If you're a kid these days and you feel the urge to watch some cartoons, you don't have to wait. Cable and satellite TV offer a smorgasbord of animated options from Nickelodeon
to Cartoon Network
to Disney XD
, which can be watched at any time. If none of these are to your liking, there is always On-Demand service, legal DVDs, illegal DVDs, and, of course, online via torrents, YouTube
, Hulu, Netflix, and other streaming websites.
It wasn't always this way
, as your parents and/or older siblings might tell you.
Back when televisions were rounded instead of flat, unseemly large and heavy, had antennae on top to pick up one of three or four networks or the local independent station(s) (and little knobs for which you physically had to go over to change channels), getting your cartoon fix was a lot harder. The "Saturday-morning cartoon" format arose as advertisers and networks realized the potential of an all-but-captive audience of schoolchildren could camp out in front of the TV and veg out on three to four hours of animated goodness, enjoying a morning off from both school and church, while Mom and Dad were catching up on sleep lost during the work week.
made it cost-effective for the networks to fill the entire timeframe this way, with the occasional live-action show here and there. Warner Bros.
' Looney Tunes
and other theatrical cartoon shorts experienced a renaissance. (See also the Saturday Morning Kids Show
.) It was a big deal: Networks would devote a prime-time evening slot in early fall to promoting their new Saturday morning lineup. As parents group began to flex their influence, the content of the shows began to become notoriously restricted until by the 1980s they severely restricted the very basis of conflict and almost unconsciously attacked the value of individualism in favor of groupthink
. In a more constructive direction, the networks began commissioning educational spots of which the best were entertaining as well such as Schoolhouse Rock
for ABC, Ask NBC News
for NBC, and In the News
However, the format's decline began with the rise of cartoons produced to run in syndication (usually in short blocks aired before or after school hours and with more artistic freedom to be wilder than the TV networks dared to be), as well as the rise of cable networks like Nickelodeon
and Cartoon Network
that shared the same demographic.
As of 2014, only NBC
carries a traditional Saturday-morning block.note ABC
, and CW
affiliates have since made available syndicated Saturday morning lineups dominated by Edutainment Shows
(E/I). These blocks have been purchased by the networks on behalf of their affiliates, in order to make sure that these stations are compliant with FCC regulations. NBC's block also programs all E/I-compliant shows.note
ABC started this trend in the fall of 2011 when they ceased its Saturday Morning lineup and bought a syndicated block supplied by a distribution company, Litton. CBS and CW affiliates also began carrying Saturday E/I blocks, also supplied by Litton. Fox
ceded their time to a two-hour block of infomercials
that kids (and any adult 77 or younger) avoid like crazy, though some of their affiliates and O&Os have also bought up syndicated educational blocks. As it is, only Cartoon Network continues to have a major showing on Saturday mornings, and even then, only action/superhero cartoons are shown
A bit of interesting trivia: In the 1970s and '80s, Saturday-morning TV was a veritable cornucopia of cartoons, so many you had to pick which ones you wanted to see... however, just 24 hours later, Sunday
morning was kind of frustrating for the kids who weren't church goers. Either the channels, across the board, would have programming so dull that kids wouldn't watch it (this was where they dumped the crap adults didn't watch, either, and stations didn't want to be seen as encouraging children to stay home from church to watch TV) or, if you were lucky, you got some Religious Edutainment
show, sometimes locally produced. (The big networks, then and now, ran very grown-up news-and-politics shows on Sunday morning—This Week
, Meet the Press
, Face the Nation
, and so on.) If you were really
lucky, you got an animated show or two—often religious
, unless you lived in a market with a station that carried The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera
. It was a little better in Canada or with local syndication stations, although those tended to stick to Canadian-made (and sometimes horrible) cartoons like Rocket Robin Hood
or Spider-Man (1967)
on Sunday. The sole exceptions in most markets were USA Network's Cartoon Express
block in the 1980s, which consisted mostly of reruns of various H-B, Ruby-Spears
, and Filmation
cartoons, and in the 1990s the first run of NickToons
, which originally ran in the Sunday morning slot. However, Sunday morning for many children of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s was just a good time to play with your toys.
Many early Saturday-morning cartoons are closely associated with the Animation Age Ghetto
. Many later ones were actually anime imported to the United States, Pokémon
being prime examples.
On September 27, 2014, The CW discontinued its Saturday-morning animation block, the last of its kind on American broadcast TV.
R.I.P. Saturday-morning cartoons 1960–2014. May you never be forgotten.
"Am I destined to draw upon his darkness in the future?"
—Astral, Yu Gi Oh ZEXAL,
"Darkness Dawns" — the last lines of the last Saturday morning cartoon ever broadcast note