Dubba-dubba's all in the family
Jammin' this place for kids to be
Dubba-dubba Kids Dubba-dubba WB!"
Jeff Bennett: We don't know, but it's awfully fun to say!
The Saturday-morning and weekday afternoon children's programming block on The WB (and The CW for its first one-and-a-half years), which deserves special mention as being not only the longest-running Saturday-morning block in television history but also the only block of its kind to outlive the channel it was created for. Programmed in-house by Warner Bros.' television division, it served primarily as an outlet for both new and rerun Warner Bros. Animation works, but it also aired programming from third-party studios.
Kids' WB! launched on September 9, 1995, nearly eight months after The WB's launch, and was meant primarily to compete against Fox Kids, who had utterly dominated the children's television space throughout much of the decade. Once the new block launched, WB's first response to this was to take back many of the shows they produced for that block and move them over to the new block. Unlike Fox Kids, Kids' WB! only programmed a full hour of programming during the weekday afternoons and three hours during Saturday mornings. It wasn't until the premiere of Superman: The Animated Series in 1996 that the Saturday block was extended to four hours. In Chicago, WB affiliate WGN-TV chose not to carry the block due to commitments to its newscasts, meaning it aired on then-independent station WCIU instead* ; it wasn't until 2004 that WGN-TV started carrying the block.
The block had a laxer standards and practices department than Fox Kids, which allowed for darker and raunchy material to air. Animaniacs took advantage of this upon its move from Fox, with the show amping up its Biting-the-Hand Humor at an even stronger level than even the Fox days. Bruce Timm noted that when Batman: The Animated Series was revived by the network, they got only "two paragraphs of stuff we can't do" as opposed to the "five single-spaced pages of notes" that Fox gave them during the original shows' run.
1999 ended up being a turning point for the block, one factor being that many of its competitors were either dying off or becoming shells of their former selves. UPN's block, UPN Kids, never managed to gain as much traction due to a weaker catalog of programs and airing exclusively on Sunday mornings, which would leave it discontinued by that September. The remains of what was once The Disney Afternoon had finally disintegrated due to the block becoming an afterthought and the syndication market for children's programming fading away, allowing for Kids' WB! to expand its weekday afternoon block by another hour. It would still face some competition on the Saturday morning side, as Disney had bought out ABC and launched One Saturday Morning, though it wouldn't matter after a major game-changer on WB's end. Meanwhile, Fox Kids was starting to struggle due to problems with the ill-fated Fox Family network, the aftermath of the Fox/New World debacle, the conclusion of network darlings Bobby's World, X-Men: The Animated Series, and Spider-Man: The Animated Series, the growing presence of cable networks such as Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and a newly-relaunched Disney Channel and the beginning of Power Rangers' Seasonal Rot. During all of that, Kids' WB! picked up a little syndicated show called Pokémon, the move of which caused the franchise's popularity in the West to reach monolithic levels. Ratings started overtaking the competition that year, and its popularity, combined with the strength of its DC cartoons (in particular Batman Beyond and Static Shock), additional anime series like Yu-Gi-Oh!, and the expansion of its Saturday morning block by another hour, boosting it up to a total of five hours (which they kept for the remainder of its run), firmly established it as the premier children's destination for broadcast TV. Two years later (on the same day, in fact), One Saturday Morning would be rebranded as ABC Kids and Fox Kids would fold around the same time and be replaced by the FoxBox, which was programmed by 4Kids Entertainment (the company behind the dubs of Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh).
Not everyone was pleased about it, though. With Pokémon's popularity came the push for the block to focus more on action series and anime of equal footing. This certainly wasn't helped by Time Warner's recent merger with Turner Broadcasting leading to the decision to have airings of Looney Tunes now be restricted to Cartoon Network once the block's Big Cartoonie Show and ABC's final run of the long-running Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show both came to an end. Fans of Animaniacs, as well other Steven Spielberg-produced WB cartoons such as Freakazoid! and Pinky and the Brain, felt Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!'s popularity had cannibalized WB's in-house productions due to the fact that it was cheaper to just license the shows and give them multiple time slots than produce their own shows if it didn't bring in similar ratings, a notion later confirmed by Tom Ruegger decades later. In addition, Kids' WB! eventually also began losing interest in DC cartoons after The Zeta Project failed to impress, and as the block's main shows started to feature younger protagonists in contrast to the "adults in suits" the main DC shows focused on. The Batman and Legion of Super Heroes ended up being the last original DC cartoons for the network, premiering two and four years respectively after Zeta Project's end and staying until the block itself closed.
Speaking of Cartoon Network (which was owned by WB sister outlet Turner Broadcasting, who had actually taken over The WB's operations in 2001, continuing to do so until two years later), a majority of the shows featured on the block, particularly ones that were nearing or already out of their first-run, would slowly find their way to that channel as early as 1997, either airing in their entirety or through spotlight blocks and experimentations. In fact, some of WB's previous cartoons that were originally on Fox Kids, such as Beetlejuice (which was wrapping up reruns on Nickelodeon) and Taz-Mania had skipped Kids' WB! entirely in favor of Cartoon Network. There was also an even bigger attempt at synergy by attempting to brand the late-afternoon weekday block under the Toonami name, temporarily airing two of the original block's most iconic shows, Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon (both of which, alongside Pokémon, were responsible for helping make anime a mainstream medium in the US) while some of Kids' WB's own shows, like Superman: The Animated Series, Cardcaptors, and Batman Beyond would begin airing on the actual Toonami block. Viewers and critics panned it, and the rebranding was dropped after just one year. It produced one original program, The Nightmare Room, which got solid reviews but lasted for only 13 episodes, and was the only live-action show ever aired on the block.
Sadly, like with its competitors, reality started to catch up to Kids' WB! as children increasingly flocked to cable, which often aired children's programming on a 24/7 basis, or at least a decent time period when children are awake. In addition, Warner Bros. Animation started prioritizing Cartoon Network for its premier output, including Justice League* , Teen Titans (which actually aired reruns on Kids' WB! for a while), Duck Dodgers, and Krypto the Superdog (also aired on the block, but for E/I requirements), while more and more of the block's remaining hits would jump ship to that channel, with Kids' WB! being shoved in the wayside during a time when the overall WB network was facing rating problems. The content that was airing on the block during this period was divisive, to say the least. ¡Mucha Lucha!, Xiaolin Showdown, MegaMan NT Warrior, and The Batman all had their fans but were seen as failing to live up to their '90s-early '00s peers. On the other side of the coin, Da Boom Crew, Loonatics Unleashed, and Coconut Fred's Fruit Salad Island were all considered the nadir of the block's content and showed just how far-gone the block was. The weekday block was discontinued in December 2005, and shortly thereafter, the WB announced it would merge with UPN (which had long given up on children's programming for several years) to form the CW, with Kids' WB! joining the new network. None of the block's anime programming made the jump; future Yu-Gi-Oh! series (along with reruns of the original show) moved over to the then newly-renamed FoxBox block, now called 4KidsTV, while Pokémon became a full-time Cartoon Network program after years of reruns.
By the 2007-2008 season, signs were starting to point towards the writing on the wall: The Batman, Legion of Super Heroes, Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get A Clue! and Tom and Jerry Tales were all announced canceled, and only two shows, The Spectacular Spider Man and World of Quest, were slated to premiere mid-season. In October 2007, The CW announced a four-year deal with 4Kids Entertainment to take over the five-hour slot beginning in the summer of 2008, which would also kill off 4KidsTV come that December. Kids' WB! aired its last broadcast on May 17, 2008, with its successor, The CW4Kids (later re-branded as Toonzai) launching the following week; shows that weren't canceled, including Spider-Man (which premiered two months before the block closed) and Johnny Test finished their seasons in the new block's inaugural season before moving to other networks that fall; The Spectacular Spider-Man would eventually find a new home at the newly-formed Disney XD, while Johnny Test was left to, of course, Cartoon Network, where it would be infamously Adored by the Network until its conclusion six years later.
The closures of Kids' WB! and 4KidsTV, along with the degradation of ABC Kids (which would shut down three years later) were among the last signs that the decades-long tradition of Saturday morning cartoons was not long for this world. Toonzai was later folded in 2012 as a result of the gradual collapse of 4Kids Entertainment and would be replaced by Saban Brands' Vortexx block, which would ultimately be the final Saturday morning block, outside of a short return in 2017. The Kids' WB! name was repurposed as a website featuring the Looney Tunes shorts, the Hanna-Barbera library, and the DC Comics-based cartoons. In 2013, the website's shows were scaled back heavily, and after The WB website shut down in 2013 as well, it was euthanized in May 2015 and has since been replaced by the similarly titled WB Kids GO!
Shows featured on Kids' WB!, in the order they appeared:
- Animaniacs (Served as the block's original flagship series when it moved from Fox Kids. Was one of the first shows on the block to air on weekdays.)
- The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries
- Pinky and the Brain
- Earthworm Jim
- Looney Tunes shorts (The other initial weekday show, often packaged in compilation shows as That's Warner Bros.! * , Bugs 'N' Daffy * , or The Daffy Duck Show * )
- Tiny Toon Adventures reruns
- Captain Planet (Mostly the episodes from seasons two and three, the last two seasons of the original DiC series, and season four, the first of Hanna-Barbera's New Adventures of Captain Planet series. Season one was never shown and seasons five and six were only shown on international channels.)
- The New Batman/Superman Adventures (A package series that combined Superman: The Animated Series with a revamped version of Batman: The Animated Series known as The New Batman Adventures that took place a few years after the original series. Reruns of the original were also shown.)
- Men in Black: The Series
- The Legend of Calamity Jane (Very short lived show that was show only three episodes before being punted off for being a bit too mature for kids.)
- Channel Umptee-3 (Educational series, largely made to comply with the FCC standards.)
- Invasion America (Carrying over from its prime-time showing. However heavily edited to tone down swears and violence)
- B.R.A.T.S. of the Lost Nebula (Puppet based series, However didn't last beyond three episodes.)
- Histeria! (Second educational show, but more well remembered.)
- Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain (One of the most hated spin-offs in modern cartoon history.)
- Batman Beyond
- Pokémon (Originally premiered in 1998 through syndication in select regions. Needless to say, it became the block's biggest money maker and eventually its longest-running program after it was fully picked up by the network, contributing to the rise of both the Pokémon craze and the anime boom. Starting from the original Indigo League season, It would stay with the network until the end of the Advanced Battle season in 2006 when 4Kids Entertainment lost the license and ultimately hop over to Cartoon Network.)
- The Big Cartoonie Show* (Basically a compilation of toons from Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Looney Tunes, and later, Tiny Toon Adventures. Oddly enough, this series was revived by a free-to-air Croatian channel, Nova TV, in 2023)
- Max Steel
- Cardcaptors (Along with attempting to turn the anime into a full-on action series, many episodes were omitted in order to make the show more appealing to boys.)
- Generation O!
- Jackie Chan Adventures
- Static Shock
- X-Men: Evolution
- The Zeta Project
- Cubix: Robots for Everyone
- Samurai Jack (Aired as a one-off, possibly in response to premiering on Cartoon Network earlier that month, which had premiered the weekly Kids' WB Spotlight Show a day prior.)
- The Mummy: The Animated Series
- The Nightmare Room (The first live-action show ever to air on the Kids' WB line-up and Spiritual Successor to Goosebumps, though it didn't last long.)
- Rescue Heroes: Global Response Team (Previously aired on CBS.)
- Dragon Ball Z (Aired for about a week as a part of the Kids' WB Toonami. Ironically when the block became Toonzai down the line, the Kai series lasted longer.)
- Sailor Moon (Same situation as Dragon Ball Z. The show was intended for a two-week test run to see how well the show would fare on the block before being pre-empted halfway through for coverage of the September 11th attacks.)*
- Scooby-Doo reruns (Consisting of reruns of most of the franchise's previous shows.)
- The Powerpuff Girls (Reruns from Cartoon Network though a few episodes from the fourth season did premiere on the network before their Cartoon Network airing. It was only aired to promote The Powerpuff Girls Movie at the time.
- ¡Mucha Lucha!
- Baby Looney Tunes (The very first Warner Bros. Animation series produced in high definition widescreen, despite the format not being that common for another few years.)
- Ozzy & Drix
- Phantom Investigators (first stop-motion show to air on the lineup; was removed after six episodes of the thirteen had aired due to not having enough male viewers.)
- What's New, Scooby-Doo?
- Teen Titans (Airing simultaneously on Cartoon Network.)
- Xiaolin Showdown
- MegaMan NT Warrior (First two seasons)
- Codename: Kids Next Door (Reruns from Cartoon Network.)
- Da Boom Crew (only 4 out of 13 episodes aired in America; everything else only aired overseas.)
- The Batman
- Astro Boy (2003 series, never finished)
- Johnny Test
- Loonatics Unleashed
- Coconut Fred's Fruit Salad Island
- Viewtiful Joe (First series only; the second series, which covers the second game, was never dubbed.)
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends (Reruns from Cartoon Network.)
- Transformers: Cybertron
- Spider Riders
- Legion of Super Heroes
- Tom and Jerry Tales
- Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get A Clue! (The final Scooby-Doo series to air on network broadcast television.)
- Monster Allergy
- Krypto the Superdog (Reruns from Cartoon Network.)
The block itself is associated with the following tropes:
- Anvil on Head: In one bumper, a seesaw incident launches an anvil onto the head of the WB logo, causing an imprint on its "head" as well as Circling Birdies.
- The Artifact: As the block began to shift more towards action cartoons and anime, which were fueled by the successes of Superman: The Animated Series and especially Pokémon, the WB studio and its water tower became this after the The Big Cartoonie Show, which featured the block's final runs of Animaniacs, was discontinued in late 2000.
- Artifact Title: The block's name became this during the CW era, as the WB network was shut down and almost all other traces of the original network had been completely wiped from the new channel.
- The Comically Serious: Given the mature atmosphere of their shows, expect any DCAU character not named The Joker to come across this way.
- Circling Birdies: In some bumpers, the WB logo would get injured or dizzy and stars and birds would circle around its head. In the spot where it gets hit with an anvil, the birds are replaced with winged anvils.
- Cross Through: Happened very often in the promos, especially in the ones advertising Pokémon.Agent Kay: Meet [my new partner,] Bulbasaur.
Agent Jay: You're trading me in for a lizard?! What's so special about him!?
Bulbasaur: Bulbasaur!! (performs Vine Whip on Jay)
Kay: Built-in weaponry.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: From the block's debut until around sometime in 1997, the WB studio backgrounds were flat instead of 3D and were similar to those found in if not completely ripped from Animaniacs. Confetti and balloons were almost everywhere and instead of the stylized shield-like emblem that was similar to the normal Warner Bros. logo, the logo at the time consisted of a yellow ring simply placed in back of the constantly bouncing letters, with the colors of the letters and exclamation mark all being different colors. Also, many actors from the sitcoms of the main network's lineup like The Parent 'Hood and Sister, Sister would appear during the bumpers, sometimes interacting with the animated characters.
- Dueling Works:
- The block's main competitors were Fox Kids (thanks to WB taking their shows back from them), Disney's One Saturday Morning, eventually remained ABC Kids, and UPN Kids. CBS was more keen on airing preschool-aged cartoons, and NBC had completely gutted their Saturday morning cartoons back in 1991. Fox Kids' successor, the FoxBox, later renamed 4Kids TV, served as this for a while until 4Kids got into a shoving match with Fox and took over this block instead.
- KOL Secret Slumber Party on CBS from 2006, which was partially sponsored by then-WB owned AOL (both companies also jointly owned The CW), and featured a blatantly girl-centric lineup as opposed to Kids' WB's equally blatant boy-centric agenda. As such, neither block ever bothered promoting the other's series (except possibly during local ad time on CBS/CW duopolies). Downplayed in that AOL's involvement was mostly limited to running the tie-in website (the actual shows were produced by DiC Entertainment) and dropped out after just one year.
- In Name Only: The version of Toonami that took over the block between 2001 and 2002. While Toonami classics like Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon did air on Kids WB, this "Toonami" was hardly like the original on Cartoon Network. For starters, Tom didn't even have any voiced lines, and a greater part of the lineup consisted of shows that were already airing on the block at the time, some of which such as Generation O! and Scooby-Doo didn't fit the block's action-animation branding. This also came at the cost of temporarily reducing the original Toonami's schedule by an hour.
- "Kick Me" Prank: In one bumper, the WB logo and Omi from Xiaolin Showdown put a "Tickle Me" sign on the WB water tower's back, making it angry.
- Potty Emergency: In this Christmas promo, Wakko Warner has one (reusing animations from the trope-naming episode), but Sylvester and Meowth inform him that the toilet lid is stuck. The handle still works, however, and the two cats sing that they'll flush it anyway.
- Roger Rabbit Effect: As stated above, The shows' animated stars would sometimes interact with characters from The WB's live-action sitcoms in the bumpers.Curtis Williams: Dot has something to say.
Dot: Thank you, Curtis. And now, back to our program.
- The later CG-animated bumpers would frequently employ kids interacting with the Kids' WB logo.
- "Sesame Street" Cred: The bumpers in the block's first two years consisted of stars from The WB's primetime shows (and comedian Harland Williams) informing viewers when the shows were taking breaks and returning.