Believe it or not, on October 1, Cartoon Network turned 25 years old. The first network 24/7 dedicated to animation decided to commemorate the anniversary with Cartoon Network: 25 Years of Drawing on Creativity, an exhibit created in collaboration with The Paley Center for Media.

The exclusive exhibit premiered September 16 in New York. It’s not just a celebration of Cartoon Network, but of the genre itself, presenting a hands-on learning opportunity to kids that may very well be integral to crafting the stories behind the network’s next 25 years.

“We knew we were going to get families and hardcore cartoon fans, but what’s really gratifying for us was to see young people thinking about animation as a career,” said Michael Ouweleen, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Turner’s Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang. “There was a great gender mix of kids showing up interested in animation as an art form and as a career.”

One imagines that will again be the case when the exhibit arrives at Paley Center’s Beverly Hills location on October 14, running through November 19.

“I’ve worked here for 21 of the 25 years, and when it comes time to summarize the network for 25 years, it’s daunting. It’s a hard thing to wrap your head around. There’s been a lot of innovation in the network’s history, but it all begins with a pencil drawing,” said Ouweleen.

“That’s the thread that we’re using throughout the exhibit. Once we figured out that was the story we wanted to tell, it all came together.”

Innumerable activities await fans and families who venture to Paley Center over the next month, as visitors will witness the step-by-step creative process that takes you from the initial sketch to the final product with Steven Universe.

To see another side of animation, fans can explore the special stop-motion sets from Adventure Time. In addition, attendees will get a chance to take photos with character statues from The Powerpuff Girls and OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes!

The excitement kicks off on Saturday October 14 with an afternoon of free, fun (and adventure) time for kids of all ages. From 12 to 3:30 p.m., children will be able to try their hands at storyboarding by creating scenes with their favorite Cartoon Network characters.

The exhibit not only embraces Cartoon Network’s history, but the history of animation, as kids will also get to devise their own animation scene by making flipbooks, thaumatropes and phénakisticopes, the first optical toys and animation devices that inspired an entire medium.

On Saturday, across the world in Cannes, Ouweleen and Rob Sorcher, Cartoon Network’s executive vice president and chief content officer, will speak at MIPJunior about the network’s history.

When it comes to TV history, there’s no more willing or able partner than The Paley Center. Given the focus on education and tactile activities, Cartoon Network and The Paley Center make a great team.

“They always lend this respectability to whatever happens. It’s been great. It’s been collaborative,” said Ouweleen. “It was fun for our team to learn about what makes for a good exhibit and what doesn’t. They wanted to draw people in, and draw kids in, and had nice thoughts on that.”

To draw people in, every weekend animation fans can venture into the Mitchell Theater to enjoy Cartoon Network staples on the big screen, promising one-hour screenings of episodes featured in the exhibit from such diverse shows as Ben 10, Steven Universe, Adventure Time, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes!, and The Powerpuff Girls.

The sampler will be followed by one-hour devoted to fan-favorite Steven Universe, which includes episodes, behind-the scenes clips, music videos and other exclusive content.

On October 21 at 1 PM, the exhibit will host a special, free Cartoon Network Series Creator panel featuring Rebecca Sugar (Steven Universe), Ian Jones-Quartey (OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes) and Julia Pott (Summer Camp Island), moderated by IndieWire editor Michael Schneider.

“It will show how Adventure Time inspired a bunch of different series coming out of it,” said Ouweleen. Fans can RSVP now.

Toward the end of October, The Paley Center will play host to a Halloween costume party modeled after the network’s annual San Diego and New York Comic-Con costume balls.

The exhibit and its many activations proves once again how important experiential marketing is to brands.

“In an age when everyone’s looking at tiny screens in their hands, there’s something refreshing about getting together around a thing you love in the real world. To provide that for families with Cartoon Network is a great thing, and it pays you back in ways you never expected,” said Ouweleen. “The engagement is so real and it’s so rewarding. It keeps us working on this brand everyday, and it also keeps us honest to see kids reacting to our stuff. You learn what works really quickly.”

Cartoon Network has surely learned a lot over the past 25 years. And who knows, perhaps a few of the exhibit’s visitors will help put together the network’s 50th anniversary celebration.

For more information on the exhibit, check out The Paley Center’s website.

[All images courtesy of Cartoon Network and The Paley Center]


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