As Saturday came to a close, and the clock rolled into April 1st, people across the world began flooding the web with jokes and pranks. Google unveiled its 8-bit version of Maps, while Kodak unveiled its Kitten Printer, and the popular Adblock software changed to Catblock, which replaces pesky ads with images of cats. Popular sources for news and products became a nexus of silly fun that would delight those in the know and annoy those who wanted any semblance of reliable information.

Adult Swim is a company that likes to revel in the occasion in its own way. For the past several years, the company replaced its nightly line-up with a showing of Tommy Wiseau’s cult-hit crap film The Room. This year, though, the company had different plans. The evening began with the first few moments of Wiseau’s film. The camera quickly pulled back to reveal a figure that would be familiar to those who watched Cartoon Network in the ’90s. Tom, the former mascot of Cartoon Network’s Toonami block would be the evening’s guide to an evening of classic anime.

The evening featured a return to the Toonami format, from the branding and bumps to TOM providing commentary between shows.

For many, the biting punchline of this joke would reveal itself as the sun rose, and TOM signed off one last time. It was an experience that endeared many, only to be ripped away in an instant. Still, the brief return of the block may have given Cartoon Network a valuable dose of market research.

The block’s temporary return sparked endless conversations across social media and various websites. Forums were alight with chatter and comments sections on sites like Japanator and Reddit filled with users praising the block (or lamenting that they missed it). Steve Blum’s Facebook page was hammered with comments from users, begging and pleading for him to say SOMETHING to the folks at Cartoon Network (despite the fact that he’s merely the actor). The uproar got managed to elicit a response from the actor, who replied to the compliments and requests with the following:

Yo, Toonami Faithful…
Thanks for tuning in. Hope it kicked in some happy memories and kicked off a happy April! As you (hopefully) know, bringing Toonami back isn’t up to me. I’m just a voice guy. Many of you want to know how to make your voices heard. Maybe start here… Go to “programming” then “Toonami”
Love you guys from the bottom of my servos.

With this in mind, Cartoon Network has established the following:

  1. A positive reaction to their “joke”
  2. Clear demand for the Toonami block as a product
  3. A large group of customers willing to not only consume, but advertise the Toonami block through word of mouth ( consistent quality permitting)

Just how large this potential market is remains a mystery. Ratings data for the block have yet to be disclosed. However, the term was a trending topic on Twitter while it aired, with a peak of 0.24% of all tweets at 1AM (according to Trendistic). Popular tweets came from users that shared memories of Gundam, Dragon Ball, and Outlaw Star.

If Cartoon Network can satisfy the demand they’ve fostered with a product of consistent quality, they could easily see a revival of their anime block. Toonami holds great capital among not only anime fans, but fans of the network in general. The promise of content that excites the viewer, be it a fierce battle in Dragon Ball or robot melees in titles like Gundam Wing is a powerful lure that can reach beyond the small ocean of customers present today.

This wouldn’t be an easy undertaking for the network – there are numerous forces that could stomp a revival effort flat. Going against the will of the market, trying to use the property to push boring, substandard content, or diluting the brand with unrelated content could, and would easily ruin any chance of a revival of the block. However, if Cartoon Network sets out to do things right – by this, I mean obtaining content both old and new that resonates with the market at large – then they will be greatly rewarded by customers that will be happy to share with friends, family, and other audiences.