When Saturday Mornings Meant Something
Because the way you react will tell me everything about everything I’m about to tell you here in this post.
Ready for the word?
Alright, here it is. Cartoons.
There. Do anything for you? Are you feeling it? Even a twitch of sensation? Heart rate increasing? Eyes twinkling? Anything?
No. Nothing. Admit it. You’re numb. Your eyes are glazed over and your skin is sallow. While I’m at it, you could stand to run a comb through your hair.
The word is meaningless to you now.
Which proves the point I’m about to make. And the truth of that point — oh, the truth! Oh, how it cuts like a knife! But not the kind of blunt gray knife that the Wonder Twins confiscated from Solomon Grundy in Episode #34 of Super Friends. No, like an actual knife that could hurt someone. Like me.
Cartoons — the word, the concept, the feeling, the religion — is dead. Dead and obsolete like the Gothic-arched mouse hole where Jerry took refuge. Drowned in a sea of endless animation. This may not be obvious to you. Because, true, cartoons today make billions of dollars. They’re everywhere. They’re more everywhere than ever before. Cartoons practically spring forth from our eyeballs involuntarily. And when they don’t, we can whip them up in three minutes using remedial Microsoft Paint.
This is what’s gone. I remember when just the word Cartoons would send a tingling shiver of pure joy right down the length of my newly-formed spine. That’s because cartoons were a rare treat. My kids? They happen to think cartoons grow on trees. Ha! Well okay they do.
Here’s how it was different back in the 70s and 80s. I remember when I would actually throw myself down on the couch to watch a MetLife commercial about insurance — insurance! — just to catch the 20 seconds that Snoopy might appear on the screen.
And I remember when Saturday mornings meant something.
Saturday mornings today? Pffffft. What’s the point. A time to ride a bike? A time to hit the farmer’s market? My kids think it’s a time to hunt for bugs in the backyard. What do they know.
Oh, kids today with their jaded, unappreciative little souls, expecting a cartoon to at any moment appear on every large and small screen surrounding them. No need to wait for it. No cause for anticipation. It’ll be there when you want it, exactly as you want it.
Nickelodeon. DVDs. Pixar. Netflix. Cartoon Network. I hate you all. Each of you played a unique part in destroying what was once sacred — the Saturday morning cartoonfest.
Don’t get me wrong. The cartoons of my day were rubbish. If Pixar would today compete against Hanna-Barbera in a Laff-A-Lympics race, Snagglepus would be smashed like a homogenous wad of pink bubblegum into the intricately designed treads on Buzz Lightyear’s moon boots.
Why, just look at the crap we once loved.
Alas, we were so dumb. So fat on our Pop-Tart-Kool-Aid breakfast. But also so innocent and uncomplicated. And so gracious for what we were given.
Back then, cartoons were a formula. Popular + Crap = Good.
A popular new toy? Sure, make a cartoon out of ‘em.
A popular new video game? Sure, make a cartoon of ‘em.
A popular new board game? Sure, make a cartoon out of ’em.
A popular new TV character? Sure, make a cartoon out of ‘em.
Oh, and the craftsmanship! I raise my glass of Tang to the work of Hanna-Barbera. Their shows were like peering into a 14-year-old’s Trapper Keeper of road warrior doodles. And ever notice how sometimes when the characters ran, the scenery repeated? Sure you did. When Shaggy was in a haunted mansion, you’d come to expect him to freak out and then run by the same old dusty chair covered in a white sheet — six times in a four-second scene. We noticed. We didn’t care. We were just content to see him run.
And the humor — fantastic! Cartoons were so funny back then! Wait, did I just say that? I must be drunk on my nostalgia cocktail. Nah, cartoons were not funny at all back then. But along with the sugar puffed cereal that Kellogg’s had sold us during the commercial break, we ate ‘em right up. And they tasted like a Tootsie Roll Poop. Because Popular + Crap = Good.
I’ll close with a story to bring it all home. In third grade, my Girl Scouts troop went camping on a Friday night. Poor Laura who cried through most of her elementary years was again crying. We were all concerned as she was led away to chat with a troop leader. What’s wrong with Laura? (What wasn’t wrong with her.) That’s when sweet, dim-witted Janet piped up with a telling thought.
“I bet I know. She’s probably crying because she can’t watch cartoons tomorrow.” What a dummy, that Janet.
Except that Janet really was on to something there.
You miss Saturday morning cartoons that week — those four splendid hours of animated bliss you’d been waiting for since last Saturday — and you had to then wait another week before you could watch Saturday morning cartoons. Two Whole Weeks Without Cartoons.
And that was indeed something worth crying over.
In the downtime, if you were lucky, maybe you’d catch a MetLife commercial.