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Television Media

The Disappearance of Saturday Morning 838

Ant writes "Saturday morning no longer means kids in front of TV sets across the country, glued to the latest in hip cartoons. Why? Gerard Raiti investigates the death of an era." As a former Saturday morning TV addict, this doesn't seem like a bad thing to me.
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The Disappearance of Saturday Morning

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  • by jon787 ( 512497 ) on Sunday May 11, 2003 @11:59PM (#5934192) Homepage Journal
    I fought with my sister over whether to watch Garfield and Friends or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
    • by Mattwolf7 ( 633112 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:16AM (#5934288)
      Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles > *

      My little brother loves Sat. mornings he always wakes up at some un-godly hour (7:00am!?!) to watch Kids WB and FOX - Yu-Gi-Oh, Jackie Chan, Pokemon...

      From Article:
      Six key factors have led to children watching less Saturday morning cartoons: more recreational sports, the introduction of cable and satellite TV, the Internet and video games, a poorer quality of animation, and a greater emphasis on family time. These factors are rather self-explanatory with the exception of the latter: the divorce rate of Americans now stands at 49 percent, and time on the weekends has become more precious for children as many commute between parents' houses. For parents who only have limited access to their children due to either divorce or career advancement, plopping them down in front of the television for five hours on a Saturday morning is no longer a viable option. Among most parents, divorced or not, there is a new emphasis on "quality" time. Consequently, taking one's children to the theater, mall, museum, event, zoo or beach on the weekend is deemed more appropriate to being a "good" parent, than letting kids sit and watch cartoons. To this effect, American society has changed substantially enough over the last two decades to the point where Saturday morning cartoons are less important to our culture.

      My parents are divorced and my brother still loves to watch TV from 7:00 to Noon. I think the "death" of Sat. Morning Cartoons is due to the 24 hour cartoon stations, not divorce and TiVo. As I was growing up I did not have Cartoon Network, Disney and Nickelodeon. The programming for kids was only on Saturday Mornings and for 1-2 hours after I got home from school. So if I wanted to see the only kids shows I would have to have watched on Sat Morning.
      • I've always wondered how the "divorce rate" is measured. It always seems strangely high to me because it just doesn't add up anecdotally.
        Is it simply a count of divorces per marriages in a particular year? If so, doesn't that discount marriages that last for a long time?


    • by Chasing Amy ( 450778 ) <> on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:27AM (#5934350) Homepage
      > I fought with my sister over whether to watch Garfield and Friends or Teenage Mutant
      > Ninja Turtles.

      The Saturday-morning cartoons I most easily remember from when I was a kid are *The Smurfs* and those public service type edu-toons the stations were required to run, like the *Schoolhouse Rock* cartoons, as well as the musical advertisements from cheese manufacturers' or beef industry associations...

      I also recall that my favorite Saturday-morning show wasn't a cartoon, but rather some show in which a bearded guy would tell stories to a room full of kids. Just like story time in elementary school, only on TV. He'd tell some really gruesome kids' stories though, like the one in which a man fights with some sort of man-beast and cuts a chunk out of its flesh during the fight, and takes it home and cooks it up to serve for his family...

      A few years later the arrival of *Saved By the Bell* started to change the landscape of Saturday-morning kids' TV, turning it into a time for kids' versions of sitcoms and other live-character shows instead of so many cartoons. Mmmmm, the crush I had on those *Saved By the Bell* gals when I was a kid...

      BTW, for anyone who doesn't know, the classic *Schoolhouse Rock* series is available on a special-edition DVD these days. Great nostalgia.
    • by fwarren ( 579763 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @03:26AM (#5934940) Homepage
      Yes it was great, fighing over what cartoons to wath, getting up early, eating plenty of chocolate frosted sugar bombs

      I am 36, which means I remember Cartoons starting when I was 5 in 1971, up to when I left home at 19 and no longer had younger brothers and sisters watching them.

      No one hear has mentioned Boomerang, the Cartoon Network spin-off which showcases Hanna-Barbara cartoons from 1958 to 1985.

      Yes, now seen as an adult, some of the shows I thought were cool, are, well, junk. However, some things still hold up well. Like Johnny Quest

      Also no one has mentioned such Jay Ward classics as Rocky and Bullwinkle. A show written for kids, with dialog for the adults and humor that cut to the heart of the cold war.

      I remember back in the 70's when the networks would have a Friday night where they would show off their new Saturday morning linuep. One of the things we would look forward to after school started up again in September is seeing what new cartoons would be on.

      Inspector Gadget and Robotech were worth watching. At 18, I grew tired of the He-Man,GI Joe tie-ins. They had enough bullets flying around to call it world war 3, but no one ever dies, They can't die, K-Mart had 100 units of each figure on the shelf, killing of the character would have been bad business.

      Yes, the quality of the animation is terrible now days. There are a few modern gems. I find Ren and Stimpy funny and pretty incorrect.

      I would have to agree that most cartoons are not very good, because they are not witty and there is no adult humor in them, or that they are so PC. Let's dialog about our feelings. The Simpsons has not been on so long because they dialog about their feelings, it's because they take no prisoners.

      It's pretty sad realy, even back in the 70's most of the great cartoons had been made in the 60's.

  • by CaptCanuk ( 245649 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:00AM (#5934195) Journal
    I never slept in on Saturday mornings and they were the best thing on TV from 9am-12pm. I recently checked that time slot on the channels I used to watch and there was very little kid-oriented in this time slot. It used to be kids Saturday morning and Christian Evangelists on Sunday morning... so at least one of the two days was ok.

    • When I was a kid, I thought the cartoons were hilarious and the Christian Evangelists were boring.

      Now I think I that the cartoons are boring and the Christian Evangelists are hilarious.
    • by mobiGeek ( 201274 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:58AM (#5934495)
      9am? Yikes. I used to get up sometimes before the big three started broadcasting. Test patterns...

      Then the university programs would come on for one or two half-hour shows. There'd be lectures on dinosaurs, chemistry, ancient art, archeology, religion, Egyptian architectures, etc...

      Then, if I remember correctly, Scooby-Doo would start off the morning line up (the real Scooby-Doo, not that new-age Scrappy crap, and DON'T get me started on Gadzookie...).

      Superfriends, Laugh Olympics, and of course the classic Schoolhouse Rock fill-ins...conjunction junction, what's your function?

      I never really liked the Smurfs; guess I was starting to outgrow cartoons then. But I never missed an episode of Dungeons and Dragons. Always wanted that bow...

      Back then, shows were real. Now we've got Artifical T.V. ... my wife says that Jenna won.

      • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @03:20AM (#5934922) Journal
        the classic Schoolhouse Rock fill-ins

        I'm an amendment to be, yes an amendment to be, and I'm hopin' that they'll ratify me. There's a lot of flag burners who have got too much freedom. I wanna make it legal for policemen to beat 'em, cause there's limits to our liberties. 'Least I hope and pray that there are, 'cause those liberal freaks go too far.

        kid: Well why can't we just make a law against flag burning?

        Amendment: Because that law would be unconstitutional.
        But if we changed the Constitution...

        kid: Then we could make all sorts of crazy laws!

        Amendment: Now you're catching on!

        Kid: What if people say you're not good enough to be in the Constitution?

        Amendment (singing): Then I'll crush all opposition to me, and I'll make Ted Kennedy pay. If he fights back, I'll say that he's gay.

        Congressman: Good news, Amendment! They ratified ya! You're in the U.S. Constitution.

        Amendment: Oh yeah! Door's open, boys.
    • by g0_p ( 613849 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @03:35AM (#5934961)
      I'm from India. Sunday mornings used to be kids time on television cos' many schools worked on Saturdays. Usually consisted of Disney cartoons (dubbed into Hindi) and mythological serials. (Where kids programs in the US show technologically advanced robots and gadgets, kids programs in India had all powerful gods and godessess with tantrically charged bows and arrows fighting against demons and beasts. :-))
  • A new Era (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the-dude-man ( 629634 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:02AM (#5934201)
    Children have more to do these days on a staurday go look at porn on the illegal moveis off irc, ddos the favoriate american passtime...crack cocaine!

    Then agian, some kids just sleep in
  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:03AM (#5934210) Journal
    Forget Saturday morning, what has bugged be for a long time is the disappearance of the classic Chuck Jones-style cartoons...

    When was the last entertaining Bugs Bunny cartoon made? Around 1960 or so?

    I can't help but wonder what happened. Sure, anime is good and all, but not as a replacement for classic cartoons. Why did it die out? They were infinitely more entertaining than anything recent. Did some Texans raise a stink about Yosemitie Sam, and PETA about talking animals being shot at all the time?

    Come on... What happened?
    • When was the last entertaining Bugs Bunny cartoon made? Around 1960 or so?

      I hear you, man! From the article, some of the reasons for the change:

      a poorer quality of animation, and a greater emphasis on family time.

      Please! The quality of cartoons took a huge dive in the 70's and 80's and those who think that the the quality of animation is poorer today, is looking at the past with rosy colored glasses.

      Yogi Bear, Godzilla (ack!),Snagglepus, Atomic Ant, the Tom and Jerry from the age (the oroginals are *
    • by graveyhead ( 210996 ) <fletch AT fletchtronics DOT net> on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:17AM (#5934294)
      These cartoons were written for adult audiences. The early Tom & Jerry cartoons were the same way. In fact, they used to air these during USO shows for army troops abroad. That's why they are still funny, even when you watch them again as an adult. There are puns all kinds of other humor in there that I'm sure kids miss (I did).

      Anyways it seems to me like sometime in the early seventies, they started making them more kid-oriented (hence Scoobie-Doo, Flinstones, Jetsons, and therefore not as all around entertaining.

      Anime, as you suggest, is the only thing that comes close because it doesn't pretend to be a product for kids.
      • by ChrisTower ( 122297 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:23AM (#5934338) Homepage
        Anime, as you suggest, is the only thing that comes close because it doesn't pretend to be a product for kids.

        That's a very common misconception. While the audience might be a bit older here in the states, most of the anime we get is targeted at middle school students in japan.
      • by Reziac ( 43301 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @03:09AM (#5934891) Homepage Journal
        I think you nailed it dead on. The demise of cartoons was when they started writing 'em not for adults, but rather for what they THINK appeals to kids. (Funny how this was concurrent with the big slide in the educational system, and the advent of toys that do the playing FOR the child, but that's another rant.)

        This switch forgets that kids live in a world filled with adults, and tho they may not get all the complex jokes, they do recognise when they're being talked down to. And making cartoons "kid-level" takes away the kid's incentive to pay attention so he gets all the nuances. IOW, they become uninteresting, so the kid loses interest. Once that happens, you never get the kid back.

        Kids aren't near as stupid as some adults think. Write a good clean cartoon with complex humour that an adult can appreciate, and it'll keep the kids' interest better too.

        Survey question: What was your fave cartoon as a kid? and as an adult?

        A: Bullwinkle, and A: Bullwinkle. Why? See above.

        • by imadork ( 226897 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @08:12AM (#5935539) Homepage
          Kids aren't near as stupid as some adults think. Write a good clean cartoon with complex humour that an adult can appreciate, and it'll keep the kids' interest better too.

          You're forgetting something important. A show that "keeps the kids' interest better" will be cancelled, unless it's also driving toy sales. Obviously, "keeping the kids' interest" is not the primary goal of the people who produce cartoons. Cartoons nowadays are basically just infomercials.

      • by jejones ( 115979 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @07:02AM (#5935348) Journal
        Anyways it seems to me like sometime in the early seventies, they started making them more kid-oriented (hence Scoobie-Doo, Flinstones, Jetsons, and therefore not as all around entertaining.

        I agree with your thesis, but not with some of your examples. The Flintstones were a cartoon version of The Honeymooners, with Fred mapping to Ralph Kramden and Barney to Ed Norton etc. It originally aired from 1960 to 1966, in prime time if I remember rightly. The Jetsons started in 1962.

        Fundamentally, though, you're right. When you write for, bud don't pander to, children, the results are things such as Tom Sawyer, Watership Down, and A Wrinkle in Time. When you pander to children, you get Barney--the mind-sucking Purple Hellwyrm.

    • by Neolithic ( 70450 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:20AM (#5934311) Homepage
      The classic Looney Toons and Calvin and Hobbes have a lot in common for me. Most notably, they get funnier, for me, as time goes on and for different reasons.

      Looney Toons and Calvin and Hobbes seem to span the full range of humor. There were simple gags and punch-lines to appeal to children while having hidden adult themes and social commentary subtlely burried to appeal to adults.

      "Actually it's a buck-and-a-quarter quarter staff, but I'm not telling him that."
    • What happened? They stopped making money.

      The death of the entertaining animated short happened when the practice of running animated shorts before movies died out. Way back when, the shorts had to appeal to everyone, because everyone was going to the movies. Today, adults don't watch most animated TV shows (those specifically targeted to younger-than-boomer adults being the exception), so there is no reason to make them appeal to anyone but the pre-pubescent.

    • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:51AM (#5934464) Journal

      In the lead-up to Iraq, I kept waiting for somebody to show the cartoon where all the mice (allies) ganged up on the cat (hitler) and when the cat was defeated the peace activist mouse tried to join in the victory song and got hit with something. Whether you agree with that POV or not, it's a classic cartoon.

      Then there's the one where they build the skyscraper to the tune of a familiar classical work, and at the end 3 bricks fall on some poor animals head in time with the last 3 notes. If you know classic cartoons, you know the one I'm talking about.

      And of course, there were all the cartoons made during WWII, much of which went over my head until I learned about the war, then I saw the cartoons again and it was like... OHHHH... so that's what Bugs Bunny was talking about with the "A-Sticker". Or how about the one where the ambulance pulls up and takes the rubber tire and leaves the dying patient? It was just silliness until my Dad told me about the rubber shortage during the war; but that was the great thing about it--it worked as commentary on the shortage, but it also worked as silly humor apart from any knowledge of what was happening. Did the makers of that cartoon hope it would stand the test of time, or was it just dumb luck?

      Then there were some that were just great glimpses into the 30s and 40s that had nothing to do with war. Remember the one where all the people go in to "win a car" and they all come out with cars and the whole city pulses to some Latin rhythm? Just good clean fun. Or how about the one where the frightened little mouse runs away from the church and meets frightening characters like Nick O'Tine the cigarette? Yep, even back then we had a love-hate relationship with tobacco... but you'd never know any of this if you hadn't seen classic cartoons.

      You don't have to go back to the 30s and 40s either. Why not roll Schoolhouse Rock once in a while?

      As to what happened, I dunno. Disney syndrome? I don't think so. If that were the case, we'd at least see overpriced VHS tapes being pitched on TV (call now, operators are standing by...) and I haven't seen it. Maybe they tried that, and failed.

      And what's more, there's a lot of more obscure stuff out there. They should re-run it in theatres. One of the best times I ever had in a theatre was in college when they ran a bouncing-ball cartoon. Remember those? Nobody had seen one in years. The next day, we would clap our hands and sing "deep in the heart of Texas" and it was like an inside joke. People thought we were crazy... actually, we kinda were.

    • by jtrascap ( 526135 ) <> on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:56AM (#5934489)
      "Forget Saturday morning, what has bugged be for a long time is the disappearance of the classic Chuck Jones-style cartoons.."

      I agree with you - but I have to twist it a bit. Chuck Jones, while catrching all the Bugs-buzz these days, is also partly responsible for reducing the quality of the cartoons as well. Remember Bugs in his hey-day, back in the Fritz Freeling era? This is the time I would call "peak-Bugs" - characters like Bugs, Daffy, Yosemite Sam and Foghorn (even the Chicken Hawk) were refined and perfect ploys for the plot. Everything spun perfectly because the balance between animation and character. You can't compare "Buccanner Bunny" or "Baseball Bugs" with anything else...they are so completly wrapped up in the individuality of Bugs that no other character could do them. And they're deeper and richer experiences for it.

      I feel Chuck's years were different though - wonderfully experimental and innovative, but in some ways also the point in which the quality of the animation began it's decline. Bugs and Co. became flatter, more square-headded and ragged-edged, as if BB was morphing to Road Runner edginess.

      Character also took a big step backwards too - it became more a sticom. Or worse - the late 50 and 60's garishness invaded the cartoons. Colors became more electric and abstract. Cartoonists also began to play with the idea of a cartoon - the Dot and the Line (I've never been a fan of that one), Bugs battling the animator with an erasor (where I betcha you could watch it, and just swap Daffy for Bugs and never know the difference - the individual character of each was blended and lost).

      Don't get me wrong - I like Jones, but I don't think he was the saviour of cartoons as recent history tells. (But then I'd NEVER allow Hollywood to write history - it's all fashion and fad in their eyes...but that's another screed)

      Jones was a classisist and modernist, and I would say he refined the visual style of the cartoons, leading the way for modern Saturday Morning fare. He did for the movies what another cartoonist of that same time did for print - Charles Schultz & "Peanuts" - they eliminated the noise and fluff, and focused on the the center of the events, reducing the cartoon to a kind of visual haiku. I believe Schultz was more sucessful because with a daily publication he was able to keep the character of Charlie Brown more-or-less intact. On the other hand, Bugs, Daffy, Speedy Gonzolez et al became more interchangeable, more "component" in nature and so less successful.
    • Too many PC issues. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Charcharodon ( 611187 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:57AM (#5934491)
      The old Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, and many others ran into the politically correct TV networks of today. I noticed as time went on the number of shows they would run got smaller and smaller and that they even edited some of them from their original content. Quite a few showed racial, gender, and even sexual stereo types. None of which are "compatible" with the PC mentality of today so they ended up dumping them. Personal I don't miss the old cartoons. As a one time Saturday morning cartoon junkie, I have already see them all million times.

      To give you an idea to my age, I remember when the original Scoobie do wasn't a re-run, and didn't have that little croch sniffer Scrappie.

  • by confused philosopher ( 666299 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:05AM (#5934220) Homepage Journal
    Kids can get cartoons any day of the week now, after school, during school, and before school. Simpsons is the most popular cartoon ever, and it is in the evening, morning, and day.

    I was glued to the Transformers in the 80s. There is nothing as good on now. End of an era.
  • A bad thing? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Troll_Kamikaze ( 646926 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:05AM (#5934222)

    I don't mean to come across as a self-righteous curmudgeon, but has watching less TV ever done anything but good for a child?

    The alternatives, as I see it, are reading books, using computers, or interacting with other humans. Which one of those activities would you judge to be inferior to staring at the tube? The problem with TV is that it's not interactive; it doesn't require the "user" to think (or even react), but merely to passively stare at it.

    • Re:A bad thing? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by RodgerDodger ( 575834 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:27AM (#5934354)
      It's not that they are watching less TV. It's just that they're not watching it Saturday morning.

      RTFA. You'll see he points out that the availability of cable TV means that kids can watch kid-oriented TV any time of the week, not just on Saturday morning. Though he doesn't mention it, the increased percentage of families with 2 or more TVs probably doesn't hurt either (as Mum and Dad go off to watch "The West Wing" while the kids watch "Nick at Night").

      The availability of TV shows for kids probably means that kids watch more TV than before, not less. They just don't do it on Saturday morning.

      (The demise of the cartoon, at any time, though, has different factors, also covered in the article)
  • by miu ( 626917 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:05AM (#5934223) Homepage Journal
    Why have children stopped tuning in on Saturday mornings to network cartoons?

    Because children don't enjoy boring PC bullshit. I'll bet the little rugrats would tune in to the old WB cartoons, dynamite gags and all.

  • Three days [].

    That, of course, is for the initial Slashdot article, not when they repeat it again three hours from now. ;-)

    And they would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling kids!
  • The classics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kolors ( 670269 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:07AM (#5934235)
    I remember, as a child of the late 80s, every saturday morning watching Ghost Busters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, reruns of Transformers, Thundercats, even the old tapes of He-Man. It seems rather depressing that kids these days are not exposed to such entertaining shows. Although, when you look at the popular shows, maybe kids these days just don't have any taste. Who would rather watch Pokemon and Hey Arnold than Transformers or Voltron? I truly believe that my saturday morning cartoon experience shaped me in many ways, one of which being my love for artistic anime. I wonder how the shows nowadays that kids watch will shape them?
    • Re:The classics (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Doppler00 ( 534739 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:16AM (#5934286) Homepage Journal
      This is so true, the old cartoons were about powerful protagonist against some evil force. Today, cartoons are about wimpy characters who learn how to get along with everyone. It's all about political correctness, there are no more heroes. It's mostly about making social statements now. You can't have guns or fighting childrens cartoons anymore.

      Oh well.
      • Re:The classics (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Apreche ( 239272 )
        And this is why anime is coming in big. It isn't politically correct. Japanese people dont' give a crap about that stuff. They have more violence and sex and disgusting shit in their culture, yet their crime rate is insanely low. Because american made cartoons are going the politically correct route the anime is finally becoming big. It is the only entertaining animation currently being produced. I think this is for the better anyway, as the average anime is much more intelligent than the average cartoon e
    • Re:The classics (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:24AM (#5934344) Homepage
      Uh...hel-LO? The "classics" are Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, etc. Transformers, Thundercats and He-man were mere advertisements for $5.99 toys availible at K-mart. You just remember the time as golden because at the time you had the critical faculties of an 8-year-old.
      • Re:The classics (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Thagg ( 9904 ) <> on Monday May 12, 2003 @02:05AM (#5934710) Journal
        I think that the group of people that the article is written by, and for, are the animation industry. For them the golden era was Transformers, Thudercats and He-man, because it was the high-water mark of television animation employment. The fact that these were not-even-thinly-disguised 22-minute commercials is irrelevant to that argument.


    • every saturday morning watching Ghost Busters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, reruns of Transformers, Thundercats, even the old tapes of He-Man

      That's like a list about the debasement of the kid cartoon, not about the classics. You were on the cusp of the every-show-is-an-excuse-to-push-action-figures generation, but not quite there yet. Transformers was actually over the edge... Not that the production values were so bad, with Orson Welles in the movie and all, but that was well on the way to Pokemon.


  • by trmj ( 579410 ) * on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:07AM (#5934236) Journal
    [...pre article reading rant...]
    Maybe it was just the time I grew up in, but the good shows aren't on anymore.

    (And by the good shows I mean Rocco's Modern Life, Garfield and Friends, and other such shows that were a satire of current popular and political views [hey, maybe I was an overly smart nerd as a young'un too].)

    Nowadays, the stuff on TV just isn't attractive. Not on Saturday mornings, afternoons, or even nighttime (except for toonami midnight run, which is pretty old stuff anyway). It seems as though there is less and less of a reason to watch TV at all anymore. The only things recently that I've even remembered the show times for were 24 (the drama that takes place one hour per episode) and Trigun (toonami).

    Maybe it's just me, but TV doesn't hold my attention enough for me to keep watching it.

    [...reading atricle...]
    Ok it says the internet is a major factor in the decline of TV viewing. They have me on that point (damn you slashdot). Also, I forgot to take into account the whole "job" thing with the working or sleeping through the mornings.

    [...last attempt at being right the first time around...]
    Meh, I still think if they put something on that captivated me enough I would make time to watch it.
  • The real reason (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mojo Geek ( 28926 ) <> on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:09AM (#5934245) Homepage
    The article lists "poor animation" as one of six reasons that kids are watching less cartoons, but in my opinion it's more basic than that. They suck. Several years ago the producers started concentrating more on marketing toys than entertaining the kids and when less kids watched (and bought toys) they just increased the marketing until they left out the fun. Several years ago I tried to watch some cartoons with my kids. Except for the classics like Road Runner and Johnny Quest they suck.
  • by villain170 ( 664238 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:11AM (#5934255) Homepage
    Oh how I miss Screech and the gang!

    The college years starring that oaf Bob Golic weren't the same *sigh*
  • lost specialness (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Helmholtz ( 2715 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:11AM (#5934257) Homepage
    My only gripe is now that things like cartoon network is available 24-7, the specialness of saturday morning cartoons is gone. Sure, kids don't sit glued to the television saturday morning, instead they sit glued to it 24-7.

    I don't think cartoons are a bad thing, and I cherished my Saturday morning cartoon watching time. It taught me the value of patience, and the value of privledge. If I was bad during the week, then guess what, my cherished time of cartoon watching would be revoked.

    Unlike today, I don't think parents tended to use the television as some kind of electronic babysitter. The television on the whole just wasn't entertaining to children most of the time, so instead of a crutch it was used as a reward tool. In this way, I think the Saturday morning cartoon era was much more valuable to the youth that experienced it than today's pacifier approach.

    Don't want to deal with the kids? Turn on Cartoon Network. Yuck.
  • The end of an era (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ignorant Aardvark ( 632408 ) * <> on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:11AM (#5934259) Homepage Journal
    I wish I had something witty to say, or perhaps insightful, but I don't ...

    Anyway, this really does seem like the end of an era to me. Admittedly I was a Saturday morning cartoon addict. I liked Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Inspector Gadget, and all those other great cartoons of those days. What happened? This article attempts to explain what, but I just don't buy it. I don't think that there has been a lack of quality television programming these days. I just think that kids are getting involved in something more immersive - for better or worse - that is taking them away from cartoons and thus drying up the market.

    What am I talking about? Videogames! In my youth the SNES was the coolest videogame system anyone I knew had. It was also very expensive. I remember how we all congregated at the house of the one kid in my neighborhood who owned it to play Street Fighter. But that wasn't Saturday morning - that was weekdays, after school.

    Nowadays, however, videogame systems are cheap and prevalent. Heck, my SIX YEAR OLD nephew has a PlayStation and a GameBoy Advance. I would estimate he plays games at least two hours a day. That's time he probably would've spent watching TV anyway. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? All I know is, kids these days are getting exposed to videogames very early on in life.

    I was babysitting my cousin recently. We were playing Gauntlet: Dark Legacy together on my PS2. I thought he would suck. I was wrong. He wasn't amazingly good, but he's better than my father. This, from a kid who can't really even read! The kids these days, they're just intuitively "getting" videogames. My dad sucks at action games. He's very good at strategy games though. And this new generation, for better or worse, is highly trained in electronics.

    I suppose the electronizing of our nation's youth is a good thing. That's the way the future's headed. I just feel sad, though, that the closest thing they'll experience to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are the cheap knock-off games for GameBoy whose sole good quality is the license they obtained. The cartoons, even though non-interactive, were at least better.

    Any thoughts?
    • Re:The end of an era (Score:3, Informative)

      by Belgand ( 14099 )
      Cheap?!? The PS2 costs about the same as a SNES did and while the economic climate of where you lived will impact this almost everyone I knew had a NES and later a SNES. As a college student right now I don't have a spare $150-200 to blow on a console system, but I sure as hell still have my SNES.

      I totally fail to buy the argument that videogames or anything else (quality time?!? WTF?) is taking kids away from cartoons. The problem is that they just don't exist. I recall the last time I woke up before noon
    • Heck, my SIX YEAR OLD nephew has a PlayStation and a GameBoy Advance. I would estimate he plays games at least two hours a day. That's time he probably would've spent watching TV anyway. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? All I know is, kids these days are getting exposed to videogames very early on in life.

      This may be unrelated, but I just wanna comment that while kids are learning games (and gaining that instinctive reflex action to press the controller buttons), they're not learning something else. 2
      • Re:The end of an era (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Belgand ( 14099 )
        You never talked to anyone about playing games? You never went over to a friend's house to play something cool that they owned and you didn't? No time spent trading tricks, tips, codes, etc. ?

        Like many forms of entertainment there is a cultural basis established with it and people will interact due to that shared culture. Look at the internet, people run websits about games, get involved in communities over them, play games with other people, form clans, and even lasting friendships. I know at least one pe
  • by Suicide ( 45320 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:12AM (#5934265) Homepage
    I'll always have fond memories of Saturday morning cartoons, right up until SOul Train came on, telling me it was time to go play video games.

    Course, these days, I don't think I'veseen a Saturday morning in a few years, unles you count the time between Friday at midnight and when I crawl into bed.
  • Alright!!! (Score:3, Funny)

    by thumbtack ( 445103 ) <> on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:14AM (#5934277)
    Now I don't have to fight the kid for the remote so I can watch the Bugs Bunny Roadrunner Hour. (It is still on isn't it? I haven't won one of the battles since 1993)
  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:17AM (#5934291)
    "As a former Saturday morning TV addict, this doesn't seem like a bad thing to me."

    You're not a parent, are you? :)

    Seriously. I never used the TV as a babysitter but the Glass Teat did have it's use on Saturday morning. After putting in an 80 hour, five day week an extra few hours to sleep on that one critical day was, well, critical. The Saturday morning cartoons were something for my little sweetie to do instead of prying my eyelids up and asking me to entertain her at six in the morning. And I didn't have to worry about what she might be watching because I *knew* what was on, on every channel ( we didn't have quite so many of them in those days).

    In times when I wasn't working quite so hard, or at all, we'd watch Danger Mouse together every afternoon, then go out and play, and read books after dinner and most Saturday mornings would find us in the car going somewhere neat.

    But in those times when I was working that hard Saturday morning cartoons were a gift from God and the only thing that kept me alive, and sane. Probably kept her alive too. :)

  • Saturday Morning (Score:5, Insightful)

    by G27 Radio ( 78394 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:24AM (#5934341)
    Saturday morning used to rock when I was a kid. Now they suck. Cartoons are too PC these days. I miss the violence (Road Runner) and cigarette smoking (Bugs Bunny.) Not for the sake of those things alone, just the fact that they could make the shows the way they wanted without being scared to offend someone.
  • by gmhowell ( 26755 ) <> on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:32AM (#5934375) Homepage Journal
    Basically, a few reasons: internet, soccer, declining profit incentive for networks.

    (can't read other three pages:(

    This is not necessarily a good thing, despite what timothy implies. One of the reasons cited for the decline is parents having to 'fill' the time. Why are they doing that? Divorce. Each parent is trying to make up for only having half time with their kids. For some reason, other parents feel that Johnny and Susie have to be in soccer (scouts, swimming, etc.) as well. Having overly complicated lives is something that adults can barely cope with without the use of alcohol, Prozac, and other drugs. Why should we expect 8 year olds to be able to cope?

    Oh, they're going to learn socialization skills. Bull. Did everyone forget 'Lord of the Flies'? Those are the type of socialization skills kids learn when left to their own devices. What's wrong with a bit of leisure on the weekends, particularly for children? 'All work and no play...'

    So let them play outside, whether it's ball, gardening (some kids dig it, no pun intended), or whatever. But why not wake up Saturday morning and decide what to do? That's fine, for the more temperate months. But in the depths of summer, hiding out in the basement is a good thing. In the winter, sitting in front of the fire isn't bad. But what to do?

    Read? That's nice, but do you *always* feel like reading? No. Look at the number of people already who have lamented the loss of classic WB cartoons. There's something there. It's simple entertainment. What's wrong with that?

    Internet? It's just as non-interactive as the TV.

    Video Games? Not sure how this is a better use of time. Perhaps timothy can fill us in? (Note, I'm not saying it's bad, I'm just saying it's no better than TV.)

    The death of Saturday morning cartoons is not something to necessarily cheer about. Look at the causes ('non-traditional' families, turning kids into little adults) and lament the occurence.
  • Changes.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by j_kenpo ( 571930 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:33AM (#5934378)
    Id have to agree. I think a big part of the problem is a lot of censorship in cartoons these days. Part of what made great cartoons great was that they hit both children and adults on different levels. But with some of the censorship in the Bugs cartoons, the jokes are kind of lost on children, and most adults remember that something else was there that was cut and usually just get turned off.

    The second thing I feel leads to their demise is just the lineup. When I was a kid the Sat. Morning Cartoons had a basic layout, the lame cartoons early, the "hip" cartoons, or whatever cartoons fit the trend, and finally you could round out the morning with the timeless cartoons such as Bugs Bunny. In my eyes, things got bad when some jack ass executive decided that they needed to take the classics and change them into kid versions of themselves, such as the Tom and Jerry Kids (although I will excuse Tiny Toons, but thats my opinion). These crappy cartoons just took up air time.... then the Power Rangers came out and to me, thats when I feel Sat. Morning lost its apeal.

    Looking around my neighborhood and at my friends and their children, Id have to agree with the divorce notion on the demise of these cartoons. Most people I know who get the kids for the weekend make plans with their children, like going to the zoo or the pool, or camping. Its sad, I remember waking up in my PJs to watch cartoons, and those will always be some of my fonder memories.
  • I think a lot of posters are missing out on something here. Cartoon Network isn't doing something astoundingly new by having cartoons on all day. Kid's oriented programming was around most of the time back in the 80s as well. Saturday mornings were still important though. I wanted to watch the new season and scoped out the various shows to find out what was good and worth my time and what wasn't. I watched almost every week despite Nickelodeon and afternoon cartoons (duh... He-man was a weekday cartoon, not a saturday one). Even as I got older I would watch X-Men and Spider-man and such while I was in middle school before it eventually got canceled.

    We had Nickelodeon, we had Nintendo almost everything that exists now existed back then. The only real difference is the complete lack of cartoons (and the lack of major action figure lines as well... do kids not play with them anymore? What's the deal?!?). I think it's the networks trying to save money by not putting into shows that they state don't make a great deal of money. They ignored the cartoon departments and now they've just more of less given up on it and blamed cable as the reason.

    I think a fair comparison would be a local theater. They got rid of student and military discounts a few years back in a small town (Manhattan, KS) that exists mainly due to Kansas State and nearby Ft. Riley. They jacked up adult prices at the same time. The cited reason for the lack of discounts was that dollar theaters covered this market. Ignoring that the same company then bought and quickly closed the only dollar theater in town they cite something vaguely related that doesn't compare (I want to see a first-run film, not something that I didn't want to see or already saw four months ago) as an excuse to make more money.
  • The Golden Age (Score:5, Insightful)

    by danorama ( 442835 ) * on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:45AM (#5934437)
    I hate to say it, since it'll date me as a crotchety old guy, but the Golden Age for me of Saturday morning cartoons was the short period (in 1978 or '79, not sure which) when the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show went for three hours (9:00am to noon). There have always been bad designed-for-Saturday-morning cartoons, but that was one time one of the major networks (CBS, in this case) seemed to admit it. The old Warner Bros. cartoons provided much more entertainment for me as a youngun than anything else that was on the time.

    It doesn't seem a big surprise to see Saturday morning TV cartoons imploding, since 25 years ago the best things on were from 30 years before that, and not designed for TV.
  • by Felinoid ( 16872 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:52AM (#5934468) Homepage Journal
    When I was a kid the idea of a child being able to use a computer was so hard to believe people would suffer shock and denial when presented with proof of the exsistence of a 9 year old programmer.
    The idea of BBSes and online shopping was such an amazing thing people couldn't believe it.
    When Byte ran an artical about how computers would replace TVs eventually people were sceptical. The pet rock of the 80s or so they belived.

    For kids today computers have already replaced TV. They probably don't even know what radio is. Music comes from MP3s and CD players. Books are PDF files.

    Bugs Bunny has nothing on
    Yugi and Pokemon... and while the cartoons exist as 30 min daily ads for the card games it seams more and more kids only watch them becouse of the card games.

    Now a days the Yugi and Pokemon video games are ads for the TV shows and card games.

    Willy Wonka candys advertises by having a website filled with games and runs ads on

    It's not just the kids. Thow they lead the way.
    CNN Headline News already knows the future. FoxNews has it's website. and when NBC looks for a partnership it looks to Microsoft.

    People complain less about the crap on TV... Not becouse there is less crap. All the good shows are going away or going to hell leaving nothing but crap. But it's the crap that people who won't go online like.

    It's the digital age. I just gave a 7 year old a Knoppix CD and then the topic of upgrading ram came up... (The Bosses son.. His computer need more memory)

    The next generation understands Rinkworks Computer Stupidities [].
    For them Google is the place to look up information not the public libary.

    The idea of sitting around watching TV for 30 minuts seams.. alien.

    My boss dosen't worry about her kids watching to much TV. She worrys about them playing to many video games.
  • by njord ( 548740 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:58AM (#5934492)
    What ever happened to Saturday morning?

    You and I sat and avoided the boring,
    Watching GI Joe and Cobra doin' their warring,
    Garfield, too man, we thought that was divine...
    I used to get up early to catch the mornin' shows,

    Watching X-Men and the evil mutants come to blows.
    Why Reboot was cancelled, nobody knows,
    But I miss the guys and glitch all of the time...
    Hot Patootie, where're my shows? Oh man oh man, how the time goes!
    I'd sit there and I'd rot until my lunch time came

    I didn't care that the shows were mostly all the same
    Now days kids'd rather play some computer game
    I'll always miss the Ghostbusters covered in slime...
    In the eighties and the ninties, it's what you did

    If you didn't then I'm sure you weren't a kid
    In pajamas you sat two feet away from the vid
    Sleeping past 9AM was a capital crime...
    Hot Patootie, where're my shows? On man oh man, how the time goes!

    Don't tell Meatloaf or Richard O'Brian

  • by Naikrovek ( 667 ) <jjohnson.psg@com> on Monday May 12, 2003 @12:58AM (#5934498)
    The best cartoons were never taken seriously because they are the cartoons of a violent nature. And I'm talking about silly violence, not realistic violence. Arguably there is no such thing as realistic violence in a cartoon (none that I know of anyway)

    things like bugs bunny and yosemite sam blowing holes in each other's hats, then running from each other and bugs beating the crap out of sam through various dirty tricks.

    the late 1950s was the end of the great cartoon era. They were written for an adult audience, and often shown before movies to get folks' attention on the screen. Movie trailers now do this.

    I long for the days when there were still parts of one's life that were not saturated with advertisements. the only part of my life not saturated with ads is my dreams, and as soon as the technology exists to put ads in my dreams, they'll be there. I hope I'm dead.

    When cartoons were not taken seriously, and considered entertainment only, is when cartoons were great. Nowadays cartoons like Dexter's Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls are good cartoons, but they'll never be as good as the WWII and babyboom era Warner Bros cartoons.

    I saw an interview once with some animators from that era of Warner animation studios' life, and they all said that they wrote and drew the cartoons that *they* wanted to see, not what someone else wanted to see. Nowadays executives decide what is written and drawn, in an attempt to please the most people possible, and keep their ad revenue up. it is my belief that all bad decisions are based on the desire for more money, and this is yet another example of that form of decision making.

    Anyway, ranting off. The cartoons will get great again when they study what psychology made the old warner bros cartoons great, and reproduce it. talking rabbits, ducks, dogs, roosters, squirrels, etc, with jokes and situations written for adults and silly fake violence written for children. then they'll be great again. I would love to see one cartoon character jump into a freaking burning coal stove on a train and find a huge party inside just one more time. I would also love to see a good old fashioned shootout in a dusty old frontier town, between a talking, wise-ass rabbit that walks on two legs and a stupid gun-happy gold miner just one more time. "i dare you to step across this line" said 4,000 times until sam is led into walking off of a cliff. doesn't get much better than that.

    oh, the good old fashioned crazyness will never be repeated!
  • by Mogomra ( 654796 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @01:00AM (#5934505) Homepage Journal
    In the 1980s, after the FCC officially deregulated most rules surrounding programming and advertising, the animation and toy businesses were able to partner up and create a new tradition of half-hour commercials to sell toys. He-Man kicked it off, followed by G.I. Joe and Transformers, MASK, Sectaurs, the list goes on. Before long, this became such a common and profitable practice that it was nearly impossible to get a show on the air that wasn't some sort of a tie-in.

    Then along came the NES, which truly revolutionized the home gaming phenomenon and became as commonplace as toasters in many households. Kids started spending more and more time with their came consoles and less with their toys, and this phenomenon continues to the present day, when video games continue to take up a larger and larger portion of floor space at toy stores every year.

    It's especially pronounced in Japan, where, through the 60s, 70s and 80s there were jillions of live action and cartoon shows produced to serve as vehicles for promoting superhero, monster, and robot toys. Nowadays, there are only a few core brands left that have any kind of sustainability, with very few newcomers to the fold. Some companies like Takara have tried crossover products like Web Diver Gradion [], but they haven't caught on as much as they'd like. Kids there are just having more fun with their Playstations and Game Boys.

    Of course, there is the occasional Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh that achieve breakthrough success, but one could argue that these are pretty heavily game-based properties as opposed to toy-based.
  • Simple; they suck (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UserChrisCanter4 ( 464072 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @01:01AM (#5934507)
    I remember the heyday of cartoons, when everything was a clearly delineated, toy tie-in. Well, okay, other than Looney Tunes, which was simply fantastic.

    Cartoons were clearly tied to gender. There were boy cartoons (GI Joe, Transformers, Voltron, M.A.S.K., that one with the light gun plane where you shot at the screen, and so forth), and girl cartoons (Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, etc.). These were genuine, good quality shows that were obvious toy tie-ins, but kids loved them. See, toys provide something tangible, and the easiest way to generate toys is to not have character development. If I want to add a character to Spongebob, I have to have a meaningful purpose for that character, because said cartoon is primarily narrative and dialogue-driven. Transformers is also arguably narrative-driven, although the narrative consists primarily of Autobots vs. decepticons, so adding a flying plane or a dinosaur is trivial.

    It seems a bit rambling, but I'm bringing it together here. I can remember watching kids play Power Rangers at the park. Power Rangers is easy to play. You choose your ranger, you go off and battle "evil". How the hell do a bunch of kids play Spongebob? What, you pretend to be some crab and exchange half-wit banter while simultaneously apppealing to an older demographic?

    Basically, it's a lack of conflict. Every solid cartoon show revolved around the simplest of ideas, good vs. evil. It might've been that the evil was Decepticons, or the wicked Voltron queen, or Cobra, or that Rainbrow Brite villain who was only drawn in shades of gray. A dialogue-driven children's show is going to have to be pretty damned well-written to appeal to kids, and hiring good writers costs good money. Cartoons exist primarily because they're cheap to produce, so any gain from choosing the medium is eliminated when you have to gety talented writers on board. Maybe it's a reflection of our values as a society (or more particularyl, young parents' values) , or maybe it's Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, as other posts have mentioned, but something's just missing there.

    Alternately, it could simply be that the plethora of cable networks broadcasting cartoons has taken the profitability away from the format.
  • The reason is really very simple - no Pinky and the Brain on saturday mornings. That was the best cartoon ever concieved of by the mind of man, no argument. They had megalomaniacal mice, for Pete's sake! It doesn't get better than that.
  • Ahh memories... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by _aa_ ( 63092 ) <> on Monday May 12, 2003 @01:10AM (#5934541) Homepage Journal
    I remember anxiously awaiting the debut of "Hammerman", MC Hammer's animated masterpiece. I remember "The Ghostbusters", and "The Real Ghostbusters". I remember "Garfield & Friends", and I remember that duck who wore the innertube and the duck head on the inner tube always did exactly what the duck's head did. That was clever. I remember never getting up early enough to see "The Snorkles". I remember that one cartoon with Butter Bear. I remember the crazy crap they had on nickelodeon on saturday mornings too, "The Sun Beneathe The Sea" or something, that one with the Prince who catches comets in a net and flies from planet to planet and talks to the bitchy flower, and that one about the kid and the dog. I sadly remember "Bill & Ted's Excellent Cartoon", and the Pac-Man cartoon, and I vaguely recall a cartoon about the video game Pitfall. While we're talking video games.. I also vagely recall a Q-Bert cartoon. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, of course, and WWF Superstars. I particularly remember the episode where Andre the Giant (may he rest in peace) was going on a date, and he had to wear rubber tires as shoes. And I'm not too old to admit that I watched "Bill Nye the Science Guy" and "Beakman's World", neither of them hold a candle to Mr. Wizard though. Even though you had to get up at 4am to see Mr. Wizard, it was always worth it. The Chuck Jones genius of "The Bugs & Daffy Show" was always pleasant. I think "Ducktales" was an afternoon show, but I know "Tail Spin" was a saturday morning show. So was "Denver, The Last Dinosaur", and "Dennis The Mennace". "Dennis the Mennace" is hilarious to watch now as an adult. Dennis wasn't a mennace at all, Mr. Wilson is just an asshole. And do you recall that TMNT spin-off with the frogs? WTF was that? I think all Hanna-Barbera had to offer on Saturday mornings during my youth was "The Grape Ape", "Manilla Gorilla", and "The Flintstones Kids".

    Perhaps I watched a little too much TV as a kid. Like Pavlov's dog, I flip the TV off every time I see "Meet The Press" cause that means the cartoons are over.
  • by StefanJ ( 88986 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @01:10AM (#5934542) Homepage Journal
    I'm probably quite a bit older than the average slashdotter, and I've seen far more seasons worth of Saturday Mornings. It's interesting seeing folks wax nostalgic for shows that were on when I was going to college!

    I was a TV kid; a real obsessive little dweeb. I watched far, far too much kiddie crap, and for too long. (Think Milhous van Houton.) But I was also an observant, skeptical, and curious little dweeb. (Good training for my career in QA!) I recognized before most kids the difference between first run and syndicated shows, film and video tape, and the value of different time slots.

    Well, my point: There is a conservation of crappiness in Saturday Morning TV. Most of it has always been awful. Much of what we liked as kids was awful. It wouldn't hold up if you saw it now. At least, if you've grown up even a little.

    The bright lights, then as now, were few, and usually died quickly. (There was a whole slew of live-action poetry-and-storytelling shows in the early 70s; well-meaning post-hippie artiness like "Animals, Animals, Animals." Anyone remember an early-90s FOX show called "Nightmare Ned?" Or the artsy, weird, "ZaZu U?")

    If Saturday Morning dies, I can't feel too sad. Give the kids books, or video tapes, or shove them outside so they can build up their immune systems by rolling in the dirt.


  • by doormat ( 63648 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @01:17AM (#5934564) Homepage Journal
    I guess I just replaced Transformers, MASK and TMNT with Simpsons, Futurama and Family Guy.

    Saturday mornings are crap nowadays. It used to be watch ABC's friday night lineup (family matters, step by step, some other crap and perfect strangers), go to bed, wake up, watch saturday morning cartoons, then sit around and play nintendo all day. Watch SNICK at night and then sunday was here. Ah the good ol' days.. now papers for school and this internet thing suck up all my time.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2003 @02:05AM (#5934708)
    Now kids spend their Saturday mornings sleeping in as they usually have been out smoking bongs and having sex the night before.

    Their role models - Eminem and Christina Aguilera, Brittney, Holly Valance etc. You get the picture.
  • by patrixmyth ( 167599 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @02:06AM (#5934713)
    It had nothing to do with cartoon quality, changing demographics or the alignment of Jupiter and Mars. The FCC used to require a minimum number of hours of children's programming. They stopped requiring it. Hooray for deregulation, sure glad I can watch golf and infomercials on Saturday morning now. I'm not sure which is more boring, btw.

    What was the mystery again?

  • by stwrtpj ( 518864 ) <> on Monday May 12, 2003 @02:11AM (#5934729) Journal

    There is one thing that the article is not completely clear on, and that is whether or not there is a definite drop in the number of children watching cartoons at all. In other words, is it just that they can now watch cartoons anytime they want, or are they also watching less?

    From other trends I have seen, it could very well be that the current generation of children are too busy doing other things to look at TV (something that the article does mention), at least not as extensively as the generation before them. But if this is true, think of this: Today's cartoon-watchers are tomorrow's primetime TV watchers. If they're not watching TV much now, will they suddenly turn around and start watching it when they get older? I think not.

    So we could be seeing the beginning of the end of the era of television itself. It will be a very slow death, but it may come nevertheless. Even now primetime TV is starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel for fresh ideas. I doubt the next generation of potential TV watchers will be satisfied with this.

    This makes me think of a throwaway line of dialogue from an episode of the original Star Trek. I forget the name of the episode (it was the one where they get zapped back in time to 20th century Earth and accidentally beam the Air Force pilot on board). At one point Spock said something like (paraphrased) "Television died out as an entertainment medium sometime in the 21st century."

    Life imitating art, perhaps?

  • by geekwench ( 644364 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @02:28AM (#5934776)
    I miss the old Merrie Melodies cartoons! Especially the oldest ones, from the 1930s. They didn't have a real story ("Plot? What's that?"), since many were created so showcase songs from Warner Bros. music library. But they were fun to watch, and some were played often enough that I was able to learn the incredibly catchy tunes. (And I still remember some of them to this day.)
    Even better than the Warner Bros. releases, however, were the Fleischer Studios offerings. Betty Boop has become a global cultural icon in a way that Bugs Bunny and Company - let alone any of the current crop - simply can't touch. (And nobody but nobody could get away with naming a character "Bimbo" these days, unless you're a Mexican bakery.) Fleischer Studios did several musical numbers themselves, many starring the vocal talents of Cab Calloway. Max Fleischer and his brother also invented a piece of technology that's still in use for animation today - the rotoscope. It allowed them to capture real motion, which is why so much of their animation had a "surreally real" look and feel.

    Personally, I think that the demise of Saturday Morning Television has less to do with the internet, cable, or "quality time" than with the fact that even 20 years ago, people gave kids more credit for intelligence and mental toughness. We are seeing the most rabid romanticism of childhood to occur since the Victorian era. On one hand, children are being painted as delicate little creatures with easily damaged psyches; and heaven forbid that they should be exposed to anything that could mold them in a disturbing way. On the other hand, you have advertisers who pander to the pre-pubescent smartass by portraying kids as being infinitely wittier and more intelligent than any of the adults around them (if you buy X product.) [aside] And people then wonder why their precious child pops off to Grandma. Why? because the commercials, obnoxious as they are, are more fun to watch than the PC pap that passes for a cartoon these days.[/aside] Kids should have things filtered, to an extent. But don't insult their intelligence. They're lots smarter than people think.
    I watched all of those violent cartoons, and not once did I try to bicycle off of the roof, or drop an anvil from my perch in the tree onto my cousin's head. (Blocks and Nerf balls are another story.) Heck I even read my father's National Lampoons, although that might not be the best example to use if I intend to paint myself as a reasonably well-adapted adult.

    In a nutshell, I am going to find as many of the old cartoons as I can. That way, when I do have kids, we can sit and watch them together. I'll get to re-live some darn good memories, and the munchkins will have an appreciation for what the good stuff looks like.

    Another Merrie Melodies link.

    And a very well done research book.

    Further information about Max Fleischer's early work.

    • Here are the links that I tried to post above.

      Merrie Melodies: o dies/

      The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartons at 038325/103-1349286-7639828?vi=glance

      Fleischer Studios and Max Fleischer biographical information: tors/fleischer.html

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2003 @02:36AM (#5934807)
    The author missed one part about why children spend less time watching cartoons... Children today are being hurried through childhood, rushed into taking on adult tasks at a very early age.

    Anxious parents overload their children, pushing them too hard, too soon. It is becoming increasingly common for parents to enroll their young children in after-school activities (sports, music, ballet). Here is an interesting quote from Time magazine: "Kids who once had childhoods now have curriculums; kids who ought to move with lunatic energy of youth now move with the high purpose of the worker bee."

    I do not know what the author considers to be quality time, but taking kids to ballet school and driving together in the car is definitely not quality time.
  • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @02:38AM (#5934814) Journal
    Any article that starts out "there are six reasons" and lists five reasons is not worth the download entropy it expends.
  • 'Heyday' of cartoons (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jpkunst ( 612360 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @03:37AM (#5934966)

    Funny how everyone perceives the 'heyday of cartoons' simply as the time they themselves watched cartoons as a kid, with everything after that being crap. Different generations - different 'heydays'.


  • by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @03:42AM (#5934975) Homepage Journal
    I noticed the downturn of Saturday morning even as I was growing up. When I was young it was great and as I got older it got worse and worse. For a while I thought it was me but then I noticed I still liked cartoons. With the coming of Cartoon Network and similar channels I knew that it definately wasn't be that'd changed. The cartoons they push at kids these days just tend to suck - especially the Saturday morning crap. Worst they've replaced most these time slots with news and religious shows. Sure the kids go to other channels and time slots to find cartoons but that is only because the Saturday morning as we know it has been flushed completely down the toilet.

    I think network tv is missing the real market for Saturday morning cartoons - adults that grew up with it. I think a lot of us would tune in (with our own kids) to watch good cartoons. We could be spending a couple hours every Saturday morning with our kids just having a laugh. Some good cartoons like Looney Tunes. Toward the middle of the day fade the programming from animation into more grow up stuff. Bill Nye the Science Guy, Junkyard Wars, etc.. sort of educational things children and parents might watch together.
  • by petrus4 ( 213815 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @05:01AM (#5935155) Homepage Journal
    This is a complex issue and there are probably a lot of different reasons for it, but I can think of one as far as the subject matter of the cartoons themselves is concerned.

    Cartoons during the 80s anyway (when I was watching them) typically had very morally absolutist/dualistic themes permeating their storylines. You had a group that was identified as "good," another group that was identified as "bad," and the line between the two was very clearly defined. This of course was before the advent of postmodernism, which includes among other things the concept of moral relativism...ergo, the concept that there's no such thing as moral absolutes. The other thing that was different is that back then the entire concept of political correctness didn't exist either. Society now is so inundated with the clamouring cries of this or that minority group that it's virtually impossible to conceive of a storyline for just about anything without the risk of offending *someone*. I'm not sure why it's happened in the last 20 years, but before about 1990, people used to be nowhere near as easily offended as they are now. There's talk of releasing watered down versions of The Lord of The Rings, the Bible, and pretty much everything in between in order to make them bland and as inoffensive as possible.

    The bottom line is that if you can't say something without having to worry that it's going to bring all sorts of crap down on your head because of possibly offending the gay movement or some other equally paranoid, emotive, and fanatical minority group, you most likely will end up not saying anything at all. To me, this has far more wide-ranging implications also than just the death of cartoons...we're talking about freedom of expression as a whole.

  • by dochood ( 614876 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @08:18AM (#5935557)
    I don't let my kids watch cartoons at all in our house (except for certain, pre-selected "movie-type" videos). When they go to friends' houses, they watch them, but we really don't want them to. We would rather them go to their friends houses and play (non-video) games and build relationships with other human beings.

    But, there are several reasons why we don't let them watch cartoons on TV:

    1) They are a waste of time.
    2) They are "mind-swill".
    3) They are a primary means of marketing toys and teaching my kids rampant materialism. I want my kids to want a toy because they see it and think it is cool or useful, not because they were mesmerized by a commercial to buy it.
    4) It is too passive. I'd rather have them playing with their toys together inside, or playing with their friends outside.
    5) They can always read more books.

    I've discussed these things with my kids, and they understand them, but they still want to watch the cartoons. When they do get a chance to watch them (like when they go to grandpa's house... he lives in Iowa, and TV watching doesn't seem to be such a looked-down on thing there), I usually let them get away with watching a few hours of them on a Saturday morning, hoping they will get it out of their systems.

    I think my kids have become the better for it. I think they are better rounded than most kids their ages.

  • Cartoon network shows an hour-long block of Tom & Jerry on Saturday mornings. With a few exceptions, none of the currently-in-production cartoons can compare to T&J. I mean, these cartoons were what started the debates about violent cartoons!

    There are also the "salute to WB legends" shows, like the Tex Avery and Chuck Jones shows. Those are fun to watch because they address the cartoons from an academic standpoint and you get to appreciate what was groundbreaking in particular episodes.

    One problem I've seen with cartoons these days are the music. Look at cartoons from the 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's and the music is all classical, or even somtimes jazz. The animation is made to work with the music, too. If you watch the current crop of cartoons, it all sounds like an afterthought - a cheap, uninspired afterthought. Oh, the cast is going to a tropical island? Let's play the show's crappy theme song with steel drums! The end result is a cartoon that hyperactive kids can tolerate, but the shows will be completely unwatchable in ten years. Do you think anybody in ten years is going to want to watch old episodes of 'Ed, Edd, and Eddy?' Old Disney, Warner Bros. and MGM cartoons can still make you laugh. Seems like everything today is just Hanna-Barbera - one or two good shows if you dig around, but it's probably not worth all that work.
  • by rnturn ( 11092 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @11:06AM (#5936510)

    ... looks a lot like Wednesday nights but for kids.

    So long to real kid-oriented cartoons and hello to kid-versions of adult shows. I spent part of this past Saturday watching TV with my daughters (first graders) and what's big on the morning shows now? A kid version of Survivor. Complete with a dumbed down version of paper/scissors/rock that I supposed was intended to teach some sort of strategic thinking; educational only if one considers out-and-out guessing a kind of ``strategy''.

    I wonder what the heck ever happened to real educational TV. When I was a kid there was the ``Discovery'' series (Discovery 67, Discovery 68, etc.), Mr. Wizard, etc. Later on there was another show you could catch on PBS (I think) called something like `Physical Universe' (started out as a lecture but had good illustrative CG graphics to demonstrate the principles being talked about). There was Bronoski's `Ascent of Man', Burke's `Connections', Sagan's `Cosmos', and others. True, those last few aren't exactly kid stuff but at least some kids would find that interesting and I can tell you that my two girls would have found much of them interesting. (Actually, they have seen `Connections' before and thought it was very interesting.) Somebody has already mentioned `Biil Nye the Science Guy' and `Beaker's World' which weren't bad but geared more toward the ADD afflicted to allow kids to really learn very much.

    Nowadays, we have Disney hawking `Winnie the Pooh' as educational TV (OK, so they call it `illuminating television'; always good for a belly laugh) and, now, the Survivor clones. At least when I was a kid there were choices that included some educational content. It's gotten to where I think the most important thing that my kids will learn from television is how to turn it off.

  • by Sabalon ( 1684 ) on Monday May 12, 2003 @11:44AM (#5936821)
    I remember saturday mornings from the 70's and 80's. ABC, CBS, and NBC would all have cartoons from about 6am til noon (and then the "afterschool specials" would start.)

    I won't pretend that it was all great and there were no marketting tie-ins. I don't remember which came first - He-man action figures or the cartoon. I remember the saturday morning supercade - which was Pacman, Q*bert, Dirk the Daring and other video game tie ins when that was hot. I remember several cartoons based around the video craze at the start of MTV.

    But it seems that the commercialization/advertising started to come first. Where He-man/GI Joe could probably stand on it's own, now it seems that if there wasn't a product tie in, the show would have never existed.

    I don't know why NBC, CBS, and ABC got out of it. Perhaps they figured they'd make more money selling ads to gillette than mattel. Perhaps with the competition from cable stations digging into other profits, funding these cartoons was no longer profitiable.

    I do know that while the old stuff may not have been the greatest (THe Snorks anyone?) the new stuff seems to be even worse. The animation REALLY sucks (oh...I suppose it's just being artistic in a way I don't understand) and I really don't like my girls watching too much of the stuff on Cartoon Network. The disney channel has some good stuff on - though sometimes it does get a little to edutainment like. Rolie Polie Olie is probably one of the best shows on now that reminds me of the old stuff...decent animation, interesting stories ( interesting as a show aimed for 3-4 year olds can be)

    Oh daughters current favorite - The Challenge of the Superfriends DVD I found at Wal-mart, followed by Scooby and Tom and Jerry - guess the old stuff still stands the test of time.

    Wow...I rambled...

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