Oct 302013
 
DC Comics in the 70s, at its one-time Rockefeller Plaza location. From "Justice League of America" (vol. 1) #123, Oct. 1975.

DC Comics in the 70s, at its one-time Rockefeller Plaza location. From “Justice League of America” (vol. 1) #123, Oct. 1975.

On Tuesday came news that DC Comics, who’s been based in the nation’s publishing capital of New York City since its founding in the 1930s, is shutting down its Big Apple headquarters in 2015. At that point, they’ll relocate to southern California to join its recently-created parent company, DC Entertainment (a subsidiary of Time-Warner). More on this development in this Comics Alliance article.

One one hand, I can see why DC might want to relocate to California. It’ll be near its Time-Warner brethren, both the lucrative movie/TV divisions of Warner Bros. and the rest of DC Entertainment. DCE’s digital comics side (and other operations) have already been based in California for the past few years, so could see the allure of keeping the print side there, as well. Modern technology also means DC’s various writers/artists being able to live just about anywhere and still do their jobs. There’s also precedent for major comic companies not being based in New York/out on the west coast, such as Dark Horse Comics, located in a suburb of Portland, Oregon.

On the other hand, besides the loss of tradition, New York’s also the home of the nation’s publishing industry, as much as it’s being rocked by digital lately. DC’s rival, Marvel, seems to be staying put in New York for the time being. There’s also the disruption that moving will cause to various DC staffers who might be faced with the choice whether or not to move 3,000 miles. Additionally, this would seem to fuel the idea that DC’s traditional print comic side isn’t really important to Time-Warner (or DC Entertainment) beyond two functions: maintaining the trademarks on DC’s vast library of characters, and generating story/character ideas to turn into more lucrative movies, cartoons, etc. To that end, if Time-Warner could figure out how to achieve those two functions without having to print a zillion Bat-books each month, seeing the print side of DC someday reduced or outright shut down might not be too far-fetched an idea. DC’s non-DCU digital comic line is already turning out decent, all-ages stories without the need for expensive, massive crossovers, while using versions of the characters the general public would actually recognize.

Finally, a move to southern California puts DC Comics under the more direct eye of DC Entertainment/Time-Warner in general. Granted, this factors in Warners’ historical bean-counter attitudes toward cartoons (dating back to the “Termite Terrace” days of the Looney Tunes), as well as their lack of corporate synergy versus rivals Disney. DC Comics’ print side of things being based in California (presumably on Warner Bros. property) might mean DC can’t get away with some of its recent “wacky antics” regarding certain issues (its current high staff turnover, some issues concerning diversity/minorities, some of their storylines’ tones, etc.). Or so one might hope, anyway. It’ll be interesting to see what ultimately happens to the new California-based DC Comics.

Oct 092013
 

SpongeBob SquarePantsAs we all know, DC Comics (and their parent company Time-Warner) rely heavily on Batman like a crutch. In a previous post, I wrote that by my count, about 42% of DC’s “New 52″ comics tie into Batman (or a Batman-related character, setting, etc.) in some way, shape or form. Not to mention the large number of Batman-related TV cartoons and forcing the Dark Knight into what’s supposed to be a Superman sequel.

But it turns out that there’s one company that’s even more one-note than DC/Time-Warner when it comes to excessive reliance on a single franchise. According to Deadline.com, “SpongeBob SquarePants” currently makes up a whopping 45% of Nickelodeon’s lineup, up from a “mere” 25% in January 2012. The article notes that Nickelodeon’s ratings, which had slid off a few years ago, are now up, largely thanks to:

  • The aforementioned heavy reliance on SpongeBob.
  • Nickelodeon airing its most popular Nick Jr. shows (“Dora the Explorer,” etc.) on Nickelodeon-proper instead of on sister channel Nick Jr.
  • The recent loss of Viacom-related programming on Netflix, when Viacom moved its shows to the less-popular Amazon Prime. This meant that kids who wanted to watch SpongeBob, Dora and company would be more likely to tune into the actual TV network.

The CEO of Nickelodeon claims that its new shows (such as the new “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” cartoon) are the reason for its ratings rise. Given that half the network’s programming is “SpongeBob,” however, that claim seems iffy (as successful as TMNT has been). Perusing the most recent ratings for Nickelodeon, only 13 of the top 50 programs (26%) for the week of September 23-29 aren’t “SpongeBob”; the only three programs in the top 25 that aren’t “SpongeBob” are “Sanjay and Craig,” TMNT, and live-action sitcom “Sam & Cat.” Though it also might explain why “The Fairly OddParents” is still on, if Nickelodeon has few major hits outside of SpongeBob to rely on.

As the article notes, it seems unhealthy to excessively rely on just one successful show to such a degree, especially given SpongeBob debuted in the late 90s. Even Fox’s Sunday night lineup consists mainly of various shows (albeit all produced by Seth MacFarlane), not just long-runner “The Simpsons.”

While this move’s been profitable in the short term for Nickelodeon/Viacom, I’d have to wonder what happens in the long run if SpongeBob’s popularity drops off—say, if Disney Channel or Cartoon Network came up with the hottest cartoon of the 2010s, just as SpongeBob was for the 2000s.

Mar 072013
 

Tiny Toon Adventures' Warners logosSome might recall the big merger between Warner Communications (owners of Warner Bros. studios) and Time, Inc. (publishers of “Time,” “Life,” and other magazines) back in the late 80s. After almost 25 years of “matrimony,” it looks like Time Warner is looking to spin off its Time, Inc. side, in the name of pushing its TV/video/motion picture side of things as future money-makers versus, well, print media like “Time.” Despite that Time wasn’t losing money, apparently the “print media is dead” meme, general corporate profit-mindedness, and a proposed previous sell-off deal falling through have prompted Time Warner’s decision.

There’s no indication what the now-Time-less Time Warner will rename the remaining company, if anything. I presume “Warner Communications” might be an option; it’s the name used between the early 70s and the late 80s for the Warner side of things. However, given media types aren’t particularly nostalgic/emphasize youth at extreme lengths (and that it’s been almost 25 years since they used “Warner Communications”), they’ll probably go for something more “2013.” “Warner?” “Warner Corporation?” Just plain “Warner Brothers, Inc.?”

On the comics and animation side of things, expect status quo. For animation fans, the animation studios, cable TV networks, and film libraries are all exclusively on the Turner and Warner Bros. side of the company. For DC Comics fans, it’s been under the Warner side of the company (and corporate cousins of Bugs Bunny) since Warner Communications’ predecessor “Kinney National Company” bought DC in 1967.

(Useless trivia: “Kinney” was a former cleaning services/parking garage company that for some reason expanded into media ownership. Warner Bros. until 1967 was run by the actual Warner siblings it was founded by/named after, though by 1967, only Jack L. Warner (the “J.L.” that Daffy Duck refers to in the Looney Tunes short “The Scarlet Pumpernickel”) was left. With the death of the old-school studio system, etc., Jack L. Warner sold the company to Seven Arts Productions in 1967, and retired a few years later. The merged company (briefly named “Warner Bros.-Seven Arts”) was bought by Kinney in 1969, and eventually renamed “Warner Communications” in 1972.)

Nov 132010
 

Teletoon Retro logoCanadian cable channel Teletoon Retro is currently running a contest (limited to Canadians only, unfortunately) to vote for your five favorite cartoon characters. Teletoon Retro is a companion channel to Canada’s Teletoon (Cartoon Network’s Canadian analogue), airing reruns of older classic cartoons, similar to the US’ Boomerang. In Teletoon Retro’s case, however, they seem to air a larger variety of programming than Boomerang, as well as put more effort into promotional efforts, such as this contest. Per Canadian content requirements, Retro also airs several Canadian-made cartoons (“Rocket Robin Hood,” “The Raccoons,” etc.).

The five characters with the most votes will each see a 24-hour marathon of their cartoons during “Boxing Week,” the week that Boxing Day falls on. (Boxing Day, which is on December 26, is a day-after-Christmas holiday the non-US English speaking world celebrates.) Finally, one voter will be selected to win a trip for four to see “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony” in one North American city. As for the poll nominees, there’s a large variety of classic characters, ranging from Bugs Bunny and Bullwinkle to Superman and the Transformers. (A full press release is posted on Cartoon Brew).

There’s also a running tally of the current top 10 vote-getters. So far, to my surprise, Bugs Bunny is in the lead in first place, followed in order by: Scooby-Doo; Optimus Prime; Batman; Spider-Man; Fred Flintstone; Tweety; Megatron (another Transformer); Inspector Gadget; and Bumblebee (yet another Transformer). A brief web search suggests the contest is getting some attention on a few Transformer fan-sites, which might explain three of the 10 slots going to the shape-shifting robots. Still, I’m pleased to see that the Looney Tunes are still popular enough to win two slots so far, along with the Flintstones.

Since I’m not Canadian, I’m not eligible to vote (or even receive Teletoon Retro), but for any Canadian readers, feel free to cast your vote in the contest; voting closes December 6. If I *could* vote, my five choices would be:

  1. Bugs Bunny
  2. Bullwinkle
  3. Superman
  4. Fred Flintstone
  5. Wile E. Coyote

I had a hard time choosing a fifth selection… there’s so many classic characters to choose from!

Finally, Time-Warner could learn much from how Teletoon Retro’s handled in improving Boomerang, which is in need of updating. Unfortunately, that’d also require Time-Warner to learn how to improve Cartoon Network first, a network that’s perpetually in third place behind Nickelodeon and Disney Channel in ratings. Losing the live-action reality shows and third-rate live-action movie flops (“Son of the Mask?” “Most Valuable Primate?”) and airing a more diverse range of animated programming on CN and Boomerang would go a long way. Additionally, fixing their ill-conceived, half-baked lack of corporate unity between the Warner Bros. and Turner divisions and bringing Looney Tunes (and/or its modern spinoffs such as “Taz-Mania”) back in a regular timeslot would also help, especially with a new Looney Tunes show now in production.

Nov 052009
 
After looking through online TV guide Zap2It.com, I’ve discovered that after several years’ absence from American TV airwaves, Looney Tunes is finally coming back to Cartoon Network. Not only are we getting a six-hour marathon of the shorts on Sunday, November 15 (from 1 PM to 7 PM EST), but they’re also being aired on a weekday morning slot from 11 AM to noon EST starting Monday, November 16.

I have no idea if this is permanent, or just a one-week affair. Still, the return of Bugs and company to TV is long overdue, and greatly welcomed (given I never cared much for “Tom and Jerry”, the sole old-time cartoon besides Scooby-Doo that’s still a fixture on non-digital cable TV). Perhaps somebody at Time-Warner is trying to build up excitement for the new Looney Tunes series being aired on TV next fall, or Turner and Warner Bros. have settled whatever money/rights squabbles they’ve had that prevented the shorts from airing (from what I’ve read online; what an idiotic way to run a conglomerate…), or maybe the ratings from airing the occasional LT compilation movie or the “Howl-oween Special” last week were better than expected.

Either way, good move, Cartoon Network—now if it could just get rid of those reality shows…

Aug 032008
 
Here’s a few items I missed the chance to remark on while I was gone this week:- More rumors of what the newly-revised iPods will look like. I’d assume Apple won’t be going with a “rotate the unit for a wider screen” bit a la the Sandisk Sansa e200 line unless they redesign the scroll wheel somehow or somehow make a Nano version of the iPod Touch…

- On the success of MeTV in Chicago/Milwaukee, Weigel broadcasting of Chicago is pairing up with MGM to bring to the entire nation “ThisTV”, which will be a national network airing on broadcast TV station’s digital subchannels as a 24 hour a day service, mainly running old movies and TV shows from MGM’s library. Or whatever aspect of it that Ted Turner/Time-Warner doesn’t own, I’d assume (thus no “Tom and Jerry”). Said service will also include children’s programming (i.e. cartoons) to meet the E/I requirement and (judging from the description) other non-E/I cartoons, all from Cookie Jar Entertainment (a big Canadian children’s entertainment company that makes “Arthur” and owns a rather large library of shows via various recent mergers, including “Inspector Gadget”).

Apparently MeTV will stick around in the Chicago/Milwaukee area alongside this new channel, but should be interesting to see non-E/I cartoons possibly return to the nation’s broadcast-TV-airwaves again on a visible daily basis (even if it’s shows like “Johnny Test”). Can’t imagine the newly-enlarged Cookie Jar just sitting on all its newfound media properties (a la Warner Bros. with Looney Tunes and various old shows, given the way it generally mismanages Cartoon Network and Boomerang)…

 

Mar 302008
 

A court has just given the heirs/estates of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the co-creators of Superman, partial copyright control over the character:

Ruling Gives Heirs a Share of Superman Copyright – New York Times

While this seems to settle (barring the inevitable attempt by Time-Warner to overturn this decision) the Superman lawsuit, there’s still the Superboy one to be settled—particularly whether or not “Smallville” is considered a Superboy series or just a show with, erm, “young Clark Kent before he became Superman” (which, well, is pretty much what Superboy *is*…).

While I still believe US copyright lengths are way too long (and could stand to be *shortened* rather than lengthened as the article infers could happen again in 20 years), it’s nice to see the heirs/creators likely getting some of the benefits (aka money) off of the Man of Steel’s lucrativeness.

Dec 312007
 

An article (Update, 12/30/12: article deleted) about CourtTV as of January 1st becoming “TruTV”, with various remarks “justifying” this move toward yet another cable channel becoming as generic and bland as TBS and TNT have become (“clear identities”? I suppose, if rerunning “Home Improvement” and “Law and Order” 8 times a day counts…). Of course, CourtTV/TruTV is also owned by Time-Warner, the same people who’ve managed to run Cartoon Network into the ground and generic-ize it as well (via running live-action programs and movies), so maybe their viewpoint on all this isn’t surprising.