The Real Reason Why Saturday Morning Cartoons Disappeared

Cartoons, and kiddie programs in general, were scant in the old-timey TV landscape. In the dark days of four channels, kids were lucky if they got even one show just for them. In the ’50s and ’60s, it was mostly stuff like Captain Kangaroo in the morning, The Mickey Mouse Club in the afternoon, and some locally produced show starring some guy dressed like a cowboy, clown, or pirate playing old cartoons. The rest of daytime TV was firmly occupied by what did well in the ratings, and what sponsors threw their money at: game shows and soap operas.

But as tastes changed in the ’80s and ’90s, the holes were filled in by very syndicated cartoons. While many were little more than half-hour commercials for toys, it’s undeniable that He-Man: Masters of the Universe, G.I. Joe, Thundercats, and the ilk were totally awesome. Usually produced by the same animation houses that made Saturday morning cartoons (by which we mean “cheaply”), Saturday morning-style cartoons suddenly became competition for homework, being available each and every weekday. This is to say nothing of the enduring popularity of Disney’s syndicated cartoon block, The Disney Afternoon, into the ’90s. Saturday morning was no longer the only game in town.

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