It's Saturday Morning!: Celebrating the Golden Era of Cartoons 1960s - 1990s

It's Saturday Morning!: Celebrating the Golden Era of Cartoons 1960s - 1990s

by Joe Garner, Michael Ashley


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With concept art, archival images, all-new interviews, and a foreword by Bobby’s World creator and funnyman Howie Mandel, It's Saturday Morning! celebrates the shows, characters, songs, and commercials that made Saturday mornings a pop culture event—decade by decade.

Broadcasting into family living rooms from the 1960s to the 1990s, this wildly creative art form wrought a beloved rite of passage. From the hours of 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., parents could sleep in while their children plopped on the couch to consume cartoons galore. From The Bugs Bunny Show, The Jetsons, and Jonny Quest to The Smurfs, He-Man, and Animaniacs, this window of time promised pure entertainment and an experience that united generations.

Organized by decade,find profiles of the most beloved Saturday morning cartoons:
  • 1960s: The Flintstones, Bugs Bunny, Space Ghost, and more!
  • 1970s: The Pink Panther, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, Fat Albert, and more!
  • 1980s: The Smurfs, The Adventures of the Gummi Bears, The Transformers, and more!
  • 1990s: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and more!

Each show profile is accompanied by easy-reference stats (years on air, network, number of episodes, and characters and voice actors), promotional and concept images of the cartoons, and candid photos of its creators and actors. The commentary explores the cultural setting that influenced its creation and behind-the-scenes insights from the show’s producers and artists.

This entertaining walk down memory lane is made complete by a review of some of the iconic products advertised between these favorite cartoons. “After These Messages…” segments provide fascinating facts about the merchandise that appeared in Saturday morning commercials, such as the Slinky, Lite-Brite, Cabbage Patch Kids, and Golden Crisp cereal.

This exquisitely produced guide to the golden era of cartoons is perfect for artists and illustrators, pop culture fanatics, or anyone who loves a heaping portion of nostalgia.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780760362945
Publisher: becker&mayer! Books
Publication date: 10/23/2018
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 779,129
Product dimensions: 10.00(w) x 11.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Joe Garner is a six-time New York Times best-selling author and one of the premiere chroniclers of America's popular culture. His book, We Interrupt This Broadcast, not only hit the New York Times bestseller list, it was a Wall Street JournalUSA Today, and Publisher's Weekly bestseller. Among his other bestsellers are Now Showing: Unforgettable Moments from the Movies and his comedy history, Made You Laugh: The Funniest Moments in Radio, Television, Stand-Up and Movie Comedy. He documented the greatest moments in NFL history in 100 Yards of Glory, his fourth collaboration with famed sportscaster Bob Costas. Jeff Gordon: His Dream, Drive & Destiny, the first-ever authorized biography of the racing legend, was Garner's sixth New York Times bestseller.

Michael Ashley is a screenwriter and ghostwriter whose creative talents were behind the Disney TV film Girl Versus Monster and the books The Six-Figure Writer (2015) and Fiction in a Weekend (2017). He has ghostwritten both fiction and nonfiction books and established his own creative content company, Ink Wordsmiths. A former consultant for Disney, Michael worked as a reader for Creative Artists Agency's Literary Department. He began his writing career as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian and has served as a columnist for publications, including Newsbase. Michael lives in Los Angeles.

Read an Excerpt



Some of the best known and beloved Saturday morning cartoons, such as The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and The Bugs Bunny Show, emerged in the flower power decade of unprecedented change. Featuring clever writing and pioneering animation techniques, these soon-to-be-classics would set the stage for future animated series to come.

The Bugs Bunny Show

When it comes to Saturday mornings, no character — not even Mickey Mouse — can rival the success of the white-gloved, wisecracking rabbit Bugs Bunny. The carrot-munching cottontail with the mash-up Brooklyn-Bronx dialect ushered in and then dominated the golden era of Saturday morning cartoons. But the "wascally wabbit" made his showbiz debut long before the invention of television as a goofy antagonist for Porky Pig in the 1938 Warner Bros. animated short, Porky's Hare Hunt. Although he was an unnamed character in the piece, the film proved pivotal to his cinematic development.

Joseph Benson 'Bugsy' Hardaway served as the storyboard artist and codirector for Porky's Hare Hunt. A fellow employee labeled his early sketch of the rabbit "Bugs's Bunny" and the name stuck. Between 1945 and 1964, nearly every animation director at the Warner Bros. cartoon studio worked with Bugs, most famously Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, and Robert McKimson. "They were divided among us because we made about twelve a year," says Freleng. "I did four or five, Chuck did five, Bob did three. Because, if one person did all of Bugs Bunny, we wouldn't have time to do anything else. So I would do five Bugs Bunnys and maybe four Tweetys or some Daffy Ducks, and a couple of other characters. Altogether, we were doing thirty cartoons a year."

Each of these various directors contributed to Bugs's evolving look and personality. As Freleng explains: "So, they were all Bugs Bunny. [But] I can tell the difference between mine and the other animators. It's like looking at someone's handwriting and yours. You can tell the difference." To this end, Jones gave Bugs triangular eyes, flexible eyebrows, and developed Bugs's suave, intellectual attitude. "Chuck was very sophisticated in his approach to Bugs," Freleng recalls. "Chuck was a reader, and it crept into his cartoons. He was using clever dialogue for gags. And I think that some of his lines were a little above the head of the audience, especially a kid audience." It was also in Jones's 1941 animated short, Elmer's Pet Rabbit, that the character was first called "Bugs Bunny" on-screen.

Freleng's version of Bugs took Bugs's intelligence even farther, emphasizing the character's cunning personality. Freleng's Bugs is the one who destroys dippy Elmer Fudd's robot, helps police apprehend gangsters Rocky and Mugsy, and wages a running battle through history against Yosemite Sam. "I used the action, or the personality of the character, but I didn't let him talk too much," explains Freleng. "The more human Bugs Bunny acts, the funnier it is. Because Bugs is really not a rabbit. He is an abstraction. He has long ears and a tail, and we're establishing him as a rabbit, but he's like a human." Meanwhile, McKimson's Bugs appears as the bowlegged, physically aggressive bunny who violently square-dances with two hillbillies bent on humiliating him for thwarting their hunting trips in Hillbilly Hare. Using what would become characteristic Merrie Melodies slapstick, Bugs pulls their ears and pokes their eyes before leading them off a cliff.

While these directors honed Bugs's look and attitude, radio comedian Mel Blanc supplied his trademark voice. It was clear to Blanc the impudent rabbit needed an equally tough accent: either Brooklyn or the Bronx. Blanc chose a combination of both. Nuances in his voice-over work were further influenced by the 1934 film, It Happened One Night. Freleng particularly liked the scene in which Clark Gable chomps a carrot while talking with Claudette Colbert. Blanc mimicked this by eating carrots while performing, munching and spitting them out as he recited lines. And his talent went far beyond eating while talking. He went on to voice most of the supporting cast, earning him the title of "Man of a Thousand Voices." In a 1981 interview with David Letterman, Blanc acknowledged his versatility, explaining that "they show me a picture of the character, and then they show me a storyboard, of pairings, including Road Runner, Sylvester and Tweety, and other Looney Tunes characters. In 2000, Warner Bros. offered the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies film library to Cartoon Network, a corporate cousin owned by Time Warner. As a result, The Bugs Bunny Show ended its run of four decades — one of the longest in the history of network television.

Bugs Bunny remains one of the most beloved cartoon characters of all time and has been featured on nearly every conceivable type of merchandising, from Pez dispensers to snow globes. Besides serving as the mascot for Warner Bros., he helped recruit American troops to fight in World War II via cartoons showing him squaring off against tyrants Adolf Hitler, Francisco Franco, and Benito Mussolini. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Bugs holds the record for appearing in more films (short and feature length) than any other animated character. In 2002, TV Guide named him the number one greatest cartoon character of all time.

To what does Freleng attribute the longevity of Bugs and his animated cohorts? "Because we made them personalities. They weren't just drawings moving around. We created our own characters, and we created a strong personality for each of them. Bugs Bunny had his own unique personality." Writing in the first person as Bugs, Looney Tunes writer Bob Clampett expounds on Bugs's one-of-a-kind personality: "Some people call me cocky and brash, but actually I am just self-assured. I'm nonchalant, imperturbable, contemplative. ... When momentarily I appear to be cornered or in dire danger and I scream, don't be consoined — it's actually a big put-on. Let's face it, Doc. I've read the script and I already know how it turns out."

The Flintstones

Flintstones. Meet the Flintstones. They're the modern Stone Age family. From the town of Bedrock, they're a page right out of history.

TV Guide ranks The Flintstones as the second greatest TV cartoon of all time, right behind The Simpsons. This "modern Stone Age family" from Bedrock was prime time's first animated series, debuting thirty years before the wacky working-class clan from Springfield. But before the prehistoric sitcom premiered, the notion of adults sitting in front of their sets to watch cartoons seemed improbable. That is until up-and-coming producers Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera discovered that adults accounted for 40 percent of the audience for the The Huckleberry Hound Show, a popular series about an easy-going blue hound dog with a southern drawl.

The producing duo astutely realized that the right blend of satire, slapstick, and well-crafted characters could possess universal appeal, transcending age demographics. Pursuing their new goal of an adult-oriented, prime-time cartoon, they brainstormed all kinds of characters, from pilgrims to hillbillies to Romans and Native Americans before ultimately landing on cavemen. Hanna and Barbera pitched their idea to dozens of prospective sponsors, as well as networks, even acting out scenes from their storyboards. While NBC and CBS passed on their idea, the perpetually third-place network ABC took a chance on the Paleolithic comedy, airing the first episode on Friday, September 30, 1960, at 7:30 p.m. Sponsors included Winston cigarettes, Alka-Seltzer, One-A-Day vitamins, and Post cereals.

Audiences, both young and old, quickly fell in love with The Flintstones but critics took aim. The New York Times called the series "an inked disaster" and the Baltimore Sun declared it "not a very good [comedy] inhabited by unpleasantly uncouth people." Meanwhile, TV critic Jay Fredericks claimed he "was solemnly assured by a local television official a couple of months ago that The Flintstones would be (a) hilarious and (b) THE show of the season. It is neither. The whole series is weak." Despite critical barbs, The Flintstones became a genuine hit, finishing the season at number 18 in the Nielsen ratings.

One theory as to why audiences immediately accepted the show was that the characters closely mirrored those from the popular 1950s sitcom, The Honeymooners, starring Jackie Gleason. Bill Hanna once remarked, "I personally thought The Honeymooners was the funniest half-hour on television." Similar to Gleason's blustery Ralph Kramden, Fred Flintstone is overweight, overbearing, and continually plotting hare-brained ideas. Ralph drove a bus; Fred operated a bronto-crane. His better half, levelheaded Wilma, spoke with a sharp tongue like Alice Kramden. Neighbors Barney and Betty Rubble acted as best friends and comic foils, resembling The Honeymooners predecessors, Ed and Trixie Norton. Both loyal wives and homemakers spent much of their time keeping their husbands in line.

Ed Benedict, one of the original Flintstones designers, recalled the process of creating the look for both of these cave-dwelling couples. "When I was told the studio was coming out with these new characters set in the Stone Age, I sketched up some characters carrying clubs and wearing long beards. Joe [Barbera] didn't like that much, so I straightened them up, took off the beards and made them look more neat and clean-cut. I was also told they had a pet, so a dinosaur seemed appropriate, and that's how Dino came about."

Though the series premise placed them in prehistoric times, the Flintstones and Rubbles were just average Stone Age, middle-class, blue-collar folks. The sometimes affable, other times irascible Fred toiled at the Bedrock Quarry & Gravel Company, hounded by his demanding boss, Mr. Slate. But when quittin' time rolled around, he and his pal Barney pursued off-hour amusements such as bowling, shooting pool, or cavorting with fellow club members at the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes. Most episodes centered on the pair becoming entangled in one of Fred's outlandish schemes that inevitably backfired, landing them in hot water with their wives. Now and then, the show's writers reversed the roles, placing Wilma and Betty in a predicament that eventually put them at odds with their husbands. And like traditional sitcoms, episodes usually ended with Fred and Barney redeeming themselves, reminding the women why they love them.

To further relate to traditional sitcom viewers, the writers provided all of our contemporary conveniences to the Bedrock denizens, with Stone Age twists, of course. A ram's horn acted as telephone. Characters drove skin-topped convertibles with their bare feet providing the locomotion. Dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts supplied the power to operate vacuum cleaners, moving cranes, and in-sink food disposal units. A running gag also featured beleaguered creatures commenting directly to the audience how overworked or underappreciated they felt in their jobs.

While clever plotting and humorous takes on prehistoric archetypes kept the fun going, by the third season, the producers needed a new element to keep the series fresh. They decided Fred and Wilma should have a child named Pebbles. In an interview with Emmy TV Legends, Barbera revealed he originally intended the child be a boy until he spoke with the Ideal Toy Company. "One day, I received a call from the guy in charge of Flintstones merchandising. He said, 'Hey, I hear you're having a baby on the show.' I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Is it a boy or a girl?' 'What else, a boy. A chip off the old rock.' He says, 'That's too bad. If it was a girl, we could've made a hell of a deal.' I said, 'It's is a girl.'" They sold three million Pebbles dolls within the first couple of months.

Capitalizing on baby fever to entice more fans, the Rubbles became parents in season four when they adopted a toddler left on their doorstep. They named him Bamm-Bamm because of his incredible strength and his tendency to repeatedly slam his big wooden club — or people — into the ground while yelling, "Bam, bam ... bam, bam!" Even with the popularity of its growing family, The Flintstones concluded in 1966 after six seasons. Reruns of the series then found a new audience as part of NBC's Saturday morning lineup from 1967 to 1970. The original program may have run its course, but The Flintstones launched a number of spin-offs. In addition to two live-action films, there were a number of TV series, including 1971's The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show, The Flintstone Comedy Hour the following year, The New Fred and Barney Show in 1979, The Flintstones Comedy Show in 1980, The Flintstone Kids in 1986, and Cave Kids in 1996.

The offshoots, adaptations, and merchandising generated from The Flintstones supplemented fans' enduring adoration of the show. For decades, Fred, Wilma, Barney, and Betty (not to mention their offspring) have been licensed for countless products, such as breakfast cereals, children's vitamins, games, books, theme parks, and action figures. The Flintstones became an instant classic, not simply because the creators fashioned an alternate bedrock suburbia satirizing modern life, but because the characters were well-crafted and genuinely funny. Though Fred may have been inspired by Ralph Kramden, he paid forward this classic archetype, influencing future dads in sitcom history, including Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin. Possessing the distinction of being the longest-running animated show prior to The Simpsons, Hanna-Barbera's gamble paid off handsomely. It's no wonder the duo sang "Yabba Dabba Doo" all the way to the bank.

The Jetsons

In the early 1960s, the promise and wonderment of the Space Race captivated Americans. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, creators of The Flintstones, were equally inspired. If a modern Stone Age family could make it big, why not a futuristic one? On September 23, 1962, seven months after astronaut John Glenn made his historical Earth orbit, The Jetsons blasted off on the ABC Television Network. Composed by Hoyt Curtin, the musical director for the Hanna-Barbera animation studio, the catchy theme song introduced viewers to the space-age family. Meet George Jetson ... his boy, Elroy ... daughter Judy ... Jane, his wife ...

As the music played, viewers got a peek into their ultra-modern lifestyle, complete with flying cars, jet packs, moving sidewalks, and robot maids. But the series was not just futuristic in the world of the show; The Jetsons was ABC's first series to broadcast in color. Also, just as The Flintstones was modeled after The Honeymooners, another popular 1950s TV sitcom Blondie was the prototype for The Jetsons — so much so that Penny Singleton, who played Blondie, provided the voice of wife and homemaker, Jane Jetson. Other similarities to The Flintstones abound. Just like Fred, George suffered from an overbearing boss. Voiced by Mel Blanc, Cosmo G. Spacely was the greedy, egomaniacal president and owner of Spacely Space Sprockets. Though George worked just one hour a day, two days a week, he regularly received Spacely's wrath. "JETSON!!!" Spacely would yell into the videophone, threatening to fire George for the slightest offense.

A couple years prior to The Jetson's debut, Hanna and Barbera had learned the importance of grounding a period cartoon from their success with The Flintstones. Both cartoons presented life from opposite historical periods, but they contained recognizable aspects from the present. Even so, the creators gave The Jetsons' writers and designers free rein to create their high-tech setting. Animator Jerry Eisenberg noted, "We weren't bound by any particular rules. I remember when we were developing the series, designer Tony Benedict brought in a book one day. The title of it was 1975 and the changes to come. Thirteen years in the future. It was an interesting book because it showed predictions of what there would be in 1975, new ideas, new appliances, whatever."

Heralding visions for tomorrow, the show's designers created cutting-edge locales, transportation modes, and gizmos. They constructed Orbit City in which homes and businesses perched high above the ground on adjustable columns. George Jetson commuted to work in an aerocar that resembled a flying saucer with a transparent bubble top that converted to a briefcase upon arrival. Daily life was assisted by numerous electronic, labor-saving devices, including a food replicator, flying pods, and watches with videoconferencing capabilities.


Excerpted from "It's Saturday Morning!"
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Copyright © 2018 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc..
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
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Table of Contents

Foreword: Howie Mandel, 10,
Introduction, 14,
1960s, 19,
The Bugs Bunny Show, 20,
The Flintstones, 26,
The Jetsons, 32,
Jonny Quest, 38,
Underdog, 42,
The Archie Show, 46,
Space Ghost, 51,
1970s, 61,
The Pink Panther Show, 62,
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, 67,
Josie and the Pussycats, 72,
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, 79,
Schoolhouse Rock!, 84,
Super Friends, 91,
Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, 96,
Battle of the Planets, 102,
1980s, 111,
The Smurfs, 112,
Alvin and the Chipmunks, 118,
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, 124,
Jim Henson's Muppet Babies, 129,
The Transformers, 132,
The Care Bears, 137,
GI Joe: A Real American Hero, 143,
Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears, 150,
ThunderCats, 154,
Pee-wee's Playhouse, 158,
Garfield and Friends, 166,
1990s, 175,
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 176,
Bobby's World, 182,
Tiny Toon Adventures, 188,
Darkwing Duck, 194,
Animaniacs, 202,
Pinky and the Brain, 210,
Epilogue, 218,
Acknowledgments, 220,
About the Authors, 222,
Image Credits, 223,

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