Saturday morning cartoons had been a staple for many people’s childhood. Their prominence from the 60s up until last year is something that many people growing up in America remember. And it’s easy to see why! It’s Saturday morning, you are one of the few people up in your household, there’s no school going on and your favorite cartoons are on. Just sit in front of the boob tube and boom, watch some awesome cartoons.
While doing research for this article (i.e., looking through Wikipedia), I read that Saturday morning cartoons began to decline in the 1990s and 2000s and finally ended in 2014. Could have fooled me! The cartoons I watched in the late 90s and early 2000s were great. True, this wasn’t the era of the late 80s and early 90s where you had classics like He-Man, Tiny Toons, Transformers, and so forth, but we had our fair share of cartoons that we can be proud to say we watched.
And these great Saturday morning cartoons were not limited to just one channel. They were spread out through the local channels and reaching those who did not have cable. Now, cable channels are credited for the disappearance of Saturday morning cartoons but the ironic part is that I never really watched cartoons on either Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network. Nickelodeon had cartoons on weekday nights while Cartoon Network went all in on Friday nights. They were relatively tame on Saturday mornings.
As such, I turned to channels that I would otherwise not visit. ABC, The WB, and Fox. These three channels battled to be the Saturday Morning Cartoon Supreme Leader Channel. They had a unique line up of cartoons that were enjoyable to watch. Whether it be old reruns or new cartoons, they had the ammo to satisfy your cartoony desires.
But who was the best one?? Who was the Saturday Morning Cartoon Supreme Leader Channel???? Let’s take a look!
Now before I go on, I have to say that I’m only looking at cartoons that I watched during that period. As such, this list is going to be very subjective. You have been warned…
First up, let’s go ABC with their One Saturday Morning Block! Ah yes, this block had the best opening (see below video). That intro just made you get SO PUMPED UP. I’M SUPER EXCITED. I loved the hell out of that song and its animation. One day, I got the bright idea to record the Saturday morning block and save it for a day when my parents wouldn’t intervene. Sure enough, they invited some friends over one night for bridge and that’s when I whipped it out and played it. Anyway, I would crank up the volume and listen to that song again and again and again (which probably irked my parents but whatever). Hell, you still can’t help but jam to the music. Even the snapshot above brings back nostalgia for me with its colorfully bouncy imagery.
So what do we have for our line up? Well, the cartoons that I watched were Pepper Ann, Recess, and Disney’s Doug. Other cartoons on the same channel that I watch if nothing else was on were Teacher’s Pet, Buzz Lightyear, and the Weekenders. Okay, so want to hear something ironic? I believe I read this on the Wikipedia page but many of the cartoons I just listed mainly take place in a school environment. This is funny because the intro song (the one I just talked about) boasted how One Saturday Morning was “five hours of summer” and this is pretty funny considering we’re watching cartoons that take place in school…
Irony beside the point, Pepper Ann, Recess, and Disney’s Doug were considered pretty good in my book. Even though these cartoons took place at school, the characters, humor, and animation made them unique enough that you didn’t really notice it. Plus, they still had fun adventures (especially, ESPECIALLY Recess) even if they were at school. They also kind of took on heavy issues, especially for Disney programs, ever noticed that?? Disney’s Doug had an episode of anorexia once and Pepper Ann had one on training bras. I don’t recall Recess having a heavy episode though it did have those typical children moral tropes that you see. Anyway, if you didn’t notice by now, Recess was my favorite so I’m calling that one as the best cartoon on ABC.
Next we have Fox which had Fox Kids. Okay, so truth be told, Fox Kids was kind of weak in cartoons early on and didn’t really have anything good until we got to the tail end of the 90s. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was the only major thing it had going for a while…
…then came Fall 1999.
With it came two cartoons that I watched which were Monster Rancher but more importantly Digimon. Digimon was what roped me into Fox Kids. I didn’t discover Digimon, and by proxy Fox Kids, until Christmas 1999 when I was waiting for my family to unwrap presents. As I waited patiently in the basement, I turned on the TV and discovered Digimon. The episode that was on was the one where the kids were fighting Andromon. That episode had me hooked and I watched every episode I could find from there on.
Power Rangers: Time Force later joined Fox Kids and it remains one of the few Power Rangers (much less live action) shows I watched. I don’t know why I watched that one but I guess this show evolved from a “I guess I’ll watch it” to a “hey this isn’t too bad.” Monster Rancher was nice but God help me if you ask me what it was about cause I don’t remember a damn thing (something with a boy and a wolf, a stone golem, and Mike from Monsters Inc??). Rusty and Big Guy was also an interesting cartoon if I remember correctly, I should check it out again to see if it still holds up. Beast Wars was also good but, surprisingly, I didn’t watch much of that show. A lot of shows, in general, didn’t last very long, sometimes just a season, if that, mainly because they were just not that good or interesting. Remember Angela Anaconda? That was a weird show…
Fox Kids was pretty nice and you have to love those promo commercials. Those commercials were so cheesily edited that you just have to adore it. You also have to give a nod to those commercial break jokes/facts. One fact started with “what food would never spoil?” after a few commercials the break would end and it answered “sugar never spoils unless you have water on it.” And of course after I heard that I put water in my family’s sugar container to see what would happen…my parents weren’t probably thrilled with that…
Ending this trio channel battle we have The WB via Kids WB. When you think of your typical Saturday morning cartoon lineup, Kids WB probably matches it the best. You have superhero cartoons, Looney Toons-esque cartoons, celebrity cartoons, and anime. These programs were also not subpar and had a nice level of quality to them (well…at least most of them did…).
Okay, so you have Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain going off of the Looney Toons-styled cartoons. You also have the New Adventures of Batman and Superman which was later followed by X-Men: Evolution, Static Shock, Batman Beyond, and the Xeta Project. Of course, you also had Pokemon and Yugioh (which the latter came on as my interest in Saturday morning cartoons began to wane). Perhaps the oddball of the bunch was Jackie Chan Adventures whose basis sounds so…weird…that you would think it was destined to fail but it defied our expectations and was actually good!
The Batman and Superman cartoons were so awesome. I was actually more of a Superman fan when I was a kid so I liked watching his show more than Batman’s. I remember Kids WB had a contest where you had to write in a letter saying which superhero “kicked more booty” and I recalled that my brother and I said Superman while my sister said Batman (fyi, I now think it’s Batman). The string of superhero cartoons that followed were good but I liked the Batman and Superman cartoons better.
Pokemon was a definite show to watch but since Pokemon was shown on morning and afternoon weekdays, the pull for it wasn’t as strong as it could have been. However, they would premiere special episodes (e.g., Indigo League Championship) only on Saturdays and that was a very good reason to watch them. Yugioh’s more mature (I guess that’s the right word for it) anime appealed to my preteen persona so I would stick around to watch that show before I finally stopped watching cartoons.
I already wrote an article on Jackie Chan Adventures but I should at least give it a mention. This show should have, by all rights, failed and I’m glad it didn’t. The premise of the show sounds almost like a direct parody of other celebrity cartoons similar to Mike Tyson Mysteries. But the show was great as it established a mystical world setting, humorous characters, and Jackie Chan-styled fights. After the Batman and Superman show ended, I would go to Kids WB mainly for this show. That’s how appealing it was.
Alright, so, in the end, which channel can claim to be the Saturday Morning Cartoon Supreme Leader Channel??? After carefully reviewing the three channels I’m giving it to Kids WB! Unlike FoxKids, which mainly had Digimon, and One Saturday Morning, which had a rather narrow focus of show settings, Kids WB had a diverse selection of shows that appealed to a wide range of audiences. These shows were great and the channel offered a variety of characters, settings, and animation styles that really made it hard to best. And, let’s be honest here, Kids WB arsenal was Batman, Superman, Animaniacs, and Pokémon. That’s entertainment gold.
So, what do you guys think? I know I didn’t hit all of the cartoons for each block but there’s just way too many to list! Which channel did you watch the most of while growing up and what were your favorite Saturday Morning cartoons? I would love to hear your opinions!