Stalled in Nostalgia Saturday Morning Cartoons Tyler Vendetti

My Saturday morning routine involves a very simple set of events. After throwing my obnoxious alarm clock against the wall (I made sure to set the alarm to the sound of Charlie Sheen saying “Winning!” on repeat to enhance its effectiveness), I crawl to the end of my bed and check all of my social media outlets, in case one of my favorite celebrities decided to send me an invitation to their next dinner party in the middle of the night via Twitter. Then, when I have responded to all of the inquiries, I drag my limp body out of bed to the nearest coffee machine and charge myself up for the coming day (fighting crime is no easy job). But believe it or not, there was a point in time when my weekend schedule was even easier, when I could simply wake up with only one activity in mind: watching Saturday morning cartoons.

Sure, they were cheesy and riddled with built-in “life lessons” intended to seep into our subconscious but they were also quirky and innocent and significantly more interesting than the morning paper. While there are still some Saturday morning specials, they don’t seem to have the same spark as the ones I watched as a child. For example:

Sagwa

Sagwa was my gateway morning cartoon. Airing on PBS Kids, this children’s show followed the life of Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese cat who also talks. (If the talking cat aspect hasn’t already drawn you in, keep reading.) Sagwa is part of a royal cat family (because, you know, why not). As a kitten, she fell into a pot of ink that ended up staining her fur in blots for eternity but, of course, that’s what makes her special. While the show did leave me with some scarring memories (I can honestly tell you that I managed to stay away from ink up until last year in fear that it would permanently stain my skin), it always involved some pretty extravagant adventures. However, many of them were not very well thought out. One that I particularly remember occurred when Sagwa went swimming and met a mermaid underwater who told her that if she just breathed in the water, she would get gills. Now, why would you put that in a children’s show? Had I not been too afraid, I would have tried to breath underwater. I could have died. Because of a fictional CAT. Did anybody read over these scripts?

Pokémon

If you even try to tell me that you don’t remember the theme song to Pokémon, I will cry for you tonight because I know you’re lying to yourself. Pokémon, with all its exotic creatures and eccentric characters, was one of the best shows of its time, even if I didn’t understand 100% of the subjects that were included in it. Pokéballs, for example. How does one turn a solid, living creature into a pink stream of plasma that disappears inside a little red ball? Were the Pokéballs bigger on the inside like those tents in Harry Potter or the Tardis in Doctor Who? Not to mention Team Rocket and their twinkling star trick when they blasted off at the end of every episode. Did they actually turn into a star? Or did they hit some sort of asteroid on the way? Is that why the star sparkled afterwards, because it was actually an explosion that resulted from them crashing into something? If so, why did they always come back in the next episode? Do they just never die? And how did Brock manage to have a different girlfriend in every episode? Was he that unreliable? (If you’re wondering, yes, I asked this many questions as a child. I was a delight.)

Recess

Let me present to you the winner of Saturday morning cartoons. If the Breakfast Club were to be animated, it would still not even come close to how good this show was. This hodgepodge of personalities always made me wonder why my school recesses were not nearly as adventurous. There was a character for everyone to relate to, whether it was troublemaker TJ Detweiler (who had a big heart, admittedly), tomboy Ashley Spinelli, good-guy jock Vince LaSalle, innocent Mikey Blumberg, nerdy Gretchen Grundler or outcast Gus Grinwald. Recess, more than anything, showed kids that cliques only exist if you want them to and that in life, having good friends is the only thing that matters. Also, kickball. Kickball is pretty important too.

Pinky and the Brain

Have you ever had that friend who simply lacks common sense? Or a friend who is a complete know-it-all and does nothing but talk about world domination? Me too. Pinky and the Brain brings this dilemma to the big screen (or tiny screen…I don’t know what TV you have…) through the schemes of two mischievous mice named (surprisingly) Pinky and Brain. This show was the first to use the “genetically enhanced animal” ploy to reel in viewers. It also somehow managed to make a snarky genius rat and a ditzy rodent seem loveable which, for all I know, is a work of magic. NARF!

 Jackie Chan Adventures

When someone told me Jackie Chan was a real person and not an animated character, I didn’t believe them as a result of this show. JCA, which ran on WB Kids, featured Jackie Chan himself as the main protagonist along his uncle (whom he so cleverly calls Uncle) and 12-year-old niece, Jade. What made this show unique to me was the inclusion of Zodiac symbols and their properties. It is the very reason that the astrology section of the newspaper is my favorite and why I’m still bitter over the fact I was born a “Rooster” instead of something cool like a “Tiger”. It also taught me how to cast spells in “Chi” which really spices up my resume. Yiu mo gwai gwaai fai di zao! (That either means “Leave, you evil spirits!” or “You left the chicken in the oven again!” It’s been awhile. I’m not sure.)

Saturday mornings are not as simple as they used to be. The homework panic that typically follows my coffee run always ends up eating up a good portion of my day. With my college classes doling out 10-page papers left and right, I rarely have time to breath, even on the weekends. I’d give anything to be able to get up on a Saturday morning without worrying about what my next essay will be about or the 100 pages of reading I have yet to complete, to be able to watch hours of cartoons mindlessly without feeling unproductive and enjoy the simplicity of life once more, if only for a couple of hours. And if that means being a little late to Jennifer Aniston’s next dinner party, then so be it. We all have to make sacrifices eventually.

Image via LightMeetsNight.com

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  1. First of all, bang up job being named Tyler.
    Second of all, Recess was my lifeline
    Part C, Where is PepperAnn? Filmore? Ducktales!

  2. Dating myself, but I lived for Superfriends, Looney Toons, PAC Man, Snorks, and all the School House Rock I could get inbetween…

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  4. I watched all these apart from the cat one, bringing back memories! I live in the UK where Saturday morning pop shows/kids shows were a big thing too. Will always remember Fearne Cotton, Reggie Yeates, Barney and Nev the bear from Smile :) were presenter morning shows big in the US too?

  5. Recess was the shiznits

  6. Love this article!! Personally, road runner was my all time fav. Beep beep!

  7. JT here with a short observation. Cartoons used to be entertainment….when Moe hit Curley on top of his head with a hammer, everyone knew it was fake, but in the context of the story it was funny (kinda, with the mentality of a child). Modern cartoons do entertain, but are a lot more preachy. The presumption seems to be that modern children are mindless idiots who will copycat bad behavior. This is the same philosophy that requires a warning label on a package of meat saying “cook before eating”. So….I guess the conclusion that can be drawn is that the “ruling elite”, whether it be politition or cartoonist, presumes the “hoi poloi” are incompitent morons. Insulting.

  8. Wow! Great story Ty! You brought back Lot of wonderful memories!! :-) however, you neglected the most culturally relevant character of our time…”Barney”!! :-) I’ll never forget your Mom’s face when Poppy got you a bright purple Barney!! :-) she was not happy! Hehe And your Uncle just loved ending our very long stressful flight with the annoying kids behind us singing “I love you, you love me”
    My favorite, as everyone knows, was Tweetie Bird…I never missed it.

  9. What about Pepper Ann and Angela Anaconda and Ahh…Real Monsters and… ok I could do this all day

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