Animation of HBO Max: an indefinite future

Television comes in several different forms these days, whether that be a feature film or a small indie project. The same can be said for how to access shows. It can be through a traditional cable service or the countless streaming services that have taken over the industry. Animator and producer Owen Dennis knows this best. “Infinity Train” first debuted on Cartoon Network’s’ youtube channel as a pilot and gained a cult following through its excellent writing, story, and loveable characters. The series was greenlit, and full production had begun on its animation. During this time, HBO Max was being conceived, and “Infinity Train” was originally going to debut, Photo Editor Jenna Grimm but due to the delays in the launch of HBO Max, the show launched on cable, and later moved to HBO Max in mid 2020. The first four seasons were a smash hit, shown by its 100 percent on rotten tomatoes. The future seemed bright for Dennis and his hard-working team of animators. Then “Infinity Train” was wiped off the earth. On Aug. 17 of this year, HBO Max announced that “Infinity Train” was leaving the platform… in two days. Dennis and the contributors of the show were not informed of this beforehand. During those two days, official, DVD sets, promos, and even affiliated posts were wiped off the internet. The once massifly fanfueled project that took years to produce, was gone in just a few hours. The worse part is “Infinity Train” was not the only animated show to be affected by this. Other shows that were affected were “Close Enough,” “OK KO,” “Victor and Valentino,” and even “Summer Camp Island,” which has not even finished airing its final season. Owen Dennis shared insight on the decision on his blog. “I’m told from various sources that this wasn’t supposed to happen until next week sometime so that Cartoon Network/ HBOMax/etc could have time to tell all the show creators and artists what’s going on. That’s obviously not what happened, and now this is where that disorganization has gotten us.” Dennis stated in regards to the communication about the removal that there was no knowledge beforehand, as well as any sort of insight either from the showrunners. “We do know it was a direct order from Discovery, and it’s about saving money somehow,” Dennis stated on behalf of himself and his team. This is all due to the corporate merger between two streaming giants, HBO Max and Discovery Plus, into one service. Because of the merger, the two are cutting costs so that the merger will be successful. The announcement was made on Aug. 4 of this year, but the signs of cost cutting were already in place. In their animation department, shows were being canceled left and right, such as “Infinity Train” and “Close Enough” prior to their removal. Many animation-corporate individuals had been laid off as well. “People who you would normally talk to have been fired, moved, or quit, so no one has any idea how to get the information they need right now,” Dennis stated. Even a big-box film “Batgirl” has been canned, although the movie was in the post-production phase, almost ready for release. All for the sake of saving money. So what does this mean for the future for many projects in the works? Right now, it is very uncertain. Animation takes many months just to produce a single episode. But all of these rash cutoffs took place in a matter of hours. Much more accountability has to be taken, as many livelihoods, careers and connections had been shattered due to this whole mess. “Infinity Train” was greenlit due to an immense cult following and support by the fans, and was taken away by a few greedy money mules, with no communication on why. This begs a question: is streaming really the solution for media to be accessed anywhere, and preserved, for as long as need be? No. It may look so on the outside- you can press a button and access countless shows. But services, networks, and shows are not preserved there for Infinity. What may be a small chain reaction on the outside may have massive effects on the inside. The future right now is foggy for HBO Max in a controversial move that will affect them until their end.