Infinity Train, Mao Mao Disappear From All of Cartoon Network’s Social Media
This is even more dystopian than it seems.
Predictably, like all mergers of giant corporate entertainment entities, the merger of Warner Bros. and Discovery has been messy, with devastating consequences for creatives. Earlier this week, HBO Max announced that nearly 40 shows would disappear from their service in a mere two days’ time. The teams behind the shows involved found out the same way we did—over the internet on Tuesday night. Most of these shows were animated series, largely from Cartoon Network, which Warner Bros. snagged in a previous merger, and most of these animated shows aren’t on other services—and even fewer have physical releases on DVD or Blu-Ray.
If taking these shows off of streaming was all that Warner Bros. Discovery did, that would be one thing—devastating, of course, because the shows targeted would be sent into indefinite purgatory. Fans have no way to watch episodes—not on streaming, not on physical media. Maybe they’re still subject to the occasional rerun on Cartoon Network, for the twelve people who still pay for cable, but that’s about it. But Warner Bros. Discovery seems to be doing something even darker: scrubbing shows from existence.
The shows affected currently are: Infinity Train, OK K.O., Mao Mao, Mighty Magiswords, and Elliott from Earth.
And the word “scrubbing” is not an exaggeration. Step one: Cartoon Network deleted the webpages for these series and removed other related content (such as games) from its website. Seriously, try following this link to OK K.O.‘s former Cartoon Network webpage. Downright spooky.
For Infinity Train and Mao Mao, Cartoon Network has gone further, deleting every YouTube video or tweet (TWEET!) that pertains to the series. While some OK K.O. videos remain on Cartoon Network’s YouTube channel, some—like the theme song—have been removed. I mean, do you know how much time it takes to comb through tweets?! However evil (yes, evil—I’ll justify this word usage later) and cynical this move is, please spare a thought for the poor intern ordered to do it.
Additionally, Infinity Train’s soundtracks have been taken off of Apple Music and all other music streaming platforms. This, actually, is not the first time Warner Bros. has pulled this kind of shit because of a merger. After its previous merger, for example, the songs by Sub Pop artists on The Rick and Morty Soundtrack were deleted from all streaming forms of the soundtrack—only 19 of the soundtrack’s true 26-track count are available on Apple Music and such. (I actually have a personal stake in that deletion, if I sound extra-bitter.)
I mention this to bring to the forefront that the royalties that come from streaming—both music and video—provide passive income to the artists who worked hard to create these media. Sure, it’s not enough income as it should be, at least in music’s case, but when you’re any kind of non-millionaire artist in a late capitalist society, any income helps. Same goes for DVDs and other merchandise, which also generate royalties. If you’re going to delete, say, OK K.O. from streaming and not give it any kind of physical release, there are no royalties available to support the teams who worked to create that show.
There are, fortunately, DVDs of at least Infinity Train. The bad news is that, as CBR found, these DVDs are now universally sold out. Naturally, fans proceeded onto eBay, where a box set of the first season has already been sold for a whopping $500. But don’t worry, there’s still one available for $600. And so, in the words of creator Owen Dennis: yYu’re basically going to have to pirate it.
Infinity Train is still available to rent on a couple outlets, like YouTube. OK K.O. is still on Hulu. Yet more can be found on the likes of Amazon and Google Play—again, for a fee. But the incredibly nerve-racking matter is that the people who made these shows don’t know how long that may be the case. Even more spine-tinglingly terrifying is the possibility that Cartoon Network, which owns the rights to all these shows, may toss every episode in a vault and throw away the key. If the creators and artists involved don’t own the masters of the episodes (I’m not sure), this would mean they would lose access to the finished versions of the works they created, even just to watch. This, it turns out, is the incredibly dark downside of the digital age.
There is something about this story that ranks, for me, among the most dystopian signposts of modern-day America. There is something unspeakably chilling to me about creating a piece of art—especially a piece of art that involves hundreds of people doing thousands of hours of hard, dedicated, loving work—and having the that piece of art thoroughly scrubbed from existence by the same entity that brought it forth. “Oh, this thing you spent two years dreaming up and three years working on? That people watched and loved? Never happened. Huh? Wha? You like my new golden Rolex?” I’m devastated and furious for the artists involved.
It feels like Warner Bros. Discovery is forcing some kind of delusion on us. Consider, for a moment, the completely detached tone of the company’s statement when they axed the 36 shows on HBO Max this week:
As we work toward bringing our content catalogs together under one platform, we will be making changes to the content offering available on both HBO Max and discovery+. That will include the removal of some content from both platforms.
This isn’t about fandoms—or even “genredoms,” whatever the hell that is. This is about profit, likely at the expense of paying out those royalties. You would think Warner Bros. Discovery would benefit from how much fans love Infinity Train and Mao Mao and OK K.O.—unless, in the words of John Oliver, they’re burning the network down for the insurance money. Erasing the income and years of work of countless artists so a select handful of already-rich guys on the top floor of a New York skyscraper make a couple more bucks.
I’d say that’s pretty evil.
(featured image: Cartoon Network, for now)
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