Cartoon Network UK 25th Anniversary: Previous Birthday Celebrations
Today (17th September) is Cartoon Network UK’s (originally launched as Cartoon Network Europe) 25th Birthday, so here’s a brief overview of the channel’s previous birthday milestones.
Cartoon Network UK’s 10th Birthday
In 2003, Cartoon Network UK celebrated its 10th birthday, during this era, Cartoon Network Europe co-production – The Cramp Twins was airing on the channel (hence the logo featuring Wayne Cramp swapping the letter around on the logo). During this time, Cartoon Network invested a yearly average of $100 million in animated productions around the world, which mostly included the United States and Europe. At this point in its history, the channel was UK’s number one commercial channel for children aged between 4 to 9 years old. For the 10th Anniversary, the channel had a special competition, also during that September, Codename: Kids Next Door premiered.
A few days before Cartoon Network UK’s 18th Birthday in 2011 (14th September) – a HD version of the channel – Cartoon Network HD launched, the night schedule also featured classic Cartoon Cartoons from the late 1990’s to early 2000’s. During this era, The Amazing World of Gumball was a brand new show and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien was airing, this was also during Regular Show’s and Adventure Time’s early days.
I think its great that CN UK has celebrated its 25th Birthday with a party and will have a special screening at BAFTA in London in a less than a couple of weeks time plus some clips of CN classics on YouTube, but I’m disappointed that there’s no celebrations on the actual channel, this is nowhere near compared to the amazing effort Cartoon Network Latin America has done for their 25th Birthday a few months ago and at least CN USA aired a special ident for their 25th Birthday last October, which CN UK could of aired. I’m aware that unlike Latin America, the European market is a lot more fragmented, and different versions of CN will have their birthdays at different times, but this could of been more of an European effort and not just a UK one, as most of Europe had the original pan-European version since the very beginning. Nickelodeon UK also celebrated their 25th birthday this month and had no celebrations on the channel.
In Latin America particularly, the channel has very high viewership, but meanwhile in Britain there’s a lot more competition in the children’s broadcasting sector than there used to be (especially FTA channels such as CBBC, CITV and POP) and the amount of children’s channels is disproportionately high compared to other developed nations, but in pay-TV terms and according to BARB statistics, CN UK still holds up against Nickelodeon and Disney Channel.
Cartoon Network UK’s 25th Anniversary: A Brief History Of The Channel
Tomorrow (17th September), 25 years ago, Cartoon Network Europe commenced broadcasting, it became Europe’s first television channel dedicated to animation, the channel launched only 11 and a half months after its U.S. counterpart and just like the original U.S. version, it aired cartoons from Hanna-Barbera’s animation library, which includes all time classics such as The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo!, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound and many more, plus the Tom and Jerry shorts from MGM.
Cartoon Network Europe’s oldest (publicly known) schedule that can be found on the internet (including TCM’s first night and CN’s first 24-hour schedule) can be found on the link below:
Also, a little bit of info about Cartoon Network before the channel’s UK/European launch on 17th September 1993.
— RegularCapital Cartoon Network News (@RegularTweetsUK) May 11, 2018
Cartoon Network Europe was the first version of the channel based outside the United States, a Latin American version did launch in April 1993, although that version was based at Turner’s HQ in Atlanta and to an extent, it’s still based there today. Cartoon Network USA had somewhat of a slow start, initially not every cable service carried the channel (it was available for those with a satellite dish), this wasn’t really Turner’s fault, it was just the reluctance of cable companies making long-term contracts. But when Cartoon Network launched in Europe, it took a different approach, the channel launched as a free-to-air channel available to all cable providers around the UK and Europe and anyone with a satellite dish pointing at Astra’s European satellite service. The first general manager of Cartoon Network Europe was Sue Kroll (now the Head of Worldwide Marketing and Distribution at Warner Bros.).
At launch, Cartoon Network Europe broadcasted between 5am and 7pm, it launched alongside and timeshared with another new channel from Turner – TNT Classic Movies, this was the precursor of TCM (Turner Classic Movies), which launched in the U.S. the following year. At launch, Cartoon Network already had rivals in the UK multichannel market, its biggest U.S. rival – Nickelodeon made it to UK shores 16 days earlier, Nickelodeon had the support of British satellite TV provider – Sky who still owns a stake in the channel today, Nickelodeon was already quite established in the U.S. and already had some original content, however, Nickelodeon had a slower but more localised approach to Cartoon Network and didn’t expand into other parts of Europe until later in the 1990’s, also Nickelodeon required a subscription to Sky’s newly launched Multichannels package.
CN’s other rival was UK-based TCC (The Children’s Channel) which was also available in the Benelux and Nordic parts of Europe and in France, it faced competition against children’s channel Canal J. It seems it was no co-incidence that Cartoon Network launched with a partial soundtrack service in French, Norwegian and Swedish, also a localised version of CN launched in the Netherlands four years later. Even though, CN was available in Europe, although it had quite a heavy UK focus as all shows were in English and mostly had UK focused advertising. In December 1996, Cartoon Network Europe became a 24-hour service, however most cable operators (as well as Sky’s analogue satellite service) continued carrying the Cartoon Network/TNT timeshare service.
Immediately after the channel’s initial launch, CN Europe was met with controversy on Continental Europe as the governments of France and Belgium prohibited cable companies from carrying Cartoon Network, as it was seen as an “invasion of American culture”, the ban was lifted. Turner’s news channel – CNN International has been broadcasting from London since 1985, so Turner already had an established base in the UK. On 26th November 1993, Cartoon Network Europe took part in “The Great International Toon-In”, where Cartoon Network USA and all six Turner-owned entertainment networks in the United States (that existed at the time), Cartoon Network Latin America and Cartoon Network Europe shared a marathon schedule presented by 3D-CGI character Moxy the Dog.
After a successful launch in Europe, Cartoon Network launched in the Asia-Pacific region the following year, which means, after two years, the channel already had near global coverage. The next stage in Cartoon Network’s journey will be one that will change the course of the channel forever. Over in the United States, the now Turner-owned Hanna-Barbera animation studio set up a new studio brand – Cartoon Network Studios and started to experiment with new ideas for the channel in a brand new animation shorts programme called “World Premiere Cartoons” (later became “What A Cartoon”), What A Cartoon spawned Cartoon Network’s original Cartoon Cartoons such as Dexter’s Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Cow and Chicken, Mike, Lu and Og, Courage the Cowardly Dog and Johnny Bravo. As years went by, Cartoon Network started to become less dependent on its classic animation archive and started to focus on more original programming, also the merger with Time Warner in the mid-1990’s further supplemented the channel with animated productions from Warner Bros. Animation, this included Tiny Toon Adventures, Batman: The Animated Series, The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, Taz-Mania, Animaniacs and the all-important post-1948 Looney Tunes shorts.
By the late 90’s, countries and regions started to have their own versions of Cartoon Network, where as the UK version (i.e. the original pan-European version) still functioned as the pan-European version of the channel up until 15th October 1999, a separate pan-European version was launched that summer which copied CN UK’s schedule (with some shows excluded and replaced), however after a couple of years, things started to differ. Also as a whole, Cartoon Network Europe started to diverge from its American counterpart in terms of presentation, by using an altered version of CN USA’s Powerhouse rebrand. All the movies from TNT were moved to a new channel – a UK version of TCM, TNT became a short-lived UK and analogue only entertainment channel.
In May 2000, Cartoon Network UK welcomed in the new millennium with a new channel that celebrates animation from the past – Boomerang (which originated from a programming block from the channel’s early days), this means Cartoon Network’s schedule was now freed up for more original shows, Cartoon Network Europe also started to make its own co-productions by partnering with European studios with new shows such as The Cramp Twins and Fat Dog Mendoza. In later years, came Robotboy, Spaced Out, Skatoony and Chop Socky Chooks. Cartoon Network UK started to air Japanese anime starting off with Dragon Ball Z, the popularity of Dragon Ball Z led to the establishment of the Toonami programming block, which led to a new channel called CNX in 2002 which targeted teenagers and young adults and featured productions from Adult Swim, action movies and Japanese anime. Less than a year later, the CNX channel was rebranded as Toonami and became more child friendly. Toonami started to move away from the action animation format and started airing live-action sitcoms, after this change, it closed a year later. In 2006, a companion channel – Cartoon Network Too launched, the channel acted as a overflow to the main CN channel and later focused on action animation, the channel also had a pre-school programming block called Cartoonito which later spawned the Cartoonito pre-school channel which launched in 2007. In 2014, Cartoon Network Too closed and Cartoon Network UK’s one-hour timeshift service – Cartoon Network +1 was reinstated.
The 2000’s decade saw an explosion of brand new animation from Cartoon Network Studios with Sheep in the Big City, Time Squad, Samurai Jack, Grim & Evil (later became The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy), Whatever Happened to Robot Jones? and Codename: Kids Next Door. In 2002, Cartoon Network introduced a brand new look called “Casillas” (Spanish for Boxes) as it was developed by design studio – Ink Apache, the rebrand was very creative and made use of existing archive footage of Cartoon Network’s animated shows.
In 2005, Cartoon Network UK (and the rest of Europe) introduced Cartoon Network USA’s “CN City” graphics package on its channel, CN City featured all of Cartoon Network’s cartoon characters living together in one city making it effectively one big crossover. The CN City era remains one of the most memorable eras on Cartoon Network and saw the launch of Foster’s Home of Imaginary Friends, Camp Lazlo, Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi and Cartoon Network’s most successful action-animation franchise – Ben 10. After CN City era, Cartoon Network UK introduced another rebrand featuring an arrow that heavily featured the logo, this era featured bumpers animated by British animation studio – Pesky. The second stage of the Arrow Era featured CGI bumpers developed by design studio – Stardust. During this time, Chowder and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack were airing on the channel.
In 2010, Cartoon Network UK introduced a fresh new graphics package known as “Check It” that helped reboot the channel for the new animation renaissance of the 2010’s, Check It is considered to be a modern adaptation of Cartoon Network’s original Checkerboard graphics package. This era saw the successful Adventure Time, Regular Show, and Cartoon Network Development Studios Europe first ever show – The Amazing World of Gumball, which had its world premiere on Cartoon Network UK in 2011. A high-definition version of Cartoon Network – Cartoon Network UK HD also launched in 2011. Uncle Grandpa, Clarence, Teen Titans Go! and Steven Universe later followed with another iteration of “Check It” – Check It 3.0. Before the end of Check It 3.0. The Powerpuff Girls reboot was introduced in 2016, followed by Ben 10 later that year. In 2016, there was a short-lived Check It 4.0. rebrand that only lasted a year. In 2017, the Dimensional graphics package was introduced, which is Cartoon Network UK’s current era, during this era, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, Ben 10: Challenge, The Heroic Quest of the Valiant Prince Ivandoe, Unikitty! and Apple and Onion premiered, and next month, the channel will premiere Craig of the Creek. Coming soon in the near future another CN Studios Europe production will premiere – Elliott From Earth.
This blog post forms as part of a continuing blog post series about the history of Cartoon Network, this post in particular, is part three in the series and will cover Cartoon Network’s first six years of the new millennium (2000 to 2006).
By the year 2000, Cartoon Network has already established itself as a content creator and also in most major markets around the world including Western Europe, Japan and Australia, the channel started to rely less and less on classic cartoons from the Warner Bros./Hanna-Barbera library and aired more of its original shows. The older shows moved to a brand new channel called “Boomerang”, the brand new channel was named after one of Cartoon Network’s first ever programming blocks, with the slogan “It’s All Coming Back To You”, Boomerang is a home for older cartoons and a “retirement home” for older Cartoon Network originals (e.g. the original Cartoon Cartoons animated productions). Boomerang launched in the United States on 1st April 2000 (April Fools Day) with a UK version launching the following month on 27th May 2000, after the UK, Boomerang spread to the rest of Europe, Latin America and Asia. Late in the previous year – 1999, one of Cartoon Network’s most frightening shows premiered – Courage The Cowardly Dog, the show was known for its dark and surreal humour; the show was considered a success and left a lasting impression on animation fans everywhere. Also in 1999, Ed, Edd and Eddy premiered, the show became one of the network’s most popular comedies and had a simple and relatable plot premise – three young boys with distinct personalities who scheme to raise money to buy jawbreakers, but their schemes don’t often go to plan. Both Courage The Cowardly Dog and Ed, Edd and Eddy continued well into the next decade.
Between 2000 and 2006, there was an explosion of new shows coming to the network and among them are some of the channel’s greatest shows, a few examples include, the dystopian action-adventure – Samurai Jack, Codename: Kids Next Door – an action-adventure comedy following an organised gang of kids fighting against adult villains, the funny and much loved Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, the frighteningly funny The Grim Adventures Of Billy and Mandy and of course – Ben 10 featuring the alien transforming hero himself – Ben Tennyson, also among them are Warner Bros. Animation productions including Justice League, Duck Dodgers and Teen Titans. In 2002, Cartoon Network released their first ever theatrical movie – The Powerpuff Girls: The Movie, the movie was a prequel to the series and received mixed to positive reviews. Alongside the usual American productions, Cartoon Network Europe started to contribute to the network’s output with a series of co-productions including The Cramp Twins and Robotboy.
In 2001, Cartoon Network’s first president – Betty Cohen stepped down, she was instrumental for laying the foundations for the network, but she resigned fearing that she will die as “the queen of cartoons”, one of her final acts was to plant the seeds for a brand new programming block just for adults called “Adult Swim” with one of its first animated shows – “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” being well into production. Replacing Betty Cohen was the Senior Vice President of Cartoon Network Latin America at the time – Jim Samples, he became the worldwide president of Cartoon Network, he overseen the network during most of this era and also helped to develop Adult Swim to what it is today. In 2004, Cartoon Network USA introduced a new branding package called “CN City” as well as a new logo. CN City era, along with the Powerhouse era of the late 90’s-early 00’s is a fan favourite. CN City was unique as it featured a set of bumpers featuring the channel’s cartoon characters living together in a town, the branding package featured 2D characters animated on 3D backdrops.
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