The End Of Saturday Morning Cartoons

A sad occasion will occur tomorrow: it will be Saturday morning, and no broadcast television network will be showing cartoons.  Last weekend the CW — whatever that is — became the last network to broadcast what used to be a staple of TV programming.

This is unthinkable to those of us in our 50s, who fondly recall a classic weekend ritual that brilliantly communicated that the school week was over and the weekend truly was here.  UJ and I would sit in front of the TV on Saturday mornings for hours, eating our cereal and howling as animated creatures were decked by anvils or blasted by shotguns.

We loved the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show and its Fractured Fairy Tales and Sherman and Peabody, Tennessee Tuxedo, Space Ghost, The Jetsons, and Underdog, and we watched the new shows the networks would roll out each year, but our favorite show was the Bugs Bunny-Roadrunner Hour.  After a hard week in the schoolroom, a few hours of animated high jinks was just what the doctor ordered.  And then we might switch to a UHF station and watch The Three Stooges, The Little Rascals, Woody Woodpecker, and Popeye.  As the morning ended, stoked by sugary cereal and inspired by what we had watched, we were ready to run around outside with our friends, happily committing random acts of mayhem.

The death of Saturday morning cartoons has been a long time coming and was caused by lots of different factors.  One of them was a Federal Communications Commission rule that required broadcast networks to show three hours of educational programming (yawn!) a week between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and that limited kid-oriented ads during children’s programming.  The national nannies wouldn’t consider a Bugs Bunny cartoon that was based upon a Rossini opera to be sufficiently educational, and the rule meant that advertisers couldn’t use the cartoon shows as a platform for commercials for great new cereals or the coolest new toy, like Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots.  As a result, the networks pulled the plug on a great Saturday morning tradition.

America is all about change, socially and culturally, and there’s no reason to think that a one-time institution like Saturday morning cartoons should be unaffected.  Still, those shows made Saturday morning a fun time to be a kid.  I’ll always treasure my memories of sitting cross-legged in front of the TV in my PJs, watching them.

Popeye For President!

Tired of the mewling irritation of national politics?  I sure am!

Return with me to a simpler time.  A time when politicians campaigned in top hats.  A time when votes could be had for the price of a few cigars or the completion of a few chores for Olive Oyl.  A time when a candidate battling over votes could slug his opponent on the jaw and punch him through the engine block of a tractor.

I wish a few of our modern presidential candidates, whether from the Spinach Party or the Blutocratic Party, would use their pipes to suck down and chew on a bit more spinach.

That Pesky Inner Jonny Quest

Hey, ladies!  Do you ever wonder why . . . well, why men seem so stupid?  Why men seem to crave taking dumb risks?  Why men go sky-diving, and bungee jumping, and engage in X Games sports when they could be curled up in cozy pajamas, drinking warm cocoa with marshmallows in it and having long deeply meaningful conversations with you about their innermost feelings?

Get serious, ladies!  The real answer is — they’re men!

But there is a deeper answer.  Any guy who grew up in America probably has been forever influenced by Jonny QuestJonny Quest was a ’60s cartoon, shown in reruns forever, that featured the teenaged hero, his mystical, turban-topped friend Hadji, his father Dr. Benton Quest, Race Bannon, a combination bodyguard and tutor, and the irritating dog Bandit.  Every week they had amazing adventures and barely avoided certain death.  They rode in hovercrafts.  They made it into sleek planes just before spears thrown by Zulu warriors clinked harmlessly against closed hatches.  They escaped pterodactyls and swamp creatures.  The YouTube video below of the show’s opening and closing gives you a sense of what the show was like.

The red-blooded American boys who watched that show thought:  boy, that is so cool!  And a lust for adventure, impossible to resist, was implanted deep in our simple male souls.

Every middle-aged guy will face a point where they will decide whether to do something risky that they’ve never done before, and they will feel that inner Jonny Quest saying:  do it!  I had my moment years ago when some experienced snowmobilers invited me to join them.  It was about 15 below zero in western Wyoming and I’d never been snowmobiling before — but I said “sure!”  An hour later I was struggling to keep up with them as they zipped along at about 50 mph across the frozen landscape, the snow they kicked up icing over my face shield.  When we passed over a bridge and I saw that another novice snowmobiler had somehow driven off the bridge and was in the creek below, apparently injured, I thought:  “What the hell am I doing here?”  I was grateful when I made it back safely, and I haven’t been snowmobiling since.

We’d all be better off if Jonny had taken a spear to the shoulder now and then.

Looney Tunes And The Gateway To Classical Music

This morning I had my Ipod on “Shuffle Songs” and the Overture to The Barber of Seville began playing.  As I listened to the music I immediately thought of . . . Bugs Bunny.  Yes, I thought of the classic Looney Tunes cartoon where Bugs and Elmer have an encounter in a barber shop, chasing each other with axes, applying hair restorer, and engaging in other tomfoolery while snippets from the score of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville played.  The actual cartoon is here:

It made me think about how much I learned about classical music, and for that matter a bunch of other things, when UJ and I sat in front the TV on Saturday mornings, watching the Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck comedy hour as we ate our bowls of cereal.  For me, at least, Bugs Bunny cartoons were a gateway to the world of classical music.  I would hear a portion of, say, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony as background music during a thunderstorm scene and think that it sounded pretty good.  Later, when I began to try to find those pieces and started to regularly listen to classical music, I was amazed at how many portions of classical pieces I had heard before — in cartoons, as theme music for news shows, as music in a commercial, or in some other form of popular culture.  The painless exposure to the songs through popular culture, as opposed to being dragged as a kid to some concert hall, had conditioned me to enjoy and appreciate classical music.

The downside, of course, is that I can’t hear the Overture to The Barber of Seville without thinking of Bugs Bunny, but I suppose that is a small price to pay.

A Tough Call

At Windward the other night we were talking about our favorite cartoons characters and mine is a tie between Foghorn Leghorn and Yosemite Sam.

The cartoon below is one of my all time Yosemite Sam favorites when Sam plays a Roman captain of the guards at 2:00. How can one not laugh when you see Sam’s face at 3:14 when Bugs throws saws and an ax to the lions. Plus I love the way Yosemite Sam walks. 

My other favorite is Foghorn Leghorn … I say …. Foghorn Leghorn who was King of the one liners such as “that boy is as suttle as a hand grenade in a barrel of oatmeal, or “that boy is as sharp as a bowling ball”, or “that boy is like a tattoo he gets under my skin” and “he’s a nice boy, but he’s got more nerve than a bum tooth”.

I am kind surprised though when I view some of these old cartoons on YouTube where people can post comments. Seems as though alot of the comments are from younger people who have not seen these characters that were such a big part of our Saturday morning’s when we were younger. It’s too bad because in my opinion these really are classic Americana at it’s finest.