Great Moments in Saturday Morning Cartoons # 4

Hanna Barbera, more than any other cartoon company, are responsible for Saturday morning cartoons. Why, do you ask? What about Disney and Warner Bros? Well, Saturday morning cartoons are cartoons for TV, not the cinema. Warner Bros and Disney made cartoons for the cinemas, and cinema cartoons, either being full length features or shorts that appear in sets alongside newsreels and serials were top notch quality stuff and expensive to make. By the time TV came established in the US, animation was something made exclusively for kids, and kids weren’t a very profitable market for TV until the 80s. Sure, now we worry about the ads kids watch during their cartoons, but people didn’t realise the power of the nag factor until the 80s. Before that, the prevailing notion was that animation was expensive, and for an audience that wasnt going to watch the ads.

Along comes William Hanna and Joseph Barbera who made Tom & Jerry for MGM until 1957, and then turned their minds to making cartoons for TV by making them cheaply. How did they do it? By making them shit. Crap jokes and plots, rehashed premises from movies and tv shows of the times (the Flintstone was just the Honeymooners in cavemen outfits) and shite shite animation.

It was a successful formula that held for most of the 60s. By the end of the 60s though, Hanna Barbera stretched their creative muscles and came up with a few ideas that were novel and worth watching, leading to a golden age of the 70s, with Scooby Doo, Johnny Quest, and a whole bunch of superhero cartoons that showed others that there was money to be made in Saturday Morning Cartoons. The unsavoury taste of cheap animation remained though until Batman came along in the early 90s and showed that a good saturday morning cartoon could be even more profitable than a crap one.


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