For my first post, I decided to do some research to find out what the earliest memories of televised cartoons were, and what era they even belonged to. My research proved to be extensive, so I’m splitting my findings into two posts. This first one is all about how they started.
Depending on how old you are, you probably have some childhood memory of cartoons on TV. If you were born in the 40s or 50s the only difference is you have even earlier memories of live programs like Bozo the clown and Captain Video. These shows, put on by local television stations, were the children’s entertainment predecessors to animation. It wasn’t till the 60s rolled around that the Saturday Morning Cartoons era dawned.
I bet you didn’t know… that these cartoons were originally screened on Saturday mornings because this was a time when both parents and children might watch TV together. This was also when advertisers saw it best fit to sell their family goods like pop tarts and breakfast cereal. I know it’s a bit of a downer, but seriously, a HUGE part of why these shows were pitched was so children would be sold on the products advertised in between.
These producing companies who teamed up with television networks were ones like Warner Brothers and MGM studios, who made thousands of animated shorts, mostly for screening before the feature at the movie theatre. Remember that? When the comfort of being a few minutes late to your movie wasn’t missing commercials but part of a cartoon? These are what the earliest Saturday Morning Cartoons consisted of! They usually featured Bugs bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tom & Jerry (the legendary characters, these guys):
But some were also those commissioned by independent animation companies, called “prime time cartoons”. Some of these were Casper the Friendly Ghost, Magilla Gorilla, Huckleberry Hound, and The Jetsons, as well as this rowdy bunch…
And so it began. Animated shorts became TV episodes in the lives of all kinds of characters, from all different sources, compiled into 3-4 hours on a Saturday morning. What a treat, on top of it already being the weekend.