Saturday morning cartoons — like payphones, video rental stores, and TV guides — are one of those cultural touchstones that meant so much to older generations, but are as meaningless as a wireless telegraph to younger ones — gone within a lifetime.
The first cartoon to air on a Saturday morning was “Crusader Rabbit,” four-minute-long shorts that spoofed movie serials co-created by Jay Ward, who would become more famous for his later creation “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.” This short series, which debuted in 1950, was the first real attempt to create animation for television.
The reasons for the end of the traditional Saturday morning cartoon block are numerous, and they have their roots in parental advocacy groups, who were protesting the amount of time kids spent watching TV by the late ’60s. These groups were concerned about cartoon depictions of violence and stereotypes, as well as the commercialism that has always been a part of TV cartoons. Kids, it turns out, had a difficult time distinguishing the shows they were watching from the ads that ran during them.
*Or not. See Mike Tiefenbacher’s comment below.