The eight new cartoons that will air in February, March, and April are the first of 48 new shorts that Cartoon will present in the next 2 1/2 years. An undetermined number of these 48, all with different characters, will be chosen to continue as series, Shirley Powell, Cartoon's director of public relations, said recently.
All 48 will be produced under the umbrella of Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, a Hollywood production company bought in 1991 by Cartoon's owner, Ted Turner. Since they became partners in 1957, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera have created many famous cartoon characters, including the Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Tom and Jerry, Huckleberry Hound, the Jetsons, Scooby-Doo, and Quick Draw McGraw. They have won seven Academy Awards.
Powell said all the new cartoons were aimed at viewers of all ages, including adults, a la such classic animated heroes as Bugs Bunny.
"The only thing we told the animators was, 'It must be funny,' " she said.
None are outside the mainstream like MTV's Beavis and Butt-head, and all are done in the traditional way: using hand-drawn frames called cels. "Our whole purpose is to hark back to the traditional hand-painted animation of the 1940s," Powell said.
The Cartoon Network posted its first profitable year in 1994, enabling it to start its new cartoon program a year ahead of its originally scheduled start-up date. Powell declined to disclose the total cost of the new cartoons.
Here are the first eight cartoons, their creators, and their premiere dates, in the project that Cartoon is calling "World Premiere Toons":
THE POWERPUFF GIRLS! (Feb. 20) - After receiving an urgent telephone call, the Powerpuff Girls - kindergartners Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup - politely ask, "Teacher, may we be excused to save the world?" Their teacher, who has apparently heard this request before, amiably replies, "Yes, you may." Then they fly off to save the mayor, who is being turned into a steak by a villain who has invented a gun that transforms everything into meat. The creator of Powerpuff is Craig McCracken, an animator who works for Hanna-Barbera.
DEXTER'S LABORATORY. (Feb. 26) - Young Dexter has built a laboratory in his home, where he invents such far-out items as a machine that turns people into animals. His creator is Russian-born Genndy Tartakovsky.
JOHNNY BRAVO. (March 5) - According to his creator, Van Partible, Johnny Bravo "looks like James Dean and talks like Elvis." His chief interest in life is trying to pick up girls.
DINO IN "STAY OUT!" (March 19) - Ed Benedict created the artwork for Dino, who originally appeared on The Flintstones. Barbera himself is directing the revival of the snorkasaurus, who's getting a show of his own.
YUCKIE DUCK. (March 26) - This new duck, who looks nothing like Donald, is a waiter in a chic restaurant. His creator is Pat Ventura, who has worked for both the Walt Disney Co. and Hanna-Barbera.
SLEDGEHAMMER O'POSSUM. (April 2) - Ventura also created this cartoon about a mischievous possum who particularly loves to vex dogs.
GEORGE AND JUNIOR. (April 9) - That sharp young man Ventura is here again, reviving two bears who were created by the great Tex Avery. They are sort of an ursine Laurel and Hardy - George is highly temperamental, and Junior is not too bright.
HARD LUCK DUCK. (April 16) - Stalked by adversity, this waterfowl lives in a swamp with his friend, an alligator named Harley, trying to avoid capture by a fox who works as a cook at the nearby Cajun Cafe. Hanna is the writer and director.