The series was originally part of a series of shorts on Cartoon Network's animation showcase series World Premiere Toons (also known as the What a Cartoon! Show.) The popularity of the shorts led to the network commissioning a full series for the show, which premiered on July 7, 1997. The series was renewed for multiple following seasons and finally ended its official run on August 27, 2004.
The series was the second series to be spun from World Premiere Toons, and is the second series under Cartoon Cartoons (a collective name for early Cartoon Network original series). A spin-off of the series, JBVO, was unsuccessful and ran for one season. Many of the writers and directors on the series went on to become famous for their own projects (writer Seth MacFarlane for Family Guy and writer/director Butch Hartman for The Fairly OddParents). Johnny Bravo is today consider a classic Cartoon Network series, the title character is labeled as "iconic", and his catchphrases ("Oohh, Mama!") are relatively common in popular culture.
The series takes its roots from a senior thesis project creator Van Partible did for Loyola Marymount University, about an Elvis Presley impersonator. Mess O' Blues (1993) was shown by Partible's animation professor at the college to a friend working for Hanna-Barbera Cartoons at the time. The studio loved the film and asked him to develop it into a pitch for a seven-minute short. Partible sold the project to Hanna-Barbera shortly afterward. The short would be aired on Cartoon Network's new animation showcase, World Premiere Toons. Also known as the What a Cartoon! Show, the series' short cartoons (three per half-hour episode) mirrored the structure of a theatrical cartoon, with each film being based on an original storyboard drawn and written by its artist/creator.
Partible initially roomed with Craig McCracken (creator of The Powerpuff Girls), Paul Rudish (a designer on that series) and Genndy Tartakovsky (creator of Dexter's Laboratory.) The only two cartoonists fresh out of college were Partible and Seth MacFarlane. Partible changed his character from Mess O' Blues around so that "he would be more of this '50s iconic James Dean-looking character that talked like Elvis". Partible picked voice actor Jeff Bennett to play Johnny Bravo solely based on his young, hyped Elvis impression.
The short, Johnny Bravo, premiered on World Premiere Toons on March 26, 1995, and involved Johnny trying to score with a zookeeper girl by capturing a runaway gorilla. Partible, with a small team of animators, animated the short themselves in-house at Hanna-Barbera using digital ink and paint (the latter shorts and first three seasons of the series would instead use the traditional ink and paint and film camera.) Two more shorts on the program followed (Jungle Boy in "Mr. Monkeyman", and Johnny Bravo and the Amazon Women) and the shorts were so popular that Cartoon Network commissioned a first season of series based around Johnny Bravo, consisting of 13 episodes.
The crew of the first season of Johnny Bravo consisted of several writers, animators, and directors from World Premiere Toons, including the aforementioned MacFarlane and Hartman, Steve Marmel, and John McIntyre. Veteran cartoonist and animation legend Joseph Barbera was also a creative consultant and a mentor for the first season of the series. Partible stated in a 1997 interview that the goal of the series was to have "animation reminiscent of the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons".
The series premiered on July 7, 1997 and the first season completed in December of that year. The series was put on hiatus, until it was picked up for an unexpected second season in 1999. During that season, the show undertook a major creative re-tooling, in which new characters were introduced, re-designs of characters with new personalities were prevalent, and the tone and humor of the show changed considerably. Some of the changes the show experienced during the re-tooled version were the heavy emphasis on Johnny's stupidity, the removal of the Jungle Boy characters and new catchphrases. Most viewers did not take kindly to the changes while others thought the show greatly improved and took off with a slapstick style. The show kept this format until the series' third season ended in 2002. The series sat in limbo once again until it was renewed for a fourth season in 2003, which aired in 2004. The final season of the series returned to the humor of the original shorts and first season of the series (Although the Jungle Boy characters from the first season never returned). The show was cancelled officially in late 2004. Reruns premiered on Cartoon Network's sister network Boomerang and the series returned for a short time to Cartoon Network in November 2009.
Today, the series is often labeled a classic of the late 1990s Cartoon Network cartoons (the collective Cartoon Cartoons). For a short time, a live-action film was rumored to be in production. The catchphrases of the show are relatively common in popular culture. After the series ended in 2004, The #5 Kellogg's Chevrolet was given a special paint scheme with Johnny Bravo on the hood. It was driven by Kyle Busch in the 2005 Sharpie 500 NASCAR race. On the long lasting impact of the show, writer/director Butch Hartman states:
|“||When Johnny Bravo first came out, I don't think a lot of people didn't have high hopes for it, and I think it was really cool that prove exactly what kind of character he was. No one really thought it was going to go anywhere. Not only has it gone somewhere, it's actually still around, it's very iconic now, 15, 16 years later.||”|
A large majority of the show's creative team has gone on to create many successful television series throughout the 1990s and 2000s, most notably writer Seth MacFarlane, who is the creator of the popular animated series Family Guy. Shortly after the series' first season was completed, writer/director Butch Hartman left to work on Nickelodeon's Oh Yeah! Cartoons, from which those shorts spun off his own success, The Fairly OddParents. Steve Marmel, writer for Johnny Bravo, has been a producer and writer for The Fairly OddParents since its premiere in 2001. In addition to Johnny Bravo, director John McIntyre directed episodes of several other Cartoon Cartoons, and more recently served as a supervising director on Cartoon Network's original series The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack.