Remember waking up early with a bowl of your favorite cereal to watch Saturday morning cartoons? Perhaps you were good that week and were treated to french toast or waffles? Whatever the case, you’re plugged into TV and ready for the weekend.
What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon? The Flintstones? Maybe the Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? How about X-Men or Scooby Doo? There was even a family-friendly version of the Justice League: Super Friends.
A plethora of pop culture icons lived and thrived as Saturday Morning Cartoons for various network television stations which took us to other worlds to meet other people. And it was great.
For those old enough to remember, this was truly a unique and heartwarming experience. And if you aren’t, well, you practically have anything at your fingertips now so enjoy a mostly Internet-less dive back through time and enjoy the ride! (It may surprise you.)
Welcome back to Remember Whensday…
Why Were They So Great?
Popularized in the mid-1960s, animation broke ground with such hit classics like The Jetsons, Tom & Jerry, Looney Tunes, and Scooby Doo, Where Are You? While being a source of family-friendly entertainment, adults could enjoy Primetime Weeknights with their children. Together, they would watch popular series like The Flintstones. So, of course, these found a great deal of success when their reruns would replay on Saturday mornings.
Thus, a formula was born!
Breaking the usual school routine, children 40 to 50 years ago had something to look forward to — instead of waking up for class, they wake up for four hours of their Saturday morning cartoons. The success of this new formula flourished for two more decades through the ’70s and ’80s.
Unfortunately, what helped it be successful also helped in its demise.
Geeky sci-fi and fantasy cartoons like Transformers, Voltron, He-Man, G.I. Joe, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were practically 30-minute commercials for some cool rad toy you can play with at home. There were also collectibles like The Smurfs, Care Bears, or even Pokemon, which all had varying degrees of creating a “need” within a child’s mind. Not to mention all the children’s food and snack products they would see on the commercial breaks.
This sense of blatant commercialism is what first ignited the controversy with Saturday morning cartoons.Me
Since the ’70s, the Federal Trade Commission fought long and hard for stricter regulations on children’s television. They finally broke ground in the ’90s with various laws including, but not limited to, at least three hours of educational programming and the banning of tie-in merchandising during children’s hours.
Like most things, when the higher-ups in a corporation see a decline in profit, the public sees a change. Additionally, with the uprising of channels like Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel delivering prime children programming at all hours and days, the end of the ’90s brought on the eventual decline of Saturday morning cartoons.
Ignorance is Bliss
Personally, I didn’t even notice the effect television had on my brain.
As in my face and manipulative as commercials were and still are, what I took from this wonderful time period is the love that was created between myself and my imaginary friends. Not only were these cartoons gateways to comics, but for kids and adults alike living before 2000, this was the only way to see some of our favorite heroes brought to life.
Spider-Man became my favorite superhero. The X-Men were the coolest people I have ever seen! Batman: The Animated Series proved cartoons didn’t have to be dumbed-down for children to enjoy.
In the end, what I remember most is the content I enjoyed and not the product that was shoved down my throat. The nostalgic magic of Saturday morning cartoons may never be replicated again thanks to the endless river of streaming services, Internet-accessible videos, and expansive never-ending channels on Cable/Satellite television. Despite it all, their legacy lives on in my heart and in my mind.
And for those that remember when, I’m pretty sure they do in yours too.