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When ABC believed in Cartoons

Here’s a unique vintage promo for ABC’s Saturday morning programming that was aimed at adults. Shown in prime time during summer 1973, actor Michael Constantine (then of Room 222) extols the virtues of Yogi Bear – whom he says will now face off against such “real life” villians such as “Mr. Bigot” and “Mr. Smog” – and other pro-social animated series like Scholastic Rock (The less said about Goober and The Ghost Chasers the better). “Let’s face it – kids love to watch cartoons.”

(Thanks, Mike Kazaleh)

  • Steven M.

    Who’d a thought, a promo from the 70s saying some very truthful words.

  • David Breneman

    Preachy, preachy, preachy. Yogi battles Mr. Smog? Gack!

    • Greg Ehrbar

      It was cool, thought, that Rose Marie was the voice of Lotta Litter.

  • Wow, that’s quite an image… Yogi hanging from the sky, effortlessly swatting a homeless man into a trash can with a broom.

    • Funkybat

      It’s a funny image, but interesting (in a bizarre way) in that it seems to equate a homeless person with the trash they are implied to have generated.

      I don’t remember any of these characters, what iteration of “Yogi Bear” was this? I like the character designs. But then, almost any H-B designs from the late 60s through the late 70s float my boat….

  • Ted

    I’m going to point out that when ABC believed in selling their cartoons to adults, they made lousy cartoons with Yogi The Bear fighting Mr. Bigot in order to sell it to those adults.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Not to mention the “Saturday Superstar Movie”, though some still have fond memories of that.

  • uncle wayne

    God forbid Bugs Bunny on (network) tv. And for decades! What a damn pity!!

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I’m just glad Bugs was still part of my network TV childhood!

  • DonaldC

    I wonder at what point cartoons where considered to be specifically for children.

  • While Yogi Bear and friends were out fighting Mr. Smog and Mr. Bigot, Mission: Magic! was teaching children about Rick Springfield and occultism. On Super Friends, kids learned how bad you could make a Superman cartoon. Let’s also not forget H.R. Pufnstuf‘s cautionary tales on the matter of drug abuse. Educational! Ha ha ha.

  • The idea that cartoons = kids is post WWII. Just when the idea became locked-in isn’t clear to me. During the same period we had the great comics scare that gutted the comic book industry.

    • It’s really earlier than that.

      There was a 1930’s article posted here where Leon Schlesinger explained how cartoons had to meet higher censorship standards because they knew their audience was primarily children. Obviously an established concept already.

      Certainly all the Disney toy merchandising helped encourage cartoons=kids. And Felix the Cat toys before that?

      I think the idea that cartoons were some sort of focus of serious adult interest is a modern revision by academics.

      • Good call, robcat. Cartoons didn’t change direction per se; the standards in which we judge what’s “children” and “adult” has changed. Back in the 40s and 50s, it was okay for children to watch aggressively physical violence. Now, not so much.

        Been working on an essay to try and explain this for a while now.

      • David Breneman

        As early as the mid-30s, Walt Disney was complaining that Mickey Mouse couldn’t be too “naughty” in his cartoons, or the studio would receive letters of complaint from parents that he wasn’t a good role model for kids. Disney lamented the fact that Mickey’s success was making him blander. But it’s not because cartoons were aimed at kids, it’s because kids were part of the audience. I think the notion that “cartoons == kiddyshow” came in the early 1950s when studios started pulling their cartoons out of the vaults (along with old serials and Three Stooges shorts) to sell to TV stations to fill their afternoon schedules – the time of day when kids were most likely to watch,

      • Funkybat

        I would agree with David’s comment. While cartoons were always for a “family audience” (meaning everyone from 3 to 103) during the theatrical days, it is when those old shorts got commodified into early morning & weekend “filler” that the stigma that they were “just for kids” caught on, in the U.S. at least. I think the era of adults having to act as though they were :too grown up” for animation was probably limited to the mid-sixties to the early 90s. People haven’t looked at you funny for saying you liked animation as a grown-up for at least ten years.

        Sadly, while it’s great that watching cartoons isn’t as stigmatized anymore, around the same time this stigma declined, so did the long-time tradition of “saturday morning cartoons.” I would say that anyone born after 1992 or so probably can’t relate to what saturday morning meant to boomers or Gen-Xers.

  • Katella Gate

    This is the moment when Saturday Morning died. This is the spot where mirth was savagely chewed to death by moralistic monologue. In place of cartoon friends, we got a public enemies list. Saturday was already pablum, but now it got preachy and manipulative as well.

    This was the year I stopped watching cartoons. I got preached at all day long in school by teachers I despised. Now they’d followed me home and kept yammering at me through the TV. I just shut it off, and walked away.

    • That was true for me, too. And way to rock the ethnic stereotypes for the villains! (but great designs)

      I remember as well that every cartoon cast was forming a “singing group,” as well (that was more fun). Still, “live action” TV back then was great. Hooray for Michael Constantine and Room 222!

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Course you ended up with the same basic Scooby-Doo template for many of these.

      • The “singing-rock/mystery-solving group” nature of cartoons was a combination of the popular Scooby-Doo cartoons and the musical flavors of shows like the Brady Bunch and the Osmonds (which were actually more kid-focused then we tend to think. AVClub did a very good write-up about it.)

      • Greg Ehrbar

        They would have gotten away with it, too — if it weren’t for _____ ________ _____!

    • That Chick

      Wow, if it makes feel better I thought cartoon on television improved in the 80s and reached a peak in the 90s.

      Watching cartoons in the 90s was awesome, I’m sorry you had to be a kid during the 70s. *sniff*

  • Face it, everybody. Animated cartoons are destroying Western Civilization as we know it.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Reminds me of one video I watched recently where someone mentioned how many of these 70’s cartoons were doing just that, and how many kids ended up emigrating to such Japanese classics like “Star Blazers” for their afternoon fun!

  • You need Bob Loblaw!

  • Yogi’s Gang? Euuugh! One of the worst cartoons ever made.

    The only thing you could learn from that show was how to make a cartoon as bland and preachy as possible. A lesson they were teaching all over again 23 years later when the FCC took charge.

    • Cyber Fox

      Yogi’s Gang is kinda bad
      but you have to admit the cartoon is more enjoyable than Captain Planet!

    • Inkan1969

      I think there’s a truism to literature about heroes/superheroes: You’re only as good as your rogues gallery. As a little kid I liked “Yogi’s Gang” a lot mainly because the show had every HB character at the time. But even then I picked up on how lame the show’s villains were. All of them one-note theme villains built around a life lesson. My one question was, “why?” Hardly any of them had a believable motive for doing what they did. They seemed to be villains just because.

  • Vincent

    No No it’s okay. I can pull the trigger with my big toe. Just off the light, and close the door.

  • Anthrocoon

    I remember when you had people like Peggy Charren of Action for Children’s Television crusading to make kids’ TV
    educational, not junk food for the mind. There were books with names like “The Plug In Drug”…

    Later, of course, you had the novelty of seeing a concerned mother doing the same thing–the novelty being that she was a cartoon character herself. A Mrs. Marge Simpson of Springfield got the TV networks to tone down shows like Itchy and Scratchy: “They love/ And share/ And love and love and share…”

    • Chris Sobieniak

      And yet Marge saw no problem in exposing children to the truth in art! I often saw a lot of that in my own mother too. It’s like the familiar statement “Make Love, Not War”, if one was to find a phrase to coin here.

  • dbenson

    Somewhere along the line they decided kids couldn’t handle slapstick comedy, but COULD intelligently process half-hour toy informercials.

  • Peter

    He called him Yogi The Bear.

    • Frank Ziegler

      Where’s Boo Boo The Bear?

      • Chris Sobieniak

        How about Ranger The Smith? :-)

      • Greg Ehrbar

        In the movie “Paper Moon,” Madeline Kahn’s character referred to “Mickey the Mouse.”

  • Even though John K seems to have permanently retracted into blogland these days, his (and Bakshi’s) late 80s/early 90s work deserves the lion’s share of the credit for getting kids’ entertainment back on the proper mind-rotting track. Stimpy never fought polooshin.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      That’s probably the one saving grace of my childhood was to see what they did and be disgusted by it, not in a bad way, but disgusted in a positive sense this was not the same thing I was seeing year after year!

  • So were Yogi’s rouges’ gallery of baddies happen to be Iawo Takamoto designs?

  • Gray64

    Naming the tag for this article “When ABC Believed in Cartoons” seems to be a bit sensationalistic. The only reason the Big 3 networks stopped showing a primarily cartoon line-up on Saturday mornings is because of the 24-hour cartoon cable channels. Why wait until Saturday when you can watch cartoons pretty much any time on Cartoon Network, Toonami, Nicktoons, of Toon Disney? As to those who complain about the lack of Warner Bros. cartoons on TV, I’d chalk that up to Warner’s wanting to sell DVDs. I personally think WB is cutting their own throat by NOT putting Bugs on the air; they’re just going to create a generation of kids who don’t know who Bugs is.
    And to those of you with snarky comments about ’70’s cartoons, even the “half-hour toy commercials,” I’m forced to remind you that, while many of them may be crap, they’re a LOT of people’s much beloved crap.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I still remember the days of PATIENCE in this country.

    • To be fair, networks weren’t really that adamant about showing Saturday morning cartoons in the first place. An article over on Aniboom really gets into it:

      It was a timeslot that had nothing else going for it, so they aired a lot of crap for ad time for cereals and toys, for the most part. Cartoon Network effectively killed it, but networks were eager to let that ship sink in the first place.

  • Gtray64

    I recall reading once that someone asked Joe Barbera why he greenlit so much low-quality stuff. With great good humor, Barbera admitted that a LOT of what Hanna-Barbera produced was crap, but that, having lived through the depression, he wanted to keep his people working. Given that HB was one of the few games in town as far as domestic animation was concerned, he knew he was able to produce just about everything that came across his desk and find a home for it somewhere on Saturday morning, even if only for a season. And so we have Sea Lab, Jabberjaw, Devlin, and many many more.

  • Torsten Adair

    ACT and Congress killed Saturday Morning in the early 1990s.

    I do recall the Friday night specials which aired right before the start of the new season, which introduced the new lineup. Scott Baio battling Boss Hogg. Alf solving a mystery. Avery Schreiber meeting Bugs Bunny and Superman in the flesh.