What makes a prime time animated series a network success? Ratings. How do you get ratings? By showing programs the audience wants to see. How do you know what they want to see? Let them pick their own show! Thus, the birth of the idea know as “The Big Pick”.
Since Cartoon Network’s inception, they have been doing original animated projects under the Hanna Barbera Studios moniker. The birth of their “What A Cartoon! Show” was a revival for Hanna Barbera Studios in the tradition of hand painted cel animation. The network found much success with the series of shorts and had already spawned some of their own hit series from “What A Cartoons!” shorts, including Dexter’s Laboratory, Cow and Chicken, Johnny Bravo, I Am Weasel, The Powerpuff Girls, and Courage the Cowardly Dog.
The year 2000 would be different though. Instead of the network’s employees picking the next short to become a series, they would let the fans choose. That year, they had contracted 10 new shorts that would serve as seven minute pilots for a new half hour cartoon series. From June 9 – August 11, the new “Cartoon Cartoon Premiere Premiers” were aired weekly at 9pm, as part of the Cartoon Cartoon Fridays block. The shorts included:
- The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, created by Maxwell Atoms
- Whatever Happened to Robot Jones?, created by Greg Miller
- Foe Paws, created by Chris Savino
- Uncle Gus, created by Rich Ferguson-Hull
- Lucky Lydia, created by Arthur Filloy and Bob Camp
- Longhair and Doubledome, created by Gavrilo Gnatovich
- Lost Cat
On the weekend of August 25-27, 2000, Cartoon Network aired their “Cartoon Cartoon Weekend” marathon which included 52 hours of original series and all of the contending pilot shorts. By the weekend, only the top three series (by ratings) were part of the voting poll. “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy”, “Whatever Happened to Robot Jones?” and “Longhair and Doubledome” were the final contenders. Viewers were given the chance to call into a toll-free number and vote, there was also website voting at CartoonNetwork.com. In an impressive win, “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy” won the vote and became the first series on the network picked by the fans. The short, created by Maxwell Atoms, shares the adventure of two children and their dealings with the Grim Reaper over a sick hamster at death’s door .
While the rest of the pilots became part of the “Cartoon Cartoon Show” (formerly “What A Cartoon!”), The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy aired in 2001 within a show titled “Grim and Evil”.