonami’s cancellation as separate events. Because both incidents were shocks to long-term fans (the rebrand, and then the cancelling).

Death #6: January 2009 – Adult Swim takes the 9pm Eastern Time slot, and begins airing “King of the Hill” in this hour. Yes, Adult Swim had slowly been taking over the night time slots since 2001, but this was start of Adult Swim beginning to eat away at Cartoon Network’s hours in the evening.

Death #7: May 2009 – The final episode of “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends” airs. The last gasp of the City era Cartoon Network shows. Also, just one month later, in June 2009, the “CN Real” line of programming starts.

Death #8: November 2009 – The final “Ed, Edd N Eddy” episode airs (The “Big Picture Show” movie). The last gasp of the Powerhouse era.

Death #9: August 2010 – The final episodes of “Chowder” and “Flapjack” air. The last gasp of the “Noods” era.

Young Justice episode “Endgame”, the final to air on Cartoon Network

Death #10: March 2013/April 2013 – The final episodes of “Young Justice” and “Green Lantern” air (in March), and “Teen Titans Go” begins airing (in April). Also, the final episode of “Clone Wars” airs on Cartoon Network (the next season would air on Netflix). It was the death of action cartoons on Cartoon Network. It doesn’t matter that Young Justice later came back, it didn’t return to Cartoon Network.

Death #11: September 2018 – The final episode of “Adventure Time” airs. With this, the Cartoon Network “Renaissance” comes to an end. The network is a wasteland of “Teen Titans Go” episode marathons.

Death #12: March 2020 – The final episode of “Steven Universe” airs. Also, Infinity Train left Cartoon Network in January of 2020. The era of streaming begins, robbing Cartoon Network of shows.

Death #13:  August 2023 – The Cartoon Network Studios building in Burbank, California closed down (as part of the merging with WB Studios). Adult Swim moves to being airing at 5pm Eastern Time. Also, “My Adventures With Superman” airs on Adult Swim, instead of Cartoon Network (similar of “Unicorn: Warriors Eternal”, which aired on Adult Swim instead of Cartoon Network, 2 months earlier in May 2023).

In closing, I would say I don’t know what the future holds for Cartoon Network. It likely will carry on for years to come. Cable TV is diminishing, but not going away anytime soon. It will hopefully rebrand and revitalize (like the early 2010’s did with Adventure Time, Regular Show and Gumball). Or the channel might continue to stagnate. Either way, there might be more “Deaths” of Cartoon Network to come, in the years ahead.

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