Cartoon Hangover delivers compelling programming

It’s hard to imagine that in this day and age there are things that cannot be aired on television. However, as content becomes more bizarre and contentious, particularly in the world of cartoons, writers and directors have been forced to find an outlet that gives them exposure along with freedom, something not always available on traditional television networks. With the wide availability of open-source video sharing sites like YouTube, content is now as strange and niche as show creators want it to be.

One of the more successful companies doing this work is called Cartoon Hangover. With just over one million subscribers on their YouTube channel, Cartoon Hangover has successfully produced a slew of animated shorts by artists from all over the world and the successful cartoon series “Bravest Warriors” (2012-present). Not only that, the channel has seen its first Kickstarter campaign-funded series called “Bee and Puppycat,” a show that premiered in 2013 as a short and gained a cult following seemingly overnight. The fanfare surrounding these shows and Cartoon Hangover itself speaks to the growing trend of series that are independently produced and promoted on Internet platforms.

Though the channel and its spinoffs maintain intellectual and creative freedom, it’s easy to see the hand of larger corporations when looking back into the origins of Cartoon Hangover. Indeed, the impetus for the formation of the channel was the YouTube Original Channel Initiative. Through this program, Google, which owns the video sharing site, sought to subsidize the creation of original content and programming on YouTube, with the intention of building a base for Google TV, which today is all but inevitable. This program has brought countless celebrities and creative types to YouTube to deliver their ideas, collaborations and video projects directly to viewers. Cartoon Hangover is simply another cog in this massive matrix of innovators. What’s more, it seems that this grassroots movement has truly given artists and writers unhindered creative space to produce unique, intriguing work.

Cartoon Hangover is, truly, a prime example of the benefits of open-source programming. The channel is able to gauge directly how their shows and shorts are faring with audiences, and they use this data to tailor their content to the desires of these viewers — not network suits. And what’s even more encouraging? The shows are actually good.

With fairly unambiguous ties to its older brother Cartoon Network, Cartoon Hangover showcases the work of their current rock star Pendleton Ward, creator of “Adventure Time” (2010-present). “Bravest Warriors,” Cartoon Hangover’s most developed and beloved series, is Ward’s brainchild, and his influence isn’t hard to see. Much like “Adventure Time,” “Bravest Warriors” tells the story of best friends hanging out in a futuristic world with silly but enviable technology.

Though the show focuses on four heroes and their exploits throughout the vast galaxy, the real center of “Bravest Warriors” are the characters’ goofy but ultimately heartfelt interactions. Ward, an escapist at heart, consistently develops universes where viewers watch their favorite characters enjoy the spoils of lighthearted fun. But on a deeper level, these characters deal with complex, unresolved and heart-wrenching subplots to which viewers can connect.

“Bee and Puppycat,” though stylistically unique, is another holdover from the “Adventure Time” universe. It is created and written by Natasha Allegri, the mastermind behind the gender-bending episodes of “Adventure Time” that feature characters Fiona and Cake. Allegri’s show tells the story of a quirky, downtrodden young woman named Bee who teams up with a puppy-cat hybrid, traversing dimensions on supernatural missions. The similarities between Ward’s and Allegri’s work aren’t hard to see, but, each series offers viewers a different perspective, a distinct kind of humor and a unique journey in their respective realms. What’s more, “Bee and Puppycat” is undeniably more accessible for female viewers. Through the show, Allegri unabashedly strives to bring cool and weird girls to a larger audience — validating the humor, heart and relevance of young women.

Ultimately, Cartoon Hangover is a new and exciting place for cartoon programming. Granting independent artists the freedom to express their silliest ideas seems to be a rising trend, not only for animated content, but also for television across the board. If you haven’t already taken notice, now is the time — great things are happening on Cartoon Hangover, so tune in!