Cartoon Orbit

Cartoon Orbit

Cartoon Orbit front page, 2000-2002
Type of site
Trading card game
Owner Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner Inc.)
Created by Sam Register
Slogan(s) Collect. Trade. Master.
Commercial Yes
Registration Yes
Launched October 2000 (2000-10)
Current status Defunct as of October 16, 2006

Cartoon Orbit was a children's online gaming network created by Turner Online to promote its shows and partners. Created as an addition to the Cartoon Network website, Cartoon Orbit opened to the public in October 2000. Its main attraction was a system of virtual trading cards called "cToons", which generally featured animation cells from programs broadcast on the network, though advertisement-based cToons were also common. Added in October 2002 was the head-to-head strategy game gToons.

The site began to suffer from lack of maintenance beginning in 2005. On October 16, 2006, Cartoon Network shut down Cartoon Orbit, leaving users with a "Thank You" certificate as a token of their appreciation.


Cartoon Orbit was the brainchild of Sam Register, who was also behind the development of in 1998. He went on to become the creative director of the site as well as Cartoon Orbit from 2000-2001 before leaving to pursue television development with Cartoon Network in its Los Angeles studios. He came up with the idea for Orbit after seeing PBS's Sticker World. After Register left Cartoon Orbit, Art Roche became the creative director of, a post he continues to hold. Justin Williams was the project lead at Turner and Director of Community for Orbit until 2003, when he began working on other Cartoon Network interactive projects. Lisa Furlong Jones, Sharon Karleskint Sharp, and Robert Cass created content and wrote copy for Cartoon Orbit, while Noel Saabye and Brian Hilling provided art and animation.[1]

The site was registered in May 2000, with the beta phase ending in September of that year. The original name was to be "Cartooniverse", but this was changed because the copyright was held by someone else. This name can be seen in early Flash animation and screenshots. Cartoon Orbit was first built using parts of's "Passport" software (not to be confused with the current, which is unrelated). This software was a 2D, avatar-based chat server, where members could decorate their own spaces, and it was used extensively in Orbit for displaying and editing cZones. Most of the chat functionality, however, did not become part of the finished product. To comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, Cartoon Orbit instead had a list of pre-written words and phrases that players could send in a chat box.[2] Until the complete conversion to Flash in 2002, references could still be found in the HTML source code to passport "room servers", and links to technical documentation on's web site.[3] Also before the Flash transition were "Worlds" on Cartoon Orbit based on fictional cartoon locations, which came complete with a quote or quip from that world's characters, a poll, and links to "Spotlight" cZones.[4]

Viant worked on the site as well, offering project and business management for the development and beta and back-end software development for the user and content management. Scott Gutterman served as the lead at Viant, and Stacie Spychalski, David Gynn, Chris Griswold and others managed plans, requirements and developed the code. Before being acquired and ultimately closing, Viant went on to work at several Turner Broadcasting/Time-Warner projects from 2000-2002.

Cartoon Orbit launched in October 2000 as an online community with required registration.[5] Its membership grew 150,000 members strong by mid-December, and that figure increased to over 300,000 by February 2001.[6][7] Members exceeded 850,000 by October 2001.[2] Shortly after its release, Register expressed a desire to convert Orbit's point-based currency to a cash-based setup, but this never came to fruition.[8] As part of a larger campaign with Cartoon Network, a promotion for the fund-raising program Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, which entailed exclusive Halloween-themed cToons, was held from October 1 to November 5, 2002.[9]


For the first few years, the site was updated weekly. Beginning in mid-2005, it became apparent that Turner Online stopped maintaining the Cartoon Orbit site. Updates were ceased in February 2006, and many reported bugs went unfixed. On August 17, 2006, Cartoon Network removed the navigation for Cartoon Orbit from its main header. The link could now only be found on the bottom of the home page. This caused many users to speculate that Cartoon Network had nearly given up completely on Cartoon Orbit, and some anticipated its closure. The same users also pointed to the recent AP press release from Cartoon Network about developing a then-unnamed cartoon-based MMORPG as proof that Cartoon Orbit would soon be a thing of the past.[10]

Starting September 29, 2006, users were no longer able to sign up for and create new Cartoon Orbit accounts. When clicking the "Join Now" button, the user was presented with a "Registration is Closed" page. On October 2, 2006 a notice that Cartoon Orbit would close was posted on the front page.

We regret to announce that Cartoon Orbit will be closing October 16, 2006.

Since the launch of Cartoon Orbit in 2000, we have been amazed and honored by the dedication of our fans. From the days of Orbit Worlds and cZone Spotlight to the introduction of gToons, it's been a memorable ride creating and developing this site for you throughout the years.

As a small token of our appreciation for your incredible loyalty, we would like to offer you a Thank You certificate featuring some of our favorite gToons. We'll automatically insert your username and first login date--just click below to print.

Cartoon Orbit officially closed in the early morning of October 16, 2006. The link that was placed at the bottom of the home page was redirected to Cartoon Network's Spanish site; however, directly linking to their web address showed that Cartoon Orbit was still online. The following day, the login was removed from the homepage, and anyone who tried logging in on another site page was disallowed. All links to Cartoon Orbit now redirect to the Cartoon Network homepage.


Players were given points to purchase stickers, called cToons, from the in-game store, called the "cMart." Players could also receive cToons, gToons, and cRings (the game's assets) by entering special redemption codes, during special events, bartering with other players (trading), or in an auction format.[4]

cToons came with a wide range of functionalities. Most were static, but some were animated and/or had sound. Other cToons, when clicked, played mini-games or had special functionality (such as a Dexter's Laboratory-themed cToon that automatically counted down to Albert Einstein's birthday).

Players were given their own gallery spaces, called cZones, to decorate with cards of their choice. One could further customize their cZone by changing their cZone's background.[4]


Three main collectibles were available in the Cartoon Orbit game: cToons, cRings, and gToons.


gToons logo

gToons was Cartoon Orbit's own collectible card game extension. Launched on October 14, 2002, over 250,000 users had joined after the first month, and over 400,000 users were playing after the first two months.[11][12] gToons closed along with Cartoon Orbit on October 16, 2006, although it has been stated that it might return "as a stand-alone game sometime in the future with new sets of game pieces to collect".[13]

In December 2007, gToons resurfaced as "Action Packs" for the show Transformers: Animated,[14] followed by a Ben 10: Alien Force version becoming available in April 2008.[15] Though the game is now only available in a single-player mode, the rules and design are virtually identical to the original.


Players assembled decks composed of 12 cards each. Cards represented characters, places, and props from shows broadcast on Cartoon Network, and each card had a color, value, and occasionally a special effect that could modify the value(s) of other card(s). A game of gToons, which typically lasted about three minutes, involved two players strategically using seven gToons at a time to gain the most points by the game's end.[11] Two colors (determined by the "bottom" card of each player's deck) were goal colors: if the two colors were both "neutral" colors (black or silver), the higher total point value won. If there was exactly one non-neutral color (blue, red, yellow, green, purple, etc.) between the goal colors, a player with more cards of the non-neutral color would receive a 15-point bonus to their total before determining victory. If neither color were neutral, a player could win by having more of each color in play than the opponent; otherwise, the higher total value won. Five separate expansion packs containing different gToons were released between 2003 and 2006.



  1. Holland, Steve. "Cartoon Orbit — What". Archived from the original on 2010-10-08. Retrieved 2010-10-02.
  2. 1 2 Connell, Mike (October 1, 2001). "Kids Sites Carefully Negotiate the Post-COPPA Web Environment". Kidscreen. Brunico Communications: 135. Retrieved 2013-11-08. |section= ignored (help)
  3. ", Turner Broadcasting Collaborate for Cartoon Orbit Development". PR Newswire. December 11, 2000. Retrieved 2010-10-02.
  4. 1 2 3 Fritz, Steve (January 1, 2001). "Cartoon Network Launching Fans Into Orbit". Demand Entertainment. Archived from the original on 2009-03-03. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
  5. " to Launch Cartoon Orbit". Time Warner. September 12, 2000. Retrieved 2009-03-16.
  6. Kempner, Matt (December 15, 2000). "Cartoon Network is Adding Punch to Its Online Presence". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. p. 8H. |section= ignored (help)
  7. "Cartoon Orbit Members Top 300,000". Time Warner. February 21, 2001. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
  8. Longworth, Jocelyn (November 1, 2000). "Cartoon's Collectible Hooks Drive Kid Interest in Powerpuff Vid Games and New On-line Hub". Kidscreen. Brunico Communications: 28. Retrieved 2013-11-08. |section= ignored (help)
  9. "UNICEF and Cartoon Network Launch First-Time Partnership for Annual Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF". Time Warner. August 28, 2002. Retrieved 2013-06-05.
  10. Carless, Simon (July 19, 2006). "Cartoon Network, Grigon Team For Kids MMO". UBM TechWeb. Retrieved 2010-10-02.
  11. 1 2 Longworth, Jocelyn (January 8, 2003). "Gaming Takes Virtual Trading Cards to the Next Promo Level". Kidscreen. Brunico Communications: 37. Retrieved 2013-11-08. |section= ignored (help)
  12. "Adobe Success Story:". Retrieved 2010-10-03.
  13. "Trading Cards FAQ". Cartoon Network. Archived from the original on 2006-11-06. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  14. "Transformers Animated Action Packs". Archived from the original on 2010-09-29. Retrieved 2010-10-02.
  15. "Ben 10: Alien Force Action Packs". Archived from the original on 2010-10-05. Retrieved 2010-10-02.

External links

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