A look at various free streaming video services, from Pluto TV to Kanopy.
In April 2017, Turner launched a version of its cable channel Boomerang as a streaming service. The cable version is Cartoon Network’s sister channel, and serves as the home for older WarnerMedia-owned cartoons. Such cartoons include classics like “Looney Tunes,” “Tom and Jerry,” and the Hanna-Barbera library. The streaming service is one of many WarnerMedia attempts to cash in on the rising number of specialty streaming services.
I’ve given Boomerang a go for awhile, so I thought I’d offer a review of the service, including whether it’s worth the cost.
Pros of Boomerang
Boomerang costs $5 a month, or $40 a year.
Many classic cartoons are available
Boomerang is the home of many classic cartoons, with new ones added about once a month.
As of this writing, cartoons available on Boomerang include:
- Atom Ant
- Barney Bear
- Camp Lazlo
- Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (the series)
- Courage the Cowardly Dog
- The Wizard of Oz (Boomerang original series; based on the MGM movie version)
- The Flintstones
- Garfield (the first few seasons of “Garfield and Friends,” the classic TV specials, and several made-for-DVD movies)
- My Gym Partner’s a Monkey
- Huckleberry Hound
- The Jetsons
- Jonny Quest
- The Life and Times of Juniper Lee
- Looney Tunes
- Magilla Gorilla
- Paddington Bear (the late 1980s Hanna-Barbera series)
- Richie Rich (the 1980s Hanna-Barbera series)
- Scooby-Doo (the original series, all of the spin-offs, and “Laff-A-Lympics”)
- The Smurfs
- Tom and Jerry
- Top Cat
- Wacky Races (including “Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines,” “The Perils of Penelope Pitstop,” and the current “Wacky Races” reboot)
- Yogi Bear
Various TV movies based on the above characters are also available. You can watch “The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones,” the recent batch of WWE/Hanna-Barbera crossovers, and more.
I should note not all the shows above include their entire runs, but more on that below.
As noted above, Boomerang offers several original series to make the service more attractive. These include a reboot of “Wacky Races,” “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” and a “Wizard of Oz” series.
Boomerang offers special playlists of some of its shows, themed around specific holidays or subjects. Episodes about mothers like Wilma Flintstone and Jane Jetson will appear on a Mother’s Day playlist, for instance.
Boomerang’s available on pretty much every platform. It’s available through web browsers, iOS and Android apps, and on various streaming devices (Roku, etc.).
Cons of Boomerang
Some material is missing
While the service adds new cartoons each month, Boomerang is still missing a lot of classic material, or varies on how much of each cartoon’s offered.
Some shows offer their entire runs, such as Scooby-Doo. (Well, save for several episodes of “The New Scooby-Doo Movies,” due to rights issues.) However, other shows only have a few seasons available—examples include “The Smurfs” and “Garfield and Friends.”
Meanwhile, some shows are missing entirely. “Quick Draw McGraw” and the 60s Hanna-Barbera action shows (“Space Ghost,” “The Herculoids,” etc.) come to mind. And while “Courage the Cowardly Dog” is offered, other older Cartoon Network shows like “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “The Powerpuff Girls” aren’t available.
The DC superhero shows are also missing, despite shows like “Super Friends” and “Teen Titans” being longtime staples of the cable version of Boomerang. Of course, WarnerMedia offers those on their own service.
Finally, some shows only offer the billed character, but exclude their original half-hour show’s backup segments. Magilla Gorilla is available, but Boomerang leaves out his show’s backups, “Punkin Puss and Mush Mouse” and “Ricochet Rabbit and Droopalong Coyote.”
There’s no ability to bookmark favorite shows, like there is on Netflix and Hulu. Thus, if I want to watch a specific spin-off of Scooby-Doo, I have to: drill down into Scooby’s category; skip past the spin-offs I’m not interested in; find the show; and then choose an episode from there. Adding this ability would make Boomerang a lot easier to use.
There’s also no “skip intro” button, which Netflix offers. While I like the classic cartoon theme songs, I sometimes want to jump straight to the episode’s action.
The Boomerang streaming service splits some shows that feature multiple shorts per half-hour episode into individual “episodes.” The problem is this makes watching some shows a bit difficult. For instance, the mid-80s “The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries” featured two 11-minute stories per episode, but some episodes feature a single half-hour-long story. Splitting those into two separate “episodes” (with the opening/closing credits tacked onto each one) makes watching those a bit awkward.
That said, a few recent shows added, such as “Dastardly and Muttley,” seem to have learned from this. While each “Dastardly” half-hour is made up of two episodes (and a Muttley short), they’re all kept in their original half-hour format.
Another possible issue is how some shows are categorized. “Laff-A-Lympics” is placed under Scooby-Doo’s category. It makes sense from a historical standpoint—the series was originally part of the package series “Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics,” which also featured new solo Scooby-Doo episodes. However, “Laff-A-Lympics” is usually treated as a stand-alone half-hour series in syndication, which is how most people would view the show. Thus, I wonder if it’d be better off listed under its own category.
The prints used for the Boomerang streaming service seem to vary depending on the show, which animation fans might find interesting. Some shows on the service are the syndicated versions that still air on TV to this day, such as “The Scooby-Doo Show.”
The version of “The Jetsons” on Boomerang seems pulled from its 80s syndication package, including the updated opening and the end credits appearing on some of the 60s episodes. One of the 80s produced episodes I saw forgot to remove the commercial lead-out/lead-in bumpers.
“The Smurfs” features the first two seasons, but Boomerang uses the original NBC versions (versus the syndicated “Smurfs Adventures” version), complete with the original first and second season openings.
Popeye is on the Boomerang streaming service, but only the Famous Studios shorts are offered. Despite this, Boomerang’s artwork for Popeye uses the Hanna-Barbera version from the late 70s.
Finally, Boomerang’s only available in the United States, which might be an issue for some.
Is Boomerang worth it?
- Classic animation fans who don’t own the cartoons on DVD, want the convenience of an on-demand streaming service, and/or want the shows that haven’t had a DVD release.
- Parents looking to introduce their kids to classic cartoons.
- Those who don’t receive Boomerang on their cable TV lineup. Given Boomerang isn’t available on Comcast, that’s a good portion of the United States.
- Those who don’t subscribe to a live streaming service like Sling TV, which carries the Boomerang cable channel.
Fans who want more recent classics not on Boomerang, such as the 90s WB cartoons, will want to check out Hulu, which carries “Animaniacs” and various older and current Cartoon Network shows (like ”Steven Universe”). DC superhero cartoon fans will want to look at DC Universe. And finally, those that want a large number of current cartoons not tied to a particular TV network (like DreamWorks’ “She-Ra” reboot) will want to look at Netflix.
Overall, the Boomerang streaming service is worth looking at for those interested in classic cartoons. However, I’d consider it a secondary source to broader services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. If you’re already subscribing to several other streaming services, consider buying the digital videos/DVDs of the classic cartoons of interest instead. Also, even if kids (and adults) enjoy watching Scooby-Doo or the Road Runner, they’ll certainly want to watch modern cartoons as well.
Image from Boomerang website. (Warner Bros.)