Saturday, May 27, 2017

Saturday morning cartoons

This is another thing that was big in my childhood, but isn't really a thing anymore, with dedicated cartoon channels, and with the networks more going to fill their "instructional" requirements or going to news on Saturday mornings. (Then again: New Pony kind of fills that role these days, and the channels-that-show-cartoons DO still sometimes put the new ones on Saturday mornings).

I remember a lot of this:

When I was really small, Scooby-Doo was a huge favorite of mine (which seems inexplicable to me now; I don't care for the show).

Same with HR Pufnstuf - and the whole Sid and Marty Krofft thing was big when I was a kid (and before, I think some of the shows were ones I only saw later, in re-run).

(But also, two more big names: Dick Prescott and Lou Scheimer - the ones on that video who produced "Isis" - they did a lot of those Saturday morning things. I don't exactly remember that one but it looks like it was probably a clone of "Wonder Woman" - which I think was an evening program and was a big favorite in my family, and really, it was a pretty good show, and I think part of the reason no Wonder Woman movie has been produced to date is that Lynda Carter was so *perfect* as Wonder Woman that the character became hard to cast)

I don't remember as many of the ads (I think some of them were probably v. early 1970s, before I was watching TV). I remember the "Mikey" one and the "Mr. Whipple" character - but most of the toy ads, no. (And given the push to get kids up and moving around while they play, I'm surprised no one's tried to reintroduce a game like Monkey's Uncle).

And the PSAs and interstitial material: that video has the famous Keep American Beautiful "Iron Eyes Cody" PSA in it, and that really DID make a big impact on me as a kid. (Even though I already came from a family where, if we had littered, we would have been in Big Trouble).

And Schoolhouse Rock. I *still* love Schoolhouse Rock. (And the interjections one on there, heh - I was thinking, as I watched it, "If the producers were not bound by common decency and FCC rules, I can imagine some other 'interjections' they'd use there. I would not be surprised if Saturday Night Live or one of those other parody shows has gone there with that).

Another thing I (inadvertently) learned from the 1970s era Saturday morning cartoons: how everything in pop culture copies everything else. If something is successful, there are a spate of things copying that thing to try to capture the success again. And also, that the copies are almost always much worse than the original.

Like, Scooby-Doo - there were several other "group of wacky teens solving mysteries" cartoon shows - each had its own hook. Josie and the Pussycats was like that (though maybe it was a comic book even before Scooby-Doo was out?). And  Speedy Buggy. And Funky Phantom. And Jabberjaw, though that had the additional trope of trading on the success of the movie "Jaws" and sticking a shark character (who sounded like Curly, from the Three Stooges) on it. And Captain Caveman.....

And, as I said, there were a couple shows that came out with sharks the year the movie "Jaws" was popular....and I began to realize, as a kid, hey, these people aren't as creative as you thought they were. (And yeah, it continues, with the ad nauseum reboots of Spiderman and the like....)

Once in a while there was something novel - The Smurfs was big when it came out (and was my little brother's favorite show for a while). Gradually it wore down (and like a lot of shows, suffered from "What can we throw in to make it seem 'new'" when they stuck in baby Smurfs and other stuff that felt extraneous and forced.

And there was a lot of hype around the cartoons - the new season would start a couple weeks after school started in the fall (one thing to look forward to in that bleak time when summer was over but the holidays were still far off). And how did they build hype in the pre-internet era? With newspaper stories, for one thing. And yes, as a kid I read the newspaper, or at least the parts that interested me. In those days, our "local" paper (The Akron Beacon Journal) was an afternoon paper. I'd get home from school before my dad got home from work, so I'd grab the paper and read it spread out on the tile floor in the hallway, and then put it back together before he got home.

And they spread hype some years with a "special preview" on a Friday evening - usually a week or more before the shows started up, the better to build hype with - and most kids would lobby to watch the "special preview." (Most houses in those days, had one or at the most, two, televisions, so you had to request what you wanted early. I think a few years my brother and I wound up watching it on the little black and white tv that sat in the kitchen....)

And you know? I don't know of too many things as an adult that I felt the hope and excitement for like the "coming preview" of new Saturday morning cartoons (though I lot of years I wound up disappointed, when nothing good was coming out - again, the whole issue of "there will be eight clones of what was popular last year").

1 comment:

purlewe said...

Did you ever go to King's Island in OH? They had a Hanna-Barbera Land there with rides from the cartoons. (I just went to look online and lo, the Hanna-Barbera Land has been replaced with Nickolodeon Universe. BOO)