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Dismaying Creators and Artists, Warner Bros Discovery Will Remove Massive List of Animation From HBO Max This Week

ANIMATION IS NOT NOTHING.

Kaio in the theme song for OK K.O. - Let's Be Heroes on Cartoon Network

To say the merger of Warner Bros. and Discovery has been a complete and total shitshow would be an understatement. There have been multiple casualties and adverse consequences to the merger, as there always are to these kinds of things, where tons people lose their jobs and have their hard work pulled from public view so that some rich assholes up top can become even richer. While the most high-profile shenanigan was the inexplicable cancellation of a mostly-finished Batgirl film, concerns have been raised over pulling content from HBO Max. While those concerns were assuaged somewhat by an investors call, they’ve been turned up to 11 again.

The aforementioned investors call clarified that HBO Max will be combining with Discovery+ to form a single streaming platform next year. The new upper brass assured investors (and all the reporters listening in) that HBO Max is still going to be great and that they’re not canceling all the good shows the streamer is known for. Then again, the same call also famously stated the new owners’ assumption that scripted content and fandoms are indicative of a “male skew.” So maybe we shouldn’t trust the confident rich dudes sitting in the top of a skyscraper? Because late on August 17th, 2022, HBO Max announced it would be pulling no less than thirty-six shows (and counting!) from its service. By the end of the week. Most heavily impacted was a wide and diverse range of animated media.

For some shows, this means that already-finished episodes have had their premieres cancelled and may never see the light of day. The teams of artists behind these shows were not given advance notice of the cancellation. They found out the way that the rest of us did: through the online press release or reporting from Hollywood-centric outlets. As Summer Camp Island creator Julia Pott points out, this shows a complete lack of respect from the new owners for the creatives under their roof.

While Ellen’s Next Great Designer and The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo are getting top-bill among the cancelled shows, the genre most deeply targeted is animation. A small list of the animated shows leaving HBO Max this week include genuinely beloved series like OK K.O! Let’s Be Heroes, Close Enough, Infinity Train, Aquaman: King of Atlantis (a miniseries which aired very recently, in October 2021), and Uncle Grandpa. The aforementioned Summer Camp Island has been airing exclusively on HBO Max (Cartoon Network has told outlets that the show’s final season will air on its network). Yet more series, like Mao Mao and Victor and Valentino, are still airing new episodes on Cartoon Network. However, considering most people watch shows via streaming and not live TV, all these shows are being done a massive disservice.

HBO Max can’t claim that the shows are being taken off because of lack of interest—it would just flat-out be untrue. Scores of fans have poured onto social media to say that shows like Infinity Train are what inspired them to get a HBO Max subscription in the first place. And then there’s little observations like this.

The wanton cancellation of dozens of animated shows from their streaming home is, unfortunately, just the latest sign that the animation industry does not get the respect that it deserves. For example, since last year, there’s been a huge push by those in the animation industry to bridge the cavernous gap between the salaries of animation writers and live-action writers. How cavernous, you ask? According to that Variety article: “Animation writers make a minimum of $2,064 per week, while WGA [Writers Guild of America] weekly minimums range from $4,063 to $5,185.” In other words, they make half as much—or less.

Indeed, animation is not nothing. I, for one, am tired of seeing animation get repeatedly treated as if it’s only for kids, or “not serious,” or somehow “lesser” than live-action (see: all the bad Disney remakes of Golden Age classics). One episode of animation takes a huge team of people so much time to craft. A team with highly specialized skills that exceedingly few people even have, and even fewer can do well.

It’s about damn time corporations show any respect for the animators—and the creatives in general— who make the products they capitalize off of. Additionally, I hope this is not another foreboding sign of HBO Max cuts to come. Or just more bad decision making, because who the hell gives creators and viewers alike less than a week’s notice?! It would sure be nice if HBO Max reversed the decision, and I would encourage you to onto the social media of your choice and be loud about your anger.

Image credit: Cartoon Network

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Kirsten (she/her) is a musician, audio person, writer, and nerd. When not talking about One Piece or Pokémon, she's finding surprising ways to play the guitar.