CartoonNetwork.com

Let the naysayers howl at the banality of Web sites dedicated to pop cultural phenomena. Some of us sleep better at night knowing that there is a URL out there where old-timers like Fred Flintstone, Scooby Doo and Daffy Duck can rub elbows and paws with newcomers like the Powerpuff Girls and Johnny Bravo.

Cast:
Rating: * * * * *

Let the naysayers howl at the banality of Web sites dedicated to pop cultural phenomena. Some of us sleep better at night knowing that there is a URL out there where old-timers like Fred Flintstone, Scooby Doo and Daffy Duck can rub elbows and paws with newcomers like the Powerpuff Girls and Johnny Bravo.

The clever branding folks at Cartoon Network have made sure the cabler’s site carries the same Wham-Bam-Gazoink! electricity of the average Hanna Barbera offering. From the moment your browser lands on the site, the pop-out colors blast on the screen, and you can hear Scooby’s infectious laugh greeting you.

The home page smoothly leads the curious surfer to the different sections of the site: You can choose one of eight subsites devoted to some of the outfit’s eclectic bunch, from Bugs Bunny to Ed, Edd and Eddie. Once you get to each character’s division, there are games aplenty, interactive matter, info and clips from the rich archives. Frankly, it’s hard to say no to “Little Red Riding Rabbit” or a game in which you have to help that wascally favorite serve the right food item to the impatient patrons at Chez Bugs.

Once you’re done checking with the eight CN pests, you can then go to the favorites section, a handy alphabetized compendium of sub-categories, dedicated to everyone from Augie Doggie to Yogi Bear. How cool it is to be able to access information and art about Papa Smurf and the Red Guy from “Cow and Chicken” in a few seconds.

Dedicated fans should dig the site’s Department of Cartoons, where it’s easy to get whisked away by a wave of classic storyboards, models and background art related to the world of cartoons. The virtual tour of Hanna Barbera Studios and the older archival section, featuring more obscure Tex Avery creations and yesterday’s stars such as Wally Gator and Top Cat, are also top-notch.

Since Cartoon Network was offering original Web-based animation long before Icebox and AtomFilms, one should also note the site’s Web Premiere Toons section. Although newer additions such as “Germ Town,” “Pink Donkey’s Coot Country” and “The Banana Splits” may be less known than the Looney Tunes gang, the quality of quirky animation offered here is right up there with the cable network’s on-air shows.

These cartoons carry the same brand of manic energy, and their kinder, gentler brand of humor is easily distinguishable from the ruder, cruder material on other, more adult-oriented animation destinations on the Web.

The site also gets points for easy-to-navigate sections devoted to the cabler’s daily schedule and easy access to its sister cabler, Boomerang, devoted to more nostalgia-driven cartoons, organized chronologically, so aging hipsters can easily turn back the clock to say, 1964, and check out the Saturday morning lineup from way back when they were toddlers.

In September, CartoonNetwork.com added a technically impressive interactive “Toonami” page. Dedicated to a different, more hard-edged anime style, browsers can play along with “The Intruder” and help plan his futuristic space adventures.

Nevertheless, the simple pleasures of the CN site outweigh the newer, more advanced features. Not enough can be said about the priceless joys of playing Extreme Pong with Scooby or watching Zandor and the cast of “Herculoids” discuss current affairs in the Web original “The Gloop and Gleep Group.”

CartoonNetwork.com

Production: Creative Director, Sam Register; General Manager, Jim Samples; Executive Producer: Pola Changnon; Launch, July 1998

Cast: Rating: * * * * *

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