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If you're a kid today and you feel the urge to watch some cartoons, you don't have to wait. Cable and satellite TV offer a smorgasbord of animated options from Nickelodeon to Cartoon Network to Disney XD, which can be watched at any time. If none of these are to your liking, there is always On Demand, a DVD, or... other means. Hell, you can even find some on YouTube or other video sites.

This was not always the case. Back when televisions weren't flat and had antennas on top to pick up one of three or four networks or the local independent station, getting your cartoon fix was a lot harder. This format arose as advertisers and networks realized the potential of an all-but-captive audience of schoolchildren could camp out in front of the TV and veg out on three to four hours of animated goodness, enjoying a morning off from both school and church, while Mom and Dad were catching up on sleep lost during the work week.

Limited Animation made it cost-effective for the networks to fill the entire timeframe this way, with the occasional live-action show here and there. Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes and other theatrical cartoon shorts, originally aimed at an adult demographic, were also popular. (See also the Saturday Morning Kids Show.) It was a big deal: networks would devote a prime-time evening slot in early fall to promoting their new Saturday morning lineup.

However, the format's decline began with the rise of cartoons produced to run in syndication (usually in short blocks aired before or after school hours and with more artistic freedom to be wilder than the TV networks dared to be), as well as the rise of cable networks like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network that shared the same demographic. The traditional Big Three networks broadcast or otherwise make available Saturday morning lineups dominated by Edutainment Shows scheduled by third parties in order to make sure that their affiliates are compliant with FCC regulations. Fox doesn't bother, ceding their time to a two hour block of Infomercials that kids (and any adult under the age of 55) won't touch. As it is, only Cartoon Network continues to have a major showing on Saturday mornings, and even then, only action/superhero cartoons are shown.

Many early Saturday Morning Cartoons are closely associated with the Animation Age Ghetto and The Dark Age of Animation. Many later ones were actually anime imported to the US, Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! being prime examples.

The trend finally died for good in 2016 with the end of NBC’s preschool block, after Vortexx ended in 2014 and Dreamworks’s attempt at a block went nowhere. Syndicated cartoons also seem to have mostly died off. ThisTV is currently attempting a revival.


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