Cartoon Network held its Los Angeles upfront presentation on Tuesday, and the kid-oriented cable channel has embraced a strange if perhaps appropriate analogy for a network that predominantly caters to young boys.
“Our voice is changing,” said Stuart Snyder, president of Turner Broadcasting’s Animation, Young Adults and Kids Media division, which is one of those titles that must require a business card the size of a poster. The channel then proceeded to present an assortment of programs — including several live-action productions and reality series — that will expand the scope of its “brand” and depart from its apparently-too-constricting name, in the same way AMC and TLC abandoned their past designations. That means being less a mere cable network, as Snyder put it, than a “dominant youth culture brand.” Sounds great, until somebody has to sit the channel down and have a long talk with it explaining why it’s sprouting hair in new places.
So despite the logo, Cartoon Network will be less about cartoons and more about live-action fare, such as another “Ben 10” movie (pictured) and even hour-long dramas. There’s also a joint venture with the NBA for a series titled “My Dad’s a Pro,” a reality show about the children of pro basketball players. At the risk of sounding sexist, I can’t help but think that title wouldn’t have made the cut if mom was involved.
Listening to Snyder lay out the strategy, it sounded like the whole puberty thing is actually good news for young actors seeking job opportunities and maybe not so great for animators or fans of animation. Although I’ve seen this happen several times before, it’s always a trifle strange when a channel conspicuously backs away from a name that so clearly defines it — though AMC (notably, Cartoon Network chief content officer Rob Sorcher’s last port) has certainly done well enough with its expansion into series, shedding those “American Movie Classics” handcuffs.
Then again, Cartoon Network still boasts the top-rated series on all of television among boys age 6-11 in “Star Wars: Clone Wars,” which is animated, but still features more life-like performances than the past three George Lucas-directed movies did.
And in the “Thank God for small favors” dept., at least the channel hasn’t changed its moniker to Syfy.