Kevin Smith and Paul Dini opened up a can of worms during a recent chat on Smith’s podcast “Fatman on Batman.” During a discussion about the Cartoon Network series “Beware the Batman,” Dini explained why Cartoon Network and other networks that air superhero cartoons aren’t trying to grab a female audience in addition to their male one.
“They’re all for boys — ‘We do not want the girls.’ I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not [at Disney XD] but at other places, saying like, ‘We do not want girls watching this show,'” he tells an incredulous Smith. “They. Do. Not. Buy. Toys. The girls buy different toys.”
As io9 points out, action figures and role-playing toys accounted for $1.39 billion in the Toy Industry Association’s published sales data in 2012, while the sale of dolls accounted for $2.69 billion. While Smith laments in the interview that executives are being lazy by acting like they can’t market to girls just because girls don’t buy action figures, Dini claims that catering to a female audience is a big part of why his live-action Cartoon Network show “Tower Prep” was axed.
“The thing that got us canceled on ‘Tower Prep,’ honest-to-God, was, like, ‘We need boys, but we need girls right there, right one step behind the boys’ — this is the network talking — ‘one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys, but right there,'” Dini says, via Vi at Tumblr agelfeygelach. “And then we began writing stories that got into the two girls’ back stories, and they were really interesting, and suddenly we had families and girls watching, and girls really became a big part of our audience, in sort of like they picked up that ‘Harry Potter’-type of serialized way. … But, the Cartoon Network was saying, ‘F***, no, we want the boys’ action, it’s boys’ action, this goofy boy humor we’ve gotta get that in there.'”
Even though the numbers were there, Dini claims Cartoon Network’s mentality was, “Yeah, but the we’ve got too many girls. We need more boys. And then that’s why they canceled us, and they put on a show called ‘Level Up,’ which is, you know, goofy nerds fighting CG monsters,” Dini says. “It’s like, ‘We don’t want the girls because the girls won’t buy toys.’ We had a whole merchandise line for ‘Tower Prep’ that they s***canned before it ever got off the launching pad, because it’s like, ‘Boys, boys, boys. Boys buy the little spinny tops, they buy the action figures. Girls buy princesses, we’re not selling princesses.'”
Dini says that this is something that he’s witnessed as a trend across all big companies looking to be a part of this cartoon-meets-toys market.
“The bigger the corporation, the more that feeling is pervasive. Like, pirates are boys, princesses are girls. With a smaller company, I think that you can kind of sell to everybody, but the bigger the company, they have their flow charts and focus groups and, you know, ‘girls will only buy X amount of this and that and everything else,'” he says.
He adds that he wishes the mentality was just “a popular show is a popular show.” “Maybe ‘Buffy’ couldn’t have had an action figure line that would appeal to boys as well as girls, but it was a killer show,” he laments.
Do Dini’s revelations about the way that networks try to market cartoon superhero shows surprise you?