Cartoon Network/Adult Swim President Addresses Concerns, Talks Future

When it comes to what's going on over at Warner Bros. Discovery as it looks to find billions in savings before launching its combo HBO Max & Discovery+ streaming service early next year, to say that there are a lot of folks concerned about the fate of animation would be an understatement. In particular, some see that the writing is on the wall and that the days are numbered for Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. With WBD announcing its intentions to pull back on kids & family programming and the merging of Cartoon Network Studios and Warner Bros. Animation under a single development banner didn't do much to ease those concerns. And that's where Cartoon Network & Adult Swim president Michael Ouweleen comes in, looking to address some of the concerns that fans have during an exclusive interview with Variety. "It was weird to wake up a couple of weeks ago and read our obituary as we were alive," Ouweleen shared, adding, "We've got more stuff coming next year than we had this year." Ouweleen also emphasized that Cartoon Network Studios and Warner Bros. Animation will still exist as individual labels and continue to be under the oversight of president Sam Register.

adult swim
Image: Warner Bros. Discovery

Now, before we get to the highlights, here's a listing of what was included in the interview as upcoming programming for both:

Cartoon NetworkBugs Bunny Builders, Sesame Street Mecha Builders, Craig of the Creek, We Baby Bears, Teen Titans Go!, Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai, Unicorn: Warriors Eternal, My Adventures with Superman, Summer Camp Island, Jellystone, The Heroic Quest of Valiant Prince Ivandoe, Iyanu: Child of Wonder, and Genndy Tartakovsky's Unicorn: Warriors Eternal.

Adult SwimRick and Morty, YOLO: Silver Destiny, The Eric Andre Show, Teenage Euthanasia, FLCL: Grunge, FLCL: Showgaze, Metalocalypse feature, The Venture Bros. feature, and Rick and Morty: The Anime.

cartoon network
Image: Warner Bros. Discovery

On Cancelling Shows (Like Adult Swim's "Tuca and Bertie"): "I was glad that we were able to give it two more seasons and be able to let that thing evolve in front of people. We're not looking to cancel shows. It's just we have to allocate the money we have in ways that we think are going to have the biggest impact and please the most number of people. You want to keep those creative relationships with people and see what else you can do."

On Cartoon Network & Adult Swim Being HBO Max's Main Sources of Animation: "The go-forward notion is Cartoon and Adult Swim will be the main source of animation at Max, and we're gearing up to share with them all the stuff we have in development right now. We talk to those guys every week, pretty much, and coordinate and plan our activity together."

On Cartoon Network & Adult Swim Getting Back to Basics: "When I joined the network [in 1996], to our minds, it wasn't a kid network; it was an animation network. We said it was for a psychographic, not a demographic. The best animation works on a couple levels and works for a couple of different audiences at once. And I think that's where Cartoon Network proper is coming back around to. The remit, I think, for us now is to go back to being the best animation across Cartoon and Adult Swim and serve the audience that is still there, starting on linear, which is adult."

On Having a Better Understanding of What Makes Cartoon Network & Adult Swim Different: "When we started Adult Swim, that was the first moment where we were like, 'Oh, wait, if there's a thing just for adults, what is Cartoon Network now?' It took us, I'd say, a couple of years to figure out what Cartoon Network was. Now it's more natural for it to be aimed at doing great animated shows for everybody at once. And linear still has a healthy adult audience." Ouweleen noted that moving forward, a show like Adventure Time (which pulled a demo-diverse audience over the course of its run) would be the inspiration for Cartoon Network moving forward.

On Keeping Cartoon Network "Vibrant and Strong": "We've [Ouweleen & Register] known each other for so long, and both see our responsibility as humans on the planet to make sure that the words 'Cartoon Network' stay as vibrant and strong as possible. Cartoon Network Studios is still a distinct creative entity and aimed at all the things that Cartoon Network Studios has always aimed at, which is unique creators… first-time creators. Building shows that are worlds and new ideas. Pushing the conversation forward in terms of animation."

On "Rick and Morty" Helping to Expand an Understanding of Animation's Power: "Sometimes people think we're niche, or think animation is small and don't understand the power of it. It helps having 'Rick and Morty' for everyone to understand. Like, oh, this can be big. This could be a popular thing. And we've been expanding Adult Swim globally."

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Ray FlookAbout Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought onto the core BC team in 2017.
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