When I'm bored, and out of other options, I'll usually turn to my favorite YouTube channels to entertain me. Of course, like anyone who spends too much time on YouTube, I usually end up on a side of the channel I wasn't even planning on going to. That happened recently, when I suddenly found myself looking at a bunch of cartoon pilots.
Pilot episodes are the episode that show creators pitch to networks to get their idea sold. They aren't the first episode per se; they're more like standalone episodes to present the idea of the series. While perusing through YouTube, I found a lot of pilot episodes for old cartoons, especially shows from the '90s and early '00s.
You wouldn't believe how different shows are from their original pilots! Sometimes, they're completely different shows, sharing a tiny similarity with the cartoon they would become. To show you what I mean, here are five original pilot episodes of popular cartoon shows!
1. The Fairly OddParents
Who remembers Oh Yeah! Cartoons? I sure (sorta) do! If you don't know what Oh Yeah! Cartoons is, it was an animated showcase block that showed original 11-minute cartoons. It had a pretty brief run, airing from 1998 to 2001. It was basically Nickelodeon's way of showcasing new talent, and giving writers and animators a way to pitch their show in a creative way. About 100 cartoons were shown during the show's 4-year run, one of them being a show called The Fairly OddParents!
Created by Butch Hartman, The Fairly OddParents centered around Timmy Turner, a kid with a pretty miserable life, and his Fairy Godparents who exist to make his life better, one wish at a time!
The pilot episode actually isn't that different from what the show would eventually become. The only differences were the clearly different voice cast, and the role of Timmy's babysitter, Vicky. It looks like she was originally going to be the one trying to find out the truth about Timmy's fairies, a role that would be given to Crocker, Timmy's school teacher, in the show.
All in all, Butch Hartman didn't have to make a lot of changes when Nickelodeon bought the show. However, I'm glad he changed Cosmo's voice. His voice in the pilot was oddly...unsettling.
2. The Powerpuff Girls
Sugar, spice, and everything nice. These are the ingredients we all remember, because they created the stars of one of Cartoon Network's greatest series, The Powerpuff Girls! But long before Professor Utonium accidentally added a dash of Chemical X, there was a different ingredient he dropped into the concoction; Whoopass!
That's no joke: before the Powerpuff Girls were spreading messages of girl power and equality across our televisions, they were the "Whoopass Girls", three crime-fighting superheroes who starred in Craig McCraken's original short, Whoopass Stew!
Like The Fairly OddParents, the pilot episode of The Powerpuff Girls wasn't all that different. Aside from some slightly different design choices (and the questionable name), it was pretty much the same show about crime-fighting kindergartners.
Craig McCracken originally made the first Whoopass Stew short in 1992, during his second year at CalArts. After it was shown at Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation (you can't get more '90s than that name!), Whoopass Stew was picked up by Cartoon Network for a full series.
Since "Whoopass" isn't really a kid-friendly term, Craig McCracken had to drop the name and come up with a new one. Thus, the Powerpuff Girls were born!
3. Regular Show
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Technically speaking, the pilot episode of Regular Show premiered on Cartoon Network as a part of their Cartooninstitute block (it was basically CN's Oh Yeah! Cartoons). However, the Regular Show pilot is a rare case, because it itself is actually derived from two different pilots that series creator J. G. Quintel created while in CalArts.
While studying at CalArts, Quintel made two shorts for a project that involved making a film in 48 hours out of names pulled from a hat. The first short was called 2 in the AM PM, and the second was called The Naive Man from Lolliland.
As you can see, the original concepts for Regular Show were NOT for children, especially 2 in the AM PM! The short set in a gas station store involved two cashiers taking acid and proceeding to — and this is the scientific term — "trip out".
When the show made its way into Cartoon Network's crosshairs, J. G. Quintel performed a complete overhaul, changing up the characters and setting, and making the show more PG.
However, there are some fans who believe that Regular Show is completely in the minds of the two gas station cashiers. It would really explain how bizarre the series is.
4. Adventure Time
Ah, Adventure Time. This long-running Cartoon Network cartoon is pretty important to the history of the channel. Why's that? Because it basically put Cartoon Network back on the map.
Granted, I'm not a fan of a lot of cartoons that air on the show nowadays, but the cartoons I am a fan of would probably not exist if it wasn't for the success of the unique adventures of Finn and Jake. Regular Show, The Amazing World of Gumball, Steven Universe are all innovative and creative cartoons that breathed life into the Cartoon Network. But it was Adventure Time that sparked the channel's "cartoon Renaissance".
Believe it or not, Cartoon Network actually almost missed out on the series, because another network was interested in it; Nickelodeon.
Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward originally created the idea of the series while studying at, you guessed it, CalArts (I know what school I'm taking a look at). After completing the pilot, he pitched it to Nickelodeon for their Nicktoons Network channel. While it did premiere on the channel, as part of Random! Cartoons (a new version of Oh Yeah!), Nickelodeon never ordered a full series.
Eventually, Ward started pitching the show to other networks, and when Cartoon Network found it, they jumped on it! Ward was given a full series order, and the rest is history. I bet Nickelodeon still feels pretty bad about missing out on Adventure Time. Oh well, at least they still have Spongebob.
Speaking of Nickelodeon, the last show on this list is a classic Nick cartoon, and a favorite of many '90s kids. Actually, Rugrats is such a good show, that even kids born after the '90s can't get enough of it!
Rugrats was the wonderful show that followed Tommy Pickles and his baby friends on many exaggerated and adorable adventures. The cartoon first aired in 1991, and it was so popular, that it managed to stay on air for 13 years! Not to mention the several theatrical films, one of which was a crossover with another Nickelodeon classic, The Wild Thornberrys.
But everything has to start small, even something as large as Rugrats. Before becoming the monumentally successful Nicktoon we all know and love, Rugrats started off as a 6 minute pilot, named 'Tommy Pickles and the Great White Thing".
Created in 1989 by Gabor Csupo, Arlene Klasky, and Paul Germain, the original Rugrats pilot short centered around Tommy Pickles's fascination with the "great white thing" (toilet) in his Grandpa's "thinking room" (bathroom, duh).
It was pitched to Nickelodeon in 1990, but for whatever reason, it was never aired. The pilot itself isn't really that different from the show, aside from some minor animation style changes. Here's a fun fact: When coming up for the idea for Rugrats, Gabor Csupo and Arlene Klasky (a then-married couple) based the babies off of their own infant children.
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This just goes to show, basing your ideas off of real life experiences can really work out for you. With that in mind, I'm going to get started on my short film about my cat and dog. I'll call it... DogCat or something. Sure that's never been done!
But in all honesty, watching the pilot episodes of these shows was a very surreal experience. It's so interesting seeing how far the shows, and their creators, have become- from paper sketches in college to big-budget animation studios!
Thanks For Reading! Which pilot episode was your favorite?