Co-Written by Carly Hallman
In eight short years, Cartoon Network's Adult Swim has evolved from a twice-weekly late-night break from children's programming and into a powerful media empire in its own right. Adult Swim, which now airs every night between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Central Time, has spawned a host of offshoots, live events, and imitators.
If a talking rabbit and a pants-wearing sea sponge can have their own derivative t-shirts and toys, why can’t a street-wise, trash-talkin’ wad of meat? Like any good media empire, Adult Swim has begun the process of turning everything magical into something purchasable. Adultswim.com offers fans a large variety of “to-be-expected” merchandise and apparel, as well as a few cleverer items-- the website is currently offering fans a chance to fill their own DVD with 110 minutes of their favorite Adult Swim show episodes. The party, and the buck, doesn’t stop online, though. Josh Feldman, VP of ad sales and marketing for Adult Swim, said “[We have an] obligation to stay true to the network's brand when creating marketing partnerships.” So, what corporations has Feldman deemed worthy? Mall-staple Hot Topic hawks t-shirts, plush toys, and other assorted knick-knacks, and Adult Swim partnered with Midway Games to release 2007’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am for PlayStation 2.
Since its first night on air, Adult Swim has rated well according to Nielson Media Group. But in 2007, when Nielson began to include college-aged viewers in their surveys, Adult Swim’s ratings skyrocketed. Currently, Adult Swim is one of the most popular late-night destinations for channel-surfing adults aged 18-34. The station continues to break ratings records for both men and women in said age group.
Rock stars do tours. Best-selling authors do tours. Politicians do tours. Now, thanks to Adult Swim, weirdos, misfits, and fictional characters do tours, too. In 2008, resident Adult Swim oddballs Tim and Eric performed in festivals and clubs across the country on a sold-out 14-city American tour, and in 2009, embarked on a second tour. T&E describe their live act as a “fast-paced, live variety show complete with short films, parodies, pranks and musical numbers.” Others on Adult Swim’s payroll are hopping on the bandwagon. Aqua Teen Hunger Force creators and voice actors, Dana Snyder and Dave Willis, recently appeared at Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse for two nights of short films, stand-up comedy and audience-participation activities involving kazoos and “Squidbillies” DVD giveaways.
In 2007, Adult Swim released their first movie “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters” which was based on the animated comedy “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.” And while the film, which told a twisted version of the Aqua Teens origins, was critically unsuccessful, it still managed to gross around $5.5 million (not bad for a $750,000 budget). Adult Swim currently has plans for a sequel, tentatively titled “Death Fighter,” that is set to release in 2011.
Other networks, after seeing how successful Adult Swim has been with their programming, have tried to achieve similar success with shows that bear striking resemblance, in style and sense-of-humor, to those on Adult Swim. Both “Tripping the Rift” and “Drawn Together” are adult-themed animated shows that arrived on the scene just after Adult Swim started seeing big rating numbers. Neither “Tripping” nor “Drawn Together” has performed quite as well as their Adult Swim counterparts, but thanks in large part to Adult Swim paving the cartoon “road less traveled,” both have found decent-sized audiences.
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