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Midnight Munchies with [adult swim]

How Cartoon Network's programs became a hip destination for humor-hungry insomniacs



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Ouweleen: That's because you guys started making lots of money.

Crofford: Well, yeah. This one-year experiment exploded into a cash cow. We also air the Family Guy [episode] that Fox wouldn't air, the "Once Upon a Weinstein" episode. So everyone's chilling out about the whole religion thing.

Ouweleen: Even though we're in the middle of a giant religious war.

I'm always surprised at the sexual references on Sealab that you guys get away with.

Reed: We had a sex scene when two characters were on a TV monitor, obviously having sex, and Standards said no. So we changed it a little bit. "No." Eventually the characters were just hopping up and down next to each other. "OK." Any lateral movement was forbidden.

Ouweleen: But what was funnier?

Reed: Hopping up and down next to each other was funnier.

Thompson: I think the research shows that religious stuff is more touchy with people.

Ouweleen: In declining order of horribleness, it's religion -- worst, sex, then violence. America is like, "We're cool with violence, but don't show me titties."

Thompson: That's not just Cartoon Network or Adult Swim, that's all of America.

Do the original creators of Birdman or Sealab ever come up to you and say, "What the hell did you do to my character?"

Crofford: Actually, yes.

Ouweleen: Yes, they're mad about it. They're probably like, "Those punks." And we're like, "Whatever." Joe Barbera or his lawyer sent a pretty nicely worded letter at the beginning, when he caught wind of the show, which said, "Please don't." We've heard that Alex Toth is mad at us. He was this amazing designer for Birdman and Sealab -- the model sheets are freaking gorgeous. It's all designed beautifully, but then you see the final cartoon, and it's total crap. Everything got watered way down. So I'm amazed that he's mad at us, because he should be mad at what they did to the original Birdman cartoon.

Looking ahead, do you think you'll do more original cartoons?

Crofford: The upshot of the whole success of the block is that people pitch new shows to us sooner, instead of last: "Oh, Comedy Central said no? And Spike said no? And MTV said no? And Disney said no? Let's go see what Cartoon Network has to say." We have Squidbillies coming up. Seth Green has a stop-motion pop culture parody show that we'll premiere next year. Khaki [Jones, vice president of original series for Cartoon Network] found a great show on the Internet called Tom Goes to the Mayor that's like Mayberry on acid. [It premiered Nov. 14.] We just closed the deal on the Boondocks [based on Aaron McGruder's politically charged strip], which'll premiere next fall probably. Fox actually passed on it. And we're getting new Family Guy.

Does your fans' loyalty freak you out?

Ouweleen: What's creepy ... is that there's this fan base that clocks you at every second of the day, writes about it [on the Internet] and has these theories about what you're doing that are often highly more interesting than what's going on.

Reed: Our fans have "anti-loyalty." They get angry.

Ouweleen: The Cartoon Network is like any brand that's different, like Apple Computers. They all have people who are fanatics about it and love rumors and can't get enough of it. I think we all knew that we'd get those people. What's amazing about Adult Swim is that it's hitting a lot broader than that. Or there's more of those people around, or they have more discretionary income than anyone thought. Space Ghost was the shot heard "round the geek world -- and now the geek world has grown.

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