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Comic-Con '08: Cartoon Network's "Consumer Upfront"

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a big deal. A really big deal. Especially to the people at Cartoon Network, which is launching the original animated series this fall. 

Earlier in the day I noticed the clone faceplates being worn all across the convention, but it wasn’t until I talked to Cartoon Network’s Matthew Lehosit that I realized what was up. Every day Cartoon Net has been handing out different colored masks at their booth, drawing people back day after day. This has brought more traffic to the network’s Fusion Fall online game display, where players have been congregating for their chance to enter a world where a host of Cartoon Network characters–from Samurai Jack to Dexter to the Powerpuff Girls–all interact.

"My first Comic-Con was when I was 16 years old," Lehosit explained. "I was a consumer, and back then it really was a comic book convention." Lehosit is part of a generation of people who watched the convention evolve from what he calls a "really niche experience" to the "premier pop culture event of the year."

Cartoon Network now views Comic-Con as their "consumer upfront" to make big programming announcements and tout moves, such as the rescheduling of its comedy blocks into Thursday nights, a move that has solidified ratings.

Unlike most other floor booths, Cartoon Network is incredibly kid-friendly, which gives it a natural competitive advantage. But with an explosion of growth to Comic-Con and the inclusion of so many things that can constitute pop culture, is there a risk of being drowned out in a sea of sensory overload?

"On one hand it is easy to get lost in the clutter," Lehosit said. "At same time we’re just putting our best foot forward. It works very well for us." 

By Christopher Lisotta

Christopher Lisotta has written for several publications, including TVWeek, The Advocate and L.A. Weekly. He is covering the 2008 International Comic-Con for Broadcasting & Cable.