Here at Kidscreen, we spend a lot of time talking with buyers about what content they want. But it’s one thing to say you’re interested in buying a certain type of show, and a whole other thing to go out and pick up a BIPOC-led comedy for six-year-olds that’s focused on climate change. So we’re cataloguing what the biggest broadcasters have actually acquired, commissioned, ordered and greenlit in 2021 in this new Who Bought What series.
Preschool dominated the Cartoon Network and HBO Max conversation this year with the launch of a new Cartoonito programming block featuring 20 original titles, and a commitment to adding 50 more over the next two years. But the WarnerMedia channel and streamer also pumped up their family-friendly content offering as HBO Max prepared for more international rollouts, including an expansion into dozens of new LatAm regions.
February — To lay a foundation for its new preschool block, WarnerMedia Kids & Family greenlights Bugs Bunny Builders; acquires Ladybird Lu from 9 Story Media; announces a Craig of the Creek spinoff series called Jessica’s Big Little World from Cartoon Network Studios; and commissions new preschool series Bea’s Block from Sesame Workshop. Cartoon Network acquires Mattel Television’s Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go in a package deal that includes 104 2D-animated episodes and two specials. WarnerMedia also announces a deal with CAKE to launch Mush-Mush and the Mushables on Cartoonito.
July — WarnerMedia lines up three acquisitions—Bing, Odo and Pocoyo—and greenlights CBC original series Dylan, developed by 9 Story Media Group and produced by Brown Bag Films in Ireland. This interactive CG-animated comedy stars a multi-colored dog who wants to try out every career.
September — Famous foes Tom and Jerry try preschool for the first time with Tom and Jerry Time, a collection of musical shorts focusing on math, literacy and emotional learning skills.
October — HBO Max LatAm picks up Planeta Junior/Fourth Wall’s 2D-animated preschool series Milo (pictured), whose titular main character is also preoccupied with trying out different careers.
November — WarnerMedia EMEA acquires CG-animated preschool series Spookies—about a trio of adorable ghosts—from German prodco Wolkenlenker for Cartoonito and HBO Max for 2023/2024. WarnerMedia Kids & Family also gives Cartoon Saloon a greenlight for 2D-animated preschool comedy Silly Sundays, set to premiere in the US in 2023 before rolling out internationally in LatAm and EMEA.
February — New projects in development include an Amazing World of Gumball movie and a revival of the original series; live-action musical comedy Family Mash-Up; Cartoon Network Studios’ Gross Girls; hybrid series Tweety Mysteries; and a Teen Titans Go! The Night Begins to Shine spinoff. Gremlins, Craig of the Creek, Total Drama Island and Victor and Valentino get reupped for additional seasons. And TeamTO’s Jade Armor were picked up for the channel, along with three new Ben 10 specials.
March — HBO Max announces the first-ever animated adaptation of classic children’s book The Runaway Bunny. This 30-minute special about kidlit’s favorite restless rabbit features new songs from the likes of Mariah Carey and Tracee Ellis Ross.
May — Things get magical when WarnerMedia commissions two new unscripted specials inspired by the Wizarding World, including a limited quiz competition show for Harry Potter fans and a retrospective film. The DC Universe also gets some play with announcements for new shows My Adventures with Superman and Batman: Caped Crusader. And HBO Max heads back to the ’80s with single-cam Max Original Gordita Chronicles. This live-action comedy series is executive produced by Eva Longoria through her UnbeliEVAble Entertainment shingle.
June — Sesame Workshop announces its first-ever documentary series with HBO Max. Through Our Eyes is about a group of kids dealing with issues such as homelessness and parental incarceration. And on a less serious note, HBO Max premieres Warner Bros. Animation’s comedy toon Tom and Jerry in New York.
July — Cartoon Network Studios partners with Matthew Cherry (Hair Love) and Chaz Bottoms to develop musical comedy series Battu, which stars a pair of kids who fall in love with a style of dancing called hiplet.
August — Building on the popularity of Adventure Time, HBO Max orders a spinoff for young adults called Adventure Time: Fionna & Cake (working title).
September — WarnerMedia rolls out its new ACME Night family programming block, and greenlights an untitled Looney Tunes movie and animated films Merry Little Batman and Did I Do That to the Holidays? A Steve Urkel Story.
October — WarnerMedia Kids & Family picks up Wildseed Studio’s Dodo for both HBO Max and Cartoon Network. Aiming for kids ages six to 12, the show stars a young teen who constantly finds himself in embarrassing situations.
February — HBO Max (along with Germany’s ZDF and Globo in Brazil) signs on as a co-production and broadcast partner for Cottonwood Media’s Egyptian-themed live-action adventure series Theodosia. And WarnerMedia picks up Cosmos-Maya’s comedy series Dabangg for Cartoon Network India.
April — As part of its expansion efforts in Latin America, HBO Max greenlights stop-motion anthology series Frankelda’s Book of Spooks from Mexico’s Cinema Fantasma.
June — Cartoon Network India premieres its first-ever superhero series, Ekans—Ek Se Badhkar Snake, which weaves regional folklore into a high-tech sci-fi setting.
September — Cartoon Network Africa gets into the groove with animated series CN Dance Challenge.
October — Digital Television Russia Group partners with HBO Max to launch English, Spanish and Portugese versions of Be-be-bears, Cutie Cubies and Leo & Tig across the LatAm region.
November — Latin America continues to be a focus towards the end of the year, with HBO Max picking up season six of Herschend Entertainment’s Chuggington and the first two seasons of Sinking Ship Entertainment’s Odd Squad for the region. The streamer also acquires several Talking Tom titles, including seasons four and five of Talking Tom & Friends, the first two seasons of Talking Tom Minis and Talking Tom Heroes.