No one can blame fans for assuming the worst of Warner Bros. Discovery after the company’s actions—the layoffs, the project cancellations (RIP Batgirl), the disappearance of already-existing shows—following the merger earlier this year. Animationa traditionally underappreciated medium in the era of Peak TV, has been particularly affected by these restructuring efforts, so it’s no wonder that the latest announcements put fans on the defensive.
The misunderstanding—if it can be called that—arose from a leaked letter from Warner Bros. Television Group chief Channing Dungey, obtained by IndieWire. The missive about changes in the company read in part: “In Animation, run by Sam Register, President, Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios, we are implementing a new streamlined structure in which the development and main production teams will now work across both Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios.”
Many who read this interpreted the news as the death of Cartoon Network “as you know it,” like the animation-focused outlet Cartoon Brew (whose assessment was partially based on the studio’s former General Manager Brian A. Miller tweeting, “RIP CNS”). US Cartoon Brew pointed out, Cartoon Network Studios has produced original content like Over The Garden Wall and Infinity Train while WB Animation mostly produces content based on IP such as DC and Looney Tunes.
Given that Cartoon Network is beloved in its present form as well as for its nostalgic past, this angle was quickly picked up by social media. “RIP Cartoon Network” began trending on Twitter, leading to the studio having to do some damage control. “Y’all we’re not dead, we’re just turning 30,” the network’s official Twitter page posted with a crying laughing emoji. “To our fans: We’re not going anywhere. We have been and will always be your home for beloved, innovative cartoons. More to come soon!” A joke follow-up included a clip from The Amazing World of Gumball with the caption: “POV: When you find out about your death via Twitter.”
This may simply be an example of the insidious trend of brands-acting-like-people, and the consolidation could herald serious changes for the network (if not a literal “death”). However, in a statement to Complex, the studio said, “Speculation that Cartoon Network is going away is categorically false. Cartoon Network Studios has moved under the leadership of WBTV and will continue to create great content for the network, as will Warner Bros Animation and beyond.” The statement went on to promise that in 2023 the network would “premiere more new and returning originals than at any other time in its history and much of that content will also be available to audiences on HBO Max.”
Not only is this a tumultuous period for WB, but those working in animation have historically enjoyed fewer protections than other entertainment professionals (see: ongoing efforts to expand animation unionizing). Hopefully, the studio will deliver on its promises to invest in more new projects, but only time will tell how this restructuring will affect Cartoon Network’s future.