Searching for the Next Breakout Animated Hit

Adventure Time Emmys

Networks experiment with unconventional development schemes

“The Simpsons” began as a toon segment on “The Tracey Ullman Show,” “South Park” got its jumpstart as a viral Christmas card and “Robot Chicken” emerged out of an Internet-only precursor. So it’s long been clear that award-winning animation can be nurtured outside the traditional pilot-to-series development track.

Such once-novel routes have become commonplace. Network execs and new-media honchos have made it a priority to root out the next big hits by embracing short-form and incubating talent in-house. But the process remains an inexact science.

That’s why Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, per chief content officer Rob Sorcher, are experimenting with the CN Shorts Program to breed the next big skeins. Sorcher says the program cuts the production timeline down and allows creators to avoid foundering in “development hell.”

The current program and its former iteration, “The Cartoonstitute,” have given rise to “Uncle Grandpa,” “Adventure Time,”(pictured above) “Rick and Morty,” “Steven Universe and Clarence,” as well as the Emmy-winning “Regular Show.”

“What we’re looking for in the end is that incredible spark that we think, ‘Holy God, this could turn into a fire,’ ” Sorcher says, of the artist-led program. “We’re looking for that cookie that we haven’t tasted yet.”

Fox ADHD, an online block slated for a July 27 launch, is also hunting for that elusive cookie. But the newbie brand, according to head of programming Nick Weidenfeld, is ditching the pilot process entirely and diving six episodes deep into a series instead.

“As much as I love ‘Family Guy’ and ‘South Park,’ this generation doesn’t necessarily want something so cynical, mean and ironic,” Weidenfeld says. “The things that you think are too weird or too silly now … those are the (shows) that should be contenders, because they’re going to speak to that next audience.”

Another forward-thinking group is Mondo Media, which has already made a name for itself with its slate of subversive digital skeins such as cult hits “Happy Tree Friends,” “Deep Space 69” (pictured below) and “Dick Figures.” The company, per veep of animation development and acquisitions Aaron Simpson, digs through dozens of online videos every day.

“We’re combing through to find the voice that can cut through all the clutter,” he says.


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  1. Corinne says:

    Well, I thought of making a comic book, and had in a long mind making it a tv-series… but cartoon, that I am not sure would work. And I have about 60 stories, none of them fits to be a cartoon show.
    Except for one where I want permission from the makers of Gummi Bears to create a new generation of them. that would be awsome, have fans of the idea already where I live.

  2. Terry Palmer says:

    I wonder what it takes to put together an all inclusive book/animated feature/video gamer/musical, etc. What would it really take? As a novelist part of my research is to shut up, get away from my writing, and watch. I love to spend time with my seven grandchildren because as young teens, they thrive with the pulse of what’s happening on the entertainment front, the music front, etc. Visiting with the local high school and church youth group merits similar results. They want to be entertained, want to be hands on like in gaming, or thrilled with a love story romance, or just sing along with new tunes or latest video.
    So how can I as a writer change my style of writing to answer or fit into this (new for me) opportunity? Enter Chronicles of Orm. Chronicles of Orm began as any other of my novels. Good vs. evil, the struggle of life to overcome adversity, then I stopped to listen. These kids wanted more and different, oh and now! I scraped my idea for theirs resulting in a wild fantasy/fairy tail five book series with as much interaction as I am able to pack into it. For example, what if…
    What if the environment around my characters reacted as if it could move and think and perform actions as a third character in each scene. that’s correct, as if the sea, wind, earth, etc. could move in tandem with the good guys to help overcome adversity. No orcs, no flaming dragons, no bloody violence(well, maybe a little), no sexual overtones, but still good vs. evil brought forth in a whole new way…
    I call this multi-media writing because color and music and poems/songs come with each scene. Chronicles of Orm offers power levels and healing stations for a gaming version and like GLEE, has much music built right in, a teenage girls dream.
    So this is my question. Is Chronicles of Orm what the animated societies are looking for? Please copy back with your questions or comments. Terry at
    Oh, and I’m not asking anyone to buy or read or promote, more to add to the discussion of what the next animated feature might look like.

  3. Ryan Daniels says:

    Here is their website —>

    It’s under “Flush & The Unflushables” {I just smiled even thinking about that goofy cartoon name.}

    Good luck fellas!

  4. Ryan Daniels says:

    About a decade ago, there was a contest held by Animation Magazine called, “The Pitch Party” & I remember these guys had hands down, the most clever idea for an animated series. Despite being the heavy favorites to win through fan voting, I heard they were disqualified from the contest because although they their cartoon series was geared for the “14-45” market & not for the “13 & Under market which was the rule apparently.

    For years I didn’t hear much about them, then not too long ago, I heard the creators on a morning radio show talking about the concept in greater detail & it still sounded hilarious! They even mentioned that there were fan clubs that formed both; domestically & internationally for nearly a decade, in hopes of it being signed. When they were asked what’s the delay was in getting it signed, one of the creators said he felt it was because they “the networks” just don’t get the concept. (Sorta like Seinfeld was considered at first) However, he went on to say how the show covers a broad spectrum of humor & how their story-lines has legs. The one creator mentioned on how they’ve created over 48 characters, as well as (26) 1/2 hour episodes written out. (Maybe the networks are more intimidated by them having so much completed?!? I don’t know.)

    Anyway, I for one, am hoping they get signed. It seems like such a completely different television show.that sound hilarious. Moreover, they both seem like fun, good-nature guys.

    Best of luck mates! I’m enclosing your website for ya’ I hope it helps!

  5. Frank Cromer says:

    And then they discovered a brand-new comedy cartoon hit under a Variety comment (right here):

    SEE “Crackho the Kiddy Clown”

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