Brendan Whitt

WHEN BRENDAN WHITT THINKS...

Blought #11: The Evolution of Cartoon Network


Boy were the 90’s a time to behold. Just like the forty something to be generation did with their nostalgia of the 80’s, us millenials are doing the same with the 90’s. He-Man, GI Joe and Jelly bracelets are now artifacts worthy enough of enshrinement in the Smithsonian.

For me the 90’s was WWF, action figures and occasionally a little elementary school thrown in there somewhere. One of my favorite past times as a child was watching cartoons. A hobby of mine I am still active in today. Back when Adelphia was the go to cable provider for the Cleveland area their channel selection was somewhat limited. They did however carry the kiddie essentials of the time which were Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel (I've never regularly watched the latter).

During the summer of 1997 I spent eight weeks in Dayton, Ohio with my grandparents. I don’t remember their cable provider at the time but what I do remember is the first time I saw Cartoon Network. For those of you who don’t remember Cartoon Network’s programming in the early and mid 90’s was pretty much Boomerang’s programming in the 2000’s. I would spend hours watching shows like Swat Kats, 2 Stupid Dogs and old Hanna Barbera reruns.

The stars of Cartoon Cartoon Fridays
It was also around that time that Cartoon Network would launch probably the best cartoon block in American television history, Cartoon Cartoon Fridays. Friday was the day you sat down in front of the TV and watched premieres of shows like Power Puff Girls, Johnny Bravo, Dexter’s Lab and Ed, Edd n Eddy. It was a great time for Cartoon Network.


Cartoon Network flourished during this time, Dexter’s Lab garnered three Primetime Emmy nominations three straight years from ‘96-‘98 and The Powerpuff Girls earned five nominations from ‘99-’01 and again in 2005 winning twice for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation in 2000 and 2005.
Several shows including Dexter’s Lab and Power Puff Girls were nominated for and won Annie Awards, the highest award in the field of animation. The shows were imaginative and fun to watch as a child. I can watch Dexter and PPG to this day.

Of course the good times didn’t last. As the 2000’s (which in my opinion is the worst decade ever) rolled in and so did the trash that hampered and hurt Cartoon Network. ‘Sheep In the Big City’ was a show that never really found it’s legs. The humor was too advanced for child viewers like myself at the time and the jokes just weren’t that funny. You can barely find it online these days. ‘Time Squad’ had a great concept but failed to deliver and ‘What Ever Happened to Robot Jones’ was, well I don’t want to talk about that train wreck.


By the time I got to high school Cartoon Network’s programming was dead. Chowder and Ben 10 were the only new cartoons I could enjoy and the live action programming was pretty terrible. Today Cartoon Network has revamped it’s look and approach. Cartoon Cartoon Fridays sadly ended in 2007.


One thing that upsets me is my peers who call the new lineup trash or say it just isn’t very good. Well here’s my take. It takes a special
kind of adult to thoroughly enjoy cartoons. You have to have an imaginative and a have a pretty diverse sense of humor (only enjoying Jon Stewart and the Onion is not a diverse sense of humor). Most adults lose their imagination in their 20’s when life gives us that first backhand of reality.

Cartoon Network's current logo
For me a grown ass 24 year old kid, I LOVE cartoons more than most live action shows. The new cartoon line up features Emmy winner ‘The Regular Show’, Annie winner ‘The Amazing World of Gumball’, Emmy and Annie nominee ‘Steven Universe’ as well as the beloved and Creative Arts Emmy nominee (and one of my personal favorites) ‘Clarence’.

All of the above mentioned are smarter than the shows I watched as a youth with the exception at of ‘Dexter’s Lab’. The humor is adult but still childish enough that a parent should feel safe allowing their children to watch. 
If you really want to be progressive watch the ‘Clarence’ episode ‘Jeff Wins’ where it is reveled that the character Jeff has lesbian mothers.

Today’s Cartoon Network lineup is progressive, beautifully animated and critcally acclaimed. From humble beginnings in 1992 to the esteemed past and current lineups, Cartoon Network to me is the golden standard of children’s animated programming for past, present and future generations.