Warner Bros. TV Group fired 82 employees from its animation, scripted and unscripted divisions on Wednesday. A Warner Bros. representative confirmed this to Polygon. 43 positions will be vacant. Warner Bros. will continue to use the three brands. While the three brand labels Warner Bros. Animation (WBA), Cartoon Network Studios(CNS) and Hanna-Barbera Studios Europe (HANNA-Barbera Studios Europe) will still be distinct, WBA development and production teams for CNS will now be part of one division.
Deadline reports that Warner Bros. also reversed its decision to close the Warner Bros. Television Workshop. This workshop was created to foster new talent and provide a platform for those who are marginalized to enter a highly competitive industry. The workshop will move to Discovery’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Unit.
Cartoon Network Studios’ changes come at a moment when it is becoming increasingly difficult to find some of its cartoons and watch them. These cuts come on the heels Discovery’s acquisition Warner Media from AT&T. HBO Max, Discovery Plus and Discovery will become one streaming service by 2023. David Zaslav, the CEO of Discovery, took over in April and promised to reduce $3 billion. He’s been aggressive in his pursuit to do so.
Zaslav fulfilled his promise, primarily in the genre entertainment area. Discovery laid off 14% HBO Max employees in August and cancelled the Batgirl movie. In August, HBO Max removed beloved cartoons, blinding their creators. Several Sesame Street episodes were removed from the streaming platform. Other shows were also taken off, including OK K.O. Let’s Be Heroes and Infinity Train, which ran four seasons, are no longer being aired on Cartoon Network. It can be found on other streaming platforms, however. You can still find other shows on Cartoon Network like Victor and Valentino, even though they aren’t available on HBO’s streaming services.
Variety reports that “output will stay the same” after WNA and CNS consolidating. However, the reaction from the animation industry denizens has not been as positive. Cartoon Brew called the studio “gone” and prompted a Cartoon Network employee to respond. Polygon spoke with a Warner Bros. representative, who confirmed that CNS was not going away and that there are still many projects in the works. How this joint division will decide its priorities is the real question. This depends on what viewers watch and what the company considers profitable.
Most importantly, it is easy to see the differences between each animation studio’s back catalog. This difference is something many of us who grew-up watching Cartoon Network’s cartoon blocks can easily recognize, even before consolidation and layoffs. It is difficult to predict how these studios will merge, especially since so many talented employees have been laid off.
Warner Bros. WBA Animation created many great animated films, particularly in the 1950s-1960s. These included Tom & Jerry and Wile E. Coyote, the Road Runner and The Flintstones. Scooby-Doo and Looney Tunes. WBA has stuck to the same formula over the years. They rehash and rehash their classic IPs and broadcast them on Cartoon Network. As a child, I tuned in to see versions of Scooby-Doo and Looney Tunes. These characters are still available to me as an adult, and not just on reruns.
Warner Bros. Animation may feel like a symbol of the past but Cartoon Network Studios has produced many groundbreaking shows that have stood the test of age. There are many reboots. These include the popular Cartoon Network series of late ’90s/early 2000s shows like Powerpuff Girls, and several iterations Ben 10. There are bangers, and plenty of paradigm-shifting programming. These include shows that established the all-girl team (Powerpuff Girls), as well as shows that took cues form anime like Samurai Jack. Cartoon Network’s Toonami block introduced many children in the U.S. anime before it was popularized in Western audiences. It also aired Pokemon for many decades.
CNS was also among the few animation studios that featured queer characters in the decade of 2010, especially the sapphic romances. This helped lay the foundation for future animated shows. Adventure Time debuted in 2010, and ran 10 seasons. It was only recently that it was able to redeem the “Bubbline” romance between Princess Bubblegum, Marceline, and they later slept in Marceline’s shirt in the 2018 finale. Steven Universe, a queer cartoon that debuted in 2013, would be one of the most loved and influential. It featured a cast of nonbinary Crystal Gems and many gay characters.
These Cartoon Network Studio giants are responsible for the steady stream of LGBTQ+ animated TV that is now available on streaming services. Warner Bros.’ Velma is a Lesbian! This would have been impossible years ago, even though Hayley Kiyoko, also known as “Lesbian Jesus”, portrayed her in the made for television films that aired 2009 and 2010.
Although CNS is still in existence after the consolidation, layoffs can still have serious consequences. According to The Daily Beast in August, many of the HBO Max executives who were laid off were people of color. Ex-Wordbros. employees suggested to The Daily Beast that this was due to an ideological shift. Content was geared towards a more diverse audience and less “Middle America.” We are now witnessing changes at an animation studio that is known for its forward-thinking programming. It is unclear how WBA and CNS will collaborate – or if memorable, envelope-pushing cartoons will continue to be a priority for a conglomerate whose philosophy is based on reality entertainment.