Author: Anthony Mathers

The End of Saturday Morning Cartoons

While you weren’t looking, Saturday morning cartoons officially died. A cultural phenomena lasting nearly 60 years, gone. I’m sure none of you continued to wake up on Saturdays to watch, giant bowl of cereal in hand. At best, you turned it on for background noise. As you grow up, leaving something behind doesn’t change your feelings for that thing, or lessen the time you spent enjoying it. But there was a bit of comfort knowing it was always there, ready to welcome you home if the mood ever struck or to share with your kids. Now, it’s a permanent relic of the past. Saturday morning cartoons started earnestly enough, with classic shows like Mighty Mouse, Tom & Jerry, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Looney Toons, Yogi Bear, and more. While these shows are still remembered fondly, there were plenty of off beat ones like Partridge Family 2200 A.D and Gilligan’s Planet to round out the schedule. Other shows like Super Friends, Space Ghost, and Birdman (all of which were eventually spoofed on Adult Swim) brought superheroes to the forefront. While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when Saturday mornings became a haven for cartoons, those early Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. shows were surely part of a Golden Age. The 1980s brought the Silver Age of cartoons, an age that centered on marketing toys to children. The first two shows to truly capitalize on the trend were He-Man and the Masters...

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Saturday Morning Cartoons: The Tick

Super hero parody has become so popular and dense that it’s practically its own genre. While comics, movies and television are rife with them, one stands out above the rest, The Tick. Originally a comic character from the 80s, the Tick eventually found his way to Saturday mornings on Fox, becoming one of the most popular shows for both kids and adults. Spoon! The Tick is a giant, nigh invincible man in a blue suit who spends his day protecting The City, along with his sidekick, Arthur. The two cross paths with some of the zaniest supervillians like Chairface Chippendale or The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight while working with some of the best the heroes The City is home too. American Maid, Die Fledermaus, and Sea Urchin are only a few of the myriad of heroes. If there’s any cartoon that holds up today, it’s The Tick. The constant wit on display was amazing. Jokes ranged in all manner of size, such as Chairface Chippendale’s attempt to carve his name on the moon with a laser, managing ‘CHA’ before being thwarted. That ‘CHA’ was present for the rest of the series. Or the nightclub for superheroes that doesn’t allow sidekicks in, offering a pathetic lounge for them akin to a doctor’s office waiting room. Part of what made the show appealing to adults, like in all animation, were the...

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Saturday Morning Cartoons: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)

Years after the Turtle crazy died with the original 1987 series, 4Kids and Mirage rebooted the series in 2003. With a mature art style and direction that followed the comics more closely, the results were ultimately mixed. Despite lasting seven years, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 has become a weird bastard child stuck between the original and 2012 Nickelodeon reboot that’s rarely mentioned, if remembered. Immediately noticeable is the art style. These Turtles are meant to be ninja warriors, and look the part with their taller, leaner, muscular ascetics. Along with their appearance is the humor, or lack there of. While there’s an occasional joke, this is a more straight forward show. The Turtles embody the same characterization they always have since their creation; Leonardo is the leader, working too hard to improve, Donatello is focused on his inventions, etc. The biggest question with each iteration is, which version of Splinter is this? The Hamato Yoshi turned rat a la the original series or the pet turned martial art expert a la the first movie? Sadly it’s the latter. While it’s my least favorite version, as it makes little sense (I know, I know, shutup), it’s a minor squabble. While mainstays like April, Casey, and Leatherhead make appearances, other offbeat or rarely animated characters are always used; Professor Honeycut/Fugitoid, Miyamoto Usagi (Usagi Yojimbo), Hun, Karai, Renet, and the Triceratons are all present. While...

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Saturday Morning Cartoons: The Batman

The legacy of Batman: The Animated Series was still continuing with Justice League Unlimited in 2004. Despite this, a new Batman show was launched, albeit with a different take, The Batman. With the Bruce Timm produced universe of cartoons (the Timm-verse) having a decade of solid story telling under its belt, The Batman was an oddity, existing separately from the established canon. That alone created a huge hurdle for the show. The Batman had a lot to prove. Immediately noticeable is the art style. Jeff Matsuda, art designer on the Jackie Chan Adventures, created the look here. The character design is sharper, with even rounded edges like Batman’s cowl appearing piercing. Character design is extreme, ranging from impossibly tiny to over exasperatingly large. Nearly every character, particularly the rogues, had a cartoonish look that while cementing the style for the series, could easily turn off many. Given the success of the ‘realistic’ Batman in TAS, it was a smart move to differential the two. Further differentiating it from what came before is the story telling. Unlike previous series, each season of The Batman had somewhat of an arc, building to a climax while mixing in villains of the week. The fourth season introduced an alien invasion while the fifth had Batman teaming up with various members of the Justice League, culminating with the entire League making an appearance. Along with...

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Saturday Morning Cartoons: Pokemon

Pokémon. The property is a dynasty. While I was entirely too old when the show started airing, I still caught a few of the earlier episodes thanks to my younger siblings. Being a Nintendo product (yes I know it’s technically its own thing), sequels will endless run license into the ground, maybe. There’ll always be more kids, right? Case in point, the anime/Saturday morning cartoon, it’s still on the air. For over 15 years they’ve been creating new episodes. Pokémon will never die.  Pokémon, starting in 1998 (1997 in Japan), tells the story of Ash Ketchum, a 10 year-old boy who is able to whatever the hell he wants because his mother is apathetic. He sets off to travel the world with two goals, ensalving catching all the Pokémon and be crowned grand tournament world regional captain winner. As over 860 episodes, 17 movies, and something like 30 specials have shown, Ash sucks. But more on that in a minute. First the numbers The stats above are correct, there’s been over 860 episodes of Pokémon (at the time of this writing). Before you check, no, it’s not the longest running anime. That honor belongs to Sazae-san, with more than 7000 episodes (not a typo). Technically, Pokémon isn’t one continuous series. As more games released, series ended, returning with new subtitles, continuing the adventure. There’s the original, Advanced Generation, Diamond & Pearl, Best Wishes!, and...

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