A Bowlful of Nostalgia: the "Death" of Saturday Morning Cartoons

On October 11, 2014 I saw a couple of people on my social networking feeds lament the "fact" that it was the first time in decades that there were "no Saturday morning cartoons" on in America. What really happened was that the last over-the-air broadcast station with a multi-hour programming block primarily (but not exclusively: WWE was part of The CW's Vortexx) composed of cartoons abandoned the format. Big deal; Vortexx was mostly comprised of decade-old import toons of middling quality—Dragon Ball Z, Sonic X, single-season failures like EON Kid...

CW actually gave up on the format when it canceled KidsWB in 2008, driving Spectacular Spider-man to Disney XD. This was the network that was home to Pinky and the Brain, the entire DCAU after Batman: The Animated Series (which originally aired on FOX, but was reaired on WB Kids)—The Batman, New Superman Adventures, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Legion of Super Heroes, Teen TitansFreakazoid!, Xiaolin Showdown, ¡Mucha Lucha!... and those are only the shows that were owned by Warner Bros.!

"Saturday morning cartoons" died 5 years ago, in the face of growing competition from video on demand services like Netflix streaming and YouTube. Today's outpouring of sentiment is mostly nostalgia from people who don't actually care, but feel that the obsolescence of something they regularly partook of 15, 20, 30 years ago must mean something.

The Kingdom is Dead, but the King is Running for Office The funny thing is that we're awash in more animation that ever before, it's just not on television, and not necessarily attached to "shows" adhering to old TV formulas. There are YouTube channels that produce 5-minute videos riffing on pop culture, like How It Should Have Ended, or idiosyncratic ruminations like Simon's Cat.

The gates are being flung open, their keepers falling. Yes, that means we're in a bazaar now, rather than a meticulously regimented cathedral, but the variety of works that can come to the fore now is much greater, and there are new opportunities to create services around discovery, merchandising and audience engagement. This isn't an end, it's a transition.