"TV is such a monster. It swallows up all this animation so fast that nobody seems to care whether it's good or bad. These kids shows are badly done technically; it seems as though nobody really looks at them but the kids… the networks don't look at the show, they just look at the ratings. If the ratings are good, to heck with the show. They don't care whether it's just a bouncing ball."
The unfortunate successor to The Golden Age of Animation
, slowly setting in at the late 1950s and slowly fading out at some point during the '80s.note Limited Animation
was the rule, not the exception during this time. Its start coincided with the Fall of the Studio System
in Hollywood. The theatrical short slowly died off, and cartoons moved to television. Naturally, this era would leave a lasting impression on American culture, for better or for worse, as the primary target audience for cartoons
Originally, Limited Animation
was primarily an artistic choice
for filmmakers like Chuck Jones
, Robert Cannon, and John Hubley who were tired of Disneyfication
. With the death of UPA and MGM
animation studios, it became primarily about saving time and money
was very prominent during this time, thanks to how cheaply produced and rushed their television cartoons were. Given how these series used dialogue over visuals
to move the stories forward, they became what Jones would describe with justified derision as "illustrated radio". Still, they created not only successful kids fare like Yogi Bear
, but prime time series like The Flintstones
and The Jetsons
and the influential Adventure Series Jonny Quest
, which created a whole new television animation genre. Unfortunately, the studio soon fell into a crippling creative rut with the Saturday Morning Cartoon
timeslot, which led to them endlessly copying the concepts of their successful shows like Scooby-Doo
and The Smurfs
and long running shows like Super Friends
also got its start during this time, although it wouldn't hit its stride until much later during the 80's. In the meantime, it did
give us shows like Star Trek: The Animated Series
(which was a continuation of the original show
after it was cancelled) while Bill Cosby
's Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
was a surprisingly enduring Edutainment
change of pace. However, like Hanna-Barbera, they also relied on notoriously low budget animation (even more so than H-B) and corner cutting to get their cartoons out as quickly and cheaply as possible. Hanna-Barbera writers Joe Ruby and Ken Spears also formed Ruby-Spears
around this time and churned out a number of properties based on celebrities
, and other Animated Adaptations
of sitcoms, mimicking their former employer's animated style to a T. Friz Freleng
kept his own hand in the field with De Patie Freleng Enterprises
, which supervised the final batch of theatrical Looney Tunes
shorts and then created The Pink Panther
and various series before being purchased by Marvel Comics
to become Marvel Productions.
Unfortunately, the budgetary constraints became ever more onerous on producers, with rock bottom arguably being Clutch Cargo
with its ridiculous "Synchro-Vox
" method of using live action lips speaking the dialogue; at least Gantray-Lawrence's xerography method for The Marvel Super Heroes
largely captured the heady energy of artists like Jack Kirby
to make it look like the Superhero comics have come to life. Furthermore, the Animation Age Ghetto
was made all the worse with parents groups
pressuring the networks to impose ever more onerous and arbitrary content restrictions, such as The Complainer Is Always Wrong
and Never Say "Die"
while classic cartoons like Looney Tunes
were censored to near oblivion. In fact, it got to the point where basic conflict
, the soul of drama, was all but discouraged on Saturday mornings
, creating bland stuff like The Get Along Gang
, and the short development period for greenlit shows before the season opening made things worse. However, that lobbying did have some positive results – the push for educational programmings helped create the classic Schoolhouse Rock
shorts, which taught whole generations with wonderfully tuneful songs.
In somewhat better artistic position was the realm of prime time TV specials, which didn't have the overwhelming budgetary and production time demands of full series. For instance, there was Rankin-Bass
, which created a large series of Stop Motion
productions in a process called Animagic such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
and Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town
. There was also the animated adaptation of the Peanuts
comic strip by Lee Mendelson Film Productions, which started with the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas
whose rushed production was more than compensated with a profound artistic sincerity and the jazz music compositions by Vince Guaraldi
However, this does not mean everything
from this era was bad
's output remained respectable and generally well animated. However, the failure of the lavish feature film Sleeping Beauty
prompted both a downsizing of the animation studio and a retreat from fairy tales for the next 30 years. These changes showed in their next feature, 101 Dalmatians
, their first film to be unambiguously set in contemporary times. Furthermore, the studio took advantage of a new technology called xerography, a dry photocopying process that eliminated the need to hand-ink the animation, which was the only practical way to produce a film with such visual complexity. However, the technology only allowed for black outlines, which forced a hard scratchy visual style for years until The Rescuers
when softer outlines with various colors were possible.
In addition, Walt Disney began to draw away his focus on films due to his increased interest for television and theme park projects at the time. Disney had been feeling more and more creatively stifled as the decades moved on; the bold, experimental projects that had made him a household name in the 1920s and 1930s nearly ruined him in the 1940s as audiences' tastes changed. In the 1950s he decided to play it a bit safer and released more family-friendly material, while focusing his energy on other ventures. He attempted one last shot at a more experimental animated film at the end of the decade with Sleeping Beauty
, but as mentioned above the film was a box office failure. That consequently had a noticeable effect on the quality of the 1960s Disney films, and the death of Walt in the middle of the decade hit the company extremely
hard, sending their studio into a hard slump post-Jungle Book
. Although they would release a few features
that critics enjoyed and made money, Disney continued to struggle until the release of two movies
in the late 80's that were huge hits with critics and audiences and showed that they finally recovered enough to be compared to their Golden Age heights.
was still producing some decent and entertaining shorts late in The Fifties
, as some of its most memorable shorts were from this decade. Animation quality was down, but the writing, along with the direction of Chuck Jones
, managed to produce some timeless classics in spite of that. However, due to budget problems, Warner Bros.
forcibly shut down its animation studio for good in this era. (Although a brief revival was unsuccessfully attempted late during the '60s). The characters would get a revival in the form of the smash hit anthology repackaging series The Bugs Bunny Show
, which reaired
many of their old theatrical cartoons and, being exposed to younger audiences, ultimately helped to immortalize the characters as pop culture icons. In syndication, The Porky Pig Show
did the same for many other shorts that weren't shown on its parent series. (And not just Warner Bros., either; if any motion picture company had a theatrical short to their name, animated or not
, they would be on the bandwagon). The surviving players of the Golden Age
were about to get back in the game in a big way.
pioneer Hubley did his best work at UPA in the '50s, with theatrical shorts such as Gerald Mc Boingboing
. Later he left UPA and became a noted independent animator, producing a series of distinctive and personal films with his wife Faith. And this was a booming period for trippy, avant-garde European animation such as Fantastic Planet
and Yellow Submarine
. In Canada, the National Film Board Of Canada
encouraged exploration in all kinds of Deranged Animation
techniques, most famously with the work of Norman McLaren
who produced wildly creative shorts like Begone Dull Care
(Drawn On Film
animation set to Oscar Peterson's jazz music), Neighbours
(pixilation) and Pas de deux
(ballet with optical printing enhancements).
Animator Ralph Bakshi
, who got his start in this era working in the twilight years of Terrytoons
, rose to prominence during this era thanks to Fritz the Cat
. This film, along with Watership Down
, challenged the idea that cartoons were solely "kids' stuff"
, an idea that was becoming increasingly popular at the time due to the diminishing quality of the cartoons of that time period, as well as people becoming overly familiar with the Disney style of family oriented entertainment coming out.
Bakshi would also go on to make a variety of animated features that challenged the Animation Age Ghetto
such as an animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings
, which despite extremely
mixed critical reaction was ultimately a box office success. Lesser films included the downbeat urban drama, Heavy Traffic
, the musical history drama American Pop
and the Frazetta inspired fantasy, Fire and Ice
. The Canadian Heavy Metal
would create its own cult interest late in the game (1981) with its erotic dark fantasy stories set to throbbing music. Even Hanna-Barbera brought a respectable adaptation of Charlottes Web
to the big screen in 1973. Some cartoons from this era may have had mediocre to poor animation but were ultimately saved by good writing; shows like Rocky and Bullwinkle
would be a particularly good example of that. Likewise, Terry Gilliam
's surreal animated skits in Monty Python's Flying Circus
– utilizing his own artwork, antique photographs, and classical music and military marches played at double speed – would prove to be enormously influential.
was making its first impact in North America with such imports as Astro Boy
, Speed Racer
, Star Blazers
, Kimba the White Lion
and Battle of the Planets
. While it often was crudely Bowdlerized
, the form's distinctive look and content created a cult following that would eventually grow into much more.
The Soviet Russia reversal
, however, is still at its dirty job. Behind the "iron curtain", many USSR cartoons
saw a light at the end of the tunnel. Some are dark, some are educational, some are just damn fun. And not only were they successful inside the country (we're not even speaking about a huge amount of fans who love them even today and make English translations of these cartoons for you)… one
even got a ton of awards. Considerably, the animation cut was not an option
for Ivan Ivanov-Vano's cartoons made in this era, every one of which made you feel like you're back to Disney's times of rise when hand-drawn people and animals moved as smooth as never before (and after). However, Eastern European Animation
also brought us Gene Deitch's Tom and Jerry
shorts in the 1960s, which were… interesting to say the least
Animation Age Ghetto
is a trope that has its roots firmly planted in this era. Check it out to see the full impact of this era on the typical viewer's idea of a cartoon nowadays.
Chances are whenever you see a parody of this era or something that was made during it, it's either a Take That
or an Affectionate Parody
at the least.
For this era's successor, see The Renaissance Age of Animation
(which lasted from the 1980s through the '90s).
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Characters, films and series that are associated with this era
- The Adventures of Lariat Sam (1962)
- Alice of Wonderland in Paris
- The Alvin Show: The original 1960s series of Alvin and the Chipmunks.
- American Pop: A drama film by Ralph Bakshi that came out at the end of the Dark Age.
- The Atom Ant Show
- Bambi Meets Godzilla: One of The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- The Banana Splits
- Banjo the Woodpile Cat: Don Bluth's first solo project, which showed some light at the end of the very dark tunnel this era of animation was. A few years later, he would quit Disney and form his own animation company, which would fuel the animation renaissance.
- Beany And Cecil
- The Beatles
- Birdman (more notable for Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, its Millennium Age spoof than the actual show)
- Bunnicula (1982): An animated adaptation of the series of books by Ruby-Spears.
- Calvin and the Colonel (1961)
- Charlottes Web (1973)
- Clue Club
- Coonskin (1975)
- Cri-Cri el Grillito cantor: A 1963 Mexican film with an animated sequence that Disney contributed.
- Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines
- Disney Animated Canon: This is known to some as Disney's "sketchy" period, referring to the style of animation these movies employed. Animated movies were made on the cheap, often recycling animation from older Disney classics. Don Bluth got his start here as well, as anyone with a good eye for animation will be able to tell just by watching these. With the death of Walt Disney, the dark age of animation hit the company particularly hard. The Disney studios were nearly closed for good around this time, and wouldn't recover until the 1980s.
- Down and Dirty Duck
- Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
- Felix the Cat: In the very late 1950s, Felix managed to snag himself a decent TV series, and even introduced his iconic magic bag of tricks, even though his character was still using the flanderized portrayal similar to the ill-fated 1930s Van Beuren Felix revival.
- The Flintstones
- Fluppy Dogs
- Frankenstein Jr.. and the Impossibles
- Fritz the Cat: Don't expect this one to be like any of the others on the list.
- The Funky Phantom
- Gerald McBoing-Boing: The popularity of UPA and its Limited Animation in The Fifties can be seen as the beginning of the 'dark age', though it would take a while for the cartoon studios' output to decline in quality. Nevertheless, it should be noted that it was the excellence of several UPA shorts, such as this one, that made Limited Animation acceptable.
- George of the Jungle
- The Godzilla Power Hour
- Goober And The Ghost Chasers
- Golden Book Video
- Harold and the Purple Crayon shorts: A Picture for Harold's Room (1971) and Harold's Fairy Tale (1974)
- Heavy Metal: Came out at the end of the Dark Age.
- Heavy Traffic
- The Hobbit and The Return of the King: Surprisingly good animation for its time, co-produced by Rankin/Bass Productions and Japan's Topcraft (which would later become an important contributor to Studio Ghibli).
- Hong Kong Phooey
- Hokey Wolf
- The Houndcats
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
- The Huckleberry Hound Show
- Il était une fois...
- Inch High, Private Eye
- Milton The Monster
- The Mini-Munsters (1973): An unsold tv pilot intended as an animated spinoff of the Munsters tv series.
- The Incredible Mr Limpet (1964): A Roger Rabbit Effect driven film.
- Jabberjaw: Pretty much Scooby-Doo UNDER WATER with a shark that sounds like Curly.
- The Jackson5ive
- Jana of the Jungle
- The Jetsons
- Jim and Judy in Teleland: A series of super low budget made for tv cartoons.
- Jonny Quest
- Josie And The Pussy Cats
- Lippy The Lion And Hardy Har Har
- Looney Tunes In The Sixties: This era covers the final days of Termite Terrace before they closed the studio.
- Looney Tunes In The Seventies And Onward: Post-Termite Terrace.
- The Lord of the Rings: Specifically, Ralph Bakshi's animated adaptation of it.
- Mad Monster Party
- Magilla Gorilla
- Mary Poppins: Had an animated segment which made use of the Roger Rabbit Effect.
- The Mighty Hercules: A tv series produced by Joe Oriolo. The lead characters design was notably the inspiration for the DCAU design of Superman.
- The Mighty Heroes
- Mighty Mouse
- Mr. Magoo
- The New Adventures of Superman
- The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat
- The Night The Animals Talked: An early '70s TV Christmas Special directed by Shamus Culhane.
- The Nutty Squirrels: An obscure made for tv cartoon series.
- Peanuts (the various TV specials, The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, and feature films) — a high point of Limited Animation from the period, not so much for the graphics which were lifted directly from the newspaper comic as for the mature storytelling and jazzy soundtrack.
- The Perils of Penelope Pitstop
- The Pink Panther: Created by Friz Freleng, after he left the Warner Bros. animation studios. Has strangely little to do with the live action films.
- The animated Pink Panther shorts were loosely based on the title sequence of the film. There's actually a better connection between the film and the animated "The Inspector" shorts which were sometimes included as part of the Pink Panther TV show, where the title character was … let's call it "inspired" … by the Clouseau character.
- The Plague Dogs by Martin Rosen, a followup to Watership Down which proved to be a Genre-Killer for dark adult Western Animation due to its content. It's basically Grave of the Fireflies with puppies. Brad Bird worked on the film.
- Quasi At The Quackadero: One of The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
- Quick Draw McGraw
- Q.T. Hush (1960)
- Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure
- The Robonic Stooges, as well as the earlier The Three Stooges cartoon that included live action segments.
- Rocky and Bullwinkle
- Roger Ramjet
- Sabrina and The Groovie Goolies
- Schoolhouse Rock
- Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and its many clones
- Sealab 2020, (more notable for its Millennium Age spoof Sealab 2021)
- Secret Squirrel: The original incarnation.
- Shinbone Alley (1971): Animated feature adaptation of both the musical of the same name, as well as the Archy and Mehitabel stories the musical was adapted from.
- Space Ghost
- Speed Buggy
- Star Trek: The Animated Series
- The Thief and the Cobbler was produced during this period. By which we mean the entire thirty-year duration of the period, before its creator Richard Williams lost control of the project after briefly obtaining funding to distribute it following the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, one of the films that definitively ended The Dark Age of Animation.
- Tom and Jerry: Revived three times during this era. First by Gene Deitch (the less said, the better), then by Chuck Jones (generally considered the best produced theatrical cartoons of the 1960s, though that isn't saying much), and finally as a Hanna-Barbera TV series (which Flanderized the characters beyond recognition, ironically by the very people who created them in the first place).
- Filmation would revive Tom and Jerry once again just as the Dark Age was winding down, though this adaptation suffered from the same Deranged Animation as the Gene Deitch shorts. And yet it was still more true to the original shorts than Hanna-Barbera's TV series.
- Top Cat
- Wacky Races
- Wait Till Your Father Gets Home: The Ur Example of the animated dysfunctional family (think All in the Family if it were a cartoon series), which would later inspire all the FOX animated sitcoms about dysfunctional or quasi-dysfunctional families (The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Family Guy, American Dad!, and The Cleveland Show).
- The Wall, with its animated segments.
- Watership Down by Martin Rosen. Concept drawings by John Hubley for the dream sequences. Hubley wanted to do the whole film in Limited Animation using Aboriginal-style 60s-70s primitive expressionism. He left the film over "creative differences" with Rosen, who wanted detailed and bloody naturalism. You decide which parts of the film are more disturbing.
- ''Wheelie And The Chopper Bunch (1974)
- Winky Dink
- Woody Woodpecker: His theatrical cartoons would keep going up till 1972, and he also had a hit TV series appearing during this era.
- Yellow Submarine: featured a whos-who of British animation from the period. And The Beatles.
- Yogi Bear
Animators who are directly associated with this era
Tropes associated with this era include:
- Animal Superheroes: Mighty Mouse, Atom Ant, Underdog, Batfink…
- Animated Adaptation: for example, The Three Stooges cartoons, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Filmation's adaptations of Batman, Super Friends, The Beatles, etc.
- Animation Age Ghetto
- Band Toon
- Christmas Special: These were in vogue during this era, and most of the classics we know today were made during this age.
- Conspicuously Light Patch
- Deranged Animation: It was The Sixties after all. Many people mistakenly think this trope started during this era, which is not the case.
- Dork Age: In full swing with many established franchises at this point in time.
- Everybody Do the Endless Loop
- Everybody Laughs Ending
Scooby Doo: Scooby-dooby-doo!
Everyone else: Ahahahahahaha! *iris out on Scooby's face, occasionally with a wink*
- Expy: If a character was popular and successful during that era another cartoon show will make a character very similar to that character.
- Five-Man Band
- Follow the Leader: Half the Saturday morning cartoons in the '70snote can be summed up as "Scooby Doo, but instead of a dog they have…"
- A car (Speed Buggy)
- A shark (Jabberjaw)note
- A ghost (The Funky Phantom)
- A different ghost (The Galloping Ghost)
- A different dog (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids)
- Another different dog (The Buford Files)
- Another different dog (Goober and the Ghost Chasers)
- Two dogs! (Clue Club)
- A band manager (Josie and the Pussycats … they also had a cat, but the Scooby role was basically filled by the manager)
- A caveman (Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels)
- A bunch of cavemen (Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm)
- A werewolf (Fangface)
- Gratuitous Animal Sidekick / Team Pet: Moptop, along with two pandas.
- Half Hour Comedy
- Humans Are White: Non-white characters were disappointingly rare during this era, but at least they were more common than they were during the Golden Age.
- Laugh Track: Why they'd need it in animation, who knows. But many of the shows were basically sitcoms on lower budgets than live action.
- Lazy Artist
- Limited Animation
- Limited Wardrobe
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Hanna-Barbera, which owned most of the popular cartoon characters on television at the time, was able to do this a lot.
- Motionless Chin
- Narm Charm
- Offscreen Crash
- Prime Time Cartoon: This trend lasted until the late 1960s (save for numerous animated specials), though it has been revived during the beginning of The Renaissance Age of Animation.
- Recycled In SPACE: A recurring theme (Jabberjaw is Scooby-Doo under water, The Mighty Mightor was Space Ghost as a caveman, Gilligan's Planet LITERALLY had the Castaways in space, etc.), particularly for the Sat AM Hanna-Barbera and Filmation cartoons.
- Ring Around the Collar
- Saturday Morning Cartoon: Saturday Morning cartoons experienced their heyday during this period. Not only were Hanna-Barbera cartoons regular airings, but cartoons from The Golden Age of Animation would be exposed to a new generation, and in some cases, become even more widely popular than they were originally.
- Scooby-Dooby Doors
- Speech-Impaired Animal
- Team Pet
- Unmoving Plaid
- Wacky Racing
- Wheel o' Feet
- Wraparound Background
- You Meddling Kids: In all the Scooby-Doo-esque shows.