Sunday, July 17, 2016

REMINISCING: Saturday Morning Cartoons

Who remembers Saturday morning cartoons? I just read that after 56 years, the practice will be ending on September 16, 2016. It used to be that cartoons ran every Saturday morning from 8am until noon. When I was old enough to run the TV on my own, watching these shows was a Saturday tradition. I must have stopped around age 14 or 15, since the teenage sleep schedule meant this time was firmly in the middle of the night.

Probably the earliest show that I can remember, as well as the one I remember the best, was the “Bugs Bunny & Road Runner Show.” It was through this vehicle that I learned to love some of the most interesting music a kid could listen to. How could you forget “What’s Opera, Doc?” I know of people who still sing along the “Kill the Wabbit.” “Looney Tunes” was where we learned Wagner, Strauss, Chopin, Rossini, Beethoven, and Liszt. It was the basis for loving music later on.

“Josie & the Pussycats” was on occasionally, but it was “Scooby-Doo” that won the battle between my sister and I. They sometimes had the best guest stars of all the shows. At least we recognized most of the guests in that show. Who knew that a foursome of hippie stoners with a talking dog could be so popular? I tried to introduce my kids to “Scooby-Doo” and they couldn’t stand it. I guess tastes change from generation to generation.

Sometimes while walking through the house, for no apparent reason, I will start to sing the “Smurfs” theme song. (I know there a bunch of you hearing this in your head now. Or singing it. You’re welcome.) “The Smurfs” was a huge hit show when I was a kid. There were coloring books and inaction figures. I used to draw them all the time. It was difficult to get their hats just right. After some time, I finally figured it out and drew them all over the place. That cartoon was pretty cool.

Easily the most wonderful cartoon of our childhood still echoes today. They were short, and kind of lame, but “Schoolhouse Rock” really rocked. How many of us know the words to “Conjunction Junction” or “I’m Just a Bill?” A rock band I follow occasionally throws in one or both of these tunes into their setlists. It is sometimes amazing that we can remember the words to these little ditties all these years later.

Eventually, as we got a little bit older, some of the programming changed a bit. There was a show, “Kids Incorporated,” that was popular in our house. Again with the music, this show made me want to learn how to sing. (Honestly, no one wants that). And dance. I actually took dance lessons. I was good at it, too, but that’s a story for another article. “Kids Incorporated” was where I fell in love with Jennifer Love Hewitt for the first time. She was billed simply as Jennifer Love and portrayed Robin for two seasons.

Saturday morning cartoons were a thrill that I kind of miss nowadays. A year or so ago, I turned on the TV one Saturday morning just to see what was on. I was gravely disappointed. The programming these days is far less innocent and family friendly than it was when I was a kid. It seems like the cartoons today are more like Jessica Rabbit and less like Smurfette.

Some of the toons that I catch the girls watching deal with vain, self-centered people who are more worried about getting material goods than maintaining good friendships. Along with the Disney article that I wrote a few weeks ago, the authority figures in these cartoons are over the top evil, wishy-washy, or plain idiots. Maybe that’s just the difference in my age and their age. However, the cartoons I was watching on Saturday mornings and enjoying were the same that my Mom was watching when she was a kid.

Bugs Bunny has been around since the 1940s. It’s not because the cartoons are great (they really are). It’s because the stories, the music, and the laugh all combine to make some of the greatest cartoons ever. Looney Tunes are iconic. If I could buy copies of those old shows, all of them, I would definitely show them to the kids. And if they didn’t like them, I would enjoy them all over again. But honestly, who wouldn’t love Bugs, Daffy, Sylvester, and Tweety? They are just that awesome.

Craig Bacon sings “Kill the Wabbit” whenever the personal jukebox in his head decides to play F-5. And if you don't like it, well, then just Smurf it.