Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s start 2023 with a big ol’ hot take:
Yeah, yeah, I know. hear us out. We used to be like you. Years ago, whenever the subject of Cartoon Network daring to air live-action would come up, our usual reaction was….
There was a time when we regarded the very thought of CN airing live-action programming to be akin to painting a moustache on the Mona Lina, but over time we’ve either mellowed with age or have gotten even more insane, whatever you want to call it, but we’re not 100% opposed to the idea anymore.
“But guys…CARTOON Network!” I hear you say, and yes, I agree. Cartoon Network initially pledged to air “cartoons and nothing but cartoons, all day, every day, until the end of time”, I get it, but here’s the thing: animated shows are expensive and take time to produce; unless your parent company has a HUGE backlog of cartoons to fall back on, they’d need something to keep viewers occupied while the new animated shows are being made, and these days CN like most networks prefers to run their older cartoons online as opposed to on the main TV channel. The reason that Nickelodeon and Disney Channel rely so heavily on live-action kidcoms (aside from the obvious fact that they’re popular with kids) is because live-action shows are cheaper and take less time to produce: Disney Channel and Nick can whip out 2 or 3 episodes of Lizzie McGuire or Bunk’d or Henry Danger or Game Shakers in the time it takes to produce 1 episode of Phineas & Ferb or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So there’s a practical reason to employ some live-action programming, even on animation channel.
Now it’s usually at this point that someone will inevitably point to Cartoon Network’s notorious flop programming block CN Real, which we covered here a while back in Keepin’ It Real…Real Bad!. CN Real was a turkey, no one’s denying that, but as Jason (Goldstar) mentioned in that article, the reason why the CN Real block failed wasn’t because they dared to air live-action, it was because they were airing the wrong kind of live-action. What’s the first word in this channel’s name?
There ya go.
If Cartoon Network were to ever start incorporating live-action shows and movies into their schedules, certain requirements need to be met. Live-action on CN could work, provided it’s the right kind of live-action. Reality shows? No. Those don’t gel with cartoon lovers, least of all kids; generally speaking, the only non-scripted shows that kids tend to dig are game shows. If a CN show isn’t going to be a cartoon, then it should at least be “toon adjacent”. Some examples of acceptable live-action for CN would be:
This kind of live-action could work, provided that the animation to live-action ratio stays at something like 70:30 or 60:40 in favor of the cartoons. It may or may not every happen, but if Cartoon Network is ever to open itself up to the possibility of live-action again, they should never forget their channel’s, name, history, theme and roots. If they really ever have to air live-action, it should be animated live-action.