The first weekend of October this year saw a historical moment: the first weekend in what I’ve heard is over fifty years without a Saturday morning cartoon block available to basic television channel viewers.
That’s actually not true. Depending on your local market, there is still a Saturday morning cartoon block…comprising nothing but cartoons bearing the E/I rating. It’s not even the first time we’ve hit this point. When the FCC ruling in 1998 that led to what is currently being called the end of the Saturday morning cartoon block era, most of the major networks had already moved on from offering cartoons on Saturday mornings, the notable exception being CBS’ joint venture with Nick Jr in the mid to late 90’s. Within a year of that shift, though, the WB and Fox organized their own mostly non-educational cartoon lineups in the after school and Saturday morning programming blocks.
A number of us have some sort of relationships with cartoons, from our childhood, from our teens (when we were trying to be too cool for cartoons), and even into our adulthoods. So, many of us over the last couple of weeks have expressed some sort of loss of our own childhood, our happy memories of Saturday morning rituals centering on cartoon viewing. Some of us have been so unable to let go of that aspect of our childhood that recent years (really, the last decade or so) has seen numerous reboots of beloved childhood cartoon and toy franchises, wanting to recapture that period and share it with a new generation.
For me personally, it was for a long time a combination of after-school and Saturday morning cartoons that shaped so much of who I have been and who I have become. In school, clear through grad school. I often did my homework while watching cartoons. (I’m one of those people who can’t work in a dead silent environment. It drives me insane.) I’ve used cartoons to connect with students. (Right up until it became cool to be a Whovian, I got pretty far knowing the difference between Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh, and it was my students who got me into Avatar: The Last Airbender…mostly because they were shocked I wasn’t already watching it.) Some of my earliest Halloween costumes were cartoon cosplays. If I had any sort of artistic skill, I likely would have jumped at the chance to become an animator. I love watching behind-the-scenes videos, just to watch animators work. I’m not going to lie: I think animators are kind of like magicians. (Oddly enough, my love of animation and voice chasing did not actually play directly in to my becoming an audiobook narrator. Sort of. It’s really hard to explain.)
It’s so weird to think that now those avenues for connection, for creative reaction…don’t exist at an easily accessible level for kids any more. It just seems wrong.