On road to the Cartoon ‘Always On’ Network

MUMBAI: Cartoon Network is taking its promise to reach children whenever they want and wherever they want rather seriously.

The network has grandiose plans to be ‘Always On’ with customised new original and/or acquired programming for a range of platforms accessed by kids nowadays, including television, smart phones, computers, tablets, gaming devices and what have you.

Turner International Asia Pacific chief content officer, Mark Eyers rightly puts it as, “To Cartoon Network, ‘Network’ means a portfolio of different experiences across a network of devices for a network of fans.”

New programming

As part of its strategy, Turner Broadcasting announced in February that Cartoon Network would air between 6.00 am and 8.00 pm, starting 31 March. Complementing the change in timing is a slew of new shows, both original and acquired. Here’s looking at them:

Over The Garden Wall: Cartoon Network’s first animated mini-series, Over the Garden Wall is headlined by an all-star voice-cast including Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings Trilogy), Collin Dean (The War at Home) and Melanie Lynskey (Two and a Half Men).

The ten-part fantasy about two brothers, Wirt and Greg, who find themselves trapped in a mysterious world, sees the duo travel through the strange land till they find their way home. Help comes from a wise old woodsman who provides directions and a bluebird named Beatrice. The series has a soundtrack full of Americana-influenced original songs. It is created by Pat McHale and produced by Cartoon Network Studios.

Clarence: Created by Skyler Page, this new, original animated series about an optimistic boy who wants to do everything premieres Monday, 14 April at 7:00 pm. Clarence was conceived as part of the prolific shorts development programme at Cartoon Network Studios, which resulted in six original series: Regular Show, Uncle Grandpa, Steven Universe, Clarence, Over the Garden Wall and We Bare Bears.

We Bare Bears: A comedy about three bear siblings, Grizzly, Panda and Ice Bear, each episode of We Bare Bears follows their awkward attempts at assimilating into human society. Whether they’re looking for food, trying to make human friends or scheming to become internet famous, it’s clear that it’s tough being a bear in a civilized world. Created by Annie Award-winner Daniel Chong (Toy Story of Terror!), the series is produced by Cartoon Network Studios.

The Tom and Jerry Show: The iconic cat and mouse are back in The Tom and Jerry Show, a fresh take on the ageless classic. While preserving the look, characters and sensibility of the original, the new series offers a fresh perspective on the madcap, slapstick and never-ending battle between two of the most beloved characters of all time. The Tom and Jerry Show is produced by Warner Bros. Animation and will premiere Wednesday, 9 April at 5.30 pm.

Be Cool Scooby-Doo!: Scooby and company are back but with a modern twist in this 22-minute animated comedy series from Warner Bros. Animation. With high school over and one last summer to live it up, the gang hits the road in the Mystery Machine, chasing fun and adventure. But monsters and mayhem keep getting in the way.

(Disclaimer: Some of the shows mentioned may be available only in the US and not in the APAC region)

Wabbit - A Looney Tunes Production: The hilarious, heroic and mischievous Bugs Bunny is back in this all-new series from Warner Bros. Animation. Comic shorts find the carrot-loving rabbit matching wits with (and getting the best of) classic characters like Yosemite Sam and Wile E. Coyote. There are brand new foes too... but Bugs gets a helping hand from new friends like Bigfoot and Squeaks the squirrel.

Lego Ninjago - Masters of Spinjitzu: Continuing its robust partnership with The Lego Group, Cartoon Network will re-introduce viewers to the world of Ninjago - Masters of Spinjitzu with six new half-an-hour animated specials this year, followed by all-new episodes of the highly popular series in 2015.

Sonic Boom: For over two decades, Sonic the Hedgehog has held his own as one of the world’s biggest gaming icons. This year, a new branch of the Sonic universe debuts titled Sonic Boom. With a new look for Sonic and friends, the franchise’s first-ever CG-animated television series will premiere on Cartoon Network, along with an extensive video game release of the same name. The Sonic Boom television series, co-produced by Sega and OuiDO! Productions, will debut on Cartoon Network in the 2014-15 season.

Total Drama - Pahkitew Island: New island, new cast, but the same old disregard for human safety! The Total Drama series returns as Chris and Chef put the newest generation of contestants through the craziest challenges yet - all for a chance to win one million dollars! Total Drama Island is produced by Fresh TV.

Numb Chucks: Woodchuck brothers Dilweed and Fungus didn’t always see themselves as mystical Kung Fu saviours till they stumbled upon an infomercial featuring the legend Woodchuck Morris’ mullet-fuelled motivational kung-fu video, The Way of the Chuck! With an endless supply of confidence but a limited supply of grey cells, and countless hours of watching the video, this dim-witted duo morph into The Numb Chucks!

Beyraiderz: Sho, Jin and Leon find themselves trapped in a strange world that was once defended by the six mythic beasts that have now all but disappeared, leaving the world in ruins. It’s now up to the trio to uncover the hidden BeyRaiderz stadiums, fight the tourneys and bring the beasts back...

According to Eyers, “The transformation is like with any other business model that works on a long-term perspective. All businesses must look at themselves every couple of years with respect to the current market environment.”

OTT content

Cartoon Network has always had unique content for the digital platform which compliments television content, be it shorts or games or extensions of the storytelling from the primary channel. “The viewer needs to have a compelling experience in the digital space that should leave him/her wanting to come back for more,” says Eyers.

Here’s looking at the new originals that the OTT service of Cartoon Network will be showcasing:

Angelo Rules (Season 2): For kids, life can be a daily battle, what with adults, siblings, teachers and rivals telling them what to do and what not to do et al. Well, it’s time for kids to take control and Angelo’s here to show the way! He observes and then comes up with elaborate strategies to wheedle, sweet-talk, con, and work around any adversary. Season two of this new series comes from TeamTo and Cake Entertainment.

Detentionaire: Framed for a prank he did not play and punished with a full year of detention, high schooler Lee Ping sneaks out of detention to try and expose who was really behind the prank while avoiding being caught by the principal Barrage. After clearing his name, Lee again attempts to sneak out of Barrage's upgraded detention room, discovering that a strange pyramid under the school has something to do with Lee's key, the parents’ council and the blue tazwurms. There is more to the school than meets the eye! Created by animators Daniel Bryan Franklin and Charles Johnston, Detentionaire is distributed by Nelvana.

Rocket Jo: Rocket Jo is an inventor-adventurer with the unique goal to get his jet-pack to send him flying in the air for good… without effect. But his valiant attempts are always a false dawn to the viewers’ great delight, as there are always failures, gags, explosions, falls, etc. Produced by Millimages and 2D3D, Rocket Jo works hard, drawing upon all his imagination, to make viewers, both children and parents, laugh.

These apart, there will be other returning series on the network including Adventure Time, The Amazing World of Gumball, Ben 10 Omniverse, Grojband, Johnny Test, Legends of Chima, Mixels, Pokémon the Series: XY, Regular Show, Steven Universe, Teen Titans GO!, Tenkai Knights and Uncle Grandpa.

The Future

Later this year, Cartoon Network will introduce a unique user experience to the mobile marketplace when it launches a new digital initiative called ‘Cartoon Network Anything’. A fast-paced micro-network, Cartoon Network Anything will serve as an ever-growing stream of fun and funny content for mobile phones and other small-screen mobile devices. Users will be able to enjoy games, activities, trivia and clips, each lasting an average of 10 to 15 seconds. These diverse pieces of content will be randomised, and fans will be able to move to the next piece by simply swiping their screens, resulting in entertainment that feels both immediate and infinite.

In addition to bringing a first-of-its-kind mobile offering to fans, Cartoon Network Anything will also provide unique sponsorship opportunities for Cartoon Network’s business partners. A perfect platform for native advertising, the platform will invite innovative advertising and sponsored content that suits the medium and feel organic to the overall micro-network.

“In today’s time and age, people will pay for the experience. One of the most powerful experiences that anyone could have is the gift of laughter or humour. And so for us, it’s more about being true to comedy and bring in that surprise that will continue to remain our secret and doubling up on unique, character-driven comedy on whichever platform we are,” ends Eyers.

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