Date of Award
Master of Arts
Mass Communication and Media Arts
Cartoon Network is identified by animation scholars as a crucial point in the resurgence of animation in the 1990s termed the “Second Golden Age”, or as I term it, the “Silver Age”. The reasoning for this semantic shift is that this new age, as typified by Cartoon Network, draws heavily off of the golden age that preceded it. This, in fact, comprises Cartoon Network's primary mode of address. By creating a timeline of early Cartoon Network, I show that they used animation history to create an audience that was activated both nostalgically, through animation they saw as a child, and critically, by having that animation curated for them in carefully planned ways. This engaged the audience, not just as a passive viewing group, but as a critically active one. This audience was then used by the network to screen their original programming through The What-A-Cartoon! Show, a collection of shorts that the network was considering for turning into full 30-minute shows. This exchange between creator and audience mirrors modern digital content creation and distribution. Seibert is still engaged in creation in this new environment, and his model has changed to also include the audience in the funding of animation through crowdfunding sites, bypassing the network entirely. By tracking early Cartoon Network through this modern crowd-supported animation model, we can see that Cartoon Network, and animation and business practices to arise from it, are responsible for a large portion of what makes the Silver Age of American Animation so vibrant and interesting.
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