The first installment of H-PCAACA's H Pop Culture Blog begins with an ending. Saturday morning cartoons on broadcast networks, a staple of childhood for many, came to an end on September 27th.
On the face of it, it may not seem like such a great loss to viewers. The broadcast networks had been dropping cartoons from their Saturday morning programming since NBC axed animation in favor of news and live action shows in 1992. Cartoon Network and other cable outlets will continue to run cartoons on Saturday. On demand services such as Netflix carry Adventure Time and Thundercats while Hulu has Schoolhouse Rock, Care Bears, and Rocky and Bullwinkle. DVD box sets of classic cartoons are on Amazon and new, edgier, re-imagined versions of classics like the Smurfs and Archie continue to be produced. There is little concern that future generations will miss out on an education in detective skills courtesy of the Scooby Gang, fail to learn the names of at least some of the Smurfs, or remain ignorant of the fact the ghostly culprit of incredibly elaborate heists is probably the sinister old man in a rubber mask.
The cartoons themselves were fascinating slices of their time and of then-current pop culture that ranged from the unusual to the coldly calculated. There was the fondly remembered single season of Dungeons and Dragons, the Mr. T show where he coached a gymnastic team and solved crimes, the long running Smurfs, and a succession of toy franchises taking advantage of looser rules for syndicated programs. The final network holdout was the Vortexx animation block on the CW airing Digimon Fusion, Spider-Man, Yu-Gi-Oh, Sonix C, Dragon Ball Z, and Cubix. While the Golden Age (and for that matter, Silver Age, Tin Foil Age, and Plastic Age) of Saturday morning cartoons has long since passed into collective memory and the blurry nostalgia of Disney's Main Street USA, internet denizens still felt the loss of a defining element of American childhood for decades. Searching for “saturday morning cartoons” on Twitter resulted in the following sample of comments.
Yesterday was the last day where Saturday morning cartoons were broadcast. Feels strange, to say the least – luxurious erik @Eriktyrone92
Pour one out for Saturday morning cartoons. Today was the last day they were aired on US broadcast TV – Steve Lin @stevenplin
So Saturday morning cartoons are dead, basically, as of this weekend. Well, they are on basic cable, i guess – Rei_ @Random_Factor
"One day in the future, they'll replace Saturday morning cartoons with the news. BUT HERE'S A THUMBDRIVE CONTAINING ALL OF MUPPET BABIES" – Bill Mudron @mudron
The cartoons remain. What is going away with the last of the Saturday morning cartoons is a cultural touchstone, a communal experience, a definition of a generation—something that the time-shifted, DVRed, binge watching, on demand audience of today will not experience the same way. A look at the the discussion on Reddit highlights the broad generational division that is formed by the Saturday morning cartoons watched as a child (well, let's be honest here—as an adult as well.)
I woke up every Saturday to watch MASK, Voltron, Xmen, Animaniacs, Batman and Ninja Turtles and thats not even half of them. A truly sad time.
You know what? I have no idea what you're talking about.
I woke up every saturday to Bugs Bunny Road Runner Hour, Hong Kong Fooey, Grape Ape, the Super Friends, and the entirely LSD produced H.R. Puffinstuff.
this of course doesn't count the assorted Hanna-Barbera crap (the 70s was their straight up hey day) that I absolutely HATED.
and even worse . . . NOBODY in this thread mentioned Schoolhouse Rock
 I forgot about the live action stuff: Shazam, Sid & Marty Kroft, Land of the Lost. Shazam was the ORIGINAL Power Ranger. The action was really bad (I remember thinking that at 7 yrs old) and it was the same kind of story every week.
Here, here! The '70's were absolutely the golden age of Saturday morning cartoons. All the permutations of Scooby Doo, Josie & the Pussycats, Archie, animated Jackson 5 vs. animated Osmonds, Wacky Races, Dick Dastardly & Muttly, etc. Too many choices for a kid buzzing on Fruit Loops when cartoons were on all the channels. Oh to have had DVR back then.
Pssst. Everyone thinks the cartoon they watch were the best.
Its funny how tastes change. In the 80's, if they put any of those 70s cartoons between the newer ones, I changed the channel.
The entire Reddit thread is at: http://www.reddit.com/r/television/comments/2hk9v6/tomorrow_is_the_last_day_saturday_morning/
The influence of Saturday morning cartoons will continue to loom large in pop culture. Modern day memes still riff off G.I. Joe's “Knowing is Half the Battle,” segments, inserted to fulfill the thin educational content cartoons were mandated to carry. The experience of watching the cartoons was not complete in the 1980s without a sugar laden breakfast cereal. Reflecting that fact, some pop culture conventions have Saturday morning cartoon panels/video rooms that give attendees those little single serving plastic bowls of cereal. Shows such as M.A.S.K. were disguised commercials for toys, resulting in an unusual dialogue between merchandise and programming perhaps made most evident in Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future (not a cartoon but still airing on Saturday mornings). With 1995's Saturday Morning Cartoon's Greatest Hits, alt-rockers like Juliana Hatfield and Matthew Sweet belted out their versions of classic themes. My Little Pony t-shirts are on sale at Hot Topic, probably while the Ramones' rendition of the Spider-Man theme is playing a little too loudly overhead. The time of Saturday morning cartoons might be gone but to quote the Gummi Bears, it was an era that was,“high adventure that's beyond compare.”
Intro to the Gummi Bears.
Matthew Sweet preforming the theme to Scooby Doo.
Dan Fandino is a history graduate student at the University of Central Florida. He is particularly fond of the Gummi Bears and the criminally short lived Mighty Orbots.
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