Monday, 31 October 2011

Does Today’s World Need Beavis and Butt-head?

I have a confession to make…I never really liked Beavis and Butt-head. I know they’re animation icons of the 90s, but something about them never really clicked with me growing up. I’m a fan of Mike Judge’s other well-known animated sit-com, King of the Hill, as well as Daria, which spun-off from Beavis and Butt-head. But I don’t know. Maybe it was the sheer stupidity of the main duo, or maybe simply I couldn’t stand their grating, inane chuckles. But for whatever reason, I just couldn’t jump onboard the Beavis and Butt-head bandwagon.
And now here we are in 2011, and they’re back on MTV after ending their initial run of 8 seasons from 1993 to 1997 and a feature length movie in 1996. But times have changed since the 90s. The world has changed. MTV has definitely changed. And hell, the two were pretty much poster characters for both MTV and the 90s! So is there still a place in this world for these characters? Or are they just forgotten animated relics out of their time period and element?
The first episode of the 2011 revival features the show’s typical structure of two shorts mixed in with bits where the duo gives their “unique” commentary on videos. The animation remains looking largely the same with its simplistic, limited, hand drawn look from back in the day. Art wise, it still has that “grungy” look that it had before; it’s like these are doodles someone sketched in their high school agenda while they were supposed to be paying attention in class. It’s all very reminiscent and nostalgic of the old series, and hasn’t changed all that much, but what has changed are the topics the show tackles.
Right away you can see Mike Judge has a wealth of new material in which his signature nitwits can interact with. The first short, Werewolves of Highland, directly dives into one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons of present time, and is also quite a popular franchise to lampoon presently, the Twilight saga. I found I enjoyed myself as Beavis and Butt-head tried to understand why girls go crazy for these stories about undead lovers. This leads to their idiotic idea of turning into werewolves to “pick up chicks.” The idea of this kind of parody isn’t exactly new, but the sight gags were certainly creative, and they took this idea to places that truly only these characters would go.
But while Twilight is an easy target, what I was even more interested in was what the duo would do in their random “TV watching” segments that they became famous for. Would they still be watching music videos, like they did in the olden days? Do teens even watch music videos anymore? Cause MTV certainly doesn’t play them anymore. Well, hey then! Problem easily solved! They’ll just watch MTV anyway! Don’t worry, B&B still comment on modern music videos (including some dubstep) but they now also watch many of MTV’s popular shows, including Jersey Shore. And it was during this segment in particular did I have a revelation about this show.
It was when a guy on Jersey Shore (I’m sorry, I’m not doing the research to find out which guy) made a dick joke, and Beavis sarcastically noted the cleverness of it…Beavis did that. A character who has spent most of his animated career making and laughing at dick jokes proved more mature then Jersey Shore. It was then it all became clear to me the depth of this show’s ability to satirize. It uses the characters of complete morons to openly mock everything else that’s wrong with pop culture through comparison. And there is a lot, a lot wrong with pop culture nowadays. 
Looking back with that in mind, it makes total sense. Judge has always been kind of like that jerky street artist who will draw a characterture of someone, but will exaggerate that one feature of their’s they’re ashamed of. He does this both with his design, and his writing. He creates characters that you mostly laugh at, not with. And through that, he’s been able to create some truly complex jokes and jabs. I’ve since gone back and watched some older episodes of Beavis and Butt-head, and sure enough, it’s there too. I think it may have just slipped over my head growing up, and I passed these characters off as just plain moronic. It’s remarkable how as I’ve matured, these immature characters seem more appealing. 
So do we need Beavis and Butt-head in today’s world? Well, in a world with so much crap in pop culture (particularly from MTV) I’d say that these two are more needed now than ever before. Coming back to some of his oldest and most cherished characters, Mike Judge’s writing has only become sharper and more clever throughout the years. I’m very interested to see what the duo will do next. So am I officially a Beavis and Butt-head fan? Well…getting there. I’ll have to still get over the duo’s irritating, yet iconic laughs first. 

Toons of Terror (Part 5: Dem Bones)

Yesterday’s blog was a little heavy, so let’s lighten things up with the happiest place on earth during the scariest time of year. It’s time for Disney’s take on Halloween! Today we look at two old school, black and white Disney shorts. Both featuring dancing skeletons! HORRAY!!
One being the Silly Symphony, Skeleton Dance (1929) and the other being a Mickey Mouse cartoon Haunted House (also 1929.) What are the chances of two Disney shorts involvine dancing skeletons coming out in the same year? Probably pretty good, actually. I’m not sure which came first, but there is some borrowed animation between the two, so there definitely was some collaborative brainstorming going on at Disney. Probably someone said, “dancing skeletons! Let’s do a short about that” And someone else said, “are you kidding?! There’s waaay to much material with a concept like that! We gotta do two!” As least that’s how I like to think it went down…
I’m grouping these two together, because they’re both very similar. One just happens to involve a very popular mouse. The imagery in both is actually pretty creepy for Disney. Being an older cartoon, they were able to actually get away with a little more artistically, I find. But even though the art is chilling, being Disney, these shorts never loose their sense of fun. It’s a kind of “playful scary” vibe that Disney later used in full force on their Haunted Manson ride. 
They’re both excellent cartoons. Skeleton Dance may be the more classic of the two, but I personally love the Mickey one a tad more. There’s something great about seeing this character so terrified that I always loved. And it’s also great that these ghouls just scared the hell out of him so that he would play the organ for them (probably cause skeletons don’t have any organs! Ba-dum tish!)
Ok enough of that. Just check out these shorts, they’re not very long, and even though they look old, the quality of the animation and storytelling hasn’t aged a day. 
- Moo

Toons of Terror (Part 4: Fear Bending)

I am a stone cold advocate of seeing animation as a medium, and not as a genre. Animation has the potential to do any genre in its own unique way that only animation can do. Yet, with that said, there are certain genres it does have trouble with or that I feel haven’t been explored well enough within the medium. One of those genres is horror. I love horror movies, and I love animation, but the amount of truly scary pieces of animation I’ve seen are far to few. So today for our Toons of Terror segment, let’s view a Halloween special that’s dripping with the tropes and tricks used in classic horror filmmaking. The show is Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the episode is simply called The Puppetmaster
I’ll try to keep this review as spoiler free as I can, as this episode is in the final season of the show, and at this point is rather deep into the overarching story. But let me say this: if you haven’t seen this show already GO WATCH THIS SHOW!! It’s one of the best cartoons I’ve seen in recent memory, and one of the best adventure shows of all time.
Now, with that said, this episode in question, while not technically a Halloween special, did premiere around Halloween of 2007 and is creepy as shit, so I’ll let it slide. The episode centers around the Avatar crew as they attempt to solve a mystery of people disappearing from a town every time there is a full moon. It’s a simple set up, but what separates this episode from being less Scooby-Doo like and more like a true horror film is the way they execute the events. It’s all in the delivery.
Now, since this still is an all ages show, they couldn’t get away with anything too gruesome, but that doesn’t mean they wern’t allowed to create the same atmosphere as done in a live action horror movie. In horror, what we can imagine is usually what’s the most frightening. Often times in film (especially early and indie horror filmes,) the budget would usually limit what you could show the audition, and that would actually be beneficial as the audition would fill in the blanks with their own fears. In animation, it’s a lot easier to just show big flashy things, cause it would essentially coast more or less the same than other scenes. But here in this episode, they wisely choose to show less, and tell more, letting our imaginations run wild. The very first scene is the kids telling each other ghost stories, and then Toph (the blind one of the group) tells others she could hear people screaming under the mountain followed by silence. They don’t show any of this, we’re just told. Our imaginations fill in the rest, and that’s just the first 5 minutes of this amazing episode. Creepy sounds and music (or sometimes lack there of) would make things feel very ominous. The storyboarding would show us just enough to wet our appetite for curiosity. Hell, there’s even some very sublet (almost subliminal) creepy imaginy, such as a random old woman’s face in a head of cabbage. 
And if that weren’t enough, the episode is also a big character moment for the character of Katara, and it actually answers some big questions I had about the show’s premis of “water bending.” But that’s getting into spoilerish territory, so again I’ll just say go and watch this one if you haven’t already. It’s a bold move for a “kid’s show” to do a episode meant to be frightening, and I feel it paid off for them in a very, very big way. 
- Moo

Toons of Terror (Part 3: Hey Aliens!)

Trick or treat is a simple concept. You either get tricked, or you get a treat. However, often times the alluring promise of free candy overwhelms the whole “trick” element of Halloween. So, I went looking for a Halloween special whose main focus was a really solid Halloween prank. And oh did I ever find one in Hey Arnold!’s halloween special, simply titled Arnold’s Halloween.
While there’s been many “spooky” episodes of Hey Arnold!, featuring ghost stories and other urban legends and tales, this is the only proper Halloween special that the show seemed to have. And lucky for us it pays homage to one of the greatest pranks ever, Orson Welles’ radio drama War of the Worlds
For those not in the know, War of the Worlds was a radio drama adaption of a piece written by H.G. Wells, directed and narrated by Orson Welles on October 30th 1938. The drama depicted an alien invasion as told from the perspective of a radio broadcaster. However, many people who missed the beginning of the piece (where it started it was fiction) kinda lost their shit thinking that this was a real alien invasion. People called the media and police, fled their homes, claimed they smelt poison gas and saw the flash of lights from the alien’s mothership. Mass hysteria! 
Arnold’s Halloween is a full homage to the classic radio drama and its fallout. After Arnold’s grandfather refuses to let Arnold and Gerald in on the planing for his anual Halloween pranks, the two decide to pull a prank of their own War of the Worlds style, faking a alien invasion broadcast. Even going so far as to have their classmates dress up as aliens. The prank however worked too well, and once the local media picked up on the broadcast, the whole town’s a panic. Again, mass hysteria! The fun is simply watching this good natured prank spiral out of control, having the kids flee for their lives in their alien costumes, and watching the adults totally lose their shit as the city goes into a complete panic. The cherry on the top of this cartoon sundae is voice actor Maurice LaMarche who not only voices one of the show regular antagonists, Big Bob Pataki, but is able to reuse his killer Orson Welles impersonation (that he perfected as The Brain in Pinky and The Brain) as Donald Wells, a report obsessed with alien conspiracies. 
The story of the fallout of The War of the Worlds has such natural comedy potential, it’s pretty surprising nobodies used it before. It’s a fun, panic filled story with tons of little moments, like Principle Warts planing to surrender willfully to the supposed invaders. I consider this one to be a hidden gem of animated Halloween specials. If you haven’t seen it before, give it a gander.
- Moo

Toons of Terror (Part 2: Horrorstar Runner)

Let’s keep the Halloween toons a coming with something a little more indie, shall we? Back in the 2000s, the internet was littered with Flash cartoons. You don’t see them nearly as much anymore thanks to the convenience of online video players and youtube, but a decade ago (yes, I just made you feel old) many websites would be entirely constructed using Flash, and the notion of a weekly webcartoon was quite a reality. Sadly, the time and effort to put into a weekly cartoon was an incredibly daunting task for the creators, so not many stuck around all that long. But out of all Flash cartoons that dominated the web at the time, no website was more diligent than Homestar Runner. And because they became known for their ability to release new shorts on a reliable schedule, you began to look forward greatly to certain anual traditions and trends that would pop up. Personally, I always looked forward to October, cause that would mean we’d get some sweet Homestar Halloween lovin’. 
So what made the Homestar Halloween specials such a treat? 
Well, it has to do with my personal favorite part about the holiday: dressing up. There are a grand total of 10 proper Halloween toons (as well as some bonus Halloween shorts some years) and every year the abstract cast of character would get dressed up in some of the most obscure, and sometimes very creative, costumes I’ve seen in animation. The cartoon’s writing was always a good mix of bizarre, quirky characters with a tad of popculture references, but on Halloween the popculture references would just go through the roof! Whether it would be Homestar dressing up as tennis player John McEnroe, or Strong Sad as a member of Devo, or Strong Bad as Cesar Romero’s Joker (complete with makeup over the moustache) seeing these characters in costume was just a blast year after year.
What I love is that each special is really different storywise, yet constant in theme, which made for some really creative shorts. Some of my favorites include a horror film spoof Jibblies 2, and Strong Sad’s time to shine in his Poe inspiredDoomy Tales of the Macabre. Another thing the site excelled in was the use of Flash’s interactive features, which allow the viewers a chance to find secrets and directly partake in the cartoon. No toon on the site did this better then the Halloween specials The House That Gave Sucky Treats and Halloween Potion-Me-Jig. And that’s not even touching the bouns shorts the website released over the years for Halloween! This included a rather unsettling marshmallow ad, an adorable interaction between puppet Homestar and a little girl, and the judging of real Homestar related costumes by Strong Bad himself (something that would also turn into an anual tradition on the site.) 
There hasn’t been a new Homestar cartoon in about a year, but their website is still up there, complete with all the Halloween goodies I mentioned and many more. I don’t know if Homestar will ever grace this good internet again, but for a good decade I had the joy of receiving sweet, sweet Flash animated treats every Halloween, and I adored the amount of detail and effort that went into every one of them.
And now a picture of the goblin dressed as a Santaman…
- Moo

Toons of Terror (Part 1: Pumpkin Messiahs)

I adore Halloween. I adore cartoons. So hey! Tis the season! I think it’s time to hunt down and talk about some of my personal favorite spooky toons. So with each day leading up to Hallow’s Eve this week, I’m gonna highlight some classic Halloween toons, as well as some not so classics that need some lovin’ too. This isn’t a ranking of favorite Halloween specials in any way, but just a random list of Halloween goodies. And what a better goodie to start with than good ol’ Charlie Brown’s Halloween special, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Almost as cherished as the Christmas special that came before it, this Peanuts gang holiday special mainly follows the exploits of Linus as he awaits the arrival of a supernatural gift-giver known as “The Great Pumpkin.” So what’s so special about this special? What’s so great about this Great Pumpkin?
Well like I mentioned, this special mainly follows Linus, who I’ve always been able to relate to more then the self-pitied Charlie Brown. The only thing ol’ blockhead contributes to this piece is receiving rocks instead of candy on Halloween, which only confirms my beliefs that not only are the children jerks to Charlie Brown, but the adults aren’t much better.
No, here we have the blissfully sincere Linus: the only existential philosopher who carries around a blanket (that I know of.) I find it interesting that while his unrelenting believes and faith proved to be the resolution to Charlie Brown’s woes at Christmas time, here at Halloween Linus’ uncompromising beliefs and spirituality is the entire conflict! His belief in The Great Pumpkin is indeed a cleaver metaphor for religious fanaticism and the bigger questions and dilemmas that comes with spirituality. To a kid, Halloween is a night that you want to get the most out of in every way possible. To Linus, these blind promises of a pumpkin Messiah is what he believes is the best use of his time, and even talks Sally into joining his quasi-cult as they wait all night in the cold pumpkin patch while the others enjoy their well earned candy and their Halloween party. 
A crisis of faith isn’t exactly the first thing you’d think of when writing a Halloween special, but that’s what really makes this special stand out. And that’s why I love these Peanut specials in general. It combines some pretty deep questions about humanity with the charm and fun of kids at play. It’s a melancholy special, for sure. But hey! That’s Peanuts for you. 
If you haven’t seen this special since you were a kid, I highly recommend you rewatch it now. You may pick up on a lot of subtle humour that may have passed right by you as a kid, and the charm of these timeless characters are always a joy watch. At the very least you can laugh at Charlie Brown missing that football again… I know that always makes me feel better about myself! 
- Moo

Me-ouch: Sexuality in Animation

Let’s be honest; most of North America still considers animation to be a medium designed only for kids. Now, truth be told, many shows have begun to change that notion, but that’s mainly due to wacky adult themed comedies, such as The Simpsons or Family Guy. If you want to find a mature-rated, animated drama or action flick from North America, then you’d have to dig into the more obscure end of the spectrum with the likes of Spawn or The Maxx or something equally packed with the overly extreem darkness of 90s counterculture.
So why is that? Can’t there be a mainstream action animated series that’s both geared to adults and that’s slightly less dark than a goth going to a funeral? Well of course there can, but there’s a lot of preconceived notions and problems about the animation industry that one has to overcome to make that a possibility. One of which was brought to the forefront of my attention after viewing DC Showcase: Catwoman. And that issue is how sexuality is portrayed in animation. It’s a big issue, and I can’t cover everything there is to cover about it in one blog post, but let’s just briefly dip our heels into the topic with our good ol’ friend, Miss Kitty here. 
This particular 15 minute short was packaged with the animated film, Batman: Year One (which I reviewed yesterday.) This isn’t a full on review of the short, but basically what happens is Catwoman tracks down the bad guys to a strip club, performs on a stripper poll with her cat suit zippered down to a level where her boobs defied physics by staying where they were, all essentially to distract the leering baddies into a boner induced daze just to surprise attack them with her whip. A chase ensues with Catwoman doing some pretty wicked action, as she (and her skin tight, tantalizingly ripped cat suit) take a beating, but eventually she is victorious, and there’s even a pretty touching moment as we all realize what Catwoman’s been fighting for this whole time. I should say by the end of the short, I did enjoy myself. But something bugged me. I mean, I’m not saying I have anything against Catwomen showin’ off her milk jugs (I am your typical male comic fan in their 20s. This thing was practically made for me!) But for crying out loud, give it some context! Make it important to the narrative! 
I get that Catwoman has always been a sexually charged character. And I have nothing against that, when it’s done in a compelling way. Which it isn’t here. The bad guys were already distracted with the strip show. They wouldn’t have even noticed Catwoman if she snuck up behind them. But the film was determined to have that Catwoman pole dancing scene. Why? Two simple words: fan service. It’s a safe bet, pandering to the fans who already like Catwoman. So it’s pretty clear who the target demographic is here, but what about those who just now decided to give the character of Catwoman a shot? Would this be intriguing at all? No. It’s just shallow sex appeal.

The problem with these kind of portrails (at the expense of plot and character development) is that, while tantalizing, it’s pretty immature. It’s like a pre-teen boy just discovering what sex is, and he feels the need draw boobs all over his homework. And when animation is struggling already to be regarded as something more than just “kid’s stuff,” being immature is the last thing it should be. 
There is a right way to show sexuality in animation. Sticking with DC, take for example their Wonder Woman animated dvd (directed by Lauren Montgomery, who shockingly also directed this Catwoman short…go figure…) Wonder Woman is shown in skimpy costumes, but it helps define her, coming from a culture where she says they take pride in their bodies and she actually doesn’t understand why she should cover herself up. It shows she’s confident in who she is, and that she’s very detached from the social norms of the modern world. It’s interesting. It’s sexy. And it’s a big character moment for her. European animation and anime also seem to have a better grasp on how to portray sexuality competently in animation, but that’s more of a cultural diference there (something else I’d like to examine in the future.)
All in all, if western animation hopes to make more shows and films that are geared towards adults, it needs to show sex as the complex issue that it is. It needs to treat adult matter like adults and not pander to the lowest of thrills. Otherwise you’re just watching drawn tits and ass jiggle around, and if you want that you should just go all out and watch some hentai. At least then you knowyou’re watching something shallow that’s supposed to lack any real complex narrative and emotional depth. But for others, I can only hope that we can make some progress in the future.
…some sexy, sexy progress…
- Moo

Batman: Year One (A review)

Warner Brothers Animation has such a rich and prospering relationship with DC Comics. Throughout the years they’ve picked every nook and cranny of the DC universe, exploring every obscure character and cherished storyline. Since fans of comics nowadays get their does of superheroism from graphic novel trades, WB has responded to these easy to digest “one and done” stories with a series of direct to DVD films. Most of these are based on best selling graphic novels. That being said, Batman: Year One is a pretty safe bet. It’s a animated adaptation of one of the most critically acclaimed comics staring undoubtedly DC’s most marketable character. While Batman’s origins have already been done on film twice (animated in Batman: Mask of Phantasm and live action in Batman Begins) this is what many Bat-fans regard as Batman’s true origin, and indeed both those movies borrowed heavily from what was presented in Year One. 
So? How is it?
Well, if you’ve read the book before, let me save you a little time here: it’s word for word the same. The original book was written by Frank Miller, love him or hate him. (I still can’t forgive him for The Spirit.) Yes, I rolled my eyes once I knew we were in for the noir-esque narrations and hyper-masculine treatment Miller forces on all his works, but as I watched it, I remembered that this was back when Frank Miller was an actual competent writer. (IE, not every female character had to be a whore….I mean…there are whores in this, but not every girl is a…you know what, you get the point…) The story’s mostly about Jim Gordon, with Batman having much less screen time. It’s actually a great way to observe the whole Batman concept from an outsider’s view, while still being very connected to Bruce Wayne’s exploits as Batman. The gritty story of a corrupt police department and Gordon’s fight against crime, crooked cops and having this vigilante swooping in dressed as a bat is a joy with each triumphant set piece. 
And as usual for these WB/DC projects, the voice casting is pretty much spot on. Bryan Cranston (of Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle fame) is a perfect fit for Jim Gordon, bringing the weight and pressure this character truly needs. Other notable voices include Alex Rocco as the mobster Carmine Falcone, and Jon Polito as the corrupt Commissioner Loeb. Really, the only voice I didn’t really dig was Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben McKenzie,) but maybe it’s cause WB’s done so many Bat-projects with so many Bat-voices over the years, and it’s hard to ever get a Bat-voice better than the original animated series’ Kevin Conroy. I know this is supposed to be a younger Bruce Wayne, but his voice still didn’t strike that fear that it should. 
The animation is also great and really smooth. David Mazzucchelli did the art on the original graphic novel, whose rough and expressive art style would be near imposible to translate to animation. Nevertheless, they still did a stellar job with the art style to bring some of the original flare from the book to life. Little design choices like character’s beady eyes and Gordon’s shimmering glasses really go a long way. The storyboards are also great, but much like the film adaptation of Miller’s Sin City, Batman: Year One borrows pretty much shot for shot from the graphic novel. This really helps the film have some great dynamic moments, playing off a lot of light, shadow and negative space. It’s all cool, and I like it…so why can’t I shake the feeling I’ve seen this all before?  
Probably because I have. 
Listen, it’s so easy for an animation to take the script and panels of a comic and use that as a storyboard. That’s pretty much what a storyboard is already, right? So I’m not faulting the animation team on doing just that, especially when you have such great source material to work with. I’m not calling the animation team lazy, but I am calling it safe. It’s a safe bet, and that, in itself, is exactly what this movie is. It’s safe. Which isn’t bad, but it also isn’t very fresh. Hell, even if you haven’t read the book, Batman’s origin isn’t exactly unexplored territory at this point. Spoiler alert: his parents are dead.

I liked this movie. It was fun, dark, and had all the right emotional beats at the right time. It looked great, and sounded great. So despite my ramblings of deja view, I recommend both those who have and haven’t read the book to give this movie a go. Maybe I’m just an old, bitter nerd suffering from a little bat-fatigue, but when you get down to it, this was a solid flick. I just hope DC and WB’s next dvd endever could perhaps be something a little less known. Cause the people working on these movies are insanely talented! I’d love to see them tackle something a little more challenging and give the ol’ Batty a rest for a bit.
Maybe try… Animal Man?

Who am I kiddin’! That’d be to awesome to ever happen.

- Moo 

Form Sym-Bionic Titan…or not…

I adore cartoons, but when a brilliant show gets put down because of a thing such as a lack of toy sales, I can’t help but get upset at the whole industry.
I just finished watching all the episodes of Sym-Bionic Titan, the latest cartoon from one of my favorite animators Genndy Tartakovsky (creator of Samurai Jack and Dexter’s Lab.) I was incredibly impressed! I admit, I heard nothing about this show previous to watching it. All I knew was that Tartakovsky had a show recently canceled, so naturally I was curious. And it..was…awesome!
If you haven’t heard of it, I’m not surprised. The show didn’t get much publicity. It basically takes high school drama and melds it with giant robot battles. An alien princess, soldier and robot travel to Earth to escape from a war on their home planet. Now they have to worry about fending off alien monsters sent to kill them, as well as survive high school life. Like Tartakovsky’s past works it borrow and pays homage to a slew of pop culture references, such as obvious sources like Voltron and Power Rangers, or more unexpected tributes to the likes of Fast and the Furious and the Breakfast Club. While you can always say Tartakovsky’s shows are usually just a melting pot of pop culture cues, it’s always his execution of these ideas that impresses me and makes his shows stand out as something unique. The show does a great job of blending great action scenes (something Tartakovsky’s well known by now after Samurai Jack) and subtle teenage aimed humour.
It’s all brilliant stuff, and it’s probably Tartakovsky’s most ambitious project to date! But sadly, it looks like it was all for naught, as the show has been quickly canceled. An employee of Cartoon Network had this to say:
“Titan got competitive ratings with other action shows, but what shut it down was it didn’t have enough toys connected to it. If you don’t have the [toy sales], the studios don’t want to renew for another season.” 
Not enough toys connected to the show? Really? That canceled the show because they figured not enough kids would want to buy an action figure of this?
Yup. There's no way 10 year old me would want toys of a giant robot fighting a space lizard. [/sarcasm]
Yup. There’s no way 10 year old me would want toys of a giant robot fighting a space lizard. [/sarcasm] 
But let’s just for a minute ignore the fact that this show does in fact have a lot of merchandising potential. Let’s, for the sake of argument, take Cartoon Network’s side on this and assume there’s nothing toyetic about this cartoon. The fact that a genuinely cleaver show by an acclaimed director, which only after it’s initial 20 episode run was canceled because of this reason is something that would only happen in the animation industry. And that saddens me. Let’s take an example from live action TV. AMC’s Breaking Bad is a critically acclaimed show that, starting out in season 1 and 2, didn’t have the best ratings. But AMC kept that show around because it got positive reviews and had the potential to be great. The option to cancel the show because it dosen’t have many options for toys sales would be ludicrous to say the least…
…but on a side note, personally, I’d totally buy some Breaking Bad action figures.
You might be saying that’s because Breaking Bad is a show clearly aimed at adults, not kids. But Titan was a show aimed more so at teens then kids, having a more mature take on high school, and Cartoon Network knew that going into the project who the show was marketed towards. 
I’m not saying that no cartoon should be created with toy sales as the primary reason for production. Many cherished animated shows were entirely built to sell toys (Transformers and Pokemon come to mind) and those have excelled to become cultural icons. But Cartoon Network had a chance to produce something that could have, if given one or two more seasons, become one the most creative sci-fie properties in animation history. If they invested more into the show, I think in the long run it would have paid off for them in dvd sales for years to come. But as it stands now it’s just the tip of an unfinished iceberg (or as I like to call it, the “Firefly effect.”) I feel they shot themselves in the foot by canceling the show because of the lack of the immediate financial prospect of toy sales. 
Either way, Genndy has since moved onto Sony Pictures Animation, and I hope he’s able to have more creative freedom there. If you’ve seen Sym-Bionic Titan, and enjoyed it, do the show a favor and recommend it to a friend. Who knows? If enough attention gets placed on the show, maybe Cartoon Network will renew the series?

…or at least make an action figure out of it… 
- Moo