What does the end of Saturday morning cartoons really mean?
As a child, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up – and a career in advertising was nowhere on my radar. Despite that fact, I knew commercials…oh yes, I knew commercials. Every jingle, every slogan. I could recite them word-for-word – and this many years later, my memory of many of them is just as strong. Why can I still sing the song for cinnamon toasty Apple Jacks? Why do I know which tuna “any mermaid I happen to see” would recommend? Why do I still quote the line “pretty sneaky, sis” when someone outwits me at a board game? It’s all because of Saturday morning cartoons. And tomorrow will be the first day that this viewing experience is no longer available on non-cartoon-channel TV.
What does this mean for America? This is a reflection of the give-me-what-I-want-on-demand culture we have facilitated. In many ways, I suppose it’s great: we can find what we want when we want – and advertisers can target us when we are looking for their products or those of their competitors. But I’m also mourning the loss of a very sweet, simple time that my son and future generations will miss out on. There was something very special about that sacred time: we waited all week in communal anticipation of Saturday morning cartoondom, when we enjoyed everything from educational programs like Schoolhouse Rock to silly, non-lifelike episodes of all types of cartoons – one after another.
Sandwiched in between the marathon of animations were commercials – bites of my childhood that are just as precious as (and sometimes more memorable than) the cartoons themselves. Over and over again we would see the same spots, drilling them into our formative brains. From vignettes like Life Cereal’s “He likes it, hey Mikey!” to repetitive, not always clever, songs like “Lite Brite, making things with light,” those commercials became our childhood songtrack. (I just played a few seconds of the Lite Brite commercial and my business partner in the next office screamed out “Lite Brite.” Thanks for proving my point, Adam.)
Today we have much higher production capabilities; we know everything about consumers; we can target down to the most granular level. But will the next generation have the shared camaraderie that these commercials brought us in between episodes of Josie & the Pussycats and Jabberjaw?
RIP, Saturday morning cartoons – and the great advertising experience you cultivated. I’ll be forever grateful.