Saturday mornings are super again. Harkening back to the glory days of the 1970s and '80s when kids got their weekends going with Super Friends and Schoolhouse Rock, Cartoon Network is launching DC Nation, a programming block that showcases the heroes of the DC Comics library. Kicking off this week, the hour will be anchored by the new CGI show Green Lantern: The Animated Series (10am/9c) and the continuation of the first season of Young Justice (10:30am/9:30c). Scattered throughout the hour are animated shorts and interstitials with news and vignettes from around the DC universe, including previews of upcoming movies.
Though some of the shorts feature big names like Superman and Batman, many will put the spotlight on "characters we've always wanted to see animated, but that might not be able to support a whole series," says Peter Girardi, senior vice president of series and alternative animation at Warner Bros. Animation, which is coordinating the block. Among the second-tier characters featured are Plastic Man, Black Lightning, Doctor Fate, the Doom Patrol and even Vibe, a short-lived Latino member of the Justice League in the '80s. "I don't think we're ever going to make a Vibe series," Girardi admits, "although I wish we would."
That's not to say that some of these shorts couldn't find longer-form success someday. "We're hoping some of these shorts are actually micro-pilots that might take off," Girardi says. "We might introduce the audience to a character they've never known before."
A humorous tone runs through the shorts, including S.B.F.F. (short for Super Best Friends Forever), which stars Supergirl, Wonder Girl and Batgirl and "has plenty of action and fighting, but is really much more focused on comedy and laughs and how much fun it is to be a superhero," says producer Lauren Faust. "It's like taking a teenage experience but putting a superhero spin on it. In one episode, Supergirl and Batgirl try to convince Wonder Girl to sneak out in Wonder Woman's invisible jet and go for a joyride."
Each installment runs just over a minute, creating a unique storytelling challenge. "There's barely a beginning, middle and end," Faust says. "It's almost like a visual joke — one joke, one gag, one concept and just letting that play out and getting to your punch line as fast as possible."
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