Childhood Cartoons Revisited

Cartoons from our youth dissected as a young adult

Butch Hartman: Fairly Successful Career

on February 24, 2012

The 1990s was a period of great success for Nickelodeon. With shows like Rugrats, Rocco’s Modern Life, Hey Arnold, etc., Nickelodeon was striving as one of the top cartoon networks across the globe. But soon into the new millennium, those cartoons had run their course and closed up shop. By 2004, every cartoon that debuted in the late ’90s, excluding Spongebob Squarepants, had aired their series finales. A year later, Nickelodeon Studios closed down. But luckily for Nickelodeon, there was a glimmer of hope to revive the television network back to its glory days. That glimmer of hope came in the form of Butch Hartman.

Born as Elmer Earl Hartman IV, Butch was born in Highland Park, Michigan before spending his childhood in Roseville, Michigan and his teenage years in New Baltimore, Michigan. After graduating from high school, Hartman went on to California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, where he sought to become an animator and a writer.

Hartman’s career started in 1986, when he worked as an in-between artist for the film “An American Tail.” For the next nine years, Hartman focused on television, becoming the storyboard artist for the show “Dink, the Little Dinosaur” in 1989 and the key model designer for “Piggsburgh Piggs” in 1990. His career got off the ground in 1991 when he landed a job with “Tom and Jerry Kids” as a character designer. He would remain with the show until 1993. The following year, Hartman did the design work on a couple television specials, “Yogi the Easter Bear” and “Scooby-Doo in Arabian Nights.”

The first cartoons that he could call his own were created in 1995, which debuted on Cartoon Network’s “The Cartoon Cartoon Show,” a television show that launched the beginnings of “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Cow and Chicken,” etc. Hartman’s two shows, “Pfish and Chips” and “Gramps” ran for two years, but were not picked up by the network as their own shows.

For the next few years, Hartman remained with Cartoon Network, working as storyboard artist/layout artist for “Dexter’s Laboratory,” writer/director for “Johnny Bravo,” and model creator for “Cow and Chicken.” But in 1998, he made the switch over to Nickelodeon when the network launched a similar cartoon show to Cartoon Network’s “The Cartoon Cartoon Show,” known as “Oh Yeah! Cartoons.” While “Oh Yeah! Cartoons” didn’t have the same success at creating new shows as its Cartoon Network rival, it did launch three brand-new cartoons, one of which belonged to Hartman. “ChalkZone,” “My Life as a Teenage Robot” and Hartman’s “The Fairly OddParents” sprouted from “Oh Yeah! Cartoons” and “The Fairly OddParents” is the only one of the three that is still airing on Nickelodeon today. “ChalkZone” ran from 2002-2009 and “My Life as a Teenage Robot” ran from 2002-2006. The two cartoons combined for 82 episodes. “The Farily OddParents,” running since 2001, has aired 136 episodes to date, fourth-most in Nickelodeon history.

Prior to its success, “The Fairly OddParents” were signed on for six episodes by Nickelodeon that began airing on March, 30, 2001. Originally titled “Fairy Godparents,” the show revolved around 10-year-old Timmy Turner, a boy who was neglected by his parents and tormented by his evil babysitter Vicky. As a misunderstood pre-teen, Timmy was granted fairy godparents, Cosmo and Wanda, who had the ability to grant his wishes, as long as they fell in the realm of the oversized rule book, called “Da Rules.”  A couple interesting notes from the cartoon is that Timmy was never meant to have the trademark pink hat he wears every episode; it was supposed to be blue. The reason for the change was the Hartman ran out of blue ink and instead went with the color pink. Wanda was also supposed to be named Venus.

To date, “The Fairly OddParents” is in its eighth season, 14 special episodes, eight movies and three crossover episodes with “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.”

During his time working on “The Fairly OddParents,” Hartman launched his second cartoon, “Danny Phantom.” While not as successful as his first cartoon, “Danny Phantom” ran from 2004 to 2007 and lasted for 53 episodes. However, despite its cancellation in 2007, Hartman has recently said that Nickelodeon will celebrate the show’s eighth anniversary and new episodes may be made. It’s unknown whether or not “Danny Phantom” will become a regularly featured cartoon in the Nickelodeon lineup.

Hartman’s third and final cartoon creation to this point debuted two years ago on Nickelodeon. “T.U.F.F. Puppy” is currently in its second season and has already been picked up for a third season, guaranteeing at least 60 episodes.

Hartman currently resides in Bell Canyon, California with his wife and two children.


6 responses to “Butch Hartman: Fairly Successful Career

  1. Donna Steiner says:

    Love the video, and the slightly new slant nicely disrupts the pattern you’ve set. My primary suggestion is to think about the differences between creative nonfiction and journalism. I understand that you’re a journalist… but you’re writing this blog for a CNF project. See if you can’t push more into the realm of CNF. Your blog-mates might have some good ideas on how to do that.

  2. cmcphers says:

    You went in a creative direction with this post. It was interesting that you decided to focus on a cartoon through an individual. This was a great way to expand your focus without losing sight of your original idea.
    I was definitely a fan of the shows Butch Hartman developed so it is nice to hear some of the background to shows that adored.
    One thing that I noticed that I don’t recall seeing you opinion anywhere in the post, which gave it kind of a journalistic feeling. i would have liked a paragraph a two on how much you like the who’s Hartman worked on.

  3. Mike,

    I liked how you didn’t focus on just one show and you focused more on an illustrator and creater of cartoons. It was nice to see the “face” behind a lot of the cartoons, and the video of Butch Hartman actually drawing was really neat to see. I think you could push this even further by showing us the people who are the voices of these characters or maybe the topics that some of these cartoons are about and how they talk about deeper issues that kids/teens deal with daily.

    I would like to see more Mike in these posts though. I wanted to see how these cartoons affected your life as a child, or maybe how they were a distraction. Maybe if they helped you, or maybe you were addicted to them. I want to see how these cartoons fit into your personal life as a child and I want to see you as a child. And see how these shows affected who you are now, as a 20 year old man. Show us more personal stories or information, because right now it does feel very much like a newspaper article. Show us the author behind these post.

  4. deanna says:

    I agree with donna in the sense that I felt like I was reading a journal article today. It was good but very factual and it didn’t include much of you if any. I’d have loved to see your opinions on the shows Hartman has made. Not necessarily indepth ones but maybe a comment about whether or not you liked the show or if someone you know watched it a lot or something along those lines. I loved the old nick shows. I used to watch them before school years ago with my dad. Though don’t get me wrong I loved danny phantom and the fairly oddparents too.

  5. Mike-
    I had no idea Nick had even closed down in 2004! But anyway, I really like that you added a video to this post, I think that really helped contextualize the writing, (I’m a very visual person.) But again, I would like to see more of you and your opinions in the post. You usually have included your take on things in your previous posts, so please bring that back, or you’ve ventured too far into the realm of journalism.

  6. bissell89 says:

    Very clear writing, this was easy to read! Once again, a lot research obviously went into writing this, I now know a ton information about a show I was barely even aware of before reading. However, I second Donna’s suggestion, I’d like to see that information made a little bit more personal. It seems like you’ve strayed a little bit from your original intentions as I remember them, which were to talk about what it’s like re-watching the shows you saw as a kid and talking about your reaction. That idea still has a lot of potential I think.

    -Alex Bissell

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