With the recent disappearances of animated works on HBO Max and the cancelling of new shows (granted I’m working from what I’ve heard since I don’t have the service) has animation fans worried, I don’t think it’s because David Zaslav hates cartoons. He has no problem keeping Discovery Family, the result of a short-lived collaboration with Hasbro as “The Hub”, flowing with animated works. There’s also been talk that this and other decisions were done solely as tax write-offs but it’s hard to see canceling the race-swapped Batgirl movie as anything racist when Blue Beetle is coming out with a Latino hero that is actually Latino in the comics, plus a potential gender-swapped villain while the dad yells “Batman is a fascist” and both the director and the actress playing the villain has spouted polarizing sociopolitical messages. So let’s stop pretending the woke or lack of wokeness is factoring in here whatsoever, and that’s a message to both left and right. As far as the “tax write-off” theory…I’m not in the boardrooms so I don’t know what they’re thinking.

There have been concerns that Warner Brothers under any of the more recent names wasn’t doing that well and Zaslav’s people are doing what they can, but I’m totally not the guy to ask on that matter, so let’s get back on topic. What does any of this have to do with what’s going on with HBO Max’s animation library. Correct me if I’m wrong because I didn’t have time to research the new stuff, but isn’t Infinity Train for example a licensed show rather than a Warner property? Cartoon Network and later HBO Max only air the things rather than own it. Granted that doesn’t explain Batman: Caped Crusader moving to Amazon Prime while Batwheels is part of the Cartoonito section of Cartoon Network and HBO Max. I don’t understand what’s going on with the new stuff.

What I want to talk about here is all the OLD shows they have access to–older than me shows that seems to have fallen by the wayside since Cartoon Network started airing original material. Boomerang just airs a select group of shows–Tom & Jerry, Looney Tunes, and Scooby-Doo franchises with a handful of Cartoon Cartoons classics and the odd appearance of Popeye and the Flintstones seems to be it. And we only have Boomerang temporarily. Once our current provider mess is done it’ll be gone again. Cartoon Network isn’t much better, with any real variety coming from the “Adult Swim” block run by Williams Street Productions. However, with all the acquisitions over the years Warner Brothers Discovery has so many animated shows that they’re doing nothing with. Do you even know how big their library is? Well, Company Man isn’t here so I’ll have to go over the highlights.

He’s going to have an awful headache in the morning.

Obviously they have access to the various Warner Brothers produced animated works, but all they seem to remember are the Looney Tunes. They’ve flooded the market with DC properties, Scooby-Doo, and to lesser extent Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry (most of which recently has been “Let’s remake an old movie and just shove Tom and Jerry into it for no logical reason”). I just tried to google “Warner Brothers Animated Movies” and only like three of them didn’t fit into any of these categories. A number of their shorts also included war propaganda, so they probably want to forget about Private Snafu and other such shorts.

WB didn’t even really do much with television for years. Whatever Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies they still had (that is such a long story I’m not even going to go into the licensing game here) were released in syndication and on CBS for The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show and it’s spin-off Sylvester & Tweety/Daffy & Speedy. The only Warner Brothers animated shows of note to my memory were Looney Tunes holiday specials for CBS. They even cheaped out in theaters with collections of old Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies shorts connected, sometimes tenuously, into framing devices featuring either Bugs or Daffy that ranged from simple narration around a theme or a unique story like Daffy Duck and Speedy Gonzales doing a parody of Fantasy Island.

It wasn’t until the 1990s when they worked with Steven Spielberg on Tiny Toon Adventures and Fox’s Batman: The Animated Series (Steve wasn’t behind that one) that they started producing more cartoons directly for television. It increased when they got their hands on Hanna-Barbera’s library…and that’s where the real fun begins.

Apparently Top Cat was bigger in Mexico than he was in the US.

Hanna-Barbera was bought by Ted Turner to help fill out his new Cartoon Network. I guess Turner really liked cartoons. The original line-up had no original shows and yet somehow a more diverse line-up of shows than Cartoon Network today, who has original shows and should still have access to the biggest animation library in the world, with Disney being the only one to challenge them. Not that Disney really cares about their library but that’s another argument. First off, Joseph Hanna and William Barbera seriously embraced television as a place to show cartoons to kids. This continued even after Turner’s purchase but disappeared into Warner Brothers Animation, which is why they make all the Scooby-Doo stuff now. Plus they have so much variety you can’t even imagine:

  • Comedy: This can be broken up into smaller categories since you have your sitcoms raging from more traditional stuff like Wait Until Your Father Gets Home to the more gimmicky Jetsons, Flintstones, and Roman Holidays, your traditional cartoon comedy like Yogi Bear and his friends, comedic crimefighters like Inch High, mystery solvers like Scooby-Doo or Clue Club,and superheroes raging from parody like Dynomutt and Hong Kong Phooey to just goofy action like Atom Ant or Wonder Wheels. What, you never heard of Wonder Wheels? That’s because so many of these shows had gone down the memory hole before Ted Turner even came along.
  • Action/Adventure: The serious stuff. From superheroes like Space Ghost and Birdman before Williams Street got their hands on them, strange worlds like Mightor’s, Moby Dick The Super Whale’s, or Johnny Quest, and more grounded shows like Sealab: 2020 (not to be confused with the parody set a year later) or Devlin, characters got into trouble and had to get out of them. These were more serious, proof that animation didn’t have to just be comedies. This idea even brought the occasional show that doesn’t fit this list, like We Are The Days.
  • Licensed material they still have access to: A series based around Charlie Chan and his family, with Chan voiced by an actual Asian. Superfriends was created before Time Warner bought DC Comics. There’s probably a bunch of others but I could do articles upon articles about everything in Hanna-Barbera’s library that time (and Time Warner) forgot but there’s more…

Everybody knows that Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, the creators of Scooby-Doo, went off to form their own animation studio. Ruby-Spears Productions brought forth a similar variety of shows from comedy to action to superheroes. They created more comedic heroes like Mighty Man and Yukk but also had the license to Plastic Man, a DC hero who only made one cameo in the first season of Superfriends probably because of this show.

Action? They have the show to the left, Centurions, which was not based on a toy but the toy was hoped to fund the show. It only lasted one season. They also gave us two of the best shows of my Saturday morning: Thundarr The Barbarian and Goldie Gold & Action Jack! Many of their action shows were licenced though. In addition to an underrated version of Superman, Rambo (yeah, I said it–I loved The Force Of Freedom as a kid too young for First Blood movies) and Mega Man they gave us the comedic adventures of Richie Rich, the serious adventures of Laser Tag Academy, the just straight up comedy of Heathcliff (before the version most of you know), and even kid versions I can’t defend like Police Academy. I’d also be remiss not mention the ABC Weekend Special, an anthology of multi-part adaptations of kids books. One of them, “The Puppy Who Wanted A Boy”, even had multiple stories before being spun off into its own series: The Puppy’s New Adventures.

They also got along really well with their former bosses, even crossing over Richie Rich with Scooby-Doo as a programming block. So when Joe and Ken got out of the business they sold their library to Hanna-Barbera, which means Ted Turner had access to two of the biggest libraries in cartoon television even before Time Warner came along.

That’s three libraries full of stuff already and then you have all the stuff by Cartoon Network Studios. What have they done with these four libraries worth of material? Jack all. I could go over the full history of these libraries and stun you with some of the stuff that exists. Want to hear about one of the first all-black cast cartoons that was Speed Buggy in the future with detectives? Curious what Wonder Wheels or Mighty Man & Yukk are? Does the name Skysurfer Strike Force ring any bells or stir up curiosity? What about some of the Hanna-Barbera shows I mentioned? There is so much fascinating TV toon history at Warner Brothers’ Discovery’s fingertips and now three networks to show them off on–Cartoon Network, Boomerang, and Discovery Family–plus their own streaming service. (Is Boomerang still boasting a streaming service?) You also have on-demand with cable and satellite companies. A few of the shows mentioned here are up on Tubi or maybe Amazon Prime but not enough. They’re sitting a huger legacy than most people realize and they really need to start showing it off and acknowledging this vast storehouse of animation.

Just don’t start remaking any of it until you find people who actually give a @#$% about doing it right.


About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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