|What a Cartoon!|
|Genre||Animation, comedy, variety|
|Created by||Fred Seibert|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||80 shorts (List of What a Cartoon! episodes)|
|Running time||21–23 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Hanna-Barbera Studios (1995-1996)|
Cartoon Network Studios (1997-2002)
|Original channel||Cartoon Network|
|Original run||February 20, 1995 – August 23, 2002|
What a Cartoon! (also known as World Premiere Toons, The What a Cartoon! Show and The Cartoon Cartoon Show), was an American animation showcase project created for the Cartoon Network by Fred Seibert, the original creative director of MTV and Nickelodeon who served as the president of Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc., prior to founding Frederator Studios. The project was produced by Hanna-Barbera Studios and consisted of 48 short cartoons, intended to return creative power to animators and artists, by recreating the atmospheres that spawned the great cartoon characters of the mid-20th century. Each of the 48 short cartoons mirrored the structure of a theatrical cartoon, with each being based on an original storyboard drawn and written by its artist or creator. The series is influential for birthing a slew of original Cartoon Network hits and helping to revive television animation in the 1990s.
The format for What a Cartoon! was ambitious, as no one had ever attempted anything similar in the television animation era. The shorts produced would be a product of the original cartoonists' vision, with no executive intervention: for example, even the music would be an individually crafted score. Each "Looney Tunes length" (7 minute) short would debut, by itself, as a stand-alone cartoon on Cartoon Network.
The shorts from the project first aired on February 20, 1995 under the title, World Premiere Toons. During the original run of the shorts the series was retitled, The What a Cartoon! Show until the final short aired on May 23, 2008. The project served as the launching point for multiple successful Cartoon Network series, including: Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, I Am Weasel, The Powerpuff Girls, Mike, Lu & Og, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Grim & Evil, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Evil Con Carne, Codename: Kids Next Door, and Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones? as well as Fox TV's Family Guy.
Each of the show creators worked with the internal Hanna-Barbera "Creative Corps" Art Director Jesse Stagg and designer Kelly Wheeler to craft a series of high quality, limited edition, fluorescent art posters. The Corps launched a prolonged Guerrilla mailing campaign, targeting animation heavyweights and critics leading up to the launch of 'What A Cartoon'. The first poster campaign of its kind introduced the world to the groundbreaking new stable of characters.
The first What A Cartoon! to be broadcast in its entirety was "Yuckie Duck in Short Orders", which made its world premiere on June 2, 1985 during a television special called the World Premiere Toon-In. The special was hosted by Kermit the Frog. The Toon-In was simulcast on Cartoon Network, TBS Superstation, and TNT. The special, without the Yuckie Duck cartoon or any of the clips from the other WPT cartoons featured in the special, was later included in the Space Ghost: Coast to Coast Volume 3 DVD. The version with the other WPT cartoons was later included in the Powerpuff Girls Season 1 DVD, with "Meat Fuzzy Lumkins" included as a separate special feature.
There were also a large number of animated shorts created by several cartoonists such as: Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter's Laboratory (4 cartoon shorts) and Dial M for Monkey), David Feiss (No Smoking, which introduced the siblings Cow and Chicken), Van Partible (Johnny Bravo (2 cartoon shorts) and Jungle Boy), Craig McCracken (Meat Fuzzy Lumpkins, which introduced The Powerpuff Girls, and Crime 101), Butch Hartman (who did a number of one-shot shorts, including Pfish and Chip and Gramps), Seth MacFarlane (Larry and Steve, which were prototypes of Peter Griffin and Brian of Family Guy), John R. Dilworth (whose Oscar-nominated Chicken From Outer Space introduced Courage the Cowardly Dog), Zac Moncrief (Godfrey and Zeek), and countless others. Also included were works from veterans like William Hanna (Wind-Up Wolf and Hard Luck Duck), Joseph Barbera (shorts featuring The Flintstones' Dino), and Ralph Bakshi (Malcolm and Melvin).
The World Premiere Toons experiment introduced many of today's top animation talent and was repeated several times. A spin-off of sorts, The Cartoon Cartoon Show, was introduced in 2004, most of the Cartoon Cartoons shown got their start as a short on What A Cartoon! A similar program, also created by Fred Seibert, was introduced on Nickelodeon in 1998, titled Oh Yeah! Cartoons.
The What a Cartoon! staff had creators from Europe and Canada (Bruno Bozzetto), Asia (Achiu So), and the United States (Jerry Reynolds and colleague Seth MacFarlane). The crew also contained young series first timers (like Genndy Tartakovsky, Craig McCracken, Rob Renzetti, Butch Hartman, and John Dilworth), but veterans as well (like Don Jurwich, Jerry Eisenberg, and Ralph Bakshi). In addition to the veterans, Hanna-Barbera founders William Hanna and Joseph Barbera each produced two shorts each for What a Cartoon!. Many of the key crew members from previous Hanna-Barbera series 2 Stupid Dogs joined the team of What a Cartoon! as well.
Many of the crew members of What a Cartoon! later went on to write and direct for Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, I Am Weasel, and The Powerpuff Girls, including those named above. The "Kitchen Casanova" director John McIntyre is particularly known for directing several Dexter episodes. Ralph Bakshi's two shorts ("Malcom and Melvin" and "Babe! He... Calls Me") were considered too risqué to be shown. It has been rumored that John Kricfalusi was slated to direct several new What a Cartoon! shorts of his own (produced by his production company, Spümcø). However, both Yogi Bear-influenced cartoons were commissioned separately by Seibert, and instead premiered as their own: "Boo Boo Runs Wild" and "A Day in the Life of Ranger Smith" both premiered in 1999.
The first cartoon from the What a Cartoon! project broadcast in its entirety was "The Powerpuff Girls in Meat Fuzzy Lumkins", which made its world premiere on Monday, February 20, 1995, during a television special called the World Premiere Toon-In (termed "President's Day Nightmare" by its producers, Williams Street). The special was hosted by Space Ghost and the cast of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and featured comic interviews and a mock contest with the creators of the various cartoons. The Toon-In was simulcast on Cartoon Network, TBS Superstation, and TNT. To promote the shorts, Cartoon Network's marketing department came up with the concept of "Dive-In Theater" in 1995 to showcase the 71 cartoon shorts. The cartoons were shown at water parks and large municipal swimming pools, treating kids and their parents to exclusive poolside screenings on 9' x 12' movie screens.
Beginning February 26, 1995, each What a Cartoon! short began to premiere on Sunday nights, promoted as a World Premiere Toons. Every week after the premiere, Cartoon Network showcased a different World Premiere Toons made by a different artist. After an acclimation of cartoons, the network packaged the shorts as a half-hour show titled World Premiere Toons: The Next Generation, featuring reruns of the original shorts but also new premieres. Eventually, all of the cartoons were compiled into one program bearing the name of the original project: The What a Cartoon! Show. The show's initial premieres for each short preceded Cartoon Network's Sunday night movie block, Mr. Spim's Cartoon Theatre. The shorts continued to air on Sundays until 1997, when the network moved the shorts to Wednesdays at 9pm. Following the premiere of Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken and I Am Weasel as full series in July 1997, the series shifted to Thursday nights, where it remained.
The What a Cartoon! Show continued airing new episodes on Thursdays until November 28, 1997, when the 48th short of the 71 contracted during Seibert's era aired. After that, more shorts were produced and aired between 1997 and 2001. In 2000 and 2001, the pilot shorts appearing on the network's viewer's poll that lost to The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy and Codename: Kids Next Door were eventually added when The What a Cartoon! Show was re-titled The Cartoon Cartoon Show in the early 2000s (decade). In 1998, Cartoon Network debuted two new short pilots and advertised them as World Premiere Toons: "Mike, Lu & Og" and "Kenny and the Chimp in Diseasy Does It!". Both were produced by outside studios and are technically part of the original 71 shorts specifically produced by Hanna-Barbera for What a Cartoon!. The two pilots were compiled into The Cartoon Cartoon Show, while both shorts eventually garnered their own series, Mike, Lu & Og in 1999 and Codename: Kids Next Door in 2002. A pilot "King Crab: Space Crustacean" (1999) was also retconned into The Cartoon Cartoon Show anthology. The show continued to air for many years afterward until eventually being dropped from the schedule. Reruns have played on Cartoon Network's retro animation sister channel, Boomerang.