WarnerMedia is announcing a stepped-up commitment to preschool and kids programming across Cartoon Network and streaming service HBO Max, with a goal of reaching 50 original preschool shows in the next two years.
The company made the announcement of the fall programming plans ahead of a virtual upfront presentation to media buyers. HBO Max is ramping up its offerings for advertisers ahead of the launch of an ad-supported tier of its service, which WarnerMedia expects to launch by June.
Cartoon Network, designated as the central kids and family brand for WarnerMedia, has adopted a new tagline “Redraw Your World.” The aim of that message, a press release said, is “to empower kids to feel comfortable with who they are, embrace their uniqueness and believe in their own ability to impact change.” The network said it has also made its first kid-musician-in-residence deal with Nandi Bushell, a 10-year-old viral music star.
On the preschool front, the major initiative is called Cartoonito, a new preschool programming block designed to “support each child’s unique potential,” the company said. The fall slate includes 20 new series, including Bugs Bunny Builders (working title), Mush-Mush & the Mushables and Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go. Within two years, the company said, the slate of originals will reach 50 shows.
Competition for preschool and elementary-school viewers and their families used to be, at best, a two-horse race between Nickelodeon and Disney. But that was in the linear age. With digital and streaming continuing to explode, Netflix, Amazon, Apple and YouTube have all made significant forays in the kids arena, to varying levels of success. Disney has successfully pivoted into direct-to-consumer streaming, with Disney+, and HBO Max is the latest multi-billion-dollar streaming effort with a kids component.
The kids push is being overseen by Tom Ascheim, a former Nickelodeon and Disney executive who joined WarnerMedia last year as president of Warner Bros. Global Kids, Young Adults and Classics. “Cartoonito is our biggest commitment to preschool programming in 100 years,” he said. “Our educational philosophy coupled with the incredible caliber of innovative, educational content that will comprise this offering is second to none.”
Cartoonito is based on the proprietary preschool educational framework of Humancentric Learning, encouraging empathy, respect, and fairness. Humancentric Learning was developed in partnership with educational psychologist Dr. Laura Brown, who has a long resume of helping shape preschool programming.
“Cartoonito is designed to be a thoroughly modern preschool brand, both by leaning into our iconic content and by inviting fresh new voices in. We’ll make high-quality, authentic stories that kids and parents can enjoy together,” said Amy Friedman, head of Kids & Family Programming, Warner Bros and a former colleague of Ascheim’s at Nickelodeon. “Grounding everything we do in Humancentric Learning will ensure that kids embrace and celebrate their differences and everyone else’s.”
Sesame Workshop, which set a deal for firstrun episodes of Sesame Street to air on HBO, continues to be a key kids partner for WarnerMedia. The non-profit announced a new animated preschool comedy series Bea’s Block. It joins other Sesame Workshop series like The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo and forthcoming CGI-animated Mecha Builders as well as Esme & Roy.
Here are new series greenlights for Cartoonito, with all descriptions provided by WarnerMedia:
Bea’s Block – Debuting on HBO Max, Sesame Workshop’s newest animated preschool comedy series draws on the ubiquity of block toys to bring the vibrant, diverse neighborhood of Blocktown to life. The show centers on bold and curious 5-year-old Bea as she and her friends spread kindness and build empathy through playful adventures in their community.
Bugs Bunny Builders (working title) – Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and built on the solid comedic foundation of the iconic Looney Tunes, Bugs Bunny Builders brings the wackiness, humor and slapstick we’ve grown to love to a new preschool audience. At ACME Construction Company Bugs Bunny and Lola Bunny manage a crew of builders that, quite frankly, should not be anywhere near a construction site. However, by working together as a team, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety and others use their tools and wild vehicles to pull off some of the looniest construction jobs ever.
New projects in development for Cartoonito, with descriptions by WarnerMedia:
Jessica’s Big Little World (working title) – From Cartoon Network Studios, this spin-off of the Emmy-, GLAAD- and NAACP Image Award-nominated Cartoon Network original Craig of the Creek follows Craig’s bright, independent, spirited little sister, Jessica as the Creek’s favorite first-grader embarks on adventures of her own. The series is created by Craig of the Creek executive producers and creators Matt Burnett and Ben Levin, and Craig of the Creek supervising director, Tiffany Ford.
Tom and Jerry Junior (working title) – Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, Tom and Jerry Junior is a series of animated musical shorts introducing the beloved cat and mouse duo to preschoolers with an educational twist. Classic Tom and Jerry hijinks – chasing, pranking, outsmarting each other – set an entertaining and hilarious backdrop while a core learning curriculum, based in education and essential readiness research, turns the world created by the biggest rivalry in all of animation into a fun and playful cartoon classroom.
Newly acquired and coproduction series for Cartoonito, with descriptions by WarnerMedia:
Ladybird Lu – Produced by 9 Story’s award-winning studio Brown Bag Films, Ladybird Lu explores everyday dramas in the world of a three-year-old with a brand-new social life. The new series is created and directed by Nicky Phelan (Vampirina, Octonauts) and inspired by his mother’s experience running a preschool.
Mush-Mush & the Mushables – Produced by France’s La Cabane and Belgium’s Thuristar in coproduction with CAKE, the series follows the endearing Mushable community as they embark on a journey to put the fun back into fun-gi! Teeming with activity, it’s always an adventure in Mushworld as each Mushable gets to know their talents, and their limits. As pocket-size guardians of the forest, growing up isn’t always easy, but together each day shines just as bright as the one before. Mush-Mush & the Mushables is a fun journey full of discovery, exciting outdoor adventure, and mush mush more! Produced by Perrine Gauthier, Mush-Mush & the Mushables is created by Elfriede de Rooster and directed by Joeri Christiaen.
Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go – From Mattel Television, Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go invites preschoolers all aboard and follows the world’s Number One Tank Engine and his friends on their silliest and most musical adventures yet. Produced in vibrant, 2D-animation in partnership with Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana Studio, the show features a core cast of five young engines – Thomas, his best friend Percy, rival Diesel, the adventurous world traveler Nia and an all-new electric high-speed rail train, Kana.
Here are kids and families series greenlights, with all descriptions provided by WarnerMedia:
Ben 10 specials – Produced by Man of Action (Big Hero 6, Generator Rex), three 44-minute specials based on the hit Cartoon Network series Ben 10 are set to premiere in April 2020. The first, Ben 10010, takes place in the future when a disillusioned Ben 10000 is called out of retirement to recruit his 10-year-old version from the past to work together to save a future under siege. The second special, Ben Gen 10 follows Ben as he meets a young Generator Rex on the run from a hostile Providence working through a series of misunderstandings in order to save the world from being infected with alien DNA. In the final installment, Alien X-Tinction, the Tennysons are attacked by a villainous, dimension-hopping Omni-alien, and soon meet a parallel universe version of Max who opens the door to hosting multiple Bens and Gwens, forming an alien hero army to combat this threat.
Craig of the Creek – Created by Steven Universe writers Matt Burnett and Ben Levin, season four of the Emmy-, GLAAD- and NAACP Image Award-nominated series is back and filled with new adventures as Craig and his friends embark on an exciting quest to find one of the Creek’s greatest treasures—meeting new friends and exploring new places along the way.
Gremlins S2 – A season two greenlight of this animated prequel to the beloved film franchise doubles down on the yet-to-be aired series from Warner Bros. Animation and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television. The first season, Gremlins: The Secrets of the Mogwai, is currently in production and features a star-studded voice cast including Izaac Wang, Ming-Na Wen, BD Wong, James Hong, A.J. LoCascio, Gabrielle Green, and Matthew Rhys.
Infinity Train: Book Four – Two old friends must explore the inner puzzles of the Infinity Train – and their relationship – in order to return home, together. Infinity Train: Book Four is created by Owen Dennis and produced by Cartoon Network Studios.
Jade Armor – In production with TeamTO and featuring a talented all-female creative team, Jade Amor centers around the martial arts-loving Lan Jun, an unlikely teenage heroine who must learn the ancient secrets of her family and uncover the unexpected, all while navigating life as a teen.
Total Drama Island – The world’s most hilarious reality show is back and better than ever with two new seasons. With no parents, no phones, and no mercy, the new animated series will introduce an updated cast of quirky, iconic teen contestants as they face hardcore competition, brutal eliminations, and more drama than ever before. Total Drama Island is produced by Fresh TV for Cartoon Network and HBO Max, and distributed internationally by CAKE.
Victor and Valentino – In the third season, there’s something sinister unfolding in Monte Macabre, and Victor and Valentino plan to sniff it out before it’s too late. Along the way, the boys will return to the Underworld for Dia de Muertos, hang out with the Reynas of Los Angeles for a Mariachi musical, and mark Halloween with a harrowing two-part spooktacular special. The series is created by Diego Molano and produced by Cartoon Network Studios.
New projects in development for kids and families, with descriptions by WarnerMedia:
The Amazing World of Gumball Movie (working title) – Produced out of EMEA, the upcoming TV movie is based on the hit Cartoon Network series The Amazing World of Gumball, which follows the hilarious misadventures of Gumball Watterson and his goldfish best friend, Darwin.
Family Mash-Up (working title) – A modern day The Brady Bunch meets Pitch Perfect when a single mom and three sons and a single dad with three daughters fall in love and get married despite their kids being in two fiercely competing acapella groups. The music-filled live-action comedy is created by Michael Poryes (Hannah Montana, That’s So Raven).
Gross Girls – From Cartoon Network Studios with producers Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) and Naomi Scott (Other People) alongside creators Daniela Hamilton and Scott Yacyshyn, Gross Girls is a smart, sophisticated animated comedy about Chuck and Zoey, two best friends trying to survive middle school without losing any of their trademark stinky, hairy, mad science-y grossness. In spite of jerky brothers, judgey classmates, and “common decency,” these two girls boost each other up and encourage each other to be 100% themselves. Because with the right best friend, everything is an adventure…even puberty.
Teen Titans Go! The Night Begins to Shine – In this spin-off series of the Cartoon Network smash hit Teen Titans Go!, Robin, Raven, Cyborg, Beast Boy and Starfire journey back to the world of Night Begins to Shine when the musical land falls victim to a sinister new threat. Together the Titans must protect the only key to the world’s salvation, a magical mixtape. Teen Titans Go! Night Begins to Shine is produced by Warner Bros. Animation.
Tweety Mysteries (working title) – Tweety Mysteries is a hybrid live-action/animated adventure from Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Bros. Television that follows a curious tween investigative journalist and podcaster named Sydney and her sidekick Tweety bird. Working together the pair must solve various local mysteries in their small, quirky Washington state town.