Williams Street

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Williams Street
WilliamsStreetLogo.jpg
Founded October 1976
President Keith Crofford
Notable Works The Moxy Pirate Show
Space Ghost Coast to Coast
Aqua Teen Hunger Force

Williams Street is a studio in Atlanta, GA that produces shows, manages production of other shows, stores libraries of video and audio, and produces online content all for Turner Broadcasting. Little is known of the studio's history pre-Turner, except that the building was constructed in the early 1900s and was a carpet factory for a long time. Ted Turner bought the building in 1976 as part of his new local television station. The building is located on 1065 Williams St. NW in midtown Atlanta, and nearby is the transmitter for WTBS-TV.

Contents

History

WTCG (1976-1979)

At 1 p.m. on December 17, 1976, the WTCG Channel 17 signal was beamed via the Satcom 1 satellite to its four cable systems in Grand Island, Nebraska; Newport News, Virginia; Troy, Alabama; and Newton, Kansas. All four cable systems started receiving the 1948 Dana Andrews and Cesar Romero film Deep Waters, already in progress. The movie had started 30 minutes earlier. WTCG went from being a little television station no one watched to a major TV network that every one of the 24,000 households outside of the 675,000 in Atlanta received coast-to-coast. WTCG became a licensed superstation and created a precedent of today's basic cable television.

HBO had gone to satellite transmissions to distribute its signal nationally in 1975, but that was a service cable subscribers had to pay extra to receive. Ted Turner's innovation signaled the start of the basic cable revolution.

WTBS/TBS Superstation (1979-1991)

WTCG was re-launched in 1979 as WTBS. The new call letters were purchased with an equipment donation to the MIT student radio station, now WMBR. The Williams Street facility was part of the homebase of TBS, and most of it was used as a storage facility for the company. It still acts as the vault for all show tapes. One of the shows it helped produce at the time was a show called 17 Update Early in the Morning which aired around 3 or 4 AM on the station.

WTBS continued to build steam as it was carried on more cable providers around the country as the subscription television service started to populate, and soon became TBS Superstation. In the mid 80s, Ted Turner also created the first 24-hour news network, CNN. Both channels became a standard for cable providers by the late 80s. Around this time, Ted Turner also launched Turner Network Television. Soon, the building became too small for the amount of income it was receiving, and a separate campus was built across the street for the ever-expanding Turner empire. Upon completion, Turner launched Cartoon Network as a showcase for the recently acquired Hanna-Barbera library.

Ghost Planet Industries (1991-1999)

Keith Crofford was appointed to run the Williams Street facility while everyone else went across the street to the Techwood Drive campus. He stayed behind with Turner veterans like Mike Lazzo and Andy Merrill. A lot of their duties were focusing on Cartoon Network, including producing host segments for The Moxy Pirate Show (later The Moxy Show), which starred Bobcat Goldthwait. Around the end of 1993, the Williams Street group finally approached Ted Turner with the desire to produce original animated programming like sister station TBS was doing with 2 Stupid Dogs and Captain Planet. According to Lazzo, Ted kicked them out of the office, saying that he wouldn't give Cartoon Network any money until the network began making some.

They didn't accept that as an answer, so the group decided to produce their own, cheaply made show. At first they kicked around ideas with old, bad Hanna-Barbera cartoons, until they finally came up with having Space Ghost host a talk show. The pilot produced was nothing more than Space Ghost (voiced by Gary Owens) interviewing an edited, taped interview from CNN. It was done at an incredibly low cost, and Space Ghost himself was rotoscoped out of the original animation footage. Soon enough, the show Space Ghost Coast to Coast was greenlit for 10 episodes.

Due to the low budget, the crew was only able to get C and D-list celebrities such as Dr. Timothy Leary, Kevin Meaney, and Ashley Judd. The team also re-cast the role of Space Ghost using local radio and TV celebrity George Lowe. Some new animation was created for the series, but there was very little of it, and it was animated in Toronto to save costs. Whenever a new piece of animation came along, it didn't take long to get reused into the ground. Nonetheless, the series premiered on April 14, 1994, introduced the name Ghost Planet Industries, and was the first original production by Cartoon Network. The low-budget look of the show became a staple, and eventually one for the entire studio. As Coast to Coast continued, they received more attention being an animated talk show, and were able to get better celebrities. They even did a special episode for the VHS release of The Mask in which they interviewed Jim Carrey and director Charles Russell. In 1996, the show was host to the first line-up of original animated productions by the Hanna-Barbera studios exclusively for Cartoon Network, entitled World Premiere Toons.

In 1997, fed up with previous incarnations of afternoon action programming, Ghost Planet Industries members Sean Akins and Jason Demarco created a block of programming entitled Toonami. The block was packaged with CGI bumpers featuring the Ghost Planet Industries building (as located on the Ghost Planet) and Space Ghost's very own Moltar as the host. The block contained already acquired action shows like Thundercats, and acquired anime like Voltron and Robotech. Toonami was also home to premieres of a new Cartoon Network original series: The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, an updated version of the old Hanna-Barbera Jonny Quest series. Toonami would soon stagger around with more programming changes, and eventually become a huge hit with the acquisition of Dragon Ball Z, where it flourished among pre-teens and young boys. This was a big factor in helping Cartoon Network attain more cable television households. Toonami also helped the push of more sophisticated Japanese anime into the US mainstream market with titles like Outlaw Star, The Big O, and harem comedy staple Tenchi Muyo!.

In 1998, TBS decided to come back into Ghost Planet Industries' life, as it was on its last legs for kids' programming. The studio was commissioned to produce a spinoff of Space Ghost Coast to Coast for TBS afternoons entitled Cartoon Planet. The show was hosted by Space Ghost, and also featured villains Zorak and Brak. The characters were featured in host segments surrounding 11 minute cartoon shorts every afternoon at 4:05 PM on TBS. The showcase lasted for 2 seasons, and finally TBS decided to throw in the towel for kids programming, following the lead of TNT and USA. Cartoon Planet was moved over to Cartoon Network, where it enjoyed some late-night airtime until its inevitable booting from the air. This show will never see a DVD release, as the rights are too complicated to acquire.

Meanwhile, Coast to Coast continued production. The show even featured appearances of guests and comedians who would later become much bigger successes like Adam Carolla, Colin Quinn, and Jon Stewart. By this time the entire network was growing immensely. New half-hour original series were in production at Hanna-Barbera Studios in Los Angeles. Ghost Planet Industries had gone from being the center of the whole Turner operation to a tiny piece of it. In the late 90s, many Coast to Coast veterans had left or gone to Los Angeles to write professionally. Such writers included Matt Harrigan (who would later return to become an executive), Dan Vebber, Spike Feresten, Nell Scovell, Mark Banker, Rob Thomas, and Rich Dahm. Very few writers remained, and Coast to Coast began to stall a little. Show writer Evan Dorkin was also pre-occupied with other projects. Even more delays would come for the first original Ghost Planet Industries series, as the network began pre-production plans on its new block of adult programming that would launch in 3 years. Ghost Planet Industries decided to take on the task of managing and producing these new adult shows, carrying on the tradition of spending as little money as possible. Since Cartoon Network was unsure of the success of their new adult programming block, they spent an incredibly small amount of money launching it. Coast to Coast veterans Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro came to the table with their own idea of talking food detectives. Jim Fortier and Pete Smith had the idea of giving Hanna-Barbera villain character Brak a sitcom with also-villain Zorak, and Matt Thompson and Adam Reed of New York City based production company 70/30 Productions produced their own pilot, using tapes of 1960s series Sealab 2020 which they had stolen from Turner Broadcasting after getting fired. Turner/GPI veteran Mike Lazzo was also promoted to the head of program development and scheduling at this time, and became a much bigger figure in the network overall. Many believe it was his promotion that allowed the network to thrive as it did in the early new millennium. After many delays, season 6 of Space Ghost Coast to Coast finally aired in October of 1999. However, with the studio no longer focusing solely on Space Ghost, they figured it was time for a new name.

Williams Street (1999-present)

In fall of 1999, the building officially donned the name Williams Street, named after the street it was on. It would continue its duties under the guidance of Cartoon Network. As 2000 came, Toonami was stronger than ever, and the studio continued producing new cheap shows behind the scenes while Coast to Coast laid on the backburner for a while, and wouldn't return to the airwaves until Spring 2001. In 2000, Cartoon Network launched its spinoff network Boomerang, and GPI staffer Andy Merrill was promoted to head of programming for the new channel. By the end of 2000, the new Williams Street pilots were contractually obligated to air, finished or not, and so they did in December on two early mornings. The pilots enjoyed a collective 0.2 audience share according to Nielsen Media Research. They were unadvertised and only known about by a select few. Months later, the first new Space Ghost Coast to Coast to air in over a year would hit the airwaves, and people got a taste of what was to come in September.

In summer 2001, the network officially announced the name of its new programming lineup for adults: Adult Swim. The name was taken after certain public pool hours in which kids were banned from the pool. Williams Street would be in charge of this lineup, and previewed some of their new shows over the summer at San Diego Comic-Con. On September 2, 2001, the block premiered to a limited audience. The new shows retained the Williams Street tradition of cheap, limited animation, with dialogue-based humor. The block also aired former UPN series Home Movies, which was produced by Soup2Nuts in Boston. Adult Swim also premiered Cowboy Bebop to the US audience, thus creating a feasible adult outlet for Japanese anime to a wide audience with minimal editing for content. For the next year or so, these shows would continue to gain steam and a cult fanbase. Both Williams Street produced blocks Toonami and Adult Swim were helping the network into many more homes. It wouldn't be until the acquisitions of cancelled FOX series Futurama, and soon Family Guy, when Adult Swim would be put on the media map. During this time, Mike Lazzo stepped down from his network duties to become the SVP in charge of Adult Swim. With Lazzo in charge, Adult Swim enjoyed great success throughout 2003. Meanwhile, Matt Harrigan set up the Williams Street West studio in Los Angeles to write and produce a new season of Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Coast to Coast finally returned for another season after a long gestation period (and would finally get long-wanted guest, William Shatner). Six episodes were aired from the end of 2003 to the beginning of 2004, and featured guests like Jeff Probst and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Meanwhile, Toonami would see the end of its long running powerhouse of a show, Dragon Ball Z.

2004 would see the end of the 7-year old Williams Street-produced block Toonami on weekdays, when it moved to Saturday nights replacing the temporary action block, Saturday Video Entertainment System. Cartoon Network had recently gotten new management due to corporate shufflings above, and decided that it was time for a new gender-neutral-lite action block on weekday afternoons. Thus, Williams Street created Miguzi, a new all-ages skewing action/adventure block. Like Toonami, this block also featured CG-animated packaging and bumps. Meanwhile, Williams Street's oldest show Space Ghost: Coast to Coast was put on indefinite hiatus with the closing down of Williams Street West. Even with Matt Harrigan returning to Atlanta, the crew was too busy working on other projects to do Space Ghost. Adult Swim continued growing with viewership rivaling the kids' programming. With "Ghost" gone, as well as Adult Swim day 1-ers The Brak Show and Home Movies, Williams Street began to seek out other production companies in places like Los Angeles to produce shows for Adult Swim at a low cost. The studio began to manage production now of other shows for the block. The crew was determined to find its big breakout hit, and was searching high and low for show ideas.

In 2005, Adult Swim came with a slew of new shows, many produced by or managed by Williams Street. The studio managed new half hour series Stroker and Hoop (produced across the street at Turner Studios), ratings winner Robot Chicken, and ratings not-so-winner Tom Goes to the Mayor. Williams Street also produced new original comedies Squidbillies, 12 Oz. Mouse, and Perfect Hair Forever. At the moment, Adult Swim is still a ratings powerhouse, with new Sony Pictures Television produced series The Boondocks scoring big. Original series Aqua Teen Hunger Force is slated to return in December, with more originals on the way. On the Toonami side, the block had just recently acquired Japanese shonen hit Naruto, where it enjoyed success in its first 2 months on the air. Toonami also premiered their very first original series, IGPX, which Williams Street managed the production of while being produced in Japan at Production I.G. With all the new shows, Williams Street had to be totally renovated. The building now has new offices and new facilities for the new and current staff to enjoy. The new facilities (dubbed "Williams Street 2.0") are located in what was once the CNN studio annex.

Unfortunately, IGPX had very little success, and the show ended up moving to Friday nights off of Toonami, thus ending the first Williams Street production for Toonami. To add to that, it was announced at the 2007 Cartoon Network upfront that Miguzi would be removed from the schedule and replaced with a new interactive block called Master Control.

Original Productions

In-House Productions

Production Management