Say goodbye to Saturday morning cartoons

by Caroline Leal
Posted 9/30/14, 03:10 pm

“That’s all, folks.”

The trademark closing line from Porky Pig, the lovable cartoon character from Loony Tunes, might be ringing especially loudly in the ears of some Gen Xers (and even some millennials). This weekend, Saturday morning cartoons officially became a thing of the past. 

According to NPR, the CW has aired its last batch of Vortexx programming, leaving American children for the first time in decades without any animated broadcast television to kick off their weekends.

The CW programming block—which consisted of Cubix, Sonic X, Dragon Ball Z and Kai, Digimon Fusion and Yu-Gi-Oh—will give way to “One Magnificent Morning,” a new live-action block of educational shows. Though the end of Vortexx programming is the final blow, the animated format has long been dead on other networks. NBC dropped Saturday cartoons in 1992, CBS threw in the towel in the late 90s, and ABC put cartoons on the shelf for good in 2004.

Why has this longstanding television staple vanished? 

Critics cite the rise of cable, the resulting overall fragmentation of the television audience, the decline and closure of animation studios like Rankin/Bass and Hannah-Barbara, and sports and religious network programming as key factors in the decline of the Saturday morning cartoon. Writing on Engadget, Jon Fingas blames the death of cartoons on a combination of technological and regulatory progress. A 1996 FCC rule required stations to offer at least three hours of educational programming each week, and to avoid interrupting affiliate programming, the networks scheduled the majority of that content on Saturday morning. 

“Meanwhile, kids’ viewing options have increased dramatically,” Fingas wrote. “On top of dedicated cable and satellite channels like the Cartoon Network, they can now watch plenty of animation on Hulu, Netflix, and other streaming services. In that sense, today’s children aren’t missing out—if anything, they’re making your inner 8-year-old a little jealous.”

Most people with small children would agree that the decline of Saturday morning cartoons hardly equates to the decline of cartoons themselves. Kids have at least seven 24-hour cable channels to choose from, in addition to the streaming options cited by Fingas—although many a parent may miss the idea of starting the weekend with The Smurfs or Scooby Doo.

And they do. Wistful Gen Xers discussed the death of weekend cartoons on a Reddit forum in which they bemoaned the end of a warmly remembered era and waxed nostalgic about their favorite shows.

“My ritual was waking up at 6 a.m. and watching cartoons while lying on my stomach right in front of the TV eating dry Cap’n Crunch,” wrote one contributor under the username Travio.

Others expressed concerned about what killing the old cartoons has done to pop culture and today’s crop of media-crazed kids. One Reddit member—writing under the username KangFu—noted the beauty of being a kid in the 80s and early 90s was exposure to all the previous decade of popular shows, since television began in the 50s. Children watched the same 10-20 channels each week and “paid more attention,” since TV felt like a live, unpredictable feed you might not catch again.

“Nowadays television/internet is so fragmented and people pick and choose what to consume,” KangFu wrote. “How many of them are going to bother watching episodes of Seinfeld, Cosby, Happy Days, All in the Family, Lucy, Three Stooges and all the cartoons listed here while they’re behind on Walking Dead or Game of Thrones? Most people before 2000 have a grasp on pop culture that spans nearly a century to date. We may never see this in future generations due to how information consumption has evolved.”

Caroline Leal

Caroline Leal is a freelance journalist for She graduated from Regent University with a degree in English and Professional Writing, and lives in Central Texas. Follow Caroline on Twitter @anncarolineleal.

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