Dirt: Reviving a streaming cartoon

Fans campaign for more Infinity Train.

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Chris Hutton on the Twitter fan campaign to revive Infinity Train, a streaming cartoon that already lasted two platforms and four seasons.

I’ll get to it eventually is a thought that I have about a lot of media lately. Since our entertainment ecosystem is made up of more than a dozen platforms with all sorts of new programming, I often have to choose what I actually invest time in. Do I stick with the latest Marvel program or try something new? Last week, I decided to watch Infinity Train, a newish show on Cartoon Network that I had heard about but put off actually watching.

Then I was surprised to see the hashtag #finishinfinitytrain suddenly trending on Twitter. Some reports claim that at least 250,000 tweets have been posted with the hashtag, which is an attempt by fans to encourage more seasons of the now-canceled show. Apparently I had already missed out on the show’s prime.

Infinity Train is a short cartoon anthology series made by Owen Dennis. Originally premiering as a viral pilot in 2016, the program did not get an entire series order until 2019. The show focuses on a mysterious train that exists in an alternate dimension. In the first season, the female protagonist Tulip is pulled into the dimension and meets One-One, a dual-personality robot, and discovers strange green numbers on her hand that seem to shift depending on her actions. The core of the show centers around the mystery of the Train: why does it exist? Who made it? What do the numbers mean? Who is One-One's supposed mother? The program culminates in a straightforward conclusion and offers an answer — at least until season two starts.

Each season centers on a different “passenger” on the Train, where they're faced with new settings, new characters, and new arcs. Each season draws its main protagonist from a secondary character in the previous season, thus creating a longer and more complex narrative. The show approaches a lot of its storytelling with a Black Mirror-esque anthology strategy, where the arc strives to illustrate a particular character's motives and morals as they explore the Train and their own trauma. 

Season one's fixation on how Tulip was affected by her family's divorce is perhaps one of the heaviest and most direct portrayals of a child's relationship with divorce I've seen on TV. Dennis was also surprised by what he was allowed to do with the show. In an interview with io9, the creator said, "Most kids shows don't get to talk as explicitly about subject matter like loss, emotional abuse, and othering as we've been able to."

That willingness to engage in vividly dark subjects may have contributed to the show's inevitable end. The show was originally intended to be an HBO Max exclusive, but the first two seasons received an early release on Cartoon Network due to HBO Max’s launch being delayed until 2020. It wasn’t until Dennis released season four of Infinity Train in 2021 that fans received confirmation of Infinity Train’s end. Dennis said that many executives from Cartoon Network were not entirely sure what to do with Infinity Train. While HBO Max initially marketed the show to kids, the emotional themes grew its appeal with teens and adults alike. 

But the cancellation wasn't enough to scare off fans. Dennis once said that he had at least four additional seasons planned for Infinity Train, as well as the desire to make a film around Amelia, an essential character in season one. It's clear that Infinity Train has the potential to be so much more than its four seasons, and the fans knew it. On April 29th, #finishinfinitytrain went viral on Twitter. Even Dennis noticed, promoting the hashtag by offering several stickers, buttons, and other rewards for participants. By the end of April 29th, he was blown away by the action, as demonstrated by this Twitter thread:

The hashtag campaign may not have changed the minds of TV executives, but it has likely exposed millions more people to an overlooked show. Infinity Train is another entry in a long line of well-received children’s cartoons that are actually enjoyable for adults to watch. It’s also one of those entries that was cancelled too soon. 

While raunchier comedies like American Dad and Rick and Morty continue to draw in millions of viewers, Infinity Train has ended. In the world of streaming IP, however, anything can rise again — just look to the example of Lisa Hanawalt’s Tuca & Bertie, which was canceled by Netflix but resurrected, this time, by Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim after fans made a lot of noise on social media. These days, fandom means a lot. — By Chris Hutton

The Dirt: Campaign for your favorite shows.