Almost 25 Years Ago, Boomerang Changed the Animation Landscape for the Better

TV Features animation
Almost 25 Years Ago, Boomerang Changed the Animation Landscape for the Better

There could not have been a better day to launch a children’s television channel than April Fools’ Day. At the start of the millennium—April 1st, 2000—Boomerang was brought to life as its own entity on network TV. Separate from its original programming block on Cartoon Network, Boomerang was a new home for classic cartoons that had nowhere else to go when Cartoon Network began phasing them out. 

Boomerang in its heyday was off-kilter, quirky, zany—pick a synonym from the box of oddities and characters that marched to the beat of their own drums, and it would likely fit just fine. Their programming spanned everything from a cartoon ant who fought crime (years before Paul Rudd would don the Ant-Man suit, mind you) to the costumed animal hijinks of The Banana Splits—Boomerang became a time capsule for all of television’s most delightfully weird kids programming, and the network made sure to live up to the quirky vibes when the series’ weren’t airing, too. Ad breaks (known as “Boomerang Bumpers”) in between episodes featured plastic toys of Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound, the toys would wheel into each other from opposite ends of the TV screen and bounce off the other like they were squaring off in a boxing ring.  

The special thing about this network is that it bridged the gap between generations. Many of its shows were not new, but instead classic Warner Bros. Animation titles from decades past. Thus, a connection was born spanning between Boomers to Gen Xers and finally Gen Z; it is rare to have something so easy to discuss not only with your friends, but also your parents and even their parents. Literature and music last forever, but their reach is so expansive and history so storied. But television shows about a moose and a flying squirrel being best friends, causing trouble, and making its audience laugh? They hardly need an introduction.

Hanna-Barbera, an animation studio founded by William Hanna and Joseph Barbara (two men who many of us likely owe our entire childhoods to), created a solid foundational backbone for the network. Some of H-B’s most popular shows include The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, and The Yogi Bear Show, and each of these series provided Boomerang with its most memorable faces. Additionally, Warner Bros. Animation took up a nice chunk of space in the Boomerang catalog, too. There was overlap with some of the H-B shows (different iterations of Scooby-Doo, Looney Tunes, and Tom and Jerry were later created through WB), but the network can likely be credited for introducing Gen Z to the magic of Popeye and the Looney Tunes. 

But all good things must come to an end, and by 2015, Boomerang as we know it was mostly gone. In an attempt to make it a secondary arm of Cartoon Network, it relaunched with original programming. Even still, it wasn’t wholly original so much as it was revamped, fresher-faced versions of old ‘toons whose audiences spanned several generations. It rebooted old storylines and characters, with iterations including The Tom and Jerry Show, New Looney Tunes, Be Cool, Scooby-Doo, and Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?. And even though the classics were—and still are to this day—getting airtime, the focus towards new originals or revamped classics defeats the purpose of what Boomerang was in the first place.  

Boomerang before its rebrand was one-of-a-kind. In an era where television shows are deleted from streaming services in an attempt to avoid paying residuals to creators or to simply write them off in a thinly veiled tax scam, Boomerang was a radical preserver of media, and something our current TV landscape is so desperately missing. So many television shows are just lost to time, but Boomerang allowed them to thrive in their own oasis, much to our infinite delight. And the network was a particular champion for animation, a medium that continually finds itself on the receiving end of infinite disrespect from executives and audiences alike. Here, animation was revered as the culture-defining and impactful medium it’s always been, and that is always something worth celebrating. 

Known cheekily as the iPad baby generation, Gen Alpha (which began somewhere around 2010) watches less and less television, and more and more short-form content. And with the tragic decline of cable, such content isn’t as easily accessible, either. Now, instead of turning on the TV and finding Flintstones on the airwaves, kids today have to go digging through multiple streaming services and apps to get that same exposure to cartoons that were so deeply influential. And even across its own streaming service, ad-on channels with Prime Video, and a smattering of classics on Max, some series were still lost in the shuffle, and will likely be forgotten to time. And even if you still have access to its cable stream, the older content no longer airs quite as frequently anymore, replaced by their more modern updates. Sure, we’ll always have the Scooby Gang in common—but even that is so different from its original form. 

Boomerang’s old roster was earnest. The characters were wholeheartedly themselves, for better or for worse, and they weren’t trying to cater to a hyper-specific audience. Watching these shows was so fun because many of its protagonists thrived on utter chaos. They caused trouble but were still loveable and capable of being loving. They weren’t “bad;” they were just childish. They didn’t try too hard to grow up, even if they were well past the acceptable age of doing so. And more than anything, the viewers could come and go as they pleased; these shows had been on the air for several decades by April 1, 2000, meaning it wasn’t as big of a deal if they didn’t fit so perfectly into the cultural zeitgeist. They didn’t rely on ratings to be renewed. They just were, and that was more than enough. 

Even still today, there’s something so sacred about a children’s television channel. We no longer watch the same things, regardless of age, unless it’s the now-rare occasion where individual TV show episodes drop weekly instead of all at once for our bingeing pleasure, and losing that universality is a direct result of losing these hubs we all once flocked to.  

There will never be a channel, network, or streaming service quite like Boomerang was during its prime. (Even Disney Channel and Nickelodeon have found themselves floundering in recent years). The channel served us long and well from April Fools’ Day onward, and we will continue to remember its impact fondly. 

Gillian Bennett is a writer and editor who has been featured in Strike Magazine, Her Campus, and now Paste Magazine. She enjoys watching copious reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and fantasizing about living in London. You can find more of her neverending inner monologue and online diary on her Twitter or her blog.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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