It’s not just about the ‘toons anymore.
Cartoon Network continues its gradual reinvention by announcing a variety of new programming initiatives in all shapes, sizes and formats at its annual upfront presentation to advertisers Wednesday in New York.
Sandwiched around Destroy Build Destroy host Andrew W.K.’s antics as the event’s defacto host, the network unveiled an ambitious slate that included 25 new series, several live action programs, movies and specials, and a whopping 575 half-hours of new content.
That includes a 21st-century relaunch of Looney Tunes. The legendary cartoon is getting a CGI overhaul for a new generation. The Looney Tunes Show debuts in the fall.
Also debuting at that time is the 30-minute animated series Young Justice. Loosely based on the DC comic series created by Todd DeZago and Todd Nauck, Young Justice centers on a group of teenage capes out to prove they’re ready for The Justice League. Robin, Kid Flash, Superboy, Artemis, Miss Martian and Aqualad make up the squad. No footage of the series was screened, so it's unclear what the tone of the show will be. The comic, under DeZago and later Peter David’s direction, often infused comedy into the drama and action.
DC actually had a strong presence at the upfront, which is geared to get advertisers excited about the upcoming schedule and get them to buy ad time early.
DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns was also in attendance, as overseeing the various adaptations of DC’s heroes falls under his wide-ranging new responsibilities.
Also announced was the animated sketch comedy Mad, based on the long-running DC humor magazine. The show is part of a quarter-hour animated comedy block by Cartoon Network aimed directly at today’s ADD crowd. Each show will be 15 minutes long. As one executive put it, it’s 30 minutes of jokes in half the time.
The other quarter-hour shows besides Mad are Regular Show, Robotomy and Secret Mountain Fort Awesome.
Other new animated shows coming later this year include:
Ben 10: Ultimate Alien – The latest series in the ‘Ben 10’ franchise, the title hero is now a teenage worldwide phenom.
Generator Rex – From the ‘Ben 10’ creative team comes this adventure show about a young super-agent with the ability to create high-tech weapons and vehicles from his own body.
Sym-Bionic Titan – Mix Transformers with Glee – and subtract the singing -- and you may be in the ballpark of the theme of this show, which features some impressive animation. Three alien teens crash land on Earth and disguise themselves as high schoolers so they can protect us from alien invaders.
Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated – It wouldn’t be a new Cartoon Network season without Scooby, Shaggy and the rest of the gang. This time, they’ve set up shop in creepy Crystal Cove, solving whatever mysteries pop up.
Scenes from the upcoming animated movie Firebreather were also shown. The film marks the channel’s first-ever foray into original feature-length CG-animation, and comic book stalwart Phil Hester has a strong hand in the production.
Cartoon Network also continues to diversify its content into the live-action arena.
Tower PrepTower Prep is an action series about a mysterious prep school that trains teenagers to use their hidden talents. The other ongoing live-action series announced is the mystery serial Unnatural History. It centers on the exploits of a gifted teenager who, after years of traveling world with his parents, is suddenly forced to settle down and live a normal life in Washington, D.C. Of course, mayhem ensues on a weekly basis.
Several live-action specials were also unveiled, including KROG, a half-hour comedy pilot about a monster rock band from Middle Earth trying to take over the surface world. Too bad no one believes them.
Unnatural HistoryLords of Bad Axe is a 90-minute original comedy about three teen gamers who have to stop bad guys from their favorite video games from running amok in the real world.
Hall of Game will mark the network’s first-ever awards show. Called a multi-platform experience, the show will give the viewers the chance to decide which sports stars have the most game. Expect lots of celebrities from film, TV and obviously, the sports world to take part in the event, which is set for February 2011.
If you’ve been watching Cartoon Network recently, the move toward non-animated programs is no big surprise. Destroy Build Destroy and Dude, What Would Happen have turned into big hits for the cable channel. The upcoming slate of projects – a mix of animation and live-action -- would seem to reinforce the channel’s efforts to evolve into an older-skewing version of Nickelodeon.
At the end of the day though, it was a sneak peek at the revamp of a classic cartoon that scored the loudest response.
The new Looney Tunes will star Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck along with familiar characters like Yosemite Sam, Tweety and Sylvester. Each episode will feature a main story and several music videos (Merrie Melodies) warbled by the likes of the Tasmanian Devil. There will also be shorts in which Wiley Coyote chases the Road Runner.
They screened a brief clip from one of these shorts. And while the Coyote and Road Runner look a little different in CGI form, one thing hasn’t changed:
Wile E. Coyote still gets squashed.