This theme week on "Classic Saturday Morning Cartoons" was inspired by the Jem and the Holograms movie coming out this weekend. This movie is of course based on the well-known Saturday morning cartoon that many remember fondly (I myself dressed as Jem for Halloween years ago...). Taking a trip down memory lane, this post is paired with a mash-up of classic Hanna Barbera cartoon intros, which all share that familiar look and feel of the studio. These are known to be cheap, fast-produced cartoons designed to appeal to children in order to market other products to kids during the commercial breaks. While their production values are low, many of the characters persist in popular culture. The deeply affective nostalgic attachment many have toward these and other Saturday morning cartoons is evidenced by commentaries like this one from IGN contributors stating that the new movie has "outraged" fans by "bastardizing" the original purpose and appeal of the cartoon.
Sadly, this kind of nostalgia will not exist for children growing up today. Last year Gail Sullivan wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post lamenting the loss of the "sacred" Saturday morning ritual shared by many children who grew up in the 1970s and 80s. The Saturday morning cartoon block was first cancelled by NBC in 1992, and CBS and ABC followed soon after. Cable channels filled that vacuum for a while, but last year the CW removed the Saturday morning cartoon block from their schedules, a move that reflects a broader trend in television. Of course the reason for this is the introduction of "time shift" technologies and the increasingly common practice of streaming television content instead of sitting down to watch television according to a fixed schedule. As a result, even networks like Nickelodeon have seen a downturn in viewership in recent years as their primary demographic moves to digital platforms. But even though the ritual we remember is going away, the characters themselves remain, and children continue to make up a large portion of television viewership. I suspect that when today's kids grow up, they will have characters they look back upon fondly too, even if they did not consume them on Saturday mornings the way we did.