Margo Burns, AB, MA, Project Manager and Associate Editor, Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt

Yogi, Bugs, and Bullwinkle: Saturday Morning Cartoons and Big Business in the 1960s

Many adults over forty think back fondly to the time they spent on Saturday mornings sitting in front of the tv with a bowl of Captain Crunch or Frosted Flakes, watching several hours of cartoons starring the likes of Yogi Bear, Bugs Bunny, and Rocky & Bullwinkle. The advent of television in the late 1950s had a major impact on the movie industry and especially on cartoons. From the 1920s on, animated shorts by Disney, the Fleischer Brothers, several major motion picture studios were paired with newsreels that screened before feature films for adult audiences. The advent of television in the 1950s changed all that.

By 1954, half the households in America had a tv, and 95% did by 1969. Live evening news flourished and the newsreels vanished. The storehouse of existing theatrical shorts—live action and animated—were repackaged for syndication to fill airtime on television. Animators retooled to respond to the growing demand for new cartoons and more quickly. New studios, led by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera of Tom & Jerry fame, produced adult-themed sitcoms such as The Flintstones for adult tv audiences in the evening. The industry shifted, however, as Madison Avenue leveraged the Saturday-morning time-slot to target children for their advertisements for sugary cereals and plastic toys. We will be watching clips from a wide array of classic favorites while getting a peek behind the TV screen.

Margo Burns, AB, MA, (margoburns@gmail.com), Project Manager and Associate Editor, Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt (Cambridge, 2009).

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