Along with making Warner Bros. Discovery a less-diverse place overall, CEO David Zaslav’s latest bit of corporate restructuring is probably going to gut Cartoon Network and turn it into a shadow of its former self.
For understandable reasons, Warner Bros. Discovery’s move to fire 82 employees and eliminate 43 open positions from its Television division grabbed headlines when news of the decision broke earlier this week. But the implications of the company’s plan to merge Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios may be much larger than what Warner Bros. Television CEO Channing Dungey recently implied in a company-wide internal memo.
According to Dungey’s memo, Hanna-Barbera Studios Europe, Warner Bros. Animation, and Cartoon Network Studios will all continue to exist and be run by Sam Register as part of the company’s “new streamlined structure.” But the latter two animation labels will now share “development and main production teams,” which doesn’t exactly bode well for Cartoon Network, an outfit that’s traditionally been home to more original IP like Craig of the Creek, Victor And Valentino, and Summer Camp Island.
By pulling Batgirl, canceling shows like Raised by Wolves, and axing upcoming projects like J.J. Abrams’ unreleased Demimonde series, Zaslav has presumably cut some of Warner Bros. Discovery’s spending. In theory, the consolidation of Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios is yet another cost-saving measure that, ideally, won’t have an adverse impact on either’s ability to produce content. Looking at the situation realistically, though, it’s tough to see how two separate production branches that once had their own budgets could possibly maintain their old levels of output after being made to share resources this way.
Earlier this month, Cartoon Network’s Craig of the Creek and its spinoff Jessica’s Big Little World had their season episodes orders cut back by 50 percent. While both shows (and the upcoming Craig of the Creek movie) are still happening, the way they’re being pared back despite being part of one of Cartoon Network’s most successful current franchises feels reflective of things to come. In all likelihood, Warner Bros. Discovery intends to keep the Cartoon Network brand alive the same way that it probably wants to keep the HBO name around (at least somewhere, perhaps as a tab) on whatever platform HBO Max and Discovery Plus are about to become.