Animators say they are ‘clueless’ and ‘confused’ by sudden cancellations

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Ian Jones-Quartey was sitting at home recovering from SARS-CoV-2 when his phone suddenly started going wild.

Fans flooded with Twitter mentions of the legendary animator, who has worked on Cartoon Network classics like adventure time and Steven Universedecrying that the show he created, OK KO! Let’s be heroes would soon be removed from HBO Max. Jones-Quartey was puzzled; no one from HBO had contacted him about his superhero training show, which went viral on TikTok the previous week. And none of the other shows he worked on got the same treatment.

“We don’t know what the issue was with the airing of the show,” Jones-Quartey said. Reverse.

okay okay was just one of 36 programs removed from HBO Max at the end of August, 20 of which were children’s or animated shows. Some of these programs are available on other streaming services like Hulu (although OK.KO the episodes are in the wrong order there), while others like Aquaman: King of Atlantis and The show not too late with Elmo remain inaccessible by legal means.

OK KO! let’s be heroes had a devoted fanbase before being unceremoniously canceled.cartoon network

“Looking at the wide range of all the shows that have been pulled from the service, it’s hard to even see a dividing line between them,” Jones-Quartey says. “We still don’t know why some things were removed and some things weren’t. The whole thing is just very confusing, and there hasn’t been much contact with anyone.

Reverse spoke to three hosts whose shows were pulled. None of them have been contacted by representatives of Warner Bros. Discovery either before or after their show was pulled, and all were left “confused” as to why this even happened. WBD did not respond to our request for comment.

A complicated merger

“It makes it all seem a lot more impermanent than fans and creators of this type of art have been led to believe.”Cartoon Network Studios

In April 2022, media giants Discovery and WarnerMedia merged to form the new colossus Warner Bros. Discovery, finalizing a deal that has been in talks since May last year. David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery since 2006, has been tasked with rescuing the financially troubled company, particularly in cost-cutting efforts by cutting $3 billion over the next two years.

Soon, some of HBO’s most anticipated shows and movies were put on the chopping block. bat girl was unceremoniously dropped even though it was mostly complete with nine-figure private production budgets. Variety indicated that he should use the projects as tax deductions.

“It’s not like you get paid residuals on a tweet mentioning your show name three years ago.”

Warner Bros. Discovery has yet to confirm why any of these programs were canceled or removed, leading to rumors and speculation. Does he want to save on paying creator residuals? Do underperforming programs get the axe? Or is it all completely random?

Either way, it looks like this move could cause the company to lose more money in the short term. Just days after those shows were scrapped, Warner Bros. Discovery lost $20 billion in marketing cap.

Animation Devastation

“We don’t know how the show being available to people was a problem in any way.”Cartoon Network Studios

Hosts whose projects have been canceled are worried about what this means for the future of streaming-only properties. Owen Dennis, who created infinite trainpublished a blog post shortly after it went public, speculating on what might have happened.

“It worries me. I think it worries most people, fans and creators alike,” Dennis said. Reverse. “It makes it all seem a lot more impermanent than fans and creators of this type of art have been led to believe.”

infinite train started as an online pilot on Cartoon Network’s YouTube page in 2016, but became so popular that in 2019 it was greenlit as a series that ran for four seasons. The anthology series follows a group of young people as they travel in the carriages of an endless train, learning lessons about themselves along the way. Although it had a tough development cycle and moved from Cartoon Network to HBO Max midway through the series, infinite train has always remained quite popular with a devout fanbase. In 2020, he was the fourth most-watched HBO Max Original on the platform, according to Observer.

infinite train and all of his social media has been removed from the web. cartoon network

Even compared to the other shows deleted from HBO Max, infinite trainThe treatment seems particularly petty. All of his social media posts, his Spotify soundtrack, and even the original YouTube pilot disappeared when the show disappeared from the streaming service. (You can still find trailers for other deleted shows on Cartoon Network’s YouTube page.)

“I’ve never seen this before, not even in cases where shows have been removed from various streaming sites due to some kind of controversy,” Dennis says. “It’s not like you get paid residuals on a tweet mentioning your show’s name three years ago. I don’t really know what the endgame is here because I’ve never seen anything like it before.

HBO was once the high-profile entertainment option, where dragons could conquer Westeros, sopranos could get hit, or a New York columnist could talk about their love life. But in a bloated market where every network seems to have its share in the streaming wars, that quality is struggling to keep up.

“Being a launch title for HBO Max was something I wore as a badge of honor at the time,” Powerful Master Swords says creator Kyle Carrozza. “I’m sad to see it go from there, but it’s hard to take it so personally when the show got scrapped with my big favorites.”

Powerful Master Swords started out as a few digital shorts about a fantasy kingdom with magical weapons and eventually became a two-season show on Cartoon Network. It did not have the same popularity as other shows, with Carrozza saying that “it certainly wasn’t a big hit”. However, its deletion was a surprise.

“Did they really think people were going to be cool with that?” Carrozza asks. “I understand branding, but I don’t see what was to be gained by removing content, thereby removing the value of a streaming service, with nothing to replace it.”

The downfall of animation?

“I’m sad to see it go from there, but it’s hard to take it so personally when the show got scrapped with my big favorites.”Cartoon Network Studios

The impermanence of these shows is not just worrisome to their creators but rather to the industry as a whole. Individual animators who have spent years on these projects have no more work to show on their portfolios. Animation studios could also begin to cut spending – a domino effect caused by a seemingly less eager market for this type of content. Paying dozens of artists to string together hundreds of different images until they create an animated image is expensive and time-consuming, especially compared to reality TV which made Discovery a powerhouse.

Animation has already suffered a lot in the streaming wars. Netflix canceled several projects after one season and recently ended production on four different anime projects before they were even released, according to Variety.

“Animation doesn’t have much value for the current businessman in charge,” says Carrozza. “Animation has survived worse than this, but think the outrage is warranted.”

Although this state of affairs may seem daunting, the animation industry often goes through ups and downs. During World War II, Disney had to create movies for the US military just to avoid bankruptcy. The 80s brought a cavalcade of cheaply produced movie shows to sell toys. It could just be another lull.

“I strongly believe that the future of animation is also bright,” says Dennis. “I think there are a lot of signs that the medium is maturing and changing and becoming much more diverse in what it offers.”

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