After Batgirl and Wonder Twins were axed at HBO Max, fans fear the DC animated series Young Justice could be the next DC Comics property on the chopping block at Warner Bros. Discovery. The status of the already once-canceled series has been up in the air ever since co-creator Greg Weisman tweeted that it was a question of "if" — not "when" — Young Justice would be renewed following the conclusion of its fourth season, Young Justice: Phantoms. In the wake of the $43 billion Discovery-WarnerMedia merger, WBD CEO David Zaslav has taken aggressive cost-cutting measures to trim at least $3 billion from the newly formed company's budget.
That meant shelving two nearly-completed straight-to-HBO Max movies — the live-action Batgirl and the animated Scoob! Holiday Haunt — and canceling completed HBO Max preschool animated series Little Ellen ahead of its Season 3 premiere. When the streamer opted not to renew the live-action family comedy Gordita Chronicles for a second season, an HBO Max spokesperson said that "live-action kids and family programming will not be part of our programming focus in the immediate future."
As part of a wider strategic shift, Warner Bros. Discovery confirmed cuts to its live-action kids' content and animation during its Q2 earnings report Thursday. Gunnar Wiedenfels, WBD's chief financial officer, said on the call that kids and animation content across streaming and linear networks would be cut "without an adequate investment case against them."
Zaslav said the company would pivot away from expensive, direct-to-streaming movies like scrapped HBO Max Originals Batgirl and Wonder Twins in favor of focusing on "high-quality" live-action DC movies for theaters like The Batman and the upcoming Black Adam. Zaslav assured investors that there was a "10-year plan" in place for the DC Films universe and name-checked Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman as flagship DC franchises — but that future won't become clearer until the company's Investor Day later this year.
Ultimately, Zaslav said, the ambition is to "grow the DC brand, to grow the DC characters. But also, our job is to protect the DC brand, and that's what we're going to do."
While that signals a boost to theatrical DC, fans of animated DC are left to wonder where Young Justice and adult animated series Harley Quinn fit into WBD's so-called "strategic approach" to HBO Max, which will merge with the Discovery+ streaming service next year. In March, it was announced HBO Max was developing a Harley Quinn spinoff series, tentatively titled Noonan's, described as Cheers but for Bat-villains.
Young Justice ran for two seasons until its cancellation on Cartoon Network, a division of Warner Bros. Discovery, formerly WarnerMedia. The short-lived DC Universe subscription service revived the fan-favorite series for a third season before it moved to HBO Max as a fourth season subtitled Phantoms.
Under the old regime, WarnerMedia also greenlit the preschool animated series Batwheels and the more mature Batman: Caped Crusader, an all-new animated series and reimagining of the Batman mythology from Warner Bros. Animation and executive producers Bruce Timm (the '90s Batman: The Animated Series), J.J. Abrams (Lost), and Matt Reeves (The Batman). DC said that moody series would "once again reinvent Batman and his iconic rogue's gallery with sophisticated storytelling, nuanced characters and intense action sequences all set in a visually striking world."
Warner Bros. Discovery "did not find sufficient support" for what the company called "substantial investments in direct-to-HBO Max films," Andrew Slabin, Executive Vice President, Global Investor Strategy, said on the call, referring to Batgirl and Wonder Twins. "This means adjusting the way we invest going forward and also evaluating both projects already completed or in progress."
Acknowledging the "difficult decisions" to scrap Batgirl and the Scoob! sequel despite both projects being deep into post-production, Slabin added the new leadership is "committed to being disciplined about a framework that guides our constant investment for maximum returns."
Whether there will be justice for DC's animated slate remains to be seen. See what Young Justice fans are saying below.
prayer circles for Young Justice, Harley Quinn, and most other animated properties owned/distributed by WBD this week...— Eric Vilas-Boas (@e_vb_) August 3, 2022
Idk what the hell is going on with HBO Max but I swear to god if we lose Young Justice /again/ I will lose my shit.— Brandon (@CybertronGuy98) August 3, 2022
If you're a fan of the non-blockbuster or animation like Young Justice or Harley Quinn, this sounds...not good. https://t.co/JqHpiM1f7Y— ⚜ Mr. Bigshot ⚜ (@ShatteredXLV) August 4, 2022
I have a bad feeling that we are not getting Young Justice season 5 and that really sucks #YoungJustice— Not Your Status Quo (@NotYourStatusQ) August 5, 2022
Watching HBOmax burn while hoping for a Young Justice season 5 green light. pic.twitter.com/MTVkoiWs3I— Gox (@FortBox76) August 4, 2022
I really don't understand any of the logic going on behind the HBOMax & Discovery merger, but if they take Young Justice or Our Flag Means Death from me, I'm gonna riot.— Bree Despain (@breedespain) August 4, 2022
Terrified for Young Justice and Harley Quinn https://t.co/DBGoT8lEvh— Brooks Is Tired (@brookstweetz) August 4, 2022
Idc just renew young justice https://t.co/o4fttaSciz— tripple (@fcbtripple) August 4, 2022
Superman & Lois, Stargirl, and Young Justice are some of the best media coming out of DC today but after all the HBO Max news, I'm so worried that they'll all end up being among the casualties of whatever the heck's going on at Warner Bros Discovery.
I really hope I'm wrong 🙏🏾🤞🏾— Brandin Hawkins (@brandin12494) August 3, 2022
Young Justice is such an awesome show with a huge universe too! There's so many characters that appeared on screen and it makes the world feel so live and huge #RemewYoungJustice #YoungJusticeSeason5 #YoungJustice pic.twitter.com/Eet0bO7u44— Jade The YJ fan #StandWithUkraine (@JadeLikesDC) August 5, 2022