Monday, May 15, 2006

Why Do Great Cartoons Die Young?


I'm broken up about the end of the Warner Bros. DC Universe, but what a glorious ride.. Justice League Unlimited is now over and as I look back to the early 90's: Batman Animated through the Superman/Batman Adventures to Batman Beyond and Justice League, I am smiling thinking about the vast body of great storytelling that has created nothing short of a comic book universe of animation. Hell, even Teen Titans grew on me.

Years from now, this work will continue to inspire and ignite new comic fans by reaching out to them in DVD and syndication. Marvel wishes it had something like this to compare to it, but alas, they don't. The only thing a tenth as entertaining is "Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends" and that is two decades old!

Warner always tried to build lesser shows into the mix but although Static and that Zeta project, had their moments, they were far to formulaic to hold a candle to the rich and sophisticated writing of the DC Animated shows.

Some ahole with great art design sold DC on a demographically friendlier Batman which while calling him "The Batman," ended up being more about the Batman's gadgets and a Reggae version of the Joker than any definitive version that the "The" could hope to imply.

So we will have an out of continuity "Legion of Superheroes" starring SuperBoy, a character that does not exist in the DC animated world. Like "The Batman", this new show will be good or bad on its own merits. But the magical DC Universe seems to be all but paved and painted to make way for more kiddie fare. As Timm and Dini hang up their hats and look back on their legacy, I wonder more openly why popular shows that create the buzz of JLU or Teen Titans die so young. Searching the web, I found lots of speculation, but the folks at www.worldsfinestonline.com seem to have the best understanding of why it ended and why we should be grateful that we got what we got.

Mayhap Marvel could steal the DC team and put them to good use, Heaven knows Xmen High School and Spidey MTV 3D failed to leave a serious mark. Below, Worlds Finest Online lets us in on some interesting thoughts regarding the unwanted, early death of Justice League Unlimited and Team Titans. HERE!

THE CARTOON INDUSTRY
How does the Cartoon industry work in relation to DC?If Warner Bros. and DC Comics want to make an animated series based off one of their properties, they can. If they want a new Batman cartoon, they can go right ahead. There may be some complications concerning character rights, legalities and media appearances, but it's fairly straightforward.


Is Warners dense for cancelling the show?Whether you want to admit it or not, Warner Bros is one of the most fan-friendly companies around. Just consider the fact that Justice League Unlimited was slated to be finished after the initial 26 episode order, and how shocked just about everyone was when an additional 13 episodes were ordered (it's especially miraculous given the sheer mess that network is in). Considering that the new standard for ordering cartoons has become either 26 episodes or nothing, and that it's rare to order just 13 episode given how expensive creating a series has become, we’re pretty lucky to get what can basically be considered 13 episodes for the Justice League Unlimited creative team to have some fun before heading on to other projects.

Despite the extras that can sometimes be lacking, Warner Home Video has also been very kind concerning getting the material onto to DC in a very quick manner. We received the entire collection of Batman: The Animated Series in less than two years. We'll have the entire Justice League series in less than four months. Same with Superman: The Animated Series. Plus, many other animated DC series will be completely out on DVD before the end of 2007, less than two years.

THE DC ANIMATED UNIVERSE
What is the canonical order of the Bruce Timm based DCAU?"Canon" refers to any set of stories which can be linked together as being part of the same continuity. It can be official canon (as confirmed by the creators) or personal canon (the choice of the viewer as to which they accept as part of the same continuity).

If you are a Teen Titans fan, and want to fit it into DCAU, put it first in the list as there is no other place for it. Otherwise, discard as being too inconsistent with the character of Dick Grayson. To some extent, it also would prove to be inconsistent with the character of Bruce Wayne, who, based on in his "Batman: The Animated Series" character, seems unlikely to allow Dick to run his own group of heroes in a public tower, in a different city, tinkering with equipment even beyond Wayne's own technology, with no direct supervision. They are kids after all, and Dick is his ward.



Series: Teen Titans (debatable canon)
Movie: Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm
Series: Batman: The Animated Series
Series: Superman: The Animated Series
Movie: Superman: Brainiac Attacks (unconfirmed placement)
Movie: Batman: Sub Zero

Series: The New Batman And Superman Adventures
Webseries: Gotham Girls/Lobo (debatable canon)
Series: Static Shock (overlaps with Justice League)
Series: Justice League
Movie: Mystery Of The Batwoman (best estimates place it in season two of Justice League as there appears to be a Kasnian crisis in both)
Series: Justice League Unlimited
Movie Flashback: Return Of The Joker
Series: Batman Beyond/Zeta Project
Movie: Return Of The Joker (debatable continuity position as it aired prior to season three, but does "work" better as an entire series cap).
Series episode: JLU: Epilogue




Why were Teen Titans and Justice League Unlimited cancelled?
Technically speaking, they weren’t. Cartoon Network simply optioned to not pick them up for future seasons. There is, of course, more to it than that, so let us explain it further.

The generic run for a show on Cartoon Network is 52 episodes. Even the networks acclaimed and Emmy winning series (Samurai Jack a prime example) end at this mark. Fifty-two is the magical syndication number. With 52 episodes, the network can sell off the show to another or choose to re-run it themselves for a few more years, raking in revenue on a show that had ceased production months or years prior.


Teen Titans was graced with an extra season to make it 65 episodes and Justice League Unlimited, which to Cartoon Network was still Justice League, made it to 91. Considering that both of these shows eclipsed even the networks mandate for a shows life just goes to show how successful these shows were. Lambasting the network for not continuing on with these shows is simply not the right thing to do, considering how generous they were with us.

But if Teen Titans and Justice League Unlimited were so successful, why end them?Everything must end at sometime. Yes, the ratings for both shows were remarkable. Yes the toy sales were great. But the ending of the show was not one or two factors, but five or six that culminated in the end of each of the shows. We don’t know the full reasons and probably never will.

The network could have continued the shows on into eternity; but in the case of Teen Titans, ratings were slowly drooping by a bit. The production crew of Justice League Unlimited was even getting worn out, and producer Bruce Timm commented on this topic in this forum ("Honestly, I'm almost relieved JLU is over (for the moment anyway). It was frankly an EXHAUSTING show to do, hard to write, extremely labor-intensive to produce, this season and the last especially...").

It simply made more sense from many viewpoints that the shows should end. End them on a high note, end them while the network can disperse the shows teams to other shows and most importantly (for the network) end it while they can still re-air the episodes for a few years.

We must also keep in mind that the focus of Cartoon Network is changing. Whether good or bad, the decision to end Teen Titans and Justice League Unlimited also made sense while looking at it through their new vantage point. This new vantage point is producing a wider audience and bringing in newer, cheaper shows and airing more movies over the year, both live action and animated.

Obviously this is no large consolation to the thousands of fans of these shows, but the shows are over. This does not, however, mean that with the loss of these two shows that the air waves will only have one DC toon on the air (The Batman)—there are many others in production or pre-production (see below).

What's LEGION OF SUPERHEROES?
So far, we’ve been told that a new show starring Superboy And The Legion Of Superheroes will premiere in the fall. Justice League Unlimited character designer James Tucker is the lead designer on the show and Bruce Timm has said that Mr. Tucker’s work “...kick all kinds of ass (he's still fine-tuning). It ain't JLU, it ain't Teen Titans, but it looks great. Personally, I can't wait to see "JAMES UNLEASHED" on a show all his own...”

What other shows might be on the horizon?At the moment, theres plenty of shows in the talks, but what will make it and what won’t is another thing. Possible shows:

Doom Patrol
Spin off from Teen Titans? Possible, little is known about it.

A New Superman TAS
Batman got one, so it’s not unlikely Superman won’t as well. Again, still very little is known.

The World’s Finest / Brave and the Bold
Another rumor that is more than likely going to remain as such; this series would include both Batman and Superman

Check Out more cool stuff HERE!

Update!

More on the new

LEGION OF SUPER HEROES ANIMATED!

From HERE!

Warner Bros. has provided The Continuum with a complete first look at the preview image for the upcoming Legion of Super Heroes animated series on Kids' WB!


The image shows Phantom Girl, Brainiac-5, Saturn Girl, Superboy, Lightning Lad, Timber Wolf and Bouncing Boy.
Series producer James Tucker, who was a producer on Justice League Unlimited, explained the look of the show for The Continuum.
"Artistically, the style of the show falls somewhere between Superman: The animated series and Clone Wars," Tucker told The Continuum. "It's definitely not anime-based at all."


Asked about villains on the series, Tucker said, "It's safe to say that the Fatal Five will be showing up several times, as well as a few other well known Legion foes."

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