Cartoon Network is a television network dedicated to showing nothing but cartoons nonstop, 24/7, 365 days per year, until your eyes burst. Many of their shows were sent by the Comedy Gods, only to be foolishly canceled after a mere one or two seasons.
In its glory days, CN was known for shows like Dexter's Laboratory, Ed, Edd n Eddy, The Powerpuff Girls, Johnny Bravo, and Courage the Cowardly Dog. However, these were ousted by harder, better, faster, stronger shows like Adventure Time, Regular Show, Steven Universe, and The Amazing World of Gumball, and millions of Teen Titans Go! reruns via the magic of natural selection.
1992–95: The Oncoming Storm
In 1992, OG Television NI🅱🅱A Ted "The Colorizer" Turner acquired iconic recycled animation studio Hanna-Barbera during a game of Texas Hold 'Em. Like Majin Buu, by this time he had already absorbed the complete works of MGM, Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies, and Popeye into his corporate being. But still Ted Turner hungered for more media might for his cartoon kingdom. He selected Betty Cohen, a woman who wrote her senior paper on children's television, to create an outlet to house all these animation classics.
Cartoon Network started with a bang on October 1, 1992. During these first few years, the network was still in its larval state, mostly because they showed nothing but classic cartoons, like Late Night Black and White which showed early black-and-white Fleischer Studios and Walter Lantz shorts. This drew audiences away from Turner's other twenty-hour single-genre channel, CNN. Older audiences, especially those with death living just down the hall, would rather watch a cartoon cat and mouse from their childhood shoot at each other than listen to another slow news cycle eat up their twilight years. As if a flock of Daffy Ducks in a V formation, Turner's other networks TNT and TBS carried the fledgling CN with their updraft, passing cartoons like SWAT Kats, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest and 2 Stupid Dogs along to the others like an avian flu.
Everything changed in 1994 when Cartoon Network dug up Space Ghost out of Turner's animation graveyard and bound his spirit to celluloid to serve them as a hip late night talk show host; however, the mind behind Captain Planet insisted they recycle old animation cells as much as possible.
1995–2004: Ages of Animated Empire
In 1995, Nickelodeon double-agent Fred Seibert set up the What a Cartoon! animation showcase to serve as an explosives testing site, and to get some fresh young talent on the scene. The shorts program was a success, causing a chain reaction that produced the famed "Cartoon Cartoons": Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, I Am Weasel, The Powerpuff Girls, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and Mike, Lu & Og, yielding a megaton of viewers. In 1996, Turner Broadcasting System preformed the fusion dance with Time Warner, resulting in a gestalt entity with access to all of Warner's animation archives, and paving the way for new DC properties like the Justice League and the Teen Titans.
In 1997, Cartoon Network launched Toonami, in what proved to be one of their most popular blocks. Hosted by Space Ghost villain Moltar (voiced by C. Martin Croker), the block specialized in anime and action cartoons, including Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Gundam Wing, Outlaw Star, Pokemon, Naruto, Samurai Jack, and Mr. Rogers's Action-Packed Neighborhood. Moltar was later caught using opioids on air and replaced by the robot TOM (voiced by Steven Blum and some other guy before him) and his mistress Sara (voiced by Sally Timms), also introducing the badass known as Swayzak (voiced by... uhm... Carl Lumbly.) A Midnight Run was added so that shows like Gundam Wing could be aired uncut or with minimal edits compared to the butchered, kid-friendly daytime airings.
2000 was a quiet year as Cohen lay low on her two million-acre ranch, herding Sheep in the Big City. That year, Cartoon Network also became old enough to branch off into Boomerang. In 2001, Cohen was briefly assassinated by Disney before being resurrected into a male by the name of "Jim Samples" due to a combination of time travel and beating death at Baccarat. Samples brought with him Time Squad, Samurai Jack, and Grim & Evil. To attract older viewers to CN, who had previously wasted their lifes by watching syndicated reruns on TV Land, Samples also brought Adult Swim, a small cable anomaly located deep within the crusty recesses of CN's nighttime schedule, which specialized in surreal adult-oriented cartoons, plus syndicated reruns of Fox shows.
Having seen the future, in 2002 Samples invented Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones? and Codename: Kids Next Door inside his deep underground research facilities, and launched the network's first ever feature film, The Powerpuff Girls Movie. In 2003, Samples's deal with death expired, requiring renewal and resulting in the separation of Grim and Evil into The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy and Evil Con Carne.
2004–07: Rise of the Robots
In 2004, Cartoon Network debuted an updated version of its original logo (with the distinct 14-letter checkerboard logo being compressed into a mere two letters) and a conspicuous new slogan, "This is Cartoon Network!" Gone were the simplistic, blue-background 2D bumpers of yore; in their place came 2D characters from the network's shows humorously interacting in a vast, interconnected CGI city that likely blew out the network's budget. By now, nearly all of CN's classic programming had been relocated to Boomerang, and that channel had completed its goal of being a shrine to CN's eldest of animation. The Cartoon Cartoons brand was also inexplicably discontinued, and replaced with the blander "Cartoon Network Original Series".
By 2004, Cartoon Network had aired enough anime that they could reverse engineer their own, resulting in Megas XLR and Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi. Craig McCracken had already ridden the anime wave, however, and went deeper into the Dreamtime, bringing back Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. For years, Samples had been working on an animation supercomputer that could churn out cartoons without any human input; thus, CN became self-aware and the digital animation bomb finally fell on Ed, Edd n Eddy's cul-de-sac, ending the age of traditional animation in favor of cheap Adobe Flash and soulless CGI.
In 2005, Samples yearned for yet more forms from atop his corporate Skyhook, engineering the Omnitrix from a UFO that crashed into his office, whiles he gazed down upon the pale blue dot; thus he obtained the shapes of The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, Camp Lazlo, My Gym Partner's a Monkey, and Ben 10. Samples also brought back the concept of an animation proving grounds with Sunday Pants; however, like the shorts it showcased, its time on this earth was brief. While successful with the preteen demographic, CN was less successful with the preschool demographic, as their new block Tickle U quickly sank.
In 2006, Cartoon Network conjured up two new series from its summoning circle: Squirrel Boy and Class of 3000. The former was a funny animal show like creator Everett Peck's previous show Duckman, only not as funny. The latter was created by rapper Andre 3000 of OutKast fame, about musically oriented kids who warp all time, space, and reality into weird shapes when they play their music. Squirrel Boy was utterly unremarkable and sank like a stone; Class of 3000 was decently successful at first, but was cancelled when Timothy McGee sued Andre 3000 for allegedly ripping off his old cartoon pitch, The Music Factory of the '90s. That year, CN also unleashed Re-Animated upon the earth after reading from a tomb of eldritch lore reaching into the live action plane. It is with this film that they began to suffer from a case of MTV syndrome, losing sight of their original "Cartoons 24/7 until your eyes explode!" intent.
2007–10: The Great Live-Action Deluge
Samples resigned from his post on February 9, 2007, following a scare in Boston caused by Aqua Teen Hunger Force Lite-Brites that citizens mistook for bombs, merely because they were duct-taped to bridge abutments to garner publicity by looking like bombs. In an attempt to compete with Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, the network continued succumbing to the effects of the live-action virus; firstly by revamping their look, with bumpers and station IDs themed to live-action kids preppily dancing to garage rock, and secondly by debuting Out of Jimmy's Head, the Re-Animated spinoff that nobody asked for. In addition, the network began importing cheaply-made Canadian programs, such as 6teen, Total Drama Island, and Johnny Test.
2008 saw the downward trend continue as Toonami was cancelled, since the Internet had made it easier for otakus to download uncut anime and the block was basically obsolete. Holding the network together during these years were Chowder and Flapjack, who set sea across the airwaves with their wacky recipies and eldritch horror until the digital television transition of 2009 flooded the world. The network's decline culminated in 2009 when they introduced CN Real, a block of live-action reality shows which were basically just poor man's clones of already-poor MTV programs. As a result of these tumultuous changes, millions of viewers turned their backs on Cartoon Network — even children found their new direction to be puzzling. Their ratings tanked, and it looked like the network was on its death throes.
2010–14: Rebirth on a Dying Earth
But then, in 2010, wandering the post apocalyptic animation wastelands with his faithful shape shifting mutant buffalo, Snyder had a stroke of luck with a pair of shows: Adventure Time and Regular Show, along with twelve other radioactive elements with shorter animated half-lives: The Problem Solverz, The Looney Tunes Show, Secret Mountain Fort Awesome, Level Up, Tower Prep, Green Lantern, Dragons: Riders of Berk, The Amazing World of Gumball, Total Drama: Revenge of the Island, ThunderCats, Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu, Incredible Crew, and Ben 10: Omniverse. These shows arrived like guardian angels, and Cartoon Network finally got out of the live-action business and back into the cartoon industry. With the exception the hybrid live action show The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange, from refugee Nickelodeon ex-patriot Nick Cannon.
Toonami was briefly revived on April 1, 2012 on Adult Swim, in honor of April Fool's Day. The joke was on Adult Swim, as fans demanded that the network #BringBackToonami permanently. President Barack Obama even did an anti-bullying special, but only if they agreed to bring back Toonami, because the world would always need Shonen anime characters to be The Guy like Goku, and teach them the difference between strength and sadism. Adult Swim promptly announced that #ToonamisBackBitches and it returned May 26, 2012 @ Midnight EST. From there on, anyone who wasn't a fan of anime officially had nothing else to watch on Saturday nights, besides Matlock reruns.
2013 saw the release of Teen Titans Go!, Uncle Grandpa, Steven Universe, I Heart Tuesdays, Clarence, Total Drama: All-Stars, Grojband, Beware the Batman, The Tom and Jerry Show, and Legends of Chima from cryostasis. Many of these were older properties whose diseases could now be treated and their terminal lifespans lengthened through the use of highly advanced future medicines.
2014–19: Reboots and Teen Titans Go! onslaught
In 2014, Stuart Snyder was replaced as Cartoon Network's president by Christina Miller after company changes. Under Miller, the network has filled virtually all of its schedule with endless reruns of Teen Titans Go!, thus ignoring other shows, with a few exceptions such as OK KO and Megamind. Many fans have joked that CN may as well change their name to the Teen Titans Go! Network, akin to how people called them "Cartoon Nothing" or "The Network" back during their live-action phase.
In this troubled era for CN, juggernauts such as Adventure Time and Regular Show came to an end and were syndicated off to Netflix, deemed not good enough for TTGN to air. In addition to TTGO!, CN churned out other reboots of their shows, such as The Powerpuff Girls 2016 featuring new Powerpuff
Poochie Bliss, as well as the Ben 10 reboot 🅱en 💯, even though CN had already created thousands of Ben 10 soft-reboots at this point; unlike TTGO!, these other reboots were dead on arrival. Adult Swim also took hits as well; many of their shows, such as Family Guy, American Dad!, Final Space, and Close Enough were moved to TBS or FXX, Toonami began floundering in the ratings and could be killed off, and AS's flagship show Rick and Morty became wrapped in scandal when an old video of co-creator Dan Harmon humping a baby doll was uneathered.
2019–present: Preschool Politics Era
In 2019, it was announced that Christina Miller would be leaving Cartoon Network; many CN fans let out a sigh of relief. Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law creator Michael Ouweleen was appointed interim president of the network; it was not known if the entire network would become as bonkers as Harvey Birdman as a result, or if the Teen Titans Go! reruns would continue.
Unfortunately, the latter turned out to be true in 2020, when Tom Ascheim was appointed President of Cartoon Network. Under Ascheim's leadership CN has descended further into mediocrity, focusing on politically-charged PSAs, bland rebrands, preschool programming, more TTGO! reruns, and new live-action shows (because we all know how great that worked out the first time). At this point, most animation fans have turned to Netflix to get their flix of good cartoons, leaving CN to the dogs.
Censorship and historical revisionism
Over the years, in its Cabinet of Curiosities of celluloid, Cartoon Network had acquired a number of cursed and haunted animated artifacts from a blood stained past, those being Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes shorts with racially-charged gags. Typically, these shorts either air on daytime television with the offending content edited out, or are not shown if the offending content is their entire plot.
Still wishing to display these items to the public, the network hoped in 2001 that they might showcase some of the Sins of the Father during a June Bugs oeuvre. This would be an attempt to prevent history from repeating itself and to try to break free from humanity's seemingly endless cycles of violence, drinking, smoking, cowboys-and-Indians gunplay, and racial intolerance. Though the Turner Museum planned to air them at the height of the dark sacred night on, away from the youngest and most impressionable of eyes, AOL Time Warner executive Jamie Kellner pulled the plug on the plan, fearing repulsion and reprieve from concerned parents and his advertisers. This came to the disappointment of historian Whoopi Goldberg, who saw the exhibitions' removal as equivalent to robbing others of the knowledge that the atrocious events ever even happened. This moral dilemma within CN later came to be known as The Trial of Bugs Bunny.
A block that airs educational cartoons for adults, such as Family Guy ("This is worse than the time I won a manatee dinner date with Optimus Prime in Guatemala!"; spares no cutaways and '80s nostalgia), Robot Chicken (a stop-motion show by Family Guy voice actor Seth Green and some guy named Matt; also spares no '80s nostalgia), and Rick and Morty (the most successful adult animated sitcom, with 42 seasons, 931 episodes and counting, 298 Emmys out of 302 nominations, 31 movies, 81 movies, 500 Szechwan sauce packets, endless quotations from Reddit nerds who think they're clever, and a ride in every major theme park). Some of these shows are original, but most are syndicated reruns of FOX shows.
A block that showcased classic cartoons your parents and grandparents loved, or in Zoomer lingo, "lmaooo yo parents old af haha 💯". It became a separate channel in 2004, but rebranded in 2015 and betrayed its original purpose by showing newer shows instead of old-school ones.