Upfront: Cartoon Net Preps Bugs, Bats Refresh

What’s old is new again at Cartoon Network, as the kid-targeted Turner property in the coming months plans to reintroduce a host of familiar animated franchises.

As was originally announced during last year’s upfront presentation, Cartoon Net is updating the Bugs Bunny brand with an all-new Looney Tunes Show set to bow May 3. Joining the wiseacre rabbit are exasperated frenemy Daffy Duck, the perpetually underdressed Porky Pig, barnyard blowhard Foghorn Leghorn and (in CGI form) Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner.

The framing device for this latest Looney Tunes refresh is a Desperate Housewives/Odd Couple mashup. Per cartoon logic. Bugs and Daffy are roommates; the rest of the gang are scattered around the same suburban cul-de-sac.

Also in the works is a remake of the mid-‘80s Rankin-Bass strip ThunderCats, which looks to introduce a new generation of kids to the weird feline/humanoid alien warriors of Thundera. Cartoon Net did not offer a premiere date for the new show.

Thanks to a partnership with Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment, Cartoon Net will put a 21st century gloss on the caped and cowled superheroes of yesteryear. Set to launch in 2012, DC Nation is a multiplatform programming block featuring characters based on the classic DC Comics library, including Batman, Superman, Aquaman and Wonder Woman.

The first crime-fighter set to take a bow is Green Lantern, who will appear in an all-new animated series next year. Synergy and timing seem to have determined the DC Nation batting order; the live-action Ryan Reynolds-Blake Lively Green Lantern theatrical premieres June 17, 2011.

A franchise of far more recent vintage is getting the basic cable treatment, as DreamWorks Animation SKG CEO and co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg talked up a weekly animated show based on the 2010 3-D theatrical How to Train Your Dragon. Originally announced in October, the series follows TV spinoffs of DreamWorks titles Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda––both of which have found a home at Cartoon Net rival Nickelodeon.


Work on the series began earlier this year. While no release date was furnished, Dragon producer Tim Johnson has said he believed the show would be ready in time for a late 2012 launch.

In addition to the 13 new animated projects in the hopper, the net is also gearing up to unleash a live-action comedy. Level Up will hit the tube this fall as a 90-minute movie event after which Cartoon will prep a half-hour series for spring 2012.

Having gained some traction with its more recent series offerings, Cartoon is returning 19 original series, including Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Generator Rex and Adventure Time.

“Our commitment last year to build on the volume of broad content for our audience has paid off in solid ratings growth and renewed strength among our core 6-11 audience,” said Stuart Snyder, president and chief operating officer, Turner Broadcasting’s Animation, Young Adults and Kids Media. “We now have successful new shows that we can grow into the next big franchises.”

Cartoon Net’s new slate may be just the thing to reverse some recent ratings slippage. Per Nielsen, the channel will finish the first quarter of 2011 ranked third among all basic cable nets in its core kids 6-11 demo. In total day, Cartoon averaged 315,000 members of the footy-pajama set, marking a decline of 13 percent versus the year-ago period. By comparison, Nickelodeon was up 1 percent in Q1 with 692,000 kids 6-11, more than double (120 percent) what Cartoon delivered in the same time frame.

Cartoon also dropped 11 percent among total viewers (993,000), of which roughly half (500,000) were part of the kids 2-11 segment. That demo dropped 15 percent from the year-ago 585,000.

The Turner network claims approximately one-quarter of the $1.7 billion kids ad sales market.