On September 27, 2014, the CW Network aired its two-hour Saturday cartoon block, aptly named Vortexx, for the last time. Under different circumstances, it wouldn’t be such a big deal that you wouldn’t catch new episodes of Digimon Fusion anymore. Thing is, the CW was the last over-the-air television network to feature Saturday morning cartoons, so their conclusion of Vortexx led to a sad truth: Saturday morning cartoons are dead.
Pictured: The Saturday Morning Memorial Graveyard, home to KidsWB!, Fox Kids, and ABC One’s Saturday Morning. Not Pictured: The gravesite of whatever UPN thought was a good idea at the time.
The advent of the Saturday morning cartoon stems from the 1960s, where TV networks looked to captivate a young audience, and advertisers looked to market to the same group. Cartoons were the way to go over live-action shows thanks to their popularity with children, but it also helped that the shows employed actual voice actors — dirt cheap compared to their on-camera kin. Nabbing cartoons made popular in movie theaters (Tom and Jerry, Looney Tunes, Woody Woodpecker, to name a few) was a viable option to fill empty time slots too. So with a base of affordable original cartoons, a dash of re-aired cartoons from the movie theaters, and a sprinkling of kids’ commercials, a television tradition was birthed.
Since then, millions of television-viewing kids have witnessed incredible moments. They have seen Scooby-Doo and the gang solve the mystery of the haunted pirate ship. They have seen Optimus Prime and the Autobots defend their fair share of Energon cubes from the evil Decepticons. They have seen Yakko, Wakko, and Dot escape the water tower to make mischief on the lot. People look back on these moments as a snapshot of youthful innocence — a time when you could wake up on a Saturday, pour yourself a bowl of sugary cereal, and park yourself in front of the tube from 8am til noon.
Even Jubilee understands this tragedy, and she’s Jubilee.
One can easily debate that the notion of Saturday morning cartoons is far from dead, just dormant. Much like newspapers and video rental stores, modern methods have replaced these once dominant concepts. Cable/satellite channels like Cartoon Network (Teletoon if you hail from the maple leaf nation), Disney XD, and the Hub Network are just a few examples of networks keeping the practice alive. One could easily watch as many cartoons on a Saturday by way of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Then of course, there’s the Internet, right there to fill your desire for mindless animated indulgence at any given time.
Even with these options, there is no denying the hard truth. Saturday morning cartoons are gone, and in their departure stands live-action edutainment that is in no way fun or riveting when compared it to what was on decades before. Perhaps you could blame this downfall on the FCC’s Children’s Television Act in 1990. The act created rules for over-the-air networks when it came to providing educational programming. This became so much of a burden for networks to manage both educational and entertaining children’s shows, that something had to give. Unfortunately, it was the latter. Like video killed the radio star, edutainment killed the cartoon lineup.
Since Saturday morning cartoon broadcasts are a figment of television yesteryear, let those of us old enough be grateful that we lived in a time to appreciate it. We relished in all the action and antics, the silly and the surprising. It’s a damn shame that after those messages, they never came right back.
If you want to learn about some of the best in Saturday morning cartoons, listen to some Laser Time podcasts. The crew discusses celebrities starring in their own cartoons, super hero cartoons, and the brilliant Warner Bros. cartoons of the 90’s.
Article by contributor Knight Dehumidifier.