Jump to content

Saturday-morning cartoon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Saturday morning cartoon)

"Saturday-morning cartoon" is a colloquial term for the original animated series and live-action programming that was typically scheduled on Saturday and Sunday mornings in the United States on the "Big Three" television networks. The genre's popularity had a broad peak from the mid-1960s through the mid-2000s; over time it declined, in the face of changing cultural norms, increased competition from formats available at all times, and heavier media regulations.[1][2][3] In the final two decades of the genre's existence, Saturday-morning and Sunday-morning cartoons were primarily created and aired to meet regulations on children's television programming in the United States, or E/I. Minor television networks, in addition to the non-commercial PBS in some markets, continue to air animated programming on Saturday and Sunday while partially meeting those mandates.[4][5]

In the United States, the generally accepted times for these and other children's programmes to air on Saturday mornings were from 8:00 a.m. to approximately 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time Zone. Until the late 1970s, American networks also had a schedule of children's programming on Sunday mornings, though most programmes at this time were repeats of Saturday-morning shows that were already out of production.[6][7] In some markets, some shows were pre-empted in favor of syndicated or other types of local programming.[8]


Beginning in the early 1960s, the Saturday-morning timeslot would feature a great deal of series appropriate for children, although most of these were reruns of both animated series originally broadcast in prime time and adventure series made in the 1950s, as well as telecasts of older cartoons made for movie theaters.[9] From 1966 onwards, however, the slot would be dominated by superhero cartoon series, influenced by the success of Space Ghost.[10][11] These were heavily criticised by parents for their violence,[12] and by 1972 most had been removed from the slot following pressure from the lobbying group Action for Children's Television (ACT),[13] founded by Peggy Charren.

With the 1970s came a wave of animated versions of popular live-action prime time series, mainly with the voices of the original casts, as well as imitations of the highly successful Scooby-Doo[14] combining teen characters and talking animals with light-weight mystery stories.

By 1982, under President Ronald Reagan, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had loosened programming and advertising regulations,[15] leading to the era of "half-hour toy commercials", starting with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and continuing with such successes as The Transformers. These were heavily criticised by ACT, but were able to continue into the late 1980s.[16]

As well, several more lighthearted series appeared, popularised by Hanna-Barbera’s The Smurfs and Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies.[17] These included series based on popular video games, including Saturday Supercade.[18]

Watchgroup backlash[edit]

Parents' lobbying groups such as Action for Children's Television began in the late 1960s. They voiced concerns about the presentation of commercialism, violence, anti-social attitudes and stereotypes in Saturday-morning cartoons, specifically the superhero cartoons of the mid-1960s which were cancelled by the late 1960s due to the groups’ protests.[13] By the 1970s, these groups exercised enough influence, especially with the U.S. Congress and the Federal Communications Commission, that the television networks felt compelled to impose more stringent content rules for the animation houses.[19][20][21] By 1978, the Federal Trade Commission was openly considering a ban on all advertising during television programming targeting preschoolers, and severe restrictions on other children's program advertising, both of which would have effectively killed off the format; the commission ultimately dropped the proposal.[22]

The networks were encouraged to create educational spots that endeavored to use animation and/or live-action for enriching content,[23] including the Schoolhouse Rock! series on ABC which became a fondly-remembered television classic.


From 1992, the "Big Three" traditional major networks and their affiliates began replacing their Saturday-morning animated programming with weekend editions of their morning magazines.[24][25][26] and live-action teen-oriented series.[27] Multiple factors contributed to the change, among them the introduction of people meters that children found difficult to operate in the mid-1980s,[28] an increasingly competitive market fueled by the multi-channel transition[29][30], a boom in first-run syndicated content[31] and the introduction of home video and video games, increasing restrictions on advertising and educational content mandates,[32] and broader cultural changes stemming from an increase in no-fault divorces and the end of the post-World War II baby boom.[33][32][28] Attempting to pair the newscasts with the remaining cartoons was largely unsuccessful because the two program formats drew widely different audiences that did not lend themselves to leading in and out of each other, leading to viewership oddities (such as NBC's children's block having an average viewership age of over 40 years old);[34][35] by the late 2010s, all of the major American networks had shifted to live-action documentary programming, ostensibly targeted at teenagers to meet the educational mandates but less likely to cause a clash with the newscasts.[35] This documentary programming also benefited from having less restrictive rules for advertising compared to programming targeted to children.[35]

Saturday-morning and Sunday-morning cartoons were largely discontinued in Canada by 2002. In the United States, The CW continued to air non-E/I cartoons as late as 2014;[32] among the "Big Three" traditional major networks, the final non-E/I cartoon to date (Kim Possible) was last aired in 2006.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Holz, Jo (2017). Kids' TV Grows Up: The Path from Howdy Doody to SpongeBob. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. pp. 73–171. ISBN 978-1-4766-6874-1.
  2. ^ Raiti, Gerard (April 30, 2003). "The Disappearance of Saturday Morning". Animation World Network. Retrieved 2024-03-20.
  3. ^ Moss, Charles (May 20, 2021). "The Rise and Fall of Saturday Morning Cartoons". The Saturday Evening Post. Retrieved 2024-03-20.
  4. ^ Mifflin, Lawrie (October 29, 1996). "Pied Piper Of Cable Beguiles Rivals' Children". The New York Times. Retrieved August 21, 2010.
  5. ^ The Christian Science Monitor (30 April 1990). "Mutant Ninja Turtles, Profits, and Children". The Christian Science Monitor.
  6. ^ McFarland, Melanie (September 14, 2002). "Saturday-morning TV gets ready to rumble". The Seattle Times. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  7. ^ Strauss, Neil (January 5, 1997). "It's Saturday Morning, Dude, Time for TV". The New York Times. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
  8. ^ "Television: trouble in toontown". Time. November 25, 1996. Archived from the original on October 29, 2010. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
  9. ^ "Saturday Morning Television Programmes". The Clarion-Ledger. December 5, 1964. p. 13. Retrieved 2024-06-23.
  10. ^ "Saturday morning television programmes, including Space Ghost and similar cartoons". The Wichita Eagle. April 6, 1968. p. 20. Retrieved 2024-06-23.
  11. ^ Sennett, Ted (October 30, 1989). The Art of Hanna-Barbera: Fifty Years of Creativity. Studio. ISBN 978-0670829781.
  12. ^ "Protests Rise over TV Cartoons". Democrat and Chronicle. December 3, 1967. p. 184. Retrieved 2024-06-23.
  13. ^ a b Gent, George (1972-01-13). "Networks Say They Eliminated Most Violent Children's Shows". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-08-24.
  14. ^ "TV Kiddie Shows Abound". The Tribune. April 14, 1974. p. 22. Retrieved 2024-06-23.
  15. ^ "Rules Died after Reagan elected". Statesman Journal. January 12, 1982. p. 15. Retrieved 2024-06-23.
  16. ^ "30-minute Commercials". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. June 7, 1987. p. 98. Retrieved 2024-06-23.
  17. ^ "You can find good shows for kids Saturday morning". The Baltimore Sun. September 28, 1985. p. 45. Retrieved 2024-06-23.
  18. ^ "What's new for kids on TV Saturday morning". Democrat and Chronicle. September 6, 1983. p. 14. Retrieved 2024-06-23.
  19. ^ Pogue, Paul (2002). "Saturday-Morning Cartoons". St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture. Archived from the original on July 10, 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  20. ^ Boyer, Peter (February 3, 1986). "Toy-based TV: effects on children debated". The New York Times. Retrieved August 10, 2010.
  21. ^ Collins, Glenn (December 12, 1985). "CONTROVERSY ABOUT TOYS, TV VIOLENCE". The New York Times. Retrieved August 10, 2010.
  22. ^ Brown, Les (March 19, 1978). "TV cartoons face dim future". The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
  23. ^ "Children's TV: Little by Little it's Getting Better". The Los Angeles Times. September 29, 1974. p. 448. Retrieved 2024-06-23.
  24. ^ "Channel 7 to offer weekend morning newscasts". Idaho Statesman. March 17, 1992. p. 27. Retrieved 2024-06-24.
  25. ^ "KELO expands morning show, KDLT adds "In Focus"". Argus Leader. August 30, 1997. p. 9. Retrieved 2024-06-24.
  26. ^ "Saturday Morning television guide". The Morning Call. October 17, 2004. p. 160. Retrieved 2024-06-24.
  27. ^ "Merrie Melodies and More! NBC replaces cartoons with fare for teens". The Journal News. September 19, 1992. p. 15. Retrieved 2024-06-24.
  28. ^ a b Harmetz, Aljean (June 7, 1988). "Kids Like Tube, But Tune Out Networks". Chicago Tribune. New York Times News Service.
  29. ^ "Fox Ends Saturday-Morning Cartoons". The New York Times. November 25, 2008. Retrieved October 2, 2009.
  30. ^ Bernstein, Paula (September 29, 2002). "Kid skeds tread on joint strategy". Variety. Retrieved July 14, 2018.
  31. ^ Boyer, Peter (September 19, 1988). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS; NBC Considers Scrapping Saturday Cartoons". The New York Times. Retrieved September 10, 2013.
  32. ^ a b c Sullivan, Gail (September 30, 2014). "Saturday morning cartoons are no more". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 2, 2014.
  33. ^ "The Disappearance of Saturday Morning". Animation World Network. Retrieved October 2, 2009.
  34. ^ "Adults 'Discover' kiddie programs". 23 February 2003.
  35. ^ a b c Robb, David (June 20, 2016). "Preteen Saturday Morning Kids Shows Abandoned By Broadcast Networks". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 26, 2016.

External links[edit]