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Williams Street

Williams street
Founded 1994 (as Ghost Planet Industries)
1998 (as Williams Street)
Parent Company Turner Broadcasting System
Location Atlanta, Georgia

Williams Street (formerly known as Ghost Planet Industries from 1994-1998, named after Space Ghost's home planet) is a division of Cartoon Network, which is owned by Turner Broadcasting, that created and programmed 4 programming blocks, Toonami, Miguzi, Saturday Video Entertainment System and Adult Swim. The studio is also responsible for co-producing most Adult Swim original series. Keith Crofford and Mike Lazzo oversee operations for the studio building.

The name originates from the location of the studios (which double as the home office for Adult Swim) at 1065 Williams Street NW in Atlanta, Georgia, near the current offices of Cartoon Network, TBS, and CNN. The street is named for early Atlanta settler Ammi Williams.

The studio's production logo features a wavy gray image of Space Ghost's fictional studio from Space Ghost Coast to Coast, with the words "Williams Street" beneath it. The soundtrack of Mark VII Limited's production logo (the drum roll and the two clinks of the hammer) is often used while the GPI/Williams Street production card is shown.

Early HistoryEdit

The Williams Street building was originally bought by Turner in 1976, Ted Turner bought the building and used it for his own television station WTCG. This new channel was the result of a recent UHF takeover. In December 1976, the first WTCG signal was beamed via satellite to its four cable systems located around Georgia. This broadcast was the first use of non-pay-service satellite transmission, an innovation that would come to revolutionize basic cable nationwide.

Starting out as a minor local channel, the station grew into success and was re-launched as WTBS in 1979. Then after a 5 year period, WTBS was renamed TBS Superstation. During this time, Turner also created CNN, a 24-hour news network. Both became standard for cable providers by the late 80s. Due to this success, the studio building became too small to operate as a headquarters. A new campus was built across the street for the expanding Turner empire. Upon completion, Turner launched Cartoon Network to showcase their recent acquisitions of the vast MGM and Hannah-Barbera library of cartoons.

When Turner moved out of the Williams Street building, they kept ownership, using it as a storage facility. Although no longer it's main purpose, to this day Williams Street houses all the show tapes for Turner Networks. Appointed to run the building were veteran turner employees such as Keith Crofford, Andy Merril, and former mail-room employee Mike Lazzo. Although Cartoon Network was run at Hannah-Barbera studios at the time, certain duties were eventually controlled by the trio at Williams Street. One of their most important early tasks were producing host segments for The Moxy Pirate Show (later The Moxy Show).

From 1990 to 1993, TBS started it's own original programming such as Captain Planet and 2 Stupid Dogs. This interested the team at Williams Street, and they all wished to create their own series. Towards the end of '93, the three mustered up courage to approach Ted Turner with their ideas for Cartoon Network original programming. It didn't go as planned, and were eventually kicked out of Ted's office. According to Lazzo, they were clearly told that unless CN started making more money for Turner, they wouldn't be allowed funding or a chance. They didn't listen.

1993-1997Edit

They decided to produce their own series pilot. On a shoe-string budget, they tried to come up with compatible ideas. During brain storming, they realized they could simply re-use footage of any animation in the turner library. They eventually settled on "Space ghost & Dino Boy". Because they felt it would fit, they paired it with Mike Lazzo's idea of a "Satirical talk show with a clueless host asking guests a stream of stupid questions." The final pilot featured rotoscoped animation super-imposed on a simple background, and used CNN interview footage for the live-action interview.

They went back to Turner and presented the pilot, and the series was then greenlit for a 10 episode season. Work began and the minor CN production/storage facility became it's own studio, named after Coast to Coast's own in-show studio, Ghost Planet Industries. Soon the series was acquiring it's first C and D-list celebrity guests, small animation and writing crew, and voice actors. The voice actor for Space Ghost was local voice actor George Lowe, all other roles were done by the GPI crew. The series eventually premiered on April 14th, 1994. This marked Cartoon Network's first original series, and the first animated talk-show in history.

Due to it's more mature surreal humor, the series attracted a devoted cult audience. It's success led to a special which was simulcast on TBS, a special short for the VHS release of "The Mask" in which they interviewed Jim Carrey and director Charles Russell, and much more famous guests.

In 1995, 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.

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.

1997-PresentEdit

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 (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 eventually become a huge hit with the acquisition of Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z, where it flourished among pre-teens and young boys. This was a big factor in helping Cartoon Network reach 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 Gundam Wing.

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.

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.

In 2005, Adult Swim was still a ratings powerhouse, with new series The Boondocks and old series Aqua Teen Hunger Force scoring big. On the Toonami side, the block acquired Japanese shonen hits Naruto and One Piece, which enjoyed great success. 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 was given new offices and new facilities for the 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, which was not produced by Williams Street.

In 2007, Williams Street formed their own music label, "Williams Street Records", which is the operating name for the LLC. Under that label, they have released original works of music, some of which are related to their shows. The label is run by Jason Demarco aka DJ Clarknova.

In 2008 with Toonami's ratings waning the block was cancelled on September 20, 2008, thus ending Cartoon Network's longest running block.

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