On Wednesday, Warner Bros. TV Group laid off 82 staffers throughout scripted, unscripted, and animation divisions, a Warner Bros. consultant confirmed to Polygon. The corporate will go away 43 of the at present unfilled positions empty. Whereas the three model labels Warner Bros. Animation (WBA), Cartoon Community Studios (CNS), and Hanna-Barbera Studios Europe will stay distinct, WBA and CNS improvement and manufacturing groups might be introduced underneath one division.
In response to Deadline, Warner Bros. has additionally stepped again on its preliminary choice to shutter the Warner Bros. Tv Workshop, which was designed to foster new expertise and supply a pipeline that many within the animation trade have cited as invaluable in serving to marginalized creators break right into a extremely aggressive discipline. The workshop might be moved to Discovery’s Variety, Fairness, and Inclusion unit.
These adjustments at Cartoon Community Studios come at a time when a few of its cartoons have already develop into more durable to trace down and watch. The cuts additionally arrive on the heels of Discovery’s acquisition of Warner Media from AT&T. HBO Max and Discovery Plus are set to develop into one streaming service in 2023. After taking up in April, CEO David Zaslav, who beforehand ran Discovery, pledged to chop $3 billion from the corporate, and he’s taken an aggressive method to get there.
Zaslav has made good on the promise, and primarily within the space of style leisure. In August, Discovery laid off 14% of HBO Max employees and canceled the Batgirl film. Later that month, beloved cartoons have been yanked from HBO Max, blindsiding the cartoons’ creators. Dozens of Sesame Road episodes have been taken off of the streaming platform, and different exhibits have been completely eliminated — together with fan favourite OK Okay.O.! – Let’s Be Heroes, in addition to Infinity Practice, which ran for 4 seasons and is now not airing on Cartoon Community. (It might fortunately nonetheless be discovered on different streaming providers.) Different exhibits like Summer time Camp Island and Victor and Valentino nonetheless air on Cartoon Community, even should you can’t discover them on HBO’s streaming service.
In response to Selection, “output will stay the identical,” following WNA and CNS consolidating — however the response from animation trade denizens and pundits has not been as optimistic. Cartoon Brew declared the studio “gone,” which impressed pushback from a Cartoon Network staffer. Polygon spoke to a Warner Bros. consultant who stated that CNS is just not disappearing and that it nonetheless has many tasks in improvement. The actual query is how this joint division will set its priorities, which kind of relies on what viewers really watch and what the corporate deems worthwhile.
Largely, digging into every respective animation studios’ again catalog heightens the variations between the 2 through the years — a distinction many people who grew up watching and obsessing over Cartoon Community’s varied cartoon blocks may simply determine, even earlier than the consolidation and layoffs. It’s exhausting to know the way these two studios will come collectively, particularly after these layoffs have left so many proficient workers jobless.
Warner Bros. Animation (WBA) created some actual gems, particularly within the Nineteen Fifties-Sixties, together with Tom & Jerry, Wile E. Coyote and the Highway Runner, The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, and naturally, Looney Tunes. However through the years, WBA has hewed to this acquainted formulation, kind of rehashing and rehashing its traditional IPs and airing them on Cartoon Community. As a child I tuned in to observe variations of Scooby-Doo, Looney Tunes, and Tom & Jerry. As an grownup I can nonetheless watch these similar characters — and never simply by reruns.
Whereas Warner Bros. Animation’s imprint feels emblematic of the previous, Cartoon Community Studios has produced important and ground-breaking exhibits over the course of time which have additionally stood the take a look at of time. Sure, there are reboots, notably of Cartoon Community’s extremely well-liked late ‘90s and early 2000s collection, like Powerpuff Women and quite a few iterations of Ben 10. However there are additionally bangers and loads of paradigm-shifting programming, from exhibits that cemented the all-girl motion staff (Powerpuff Women, after all), to exhibits that took cues from anime, like Samurai Jack. And that’s to not point out Cartoon Community’s Toonami block, which launched quite a few youngsters within the U.S. to anime earlier than it captivated a Western viewers — and which aired Pokémon for a few years.
CNS was additionally one in all few main animation studios to highlight queer characters within the 2010s — particularly sapphic romances — laying the groundwork for different animated exhibits. Journey Time, which debuted in 2010 and ran for 10 seasons, was solely just lately in a position to repay the “Bubbline” romance that sparked between Princess Bubblegum and Marceline; the 2 flirtatiously met in 2011’s “Go With Me.” Princess Bubblegum later sleeps in Marceline’s shirt, and the present’s 2018 finale seals the cope with a kiss. 2013’s Steven Universe would go on to develop into one of the vital beloved and influential modern queer cartoons with a forged of non-binary Crystal Gems, quite a few homosexual characters, and a beautiful marriage ceremony episode.
The regular trickle of LGBTQ+ animated tv that may now be discovered throughout streaming providers owes a lot to those Cartoon Community Studio titans. Warner Bros.’ personal Velma is a lesbian! This could have been unthinkable years in the past, at the same time as Hayley Kiyoko (known as “Lesbian Jesus” by her followers) portrayed her within the made-for-television movies that aired in 2009 and 2010.
Although CNS does nonetheless exist after this consolidation, layoffs nonetheless have very actual penalties. In response to The Each day Beast, numerous the HBO Max executives laid off in August have been folks of colour. Former Warner Bros. workers purported to The Each day Beast on the time that this was due an ideological shift, with content material steered in the direction of a much less numerous and extra “Center America” viewers. Now we’re seeing adjustments at an animation studio recognized for forward-thinking programming. How WBA and CNS will work collectively is an open query – in addition to whether or not unforgettable, envelope-pushing cartoons will stay a precedence at a conglomerate with a philosophy constructed on actuality leisure.