So this one is a little ambiguous and whimsical. I have to create the scene for you to fully understand this. My brother and my sister in law are in my parents family room with their 2 kids. She said hey I rented A Goofy movie. I was like, cute. She then goes on to brag about how its the best animated movie, EVER. I rebuttal by saying “No I think Lion King out shined any animated movie in the 90”s (got theory on that movie which I will get into in another post). We went back and forth for about 20 minutes. But it got me thinking, what made the 60’s to the early 2000’s special when it came to cartoons? (I know it was turning out to be the best animated movie of the 90’s piece from my story but like I said I have a weird way of thinking) Well I will tell you because I do have a few reasons why…
Reason #5: The Variety
I remember my dad talking about Grape Ape, Felix the Cat, Super Chicken, Wacky Racers, Tom and Jerry, Superman, Astro Boy, 8th man, Johnny Quest and many more. DC, Hannah Barbara, and Looney tunes/Merrie Melodies gave us all this variety. As a kid he had so much to choose from.
My Uncle used to tell me about Gundam, the immortal Scooby Doo, Spiderman, Fat albert, and The Justice League (I saw so many reruns of these).
Then I personally remember, Whinne the Pooh, Care Bears, ThunderCats, Bionic 6, Silver Hawks, Dino Riders, GI Joe, Swat Kats, Gargoyles, Darkwing Duck, Chip and Dale, Aladin, Hercules, (The disney era cartoons), etc…
Ok I wrote that list to show you the 40-50 years of so much variety. I only skimmed the surface of all the shows that made up 2 to 3 generations. A lot of the shows I mentioned all have or had, spin offs, movies, and have been redone for future generations. We had so much to choose from and I came up in a time when cartoon network was not on tv, yet. I do remember when I first watched CN I was like “where was this when I was little”? But even before that we had options and the options were pretty good. If you didn’t like one show, wait 30 minutes or turn to another chanel. Like I said, options.
Reason #4: The limits
Today kids can access many channels or internet sites that only specialize in cartoons. Growing up we had only a certain time we could watch our shows. On weekdays I remember my shows starting at 2 and ending at 4. As I got older I was less concerned with the 2 o’clock slot (they were kid shows at that point) and I found other channels that had shows with more action (cause I was an over exuberant tween).
After 5 or 5:30, that was it, cartoons were off (minus one or 2 pink panther episodes or Looney Tunes). If you had cable you could ease over to disney and catch a little sitcom, watch a syndicated sitcom on one of the NY stations (Brady Bunch, Monkeys, Good Times, etc…), watch a talk show, or a Court show. I remember when 6 rolled around, especially in the winter, I felt the day was done, no point of staying up, do my homework, eat, and go to bed. See we had limitations. We could not binge watch a show for hours you had to wait for the next day or from Saturday to Saturday to find out what happened next.
I think this gave us a sense of control, patience, and reality. As kids we knew things ended. We had no choice but to accept that the fantasy was over, go back to reality, and we could get another chance to immerse ourselves in it again tomorrow or next saturday. Oh, and you better be patient about it (especially around my mom, LOL). She was watching her show until the credits stopped rolling and it gave me like 30 seconds to get to my show (this was only if she was home early). She was/is a cool mom because she showed me what channel to turn to (the TV had a dial) and reminded me what shows were on (but I better be patient 🙂 )
Reason #3: Learning a schedule
I am 11 years old. The year is 1993. I get home from school. Most of my friends won’t be out their house until 6. Time to plot out my afternoon. Do my homework while watching my shows.
Get home at 3:20 to catch the end of Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers or TaleSpin (Schedules changed a lot in 1 school year) If I saw a rerun go to Fox and catch the end of Alvin and the Chipmunks or whatever they decided to put on at the time.
3:30 – Darkwing duck or Eek the cat
4:00 to 5:00 – (Beginning of the magic hour) Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop, Power Rangers, Animaniacs, Batman: The animated Series, James Bond Jr., and Swat Kats
My schedule was set. I had options and my homework was getting done. When my mom got home it was either go outside or chill.
Oh totally forgot.So, in the morning I had a schedule too.Weekday mornings introduced me to Dragon Ball, anime, oh yes! I was like “Im getting up early to catch this everyday”. But they always changed the morning schedule so I found alternatives like The real adventures of Jonny Quest or Sailor Moon.
“J, how did this teach you about schedules”? Well, In middle school and highschool I realized how fast I memorized my schedules. Finding the actual class was another thing (lol). BUT, I learned how to categorize and became a timely person too. I can’t stand being late. If I can analyze myself for a minute, I think I subconsciously taught myself to be on time by making sure I was on time for my favorite show? Maybe? Did all the TV guide weekly pages I read to make my TV schedule help me to read my school schedules better? Probably.
Reason #2 The off Season
To read the last 3 reasons you would think I did nothing but watch TV, but, as a kid I couldn’t. I had mentioned before we had limits. Someone had to write the shows and draw them and that took time. There were some seasons when it felt like the Studios and companies were like, “OK, kids are on vacation or in sports, let’s work on a new season or take some time off ourselves”. I remember September was like a premiere week for new cartoons and new episodes of cartoons already airing. I can recall this one time, a week before school started, one station aired previews of their weekdays and Saturday blocks. It was like a 5 minute clip of each show. As a kid, I loved it.
The fall was our “new” season. Primeres of new shows, new school clothes, new school stuff, it was like September was an all around restart and refresher. By winter all the specials were on. The holiday season was upon us and every station and show capitalized on the season. By this point the “newness” of everything was wearing off and making way for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
New years to Valentine’s day was interesting. Some shows aired specials for these holidays and some aired reruns or repackaged old shows with the holiday themes on the shows banner or have voice overs of old episodes saying “We’ll be right back with the (insert show name) (insert holiday name) special after these messages”. By this time a lot of kids were participating in sports and most cartoons were showing reruns.
By the time you hit the spring time you got some new episodes and some spring premieres. Baseball season was about to start for me so I couldn’t watch a lot of shows around this time. Saturday, was my day to watch my saturday block while either having breakfast or cleaning. Then the summer came and… well… does anybody remember christmas in July. So for those who don’t know what that is, I will explain. A lot of cartoons at the time ran through most of their episodes by the beginning of spring. Tiny toons was on the air for 4 years (a guesstimation) and only had 98 episodes. So by july most cartoons had only the christmas episodes left. Somebody got the bright idea to call it “Christmas in July”. I remember Nick, Cartoon Network, Fox kids, and WB kids all jumping on the trend.
This brings us to August. Most families were on vacation, getting back from vacation, avoiding hurricanes. (Does anybody remember hurricane Andrew in 92, my God!) Then it all started back over again in september. A year in the life of cartoons.
Reason #1 The Lessons
We actually learned something. In hindsight there were 2 ways we learned lessons from Cartoons.
Overet lessons: The religious stations and PBS kids were geared toward teaching us lessons. The magic school bus was not a top pick when I was younger but I watched a few episodes and I enjoyed them. These overt lessons, like on the magic school bus, were all out in the open. I remember an episode when they went into a classmate’s body to learn how the body works. Aurthor and Clifford were shows to teach lessons on friendship, working together, and problem solving.
Subliminal lessons: Maybe it’s just me, but I will be somewhere and remember an old episode of Batman and relate it to a situation I’m in. Example: me and my brother were talking about the Matrix series. There was an episode of Batman where he was fighting The Mad Hatter. The next frame he was Bruce Wayne waking up to a “perfect life” of not being Batman. Bruce knew something was not right. So 15 minutes later into the show, he figures it out, he realizes he was hooked up to a machine that put him in a perfect dream world. He of course, wakes and gets the bad guy, Im Batman!, the episode ends.
So, me and my brother got into a discussion about, do humans have the capacity to live in a perfect world or will we never accept a “perfect life” because we feel life has to suck in some way?
Crazy right! All this from a cartoon and movie that came out in the 90’s. I still have conversations about other episodes, games, and movies from growing up. Like was Mega Man hunting “Mavericks” or Robots/Synthoids who just wanted freedom? Wouldn’t that make him the bad guy? Was Scar really wrong to try and include the Hyenas, yes his way of doing it sucked but was his idea that wrong? (omg man, If scar waited till the dry season… Like I said I will do another post just for this theory because I have questions) Did anybody really watch the rugrats, where were the parents? They went on adventures for hours. These are not new ideas, they have been popping up all over the internet, from people who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s like myself.
As the 2000’s hit and the popularity of Cartoon Network grew, networks felt the opposite. One by one stations lost kid shows and cartoons. At one time in TV history every major broadcasting channel had a cartoon show or animated movie special. I’m not saying Cartoon Network killed that, CN is the natural evolution in TV evolution. Disney and Nick were already on TV. Sifi catered to us nerds, Spike drew in the guys, HGTV was for the DIY (do it yourself) person in the home, History Channel, Discovery, etc… Eventually there was going to be an all Cartoon channel.
Unfortunately today I feel the options are limited, don’t get me wrong I actually enjoy some of the shows out today. I loved the new He-Man, Thundercats, and Voltorn remakes. The remakes actually made since this time. But today’s generation, to me, can’t see the fun or draw, of the stories or characters. They would rather watch videos of other people playing a game or a video of another person watching a show and watch them react to it. Third party watching, I don’t understand it. I’ll admit some are funny. BUT, I would like to be my own judge.
I can’t put my finger on it but somewhere in the 2000’s cartoons lost heart. I know there was a bill signed to regulate cartoons that didn’t have educational value (come on Bill Clinton, my family voted for you) and some will blame video games. Some will say the shift in societal norms like how the internet became normal in the home by the 2000’s. Others will blame Netflix and Amazon streaming. I have to admit, I binged watched Voltron on Netflix so hard. But years after all that, I didn’t have or see kids have the same wonder in a good cartoon show. Small gems popped up here and there (Adventure Time, Samurai Jack, Kids next door, Regular Show, Avataar: the last Air Bender, and a few more). Maybe it’s the lack of variety, or it’s more of a business now. Maybe it’s too much thought process and its harder to get shows green lighted, I don’t know. I do know our cartoons didn’t make sense, they were crude but man, we enjoyed them.
Here’s a list of my top 25 animated shows growing up
He- Man Silverhawks Transformers All Gundam Series All Dragon Ball (Z and Super) ThunderCats X-Men Gargoyles Rugrats Animaniacs
Bionic 6 Recess ExoSquad Invader Zim Jackie Chan Adventures
Adventure Time Kids next Door Generator Rex Samurai Jack
Voltron Regular Show Centurions Family Guy
Naruto Care Bears (don’t judge me)
Take a minute and remember what show you got lost in as a kid. Its ok to remember the good times form the old days.