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Building A Better (Animated) Block

Today sees the second week of Cartoon Network’s DC Nation programming block, and we’re just three weeks away from the launch of Disney XD’s competing Marvel Universe block (which includes the debut of Ultimate Spider-Man). But are either of these blocks exploring and exploiting their roots as well as they could?

I’ll admit that I was left a little flat by DC Nation‘s first outing; it wasn’t that the two core shows were bad, as such – Although I was particularly disappointed by Green Lantern‘s animation, which felt like it was shown before final rendering had taken place considering the lack of texture on… well, everything, really, but that might just be me – but as a “block” of programming, it felt particularly slim. In addition to the two full-length shows, all we had were two one-minute shorts that had already been released online weeks ago to advertise the block, and the surreal sight of a real-life archer firing a boxing glove arrow. The problem was that all three of those felt more like ad-break filler than added content; instead of being events in and of themselves, they were broadcast in commercial breaks for the main shows, and without any particular fanfare of teasing (As much as I hate the animated bumpers that run along the bottom of screens during shows, I can’t help but feel that could’ve been used to tell viewers to pay attention during the next commercial break because Plastic Man was coming, or something similar), as if they were afterthoughts or filler.

We’ve still to see how Marvel Universe handles its schedule (The first week, at least, has two episodes of Ultimate Spider-Man back-to-back, which suggests that the Universe running time will be longer than Nation‘s one hour), but I’m hoping that Disney doesn’t treat its own shorts – Said to include masterclasses in how to draw the Marvel characters from Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, as well as looks into how the stunts and science of the Marvel Universe would work in real life – in a similarly dismissive way. And yet, I find myself worried at the lack of additional animated content that Marvel Universe is offering (Outside of its full-length shows, the only animated content seems to be Marvel Mash-Up, which re-edits and re-voices old cartoons for comedic effect); real-life documentaries feel like fun enough ideas to an extent, but also a way of short-changing the Marvel characters that aren’t already household names. For all DC Nation‘s schedule shoddiness, there’s something to be said for the idea of essentially launching all number of short pilots for new series in stealth mode (Its shorts include Doom Patrol and Super Best Friends Forever, as well as new mini-episodes of Teen Titans, any of which could easily be expanded to full-length shows if the demand is there), expanding the universe and establishing more of a presence in kids’ minds (and displaying diversity for the line, as well). Marvel’s Universe, in contrast, seems suspiciously smaller than the Nation, something that feels like a missed opportunity.

In the end, both blocks seem to be missing opportunities (Nation by not emphasizing the additional content, Universe by not using its own additional content to introduce new characters), but that almost feels like ungrateful nitpicking. Just think about how exciting it would’ve been, when you were a kid, to have something like DC Nation or Marvel Universe to look forward to at the end of the week? Never mind both, and on different days so you don’t have to choose. When it comes down to it, even in their current flawed states, both blocks add up to the kind of thing we could’ve only wished for when we were the target audience.


  • Muffinnblue

    nothing to see here except Graeme being  Graeme…. do yourself a favor and stop being an armchair quarterback

  • pDUB

    can we wait until Marvel Universe actually airs before we start analyzing it? and you’re right, this whole article does sound like “ungrateful nitpicking”

  • Anonymous

    Well the problem with both blocks is that they need more shows other than the two they got.

  • Top Cat

    Why don’t they just re-un the entire Justice League/JLU and Teen Titans series from the beginning?  4 shows = a 2 hour DC Rock Block.

  • Jorell Rivera

    If DC Nation is successful, I would love to see it’s running time expanded so they can air more shows both old and new, whether it’s the Superfriends, more recent fair like JLU or Batman: TAS, or even the Fleischer Superman cartoons. But for now I think they’re off to a good start.

  • Elias Algorithm

    It’s unfair to really judge it before we even see a full episode of the fourth full show in the equation. I’m warming pretty quickly to GL after today’s episode and was rather delighted to find that they’d adapted some old Mike Baron comics into a Young Justice Kid Flash ep. The shorts were weird but weird is good. That’s only DC though. We don’t know what Marvel’s block is really gonna be like.

  • Chuck Kennedy

    Wow, as a first time reader of you and your content, I’d have to say you come off badly. You contradict yourself and destroy the reason for this article existing in the first place. The inconsistency of your points renders this entire article pointless and I don’t anticipate myself returning for anything else you write.

  • Bass Guitar Hero

    The real issue with both CN and Disney XD is that action cartoons aren’t their bread and butter, but rather the more comedic cartoons–and in the more specific case of the Disney XD, the live action comedies are the big ratings winners.

  • Anonymous

    I think the Green Lantern animation is great, especially for a sci-fi setting. Of course its not very detailed, you can’t be for a TV budget/schedule.

  • Myxlplyx

    JLU 4 Life!    :)

    Green Lantern TAS makes me sad.   :(

    New two hour block format.  New episodes of BTAS, STAS, JLU and Batman Beyond for the win.  :)

    A guy can dream, can’t he?

  • AirDave

    Batman: The Animated Series is currently running at 8:30am on The Hub…

  • Coryjameson

    Both suck. The Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon is particularly stupid. 

    I guess children are getting dumber and dumber these days

  • Coryjameson

    And I would know as I technically fall under the category of mental retardation myself!

  • Joseph Howard

    Yes, because the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was such an amazing milestone of animation. And the hundreds of crappy Hanna-Barbera cartoons that weren’t Johnny Quest before that show was neutered by censors. 
    I can’t defend or condemn Ultimate Spider-Man as I’ve never seen it, but I can say that to pretend that children’s cartoons have ever had a period that didn’t have a huge amount of crap is either disingenuous or is misinformed by nostalgia.

  • Demoncat4

    have to admit dc could have used its block better by maybe having some new series to go with green lantern  and young justice  or better use the shorts as a test for new series. as for marvel universe. have to wait to pass judgement.

  • Williamslaolu


  • Anonymous

    Teen Titans runs in its entirety, 2 episodes at a time, on Boomerang. BTAS and Batman Beyond both air regularly on The Hub. So licensing wise I don’t think that’d even be possible. They could always through Brave and the Bold in there, although I guess its kiddie nature wouldn’t appeal to the teen demographic they’re trying to adapt (despite its excellent inclusion of minor DC characters).

  • Anonymous

    For one thing I think they should have DC Nation air later – as a teenager myself, they’re missing the demographic by having it on a Saturday morning. Saturday or Sunday evening would be a much better time to attract older viewers (which they’re obviously trying to do judging by the dubstep music used in every bumper).

    But I agree that the shorts need to be given a much higher status. For one thing they’re so short that it’s easy to accidentally fast-forward through them like a commercial if you’re watching on a DVR. What they need to do is devote more time to the block – maybe give the block an hour and a half but air the same amount of shows. That’d give them time to feature more shorts and perhaps some featurettes (hopefully more informative than the weapon-testing stuff). Then it’d feel more like a coherent block rather than two shows aired with different bumpers.

  • Josh

    The Green Lantern show sucks. If Cartoon Network really wants to do something with the DC block they should get rid of GL, add in two new shows and at least a half hour of minicontent (the shorts and what not). 

  • fred

    The DC Nation block left me wanting more. i think they dropped the ball. The marvel one looks fantastic but i think that is because ultimate spider man looks so good. 

  • Drhiphop85

    See you’re using logic…and this is the internet. Those two things do not go togehter.

  • Devon Bishop

    There does seem to be a little something missing from the block. The content has been pretty great. Young Justice has been stronger than ever. The shorts, while extremely “short”, have been fun diversions with excellent style and animation. I like Green Lantern but after seeing these episodes last year, I haven’t really been watching them now. I can’t wait for the first really new episode and I also hope that the look of the show will continuously improve. There’s just a superficial feeling that you get with the best programming blocks where it seems as though they’ve fully taken over the channel and that’s not present here. As long as the content maintains this quality though, I don’t think I’ll have anything to complain about. I thought DC/WB would take this chance to promote their comics (especially the age-appropriate ones and the tv tie-ins) and maybe promote some games or movies as well but that hasn’t happened yet. I hope they don’t waste this excellent shot.

  • David

    Yes, he can, and this is exactly that. A dream. It’s time to move on.

  • Brian From Canada

    Once more, Graeme seems to miss the point: the “block” is an afterthought created by programmers who just realized they can package according to brand. Warner’s already tried this once with a cartoon block of DC re-reuns on their specialty channels, if I recall correctly, so it’s nothing new except the commercial breaks — which HAVE to be programmed separately for royalties, I believe.

    After all, if it were part of the content, then DC would have to include it in international editions and they won’t: here in Canada, for example, we get both on the same channel, unless XD Canada (which is NOT available through all broadcasters) decides to recall all new Marvel.

    Personally, I think the programmers should have looked back to the 70s and 80s for ideas. In the 70s, putting two cartoons together got called an “Adventure Hour” that had one of the two parts rotate out to another when it was finished (i.e., Batman, Tarzan, Lone Ranger, etc.). In the 80s, DC’s Super Hero High used live action bumpers around that cartoon, with a pause in the middle for a Filmation Shazam! cartoon (the anchor being Shazam! for most people I knew).

    And the bottom line is that the branding doesn’t work all that well either. “The Hub” was created for Hasbro, but rating for GI Joe were pitiful enough it didn’t come back for season 2, while Thundercats had a long delay in the middle for its (probable) one season.