November 21, 2015 posted by Jim Korkis

Cartoon Network Timeline: First Three Years

Remember when you were younger and things were newer and cooler because they were scarce? The world, even the cartoon world, seems to have spun faster and faster these last two decades flooding us with countless treasures.
In fact, it spins so quickly that animation history is getting forgotten as newer and newer accomplishments pop up every week.



As of February 2015, Cartoon Network (originally is was called The Cartoon Network) is available to approximately 96.4 million pay television households. But in the beginning it started with just two million paid subscribers and it was just wonderful that there was a station devoted to showing animated cartoons twenty-four hours a day.

When the channel started, Ted Turner’s animation library included the MGM cartoon library, the pre-1948 color Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts, the Harman-Ising b/w Merrie Melodies shorts, and the Fleischer Studios/Famous Studios Popeye cartoons. In 1991, Turner Entertainment purchased animation studio Hanna-Barbera Productions for $320 million giving it access to all the H-B material.


It was estimated that when the channel launched, it had roughly 8,500 hours of cartoons that it could show. It was so many cartoons that there was even a show “Cartoon Network on TNT” that showed some of them and generated attention to the new cable channel.

While there were many highlights in the first three years (Remember the Toonheads show?), here are a few milestones from the first three years that some people don’t remember today. Hopefully, some of these items will spark some fond memories of fumbling with videotapes to record favorites.

October 1, 1992 Cartoon Network launches in two million homes hosted by Droopy.

January 1993 Cartoon Network is #1 in basic cable in time spent viewing levels (which means the network has cable’s most loyal audience)

April 30, 1993 Cartoon Network Latin America launches in English, Spanish and Portuguese

May 29, 1993 TV Guide Cheers Cartoon Network as Race Bannon wins “Favorite Cartoon Mom” contest, beating out Wilma Flintstone and Jane Jetson

June 13, 1993 First time Cartoon Network becomes #1 rated basic cable network for all day “June Bugs” marathon

June 1993 Cartoon Nework signs first major licensee — H.H. Cutler

September 17, 1993 TNT/Cartoon Europe launches in 15 million homes

September 26, 1993 Martin Short hosts Ed Grimley marathon – reprising Ed Grimley TV role exclusively for Cartoon Network

October 2-3, 1993 First birthday promotion generates 250,000 phone calls from excited viewers

November 26, 1993 “Great International Toon-In” Moxy debuts as first live computer-generated cartoon. Cartoon Network leads all six Turner Entertainment networks in first-ever worldwide combined programming event.

January 12, 1994 “World Premiere Toons” project announced — joint venture with Hanna-Barbera in first-ever worldwide combined programming event.

April 2, 1994 Cartoon Network launches on fastest-growing computer on-line service, America OnLine and kicks off via a national on-line conference with Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera

April 15, 1994 Space Ghost Coast to Coast, the first talk show hosted by a cartoon superhero debuts with great press

May 7, 1994 Flagstones, the never-before-seen Flintstones pilot, world premieres on Cartoon Network – story generates massive local, national and international press coverage.

May 19-22 TV history is made when all 167 Flintstone episodes run back-to-back on Cartoon Network

October 1, 1994 Cartoon Network turns two years old with 11.7 million subscribers – a 485% increase in distribution in just two years.

January 1995 Scooby-Doo wins first annual “Dog Bowl”

February 1995 World Premiere Toon-In airs on TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network simultaneously. “Powerpuff Girls Meat Fuzzy Lumpkins” is first World Premiere Toon to air

Summer 1995 Dive-in Theater and Cool Toons Mobile tour country. At Dive-in Theater, fans saw exclusive poolside screenings of new World Premiere Toons on a giant television. The Cool Toons Mobile gave away free snow cones while kids watched World Premiere Toons from one of two 36-inch monitors on the truck.

June 1995 435,000 people visit Cartoon Network On-line, a 300% increase since March 1995

June 1995 “Dexter’s Laboratory” is nominated for an Emmy

August 1995 Cartoon Network announces “Dexter’s Laboratory” as first World Premiere Toon that will be made into a series to premiere in 1996

August 1995 590,000 people visit Cartoon Network On-line

October 1, 1995 Cartoon Network turns three years old with 22 million viewers.


  • Thanks so much for compiling this history, Jim! These video clips are also priceless and in many ways a portal to another time. It’s particularly strange to remember how groundbreaking America OnLine was at one time, but now, they’re barely a blip in the collective consciousness. (I think I’m one of the few holdouts who still maintains his AOL email address. However, it has been overrun with the zombie collective known as spam in the last few years.)

    Your opening paragraph about the speed with which animation history is made today was particularly insightful. What are Cartoon Network’s demographics today? Is the percentage of kids watching still as equal to the percentage of adults watching, or has Boomerang taken most of that adult audience with it?

    • Most of that adult audience went to Adult Swim, which is now a top 10 network among adults ages 18-49.

  • Gawd,how I remember Cartoon Network before that abomination Out Of Jimmy’s Head premiered and ruined Cartoon Network.
    Okay.i was wondering about “CN’s” calling themselves “Home of the Top Toon Stars” and why they omitted the other Top Toon Stars” like Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jeckle, Woody Woodpecker, Casper (The Paramount/Harveytoons cartoons and not The Casper and The Space Angels episodes) and others.
    The best shows that CN had were:
    Late Night in Black and White (which included MGM’s Captian and the Kids, the rarely seen Count Screwloose and the early Looney Toons/Merrie Melodies cartoons in Monotone.
    O Canada (which the majority of the cartoons were from the National Film Board of Canada)
    The Tex Avery Show (not to be confused in any way with DiC’s Schlepfest The Wacky World of Tex Avery)
    The Popeye Show (featuring the uncut, uncensored Popeye cartoon of Paramount Studios and not the KFS and later HB versions. Of
    The Bob Clampett Show (featuring Beany and Cecil!)
    And anyone remembers the countdown clock that CN had before the launch of their network?

    • I remember watching Late Night Black and White on Boomerang around 2007-ish, and they would play B&W Merrie Melodies, Captain and The Kids, the two Count Screwloose cartoons, as well as BLACK AND WHITE POPEYE CARTOONS! Then, as of 2012-ish, Boomerang was still showing Popeye and MGM (non-Tom and Jerry) cartoons. In fact, sometimes during the Popeye block, we would get the restored B&W cartoons (minus the Paramount logos), and while the MGM block was very late at night, there was still a nice assortment of Tex Avery, Droopy, Happy Harmonies, Harman-Ising, and Barney Bear.

      As for omitting certain characters, I believe CN was also showing Betty Boop cartoons during the first few years (maybe only the public domain shorts were being shown), and the 1939 Fleischer feature Gulliver’s Travels was shown on Mr. Spim’s Cartoon Theatre.

  • If you’re wondering how Race Bannon was even in a contest for “Favorite Cartoon Mom,” he was billed as the “toughest mother around.” From what I heard, CN was really taken aback when he won. And as the winner, we were treated to a Jonny Quest marathon.

  • We didn’t get The Cartoon Network in its infancy, unfortunately. But I do have fond memories of watching Bugs Bunny on TNT everyday in those late afternoon hours.

    • My town didn’t receive it until the beginning of 1994, still I recall the early years fondly.

  • Black & White Christmas, the all black and white cartoon festivals they did around Christmas day several early years. I still have VHS tapes around here somewhere for some of those.

  • I also remembered that Dexter’s Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls and Johnny Bravo was part of the Cartoon Network’ World Premiere Toons special hosted by Space Ghost where viewers called in thier votes to see who would be the first originally animated Series on Cartoon Network. “PPG” won but they decided that all three should be part of Cartoon Network’s lineup. Also in later years World Premiere Toons became What A Cartoon and later Cartoon Cartoon.

    • The “What a Cartoon” shorts all have international (for lack of a better word) versions, that feature a standard opening and closing with guitar music. Was this ever used in the US first airings?

    • DGM, if you’re talking about:

      (guitar riff)
      (more guitar riff)
      (more guitar riff)
      “CAR-TOOOON .. ooon .. oon ..!!”
      (swelling guitars, accompanied by title card)

      .. then, yes; that’s how the World Premiere Toons originally aired.


      we got Cartoon Network in Tallahassee, Florida just a few months after its launch, in 1992. Guess I didn’t realize how lucky I was..! I probably would have moved to another town that had the channel, if I’d known it existed and my cable company wasn’t offering it. ^_^

  • the 1991 presentation film was produced by Tom Pomposello Productions with Betty Cohen Tom Corey and myself. JJSP did the graphics and was actually contracted to design the circle logo, which was eventually replaced with Tom C’s checkerboard.

  • • April 30, 1993 Cartoon Network Latin America launches in English, Spanish and Portuguese

    Cartoon Network in Latin America started less than a year it started in the United States, which is an absolute record for any TV station. Despite it had English, Spanish and Portuguese soundtrack playing in SAP, at first the channel was so new that it played basically in English for the most part. It took a rather long time until Spanish (for most of the countries) became the actual default soundtrack; but some of the dubbing (specifically for the Popeye cartoons) were actually horrendous. At least me, I always tried to get the English soundtrack.

    • When offered to Continental Europe, Cartoon Network also began this way too.

  • It’s on 24 hours a day but they can’t find time to show some classics like b/w Looney Tunes or Popeye, Hanna-Barbera, etc.

    • Cartoon Network South-Eastern Europe also dumped TCM to become 24/7 a while back, but they can’t air very old shows because they are not willing to pay for translations that are to be used at night only. The Bulgarian version started in 2009, so they did only Scooby and the Looney Tunes of the classics at that point, all else was newer stuff. Tom and Jerry were there, but only with episodes with zero talking.

      And you know, I actually miss TCM, it’s not made available separately (never was out here, sadly), and it did have some interesting old movies (though the editors got too repetitive with their schedule in the later years).

      By the way, here is one of my favorite loop animations they used when the channels switched in the 90s (as well as to sync to the exact hour):

  • Jim, your first paragraph is an excellent example of everything critics and historians get completely wrong when talking about modern art.

    “Remember when you were younger and things were newer and cooler because they were scarce?”

    More likely things were scarce because they were newer and cooler, which made them more generally valuable upon their initial broadcast/pressing/distribition etc. There is no rationale in the reverse scenario, economically or culturally.  On the other hand, sometimes things were scarce because they weren’t cool and production dried up.

    “The world, even the cartoon world, seems to have spun faster and faster these last two decades flooding us with countless treasures.”

    I agree with this statement in the sense that the internet and specialty cable networks have enabled the excavation and archiving of forgotten old stuff – some of it good some of it bad but all of it better than anything post-internet. The medium has exponentially increased the rate of imitation, and since most people who are considered artists aren’t really capable of creating anything and are just glorified imitators (or at best skilled technicians, such as being really adept at staying between the lines with their digital crayons), we’re being flooded with more mediocrity than anything.  Every art form is more and more diluted as a result, so in light of..

    “In fact, it spins so quickly that animation history is getting forgotten as newer and newer accomplishments pop up every week.”

    At present, the only progress even remotely related to art is technical achievement, faster rendering, more intuitive editing programs, etc, but zero evolution of the form which is the key to artistic advancement. I would be hesitant to equate progress of one with progress of the other.  Animation specifically has the potential to combine ALL art forms in a single product, so it’s a good way to measure general artistic advancement, which I’m telling you ain’t happening.

    Regarding CN, it’s a perfect example of what I mean:  a decent source for good old stuff and good commentary from learned historians, but almost completely inundated with hackneyed, poor imitations posing as original content.

  • Another important year for Cartoon Network was 1996, when TimeWarner bought Turner, allowing CN to now show ALL Warner Bros. cartoons (B&W Looney Tunes, along with the post-1948 shorts), as well as new animated shows being produced by Warner Bros. Animation, a practice that still stands today with shows such as Wabbit and Mike Tyson Mysteries.

  • Oh yes, I fondly recall the BLACK AND WHITE CHRISTMAS airings, and that annual attraction, plus LATE NIGHT BLACK AND WHITE were the only times that the cartoons ran practically uncut! Hey, they aired “THE PYGMY HUNT”, a politically incorrect CAPTAIN AND TEH KIDS cartoon) in heavy rotation while all other major classic cartoon events, including the April Fools Day repeat airings of the Tex Avery cartoon, “HAPPY-GO-NUTTY”, were edited so as not to offend. It certainly was a time when I had my VCR set up to record some of those airings, and I also looked for all or most of the classic MGM cartoons that I hadn’t yet gathered from official video releases. Then BOOMARANG came along and took over the classic library, even showing a helping of Jay Ward with ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE story arcs with the “WASSAMADDA U” story being condensed in a show around the time of the Super Powl. I wonder who even airs the Jay Ward stuff anymore. Perhaps the reason why the other toon stars and studios were not represented was that they wanted to handle only the cartoons they owned outright, and that is why we need a neutral cartoon network that will gather up and air everything, even Steve Stanchfield’s restorations as a kind of promo for the titles as they come out so more people can know the truly good work he’s doing. Oh, ummm, and there was my embarraskin’ (as Popeye would put it) appearance of yours truly as a “host” for a day of classic cartoons as I’d love to see ’em; gave me a chance to feel what it is like to do a regular TV gig, lights and all set up here in this very room, long before I even had a computer in here, but you all had a chance to see my laserdisc collection sloppily strewn around for effect…and if you looked carefully, you could see “LITTLE BUCK CHEEZER” being shown on the TV in the room somewhere amid the bumpers…at least, I think they put it there. Cartoon Network, where hast thou gone?

  • I haven’t seen that clip of Moxy’s debut since I was 5 1/2 years old! Do you know where I can the second part of his debut where he causes some type of trouble and hides out with the kids at the end?

    Also, there two other marathon clips I’m trying to find:

    1. Our own Kevin’s marathon where he introduced his favorite shorts such as “Hare-Raising Hare”.

    2. During one June Bugs marathon (1995 or 96), there was a pilot for a kiddie show spoof called “The Uncle Bob Show” where the host spent most of the show wearing a rabbit suit and being heckled by his Mr. Moose -type puppet sidekick that lived in a television (and at several points, even caused an avalanche of Ping-Pong balls on the host). I would like to know who played “Uncle Bob” on that.

    • I still think of the time they ran these classic flims!

    • Wow! I was starting to think I had imagined that Uncle Bob show thing! There is literally NO evidence of it anywhere online!
      Until you said it was called the Uncle Bob Show, I couldn’t even remember the name of that thing! All I remembered was that grumpy guy in the rabbit suit! Also, they had like an advertisement for a fake album of Uncle Bob song at the end of the marathon. I would really like to see that stuff again!
      Another couple of “lost” segments from the early days, the 1996 Valentines day marathon hosted by Zorak and Brak and the live bumpers they used to do on Cartoon Planet with Jefferson Clay as the announcer, “coming to you live from Cartoon Planet” -that stuff has vanished from existence as well. Oh, and the “Jonny Quest-mas” Christmas marathon they did in, I think, 1995. I can’t find any clips of that either.

  • Oakland, MCA, didn’t receive CN until 11/1996, IIRC.
    I first really learned of CN thru a Summer 1992 piece by KTVU’s Bob Shaw on the history of Hanna / Barbera.

  • @DGM yes the US version or What A Cartoon Show had a “heavy metal”style guitar riff in the opening but was replaced by a brass like band opening with ukulele.

  • I didn’t see Cartoon Network in the early days of Pay TV in Australia (1995), but I visited a family member who had satellite, and I recall that Cartoon Network only aired from 6 AM until 9 PM (the overnight block was taken over with TCM. Today, in Australia, Cartoon Network and TCM are both seperate channels., with CN running 24/7

  • Ah, memories! I don’t think our house started receiving Cartoon Network until about 1994, but I remember calling in my vote for Scooby Doo during the “Dog Bowl” event. I had to ask permission from my dad to use the phone. It felt cool to dial in and hear the recordings CN had prepared! That was back before Scooby seemingly inundated the network and I went through a phase where I was on the anti-Scooby bandwagon.

    I didn’t know June Bugs started way back in 1993. It must have gotten a bit repetitive since all Turner had was the pre-48 library at that time.

    One event I don’t see on that timeline (and I think it happened in 1995, if not before) was when Turner decided not to air the classic Jonny Quest anymore due to PC concerns. However, they sent Jonny off in style with an all-day marathon as they counted down to the solemn announcement: “Jonny has left the building…”

    Of course, it didn’t take in the end but for a while they had me going.

  • I remember they dabbled in foreign cartoons for a brief period, with a series devoted to National Film Board of Canada shorts (titled “Oh Canada” and originally with ironic old stock tourism footage for bumpers) and another for European shorts. Miss those as much as “Toonheads.” Now even Boomerang is filled with nominal oldies that I still think of a new stuff.

    The sad fact is, Boomers craving the cartoons of their youth are a shrinking demographic — even within the Boomer population. It seems unlikely that Disney will release more of their Sunday night shows (especially the ones with original animation like Von Drake), or that we’ll get official releases of old Terrytoons or Columbias. But stranger things have happened, with the comparatively recent release of Magoo and the theatrical UPAs.

    • I recall one occasions CN did what was called ‘A Night of Independent Animation”, though it was framed within a half-hour time frame (I think it aired around ’96) and used the Toon Heads bumpers/intro for the purpose. The shorts presented appeared to have been recently shown at the ASIFA-NY festival or such, at least it comprised of works from NY-based animators. The ones I do recall that night were these…

      Another Bad Day for Philip Jenkins (Mo Williems)
      Buy My Film! (John Schnall)
      The Ballad of Archie Foley (Buzzco Associates)
      I think a commercial animated by Paul Fierlinger for “US Healthcare” was also seen during this. If involved a salesman trying to convince an owner of a company about an insurance plan for his workers.

  • It wasn’t noted here, but the very first cartoon to ever broadcast on Cartoon Network was Friz Freleng’s “Rhapsody Rabbit”.

  • Cartoon Network didn’t start out with all of the Hanna-Barbera library content when it first went on the air. Excepting things still on broadcast or that H-B didn’t have the syndication rights to (“Harlem Globetrotters”, “Jeannie”, etc.), USA Network kept the rights to “Smurfs” until 1993, and “Scooby-Doo” until 1994.

    The syndication rights to “Super Friends” all belong to Warner Bros, so those didn’t show up on CN until after the Time Warner-Turner merger.

  • It was a little frustrating for classic WB and MGM fans during the first year or two, because despite the fact that TBS and TNT had been airing remastered versions of many Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerrys (not coincidentally the same shorts they had released on home video in the several years prior), CN started out airing the older, faded, scratched and dirty prints those had replaced. I suspect the old carts were still on shelves, and when the new network needed cartoons, the tapes were put back into service rather than dubbing new ones.

  • (By remastered I do not mean *restored*. They had simply gone back to what I suspect were the IB prints provided to AAP back in the day and made new video transfers. Although this doesn’t compare to the restorations done by WB in recent years, they were vast improvements to the old film chain prints that had been dumped to tape many years prior.)

  • I ended up here looking up something related but I’m surprised to learn the June Bugs of 1993 was the Network’s first foray into being top in cable. I’ve always heard that the Network struggled in 92-93 and started on it’s upward trend in 94-2000. This would seemingly contradict that, instead that perhaps the June Bugs of 1993 sparked the attention of the cable world in 93 and they capitalized on it to start their trend in 94.

    Either way it’s still a wonderful story and a good dose of reality for people who want to pretend the network was unwatched in it’s “rerun phase”.

  • Thanks for this information. Cartoon Network was launched in my country (Taiwan) in 1995. All I remember is scooby-doo promos on our old b&w television! A channel that plays cartoons whole day, that was huge for a 10 year old kid back then!!

  • That’s amazing that Cartoon Network Latin America launched so close to the start of the original channel. Turner was very smart with this choice – that channel was phenomenally successful across the continent and it only grew year on year, especially because they had their own local team that kept up with locally relevant programming and even custom animation and special events. I swear my memory serves that it didn’t land there until 95, but I think that might just have been that I in Venezuela couldn’t get it until then as the signal came from Mexico. Though, later on, I want to say around 2004, we did get a feed specifically for Venezuela meaning that the times shown on the screen were when the programs actually played (rather than being a few hours behind schedule as Mexico is -2H behind Venezuela). The English feed was a stroke of genius too as it means I can talk to my friends in the Caribbean and we all watched roughly the same programming. As someone who learned English rapidly in the US, applying it immediately when I came back home at the press of a DirecTV remote controller button was very, very cool.

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