Cartoon Network Was an Iconic Animation Studio — What Happened to It?

Growing up watching cartoons was a regular routine for many millennials, but Cartoon Network has changed. Most of the shows are on streaming platforms.

Jamie Lerner - Author

Feb. 15 2024, Published 3:54 p.m. ET

Growing up watching cartoons was a regular daily routine for many millennials, but now when we flip through the cable channels, one of our favorites is a little different. Cartoon Network used to be the be-all-end-all for the best animation programs, but now, it’s not what it used to be.

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Cartoon Network seems to be nearly defunct, although the Warner Bros. gods have maintained that it still exists. However, classic Cartoon Network shows, such as The Powerpuff Girls and Adventure Time, appear on more streaming platforms. The current network’s animation is tragically tame and we can’t help but wonder what happened to our favorite childhood channel.

Cartoon Network studio
Source: Getty Images
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What happened to Cartoon Network? It merged with Warner Bros. Animation.

We all know that the business of streaming has effectively ruined cable television since almost every household prioritizes its streaming services. Unfortunately, it has also changed Cartoon Network. The boom of streaming caused several mergers and acquisitions, famously including that of Warner Bros. and Discovery in 2022, when David Zaslov took over as the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery.

What does this have to do with Cartoon Network? Well, Cartoon Network was owned by Warner Bros. starting in 2001 after it was created by Hanna-Barbera. Once it was absorbed into Warner Bros., it remained a separate studio and entity from Warner Bros. Animation, which is a whole other production company.

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However, once Zaslov took over, Cartoon Network merged officially with Warner Bros. Animation in the restructuring of the studios, which consolidated the development and production teams. Audrey Diehl did the oversight for kids and family, while Peter Girardi ran the adult animation production and Sammy Perlmutter oversaw animated long-form productions.

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Even at that time, Cartoon Network Studios still focused on original content while Warner Bros. Animation was used for classic franchises. But on July 9, 2023, it was announced that the location of Cartoon Network Studios would be closing its doors. Likely to cut costs, the Burbank building, which held the production of all Cartoon Network series, closed its doors on Aug. 1, 2023.

Men dressed up as the Powerpuff Girls
Source: Getty Images
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Both CNS and WBA moved into Warner Bros.’ new Second Century building, merging even more closely together. And now, Zaslov’s effort to make more money by selling Warner Bros. original content to streaming services is stealing the focus over creating original content. Because of this, we’ll now see plenty of old-school Cartoon Network shows on streamers like Netflix and Hulu instead of Max, which is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery.

By doing this, the new conglomerate can make money through advertising on the streamers’ platforms while forfeiting the need to pay royalties to the shows’ creators. All of these factors have led to Cartoon Network’s downfall as we know it, but luckily, we can still stream all of our favorite shows on other platforms.

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