Comic-Con@Home – Warner Archive’s  Secret Origin of Saturday Morning Cartoons – Notes!

The Transition of Cartoons Into Television:

Warner Brothers started out as shorts and moved into television shows. New York television had a lot of airtime to fill, so they used copious amounts of cartoons all through the day and week. Not just on Saturday mornings. Then the networks got involved, noticing a regular audience they could captivate, realizing that Saturday morning was a “sweet spot” for viewership. Cartoons played on TV were originally using what was playing in theatres at the time. The “Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner Hour” that played on air for years and years wasn’t anything new. It was all repurposed from what was played in Theatres. The broad appeal to these cartoons, right up to present day. Because of the board appeal, Warner Bros aims never to talk down to a “kiddie” audience. It was and remains general, playing other movies (Betty Davis, etc.) that adults can enjoy in addition to the cartoons.

The Ritual of Saturday Morning Television That Is Lost Today:

A universal experience that children had early Saturday mornings carved out for them. An appointment to all watch and enjoy their favourite cartoons that they would otherwise not see at any other time because of school, extracurriculars, homework, or something else. These shows would be advertised in comics and magazines and children would be able to plan out a schedule as if they were an adult in college. They would talk about it with their friends and it created a sense of community. This also wasn’t anything their parents were involved in, they had their own schedule, usually the children would be the only ones awake to watch these cartoons. It was a special time and place just for them. Also, for those with siblings, it would either be a moment of bonding or a time of great negotiations as they try to figure out what they’ll watch at what times. And if something (like a broadcast, etc.) had interrupted the cartoons, it was soul crushingly devastating for the children. But today, that is no longer a ritual since we have so many streaming sites with the ability to watch what we want at any time.

The Timeline of Going From Black and White Into Color:

Most cartoons were actually made in color as color television was already around. However, most people had black and white television. So companies thought ahead, making their cartoons and such on color, knowing that they will be widely viewed over time. So when it came time to rerun the Flintstones, it was easy to transition since the series was originally made in color anyway. Though cartoons made between the 50s and 60s (yes they were made in color), they were still designed to play for and on black and white televisions. The designs were made so that the colors would still read in black and white. For example, making blues and such that are different shades to fit gray tones. While avoiding dark blues, as any color that was too dark would appear black on a black and white TV. As for the cartoons that were made in black and white in the 30s, such as Betty Boop–the older cartoons did need to be colorized and were in the 1970s and 1980s later on.

Only 13-14% of people could have color TV back then, and you had to live in one of the few cities to do it since it was broadcast in black in white in most markets. 

The Network Wars:

Companies were fighting over the content (and arguably sometimes still are). Each were trying to bring cartoons over onto their stations or rapidly coming up with their own cartoons to keep up with the trends of the time. They realized they could partner with toy companies to capitalize on their young audiences. However later on this strategy did receive a lot of backlash, making their ploy unsuccessful. Sesame Street had set a standard by not licensing their characters for toys. So you would see them as toys, but it wouldn’t be the original characters, making them “pure” as they were only for television and not trying to sell any kind of product. Causing people to see the issues of cartoons/children’s television and toys working closely together to market to their young, impressionable audience.

What Is Warner Archive Doing Now?

They are currently working on restoring the original Space Ghost series into an HD collection. Later in 2020, the remastering of the Flintstones will be released.

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