Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Last Gasp of Saturday Morning Cartoons

Karen: We've frequently discussed Saturday morning cartoons in the past. They are now officially a thing of the past, as the last network showing cartoons, CW, aired it's final block of cartoons this Saturday past (the 27th). Sure, cartoons are still shown on cable channels on Saturdays, but those same channels tend to show cartoons daily. No, the special day that was "Saturday morning cartoons" is a dinosaur now, extinct and gone, remembered only by those of us of a certain age.

Karen: We've shared our favorite cartoons shows from our childhood days, but with the final nail in the coffin of Saturday morning cartoons, I'd like to hear any and all thoughts you have to share on what made that particular weekly event so special, different than watching any other time. Was it sharing the experience with siblings or parents? Was it getting up and knowing you didn't have to go to school and could enjoy the shows? What significance does it have for you now, all these years later?


Edo Bosnar said...

Hmm, I didn't know there was still something called "Saturday morning cartoons" that lasted up to now - I figured they'd disappeared long before.

As for why I liked them so much, I just loved getting up on Saturdays (the network affiliates where I lived started airing them at 7 a.m.) and enjoying at least two or so hours of cartoons in peace before everybody else in the house started getting out of bed. It was a great way to start the weekend, especially before I got older and my parents started making me do chores in and around the house...

By the way, I like that you posted one of those ads from the comics (talk about synergy!). That was another thing I liked about summer-time comics, especially the annuals: they reminded us that even though school was coming up, we could at least look forward to new cartoons and other Saturday morning fare.
Another thing I found amusing about the cartoon announcements was that apparently the artists doing them (in this case Neal Adams, it would appear) were not always given stills or promo photos from the shows, so they just drew what they thought some of the characters should look like. For example, look at that awesome flower-child outfit Isis is wearing. Also, she apparently just crashed through a locomotive! I wish she had done stuff like that in the actual show.

Anonymous said...

So what do they show on Saturday mornings now ? I'm curious as to what year that ad comes from - Valley Of The Dinosaurs rings a bell, was that the one where the family falls into a whirlpool and ends up in said valley or maybe that was something else. I didn't know there were news bulletins scattered through the morning - I don't think I'd have been very interested in the news at aged 10 (actually, at that age I couldn't name the British prime-minister but I did know who President Ford was probably because he'd made an appearance in a Marvel comic).

William Preston said...

I remember the news bulletins (In the News) as well as Education Rock, both of which, I think, began at the same time, when there was pressure on the networks to improve (i.e., make educational) the morning programs. Somehow, this message was translated as well to mean "fewer cartoons, more live action," which is why there are so many live action shows on that ad. (I invariably liked best the things that failed to be renewed: Kid from CAPER, for example.) As a child, I had a vague sense that this was an improvement, though Looney Toons were obviously the best thing going.

Saturday TV bled over into the afternoon for me, as two UHF networks, one from Philly, one from N.J., had "creature features." My god, the hours spent and gone . . .

William Preston said...

That show I mentioned was "Kids from CAPER," not "Kid." Monkees-style teen detective show.

Edo Bosnar said...

Actually, Colin, I remember finding those "In the News" shorts pretty interesting as a kid.
And William P., it's School House Rock, dammit! And man, I loved those, especially the ones that had to do with grammar and, of course, "I'm Just a Bill." However, I honestly think School House Rock deserves a separate post...

Doug said...

Conjunction Junction
What's that function?


david_b said...

Loved 'Kids From CAPER' (not surprising..), it was on around the time the 'San Pedro Beach Bums' were on primetime.. loved those hip-team shows.

I vividly recall 'In the News', Schoolhouse Rock was fun and quite catchy, but you sort of got the sense that NOW education were creeping into our funtime, and the sad departure of our kewl fun and innocence wasn't far behind.

Like those early GI Joe commercials..: Once they hit the '70s, the education folks insisted you SHOW kids how to create action scenes for Joe, instead of just letting kids use their imagination.

The last time I was excited to watched a Saturday morning was the New Adventures of Batman, with actual voices of West/Ward. Loved the animation, but OF COURSE they had to ruin any sense of tension by adding Batmite to the mix.

Post-StarWars, I watched a little of 'Jason of Star Command' just for the hottie Susan O'Hanlon.

Anonymous said...

Elbow room, elbow room, gotta gotta get us some elbow room.

The Prowler (still following his own modern day Sacagawea).

Edo Bosnar said...

Prowler, you would have to mention the only one of those that is rather objectionable.
And Doug, to answer your question, "Hookin' up words and phrases and clauses..." Seriously, I so loved all of the Schoolhouse Rock segments dealing with grammar - the songs were simply awesome, with the one about verbs being the best of the lot. I still think that's a great song.

David, I loved the Filmation Batman cartoon back then - and West and Ward's voices made it extra cool to me. I didn't even mind Batmite, much. I thought Filmation's Tarzan was pretty cool, too - in fact, it got me to read the comics, which led to the books, and so forth. But I think my favorite Filmation feature from around that time was the Flash Gordon cartoon - I absolutely loved it.

As for Jason of Star Command, and Space Academy for that matter, even back then I realized they were pretty lame compared to Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica.

Humanbelly said...

Oh man, Willliam, I think you & I were the only two people who watched Kids From CAPER--and I only picked it up about halfway through the fall-- and then our local affiliate dropped it, even, once the "re-run" rounds got going after Christmas! But- at 15 years old, I was definitely aging out of anything but a passing interest in Sat. morning cartoons at that point. That show was a bit of delightful, wistful blip of anomaly. . .

What's funny is, just yesterday, I was talking to HBGirl about how folks generally only had ONE television in their household in the 60's and early 70's, and my sisters and I would literally map out and negotiate which shows we would watch when the new seasons would roll around. Our poor youngest sister REALLY did not benefit from our coercive "suggestions" of which shows she would enjoy when it was her turn.


William said...

Was there anything better than Saturday mornings when we were kids?

That was a rely special time of the week, because unlike kids today, we couldn't watch cartoons 24/7.

It was an awesome feeling to get up, with no school, get a bowl of cereal, and watch cartoons (and live action shows like SHAZAM, and Land of the Lost), until around 10 AM, and then go outside and play with your friends all day. [sigh] I actually feel sorry for kids today. They don't know the joy of delayed gratification.

I watched toons like Scooby Doo, and such, but my favorite shows were always the superhero related ones. Some favorites were:

The Super Friends (of course)
Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends
Plastic Man
The Fantastic Four
SHAZAM! (live action)
Isis (live action)
Blue Falcon and Wonder Dog
Electro Woman and Dyna-Girl (live action)
Hong Kong Phooey
Super Stretch and Micro Woman
Mighty Man and Yuck

It's really sad that such an awesome staple of our childhood is now a thing of the past. Makes me feel pretty damn old, I gotta tell you.

david_b said...

Besides the Filmation Batman, I had somewhat high hopes for the FF series, I wasn't going to touch the 'Spidey and Friends' slop.

I was sooo disappointed with the FF series with Herbie.

Where were the cool, hip shows anymore..? The hard-action ones (NO lessons for kids) like Jonny Quest and the original FF..?. I know I know, 'Parent Advocacy Boards' shoooed 'em away.

Well, I suppose you can learn important lessons from Jonny Quest, like 'If you grow up to be a frogman, don't let a plunging wooden boat fall on you..'

- David 'STILL WAITING for those flying jetpacks and rocket guns depicted on the closing JQ credits..' from Milwaukee

Garett said...

It's funny that it seemed hard to get up early to go to school, but I'd be up even earlier on Saturday mornings! The first one on was that Davey and Goliath Christian show. It wasn't the best, but whetted the appetite for Bugs Bunny etc. Actually I do remember one episode: Davey gets fed up with everybody and wishes they'd all go away, and they do. He's left in a world by himself, which is awesome at first, but then lonely. Good lesson about appreciating people and having a balance of time alone and with your friends/family.

Bugs Bunny was old but still the best. Scooby Doo, Hong Kong Phooey, Super Friends, and yes School House Rock rocked! Live action Shazam, Electro Woman and Dyna Girl...the Little Rascals was a strange view into the ancient world of 1930s kids.

I'd watch till about 11am then head out to play with my friends, or sometimes catch sports or an Abbott and Costello movie in the afternoon. It was special, but if you asked me then if I wanted a station that plays cartoons all day every day, it would've blown my little mind and the answer would be YES!

Anonymous said...

Great topic Karen! Loved Saturday mornings. And lots of great memories have been brought up so far. I also seem to recall that in addition to educating us, there was a movement to eliminate violence. Thus, you had episodes of Shazam where the most impressive thing he did was something like lift a tree off of a horse. Totally ruined superhero shows.


Karen said...

This seems to have struck a chord, but every time we talk Saturday morning cartoons it brings up a lot of memories. HB, I too am struck still by how prevalent TVs -and now it's really computers -are in households. It was a really BIG DEAL when we got a second TV in the house in my mid-teens, and that went in my parent's bedroom, and was theirs - my brother and I just had the family set still! But most kids have their own TVs and/or computers now, so no need for everyone to gather around the tv. It's kind of sad.

And no need to develop those negotiating skills either. Everyone can watch what they like on their own sets, or record it for later. I miss the days when you had to bargain for your shows! William, you are right on when you talk about "delayed gratification." I recall that sense of how important Saturday morning was. Not any more, with Toon, and Nick, etc. Or how about waiting months for some movie to come on TV? Now you'd just go to Netflix or YouTube or's both good and bad.

Humanbelly said...

I do feel like we are/were pretty much "THE" generation for that targeted, Saturday-morning experience. Even allowing for the expected rose-colored perspective of the "they were better when WE were kids" view, the very few times that I happened to catch a cartoon or two in the 80's and early 90's had me thinking that they'd taken a pretty steep creative plunge. Most things seemed to be either a)painfully over-correct, pointless, conflict-less pablum that a 6-year-old would find contrived, or b) not even thinly-veiled toy promotions.

There was a major, wonderful burst of creative brilliance w/ primarily Fox and the WB in the early/mid 90's w/ Animaniacs, The Tick, Taz, Tiny Toons, Pinky & the Brain, Disney's Recess (geeze, what a hoot of a show), and a few others-- and those were years when I was spending a LOT of time in front of a TV w/ a very fussy baby HBSon, so I got to enjoy them all anew. But, it was sort of a last terminal rally for that medium-- they, as well, were gone all too soon.

Yeah, at 10 years old, I was often awake LONG before our local channels even started broadcasting, and would just hang around the basement (where our TV was), waiting for the test pattern to start up. Then, like, The Ag-USA Quiz Show (Future Farmers of America teen game show) at 6, the Notre Dame pregame show at 6:30, then some local cartoons starting at 7 (Heckle & Jekyll, Klondike Kat-- that sort of thing). Eventually a huge bowl of King Vitamin or Wheaties w/ 'waaaaaay too much sugar, and continuous watching in underwear until practically lunchtime. Honestly, I was problem-watcher-- an unhealthy addict. If a buddy came over, he'd have to hang and watch until lunch. . . and then if the Children's Television Workshop looked lame (which was about 85% or the time) we'd head out.

I'd get dressed first, naturally.


Anonymous said...

Being in Canada, I didn't see all the same stuff that most of you did (no Schoolhouse Rock for one thing), but I watched Smurfs, Scooby Doo, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Kidd Video, and a few others. I remember there being a few live action shows on Saturday mornings too...Roy Rogers, Jungle Jim, and maybe even Gilligan's Island in the late 70s.

There's a nostalgia website that has TV schedules from the late 70s:
and 80s:

Might bring back a few memories!

Mike W.

Humanbelly said...

Oh! To answer Colin's question 'way back there-- the show you're remembering is LAND OF THE LOST. I think it may have had it's own post 'round here a-ways back--!


Anonymous said...

It seemed the go to show for Saturday mornings was Bugs Bunny. And I remember Johnny Quest and Clutch Cargo, but I don't know if those were Saturday mornings or after school. Like Speed Racer, I remember watching them but can't remember when I watched them. I also liked Ultra-Man but that was a live action show and not a cartoon.

Some of my earliest memories of when Dad was stationed at Fort Hood was trying to watch Thor and the Fantastic Four cartoons while Mom was trying to get me dressed for church. Those were always a struggle.

A few weeks back, there was a special on where they looked back on all the Schoolhouse Rock shows, interviewed the people behind the scenes and replayed the episodes. It was a great look back.

The Prowler (the future's open wide..... hmmm mmm mmm, hmmm mmm mmm hmmm.....).

Rip Jagger said...

I'm a wee bit older than most folks here, so my prime Saturday cartoon memories are from the 60's not the 70's.

It was the Hanna-Barbera heroes who really jumpstarted me into comics. Space Ghost, Birdman, Herculoids, The Fantastic Four, all of them were delightful adventure entertainment.

Jonny Quest was always the best, the cream. I just a few days ago got hold of some of the 70's Godzilla cartoons Doug Wildey worked on and that Jonny magic is still evident if not as robust.

Saturdays were special for the cartoons and once upon a time some even leaked over into the Sunday. But Sunday was reserved for the color comics page in the newspaper like Prince Valiant, Phantom, Lone Ranger, Steve Canyon, and more. Each week for nothing (out of my pocket at least) I got to see and read heroic goings on.

It was only a small step into comics, but it's proven to be a momentous one.

Rip Off

pfgavigan said...

By an amazing coincidence, writer Mark Evanier, long time comic and cartoon writer, and 'alleged' comic historian, touches on this very subject just recently.

As you can most likely tell from my opening sentence, I tend to look to other sources regarding the behind the scenes events regarding this art form. While I believe Mr. Evanier to have been a good and supportive friend to Kirby and Gerber, I believe that he lets that friendship cloud his vision of certain events in both mens lives.

However, in this circumstance I don't think he has any particular ax to grind so I include a link to his post.

Just remember, this is the man who created Scrappy Doo.


Graham said...

My mom used to be amazed that even though she had to use dynamite to get me out of be during the week for school, I was able to wake up completely unassisted on every Saturday morning at 7:00 am.

I loved the first version of Scooby Doo (and then the movies) and Bugs Bunny. Later on, I enjoyed the Filmation versions of Tarzan and Batman. I rarely got to see the early Superman, Batman, Aquaman series and later on the Super Friends because when I was growing up in the pre-cable days, we couldn't get them on our rabbit-eared TV.

Redartz said...

Thoroughly enjoying the discussion today; it is sad to see Saturday Morning cartoons relegated to cultural history...sigh...

Obviously many here share the fond memories of these weekends. Ten years old, no school for two days, few responsibilities. Often a friend over for the night, both of us up early (like Graham) to catch the cartoonfest. My favorites were the 67 Spider-Man, Fantastic Four
and Jonny Quest. Yet the great thing about Saturday cartoons during their heyday was the variety. Also loved Josie and the Pussycats, Archie, and Bugs Bunny . And as a fan of "Emergency", I never missed the animated "Emergency Plus 4" (an episode of which is viewable on Youtube; a great resource for old video!).

As HB opined, our generation seemed to enjoy the focus of attention from the marketers of the day. The available free time, the rise of television, the limited range of channels; many factors contributed to the development of the leisurely Bronze age Saturday. Not the least of which is the good fortune some of us enjoyed allowing us to partake of those carefree hours. It was a chance for us to just be kids and enjoy kid things for awhile...

William Preston said...

Unlike me, my three daughters never watched Saturday morning TV.

And we've only ever had one TV in the house.

Fred W. Hill said...

Watching the weekend morning cartoons was certainly a favorite activity for my brothers and I when we were kids. I remember reading the TV Guide in early September before the new season started to see what new goodies might be coming and Saturday morning was the one day of the week I'd willingly get up at 6 a.m. just to catch the earliest cartoons. Of course, we always had to make the choice as to which of the then three major networks to watch. I do remember catching the Marvel Superheroes in the period before my family moved to Japan (in April 1967) and the FF & Spider-Man cartoons after we came back to the U.S. in December 1969. Also, there were the Herculoids, the Impossible, Bullwinkle, Underdog, the Wacky Racers, the Groovy Ghoulies, H.R. Puff 'n' Stuff, Lidsville, etc., etc. To be honest, I can't even remember if I was already reading Marvel comics before I saw the cartoons featuring them when I would have been 4 years old -- likely the cartoons first. At any rate, despite the crudity of those Marvel Superheroes cartoons, they somehow appealed to me more than the Super Friends of later years, although I also recall the short-lived Aquaman cartoon and I liked that although I never collected that comic.
I forget exactly when I stopped getting up early to watch the cartoons -- maybe when I was 15, although by that time it was my youngest brother, who would have been 9 years old, who kept up the tradition. By then I was more into listening to pop radio and reading, comics or whatever else I had on hand, than in watching kids shows.

Abe Lucas said...

"I was sooo disappointed with the FF series with Herbie."

Agreed! Even eight-year-old me in 1979 thought the Torch's omission--for "rights issues" I read on Wikipedia--was lame. I recently bought FF #217 where Herbie betrays the FF. I always wondered if Marvel's scribes despised Herbie so much that they gleefully sent him off with that issue.

I never thought there'd be a day where Saturday Morning Cartoons would go the way of the rotary dial phone.

I adored Filmation's Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Batman series. I always preferred action-adventure cartoons over the cutesy "funny" ones, which is all most people seem to remember, except for we comic geeks, of course. "Challenge of the Superfriends" was a HUGE improvement over Marvin and Wendy(?) and the Wonder Twins. *Puke*

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