HBO Max has removed 36 shows and movies from its platform, including a lot of kids and family content such as Sesame Street spinoff The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo, beloved Cartoon Network show OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, and teen drama Generation. One of the most frustrating eliminations is the highly acclaimed and also frankly amazing Infinity Train — which had already been removed from airing on Cartoon Network, punted to streaming-only with little fanfare, and canceled after just four seasons.
The creators behind these shows were blindsided by this decision, and justifiably upset. Julia Pott, creator of fantasy slice-of-life series Summer Camp Island, tweeted about the removal.
“We worked for 5 years to make 100 episodes of animation,” wrote Pott. “We worked late into the night, we let ourselves go, we were a family of hard working artists who wanted to make something beautiful, and HBO MAX just pulled them all like we were nothing. Animation is not nothing!”
Not only have these shows been removed, but the turnaround from the announcement to the actual removal was so quick that many fans barely had time to react. It’s all part of Warner Bros. Discovery’s latest move to turn a profit, following laying off 14% of the HBO Max staff and canceling the upcoming Batgirl movie. Yet for the creators behind the shows and for the fans who loved them, it feels particularly cruel.
Wait, so these shows are just gone?
So, technically, full seasons and episodes of many of these shows are still available to purchase on Amazon, Google Play, and iTunes, but no one knows exactly for how long. And some of the shows, like Summer Camp Island and Victor and Valentino, both of which have unaired new episodes, will air on Cartoon Network.
But as of today, they are nowhere to be found on HBO Max — and, in the case of Infinity Train and Mao Mao: Heroes Pure of Heart, all official videos on the Cartoon Network YouTube and any tweets mentioning the shows have been removed. Additionally, the Infinity Train soundtrack has vanished from music streaming services, and official Amazon listings of the DVDs have been taken down.
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon phenomenon in the world of entertainment media. For years, Disney locked up physical versions of its movies in “the Disney vault,” so that it could rerelease them every so often in limited-time runs. Old shows and movies that weren’t popular sometimes never got physical releases and then just faded out of existence (looking at you, WITCH, my beloved).
But in this case, it’s a little weirder. Many of the titles on the list are just a few years old and also loved by critics. It’s not a matter of an old forgotten thing just getting left behind, but a very deliberate move on behalf of Warner Bros. Discovery to cut losses — despite the fact that doing so undermines the hard work of the people behind these shows and movies. And Warner Bros. Discovery seemingly completely eradicating the existence of some of these shows from the internet is salt in the wound.
Why did Warner do this in the first place?
Warner Bros. Discovery is going to merge HBO Max and Discovery Plus into one big streaming service by 2023, and that means some cleanup.
“As we work toward bringing our content catalogs under one platform, we will be making changes to the content offering available on both HBO Max and Discovery+. That will include the removal of some content from both platforms,” an HBO Max spokesman said in a statement.
Warner Bros. Discovery has not officially said why they picked these particular shows to remove, but one theory is because it still has to pay residuals to the cast and crew behind HBO Max Originals. By removing them entirely… Well, if no one watches something, no one needs to get paid, right? Additionally, a lot of the shows on the shortlist fall under the kids and family banner and it could very well be that Warner Bros. Discovery wants to move away from that demographic.
According to slides shared at Warner Bros. Discovery’s earnings call, the company claims that HBO’s content skews toward an adult male audience, while Discovery’s skews toward adult women. One theory that CNBC reported was that in order to maximize profits, Warner Bros. Discovery decided that kids and family content wasn’t worth pursuing and just axed most of it instead. It could be that the reason Warner Bros. Discovery tried to completely erase some of these shows from its online footprint is because it wants to sell the rights, and they could live on elsewhere, but that isn’t a guarantee.
But I love these shows! What can I do?
If you want to legally support your favorite shows, you can still purchase a lot of the episodes on Amazon, iTunes, or Google Play — for now. Some DVD sets are available through third party sellers, so buy them if you can. Tune into Cartoon Network for episodes of Summer Camp Island and Victor and Valentino when they air. Follow the creators of these shows for updates and see their suggestions for the best way to watch these shows and support their work.
The full list of removed content is below:
- 12 Dates of Christmas
- About Last Night
- Aquaman: King of Atlantis
- Close Enough
- Detention Adventure
- Ellen’s Next Great Designer
- Elliott From Earth
- Esme & Roy
- The Fungies!
- Generation Hustle
- Infinity Train
- Little Ellen
- Mao Mao, Heroes of Pure Heart
- Messy Goes to Okido
- Mia’s Magic Playground
- Mighty Magiswords
- My Dinner with Herve
- My Mom, Your Dad
- OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes
- The Ollie & Moon Show
- Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures
- Ravi Patel’s Pursuit of Happiness
- Select Sesame Street specials
- Make It Big, Make It Small
- Summer Camp Island
- The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo
- The Runaway Bunny (special)
- Tig n’ Seek
- Uncle Grandpa
- Victor and Valentino
- Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs