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.