Amy Friedman Talks Cartoonito Success, Live-Action Expansion


Amy Friedman, the head of kids and family programming at Warner Bros., took part in a keynote conversation at the TV Kids Summer Festival this morning highlighting the success of the Cartoonito block, the expanded live-action slate and the importance of co-viewing.

Friedman, who oversees creative and strategic guidance for the slate at Cartoon Network and Cartoonito and the development and production of kids’ and family content for HBO Max, was interviewed by TV Kids’ Kristin Brzoznowski. You can watch the entire session here.

Friedman began the session talking about Cartoon Network’s expansion beyond its boys 6 to 11 positioning of years past. “We’re trying to take that DNA that is so beautiful about Cartoon Network and turn it into a full-fledged family offering. So that would include preschool, inviting girls in and also families.”

On the live-action expansion, Friedman noted: “Girls often graduate out of animation. Some of our most incredible competitors have been at the live-action game for a long time. We know that’s what girls want. With live action, we’re excited to reflect the world as it is, inviting girls in without alienating the boys. We do that through single-camera and multi-cam comedies and dramas.”

Friedman noted that the company has been faring well with live-action movies an hour or shorter, “shmovies,” which “can function either as a pilot for a future series or simply a standalone. We know that on streaming, those do well.” One example is the upcoming American Girl: Corinne Tan with Mattel Television. HBO Max also recently greenlit the event series B-Loved with Peyton List and the Michael Poryes-created Home Sweet Rome. Friedman also highlighted the upcoming Degrassi revival with WildBrain: “What is the streaming, hour-long juicy drama that is Degrassi and really respects its history but also brings it to a whole new audience,” she said. “We have other acquisitions on the air. We’re trying to make sure that HBO Max is a place where girls find themselves.”

She then discussed the success of Cartoonito around the world. “We are having a blast serving our littlest viewers. Inviting an audience in and giving them beautiful, meaningful, educational, visually stunning musical fare is really important for the business, but it’s also important for the creative community. We launched with 15 titles, and we have many, many more coming.”

The Cartoonito offering encompasses iconic IP from Warner Bros. that is being reinvented for preschoolers, such as Bugs Bunny Builders, Batwheels and Tom and Jerry Time. Across the slate, original or acquired, Cartoonito operates on a human-centric-learning curriculum. “It is essentially positive psychology—what’s right with people versus what’s wrong with people meets 21st-century learning, which is, what are the things that your phone cannot teach you? And that’s really about respecting yourself and others. Every show we do ladders up to some element of human-centric learning. Each of our shows has a curriculum advisor. And what we’re all most proud of is we’re finally doing outreach for parents and caretakers for every one of our shows.”

She also discussed the importance of the ACME Night movie block for co-viewing, with a slate of new titles in the works.

Friedman then discussed the work that Sam Register and his teams at Warner Bro. Animation, Cartoon Network Studios and Hanna-Barbera [Studios] Europe are doing to reinvent classic IP from the studio. She cited properties based on Batman as an example, with Merry Little Batman in the works as a Christmas special, the upcoming HBO Max and Cartoon Network series Batman: Caped Crusader, and then Batwheels for Cartoonito. “Sam and team deeply understand as fans what the DNA is, what to keep, and because they know the rules, they know how to break the rules. They keep the important stuff. They reinvent it because all of these libraries are so deep that you can do metaverse. You don’t have to stick to every single rule. So the metaverse is alive and breathing at our studios.”

“There’s an acronym that we use at Warner Bros. Discovery: HUM,” Friedman continued. “We talk about the history; we have this incredible library. We now have the unity to look at all of this as one ecosystem. And the unique selling proposition is running it through the filter of modernity. History. Unity. Modernity. It is what we’re banking on to win.”

Asked about the importance of co-pros and acquisitions, Friedman noted: “I think of it as a layer cake. The biggest and the broadest and the thing that everything sits on is that first layer, which is acquisitions. Then we have co-pros. Kids’ people have always been collaborators, even before people understood how important and cool it was. From a ratio standpoint, that’s probably the most important to our ability to make quality and do it without paying for all of it. A huge number of those ideas come from around the world. And then the smallest part of the layer cake is our originals, where we invest the most. It is an ever-graduating, beautiful, sweet layer cake. But acquisitions and co-pros are key. We would not be able to survive without them.”

On the importance of kids’ and family content to the HBO Max lineup, Friedman noted, “If your kids are happy, you’re happy. If you have a destination where your kids are happy, you will sign up and not churn.”