They left us not with a bang, but with a whimper.
Earlier today, Anime News Network reported that CW’s Vortexx block was replaced. Vortexx, which was a cartoon-centric block, showed primarily Saban properties. The block’s lineup included shows like Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Ball Z Kai, and Digimon Fusion. As of today, the space formerly occupied by Vortexx now hosts a lineup known as “One Magnificent Morning.” One Magnificent Morning, according to CW, is “10 half-hour inspirational and entertaining programs that explore family-friendly topics from healthy cooking and living to fashion to animal care.”
With Vortexx’s cancellation, the Saturday Morning Cartoon is now officially dead in the United States.
In today’s market, this isn’t something most would really bat an eye over. We’ve had networks like The Hub, Cartoon Network, and Nickelodeon for decades now, and legal streaming anime can be found in countless locations, from Netflix to Crunchyroll, to even Crackle. American cartoons are seeing a renaissance of sorts with programs like Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and Regular Show.
Likewise, the Children’s Television Act of 1990 required that network television stations offer children’s programming that serves their educational and informational needs, including programs made specifically to be educational in nature. The act was revisited and enhanced in 1996, which expanded the criteria networks needed to adhere to with children’s programming, including adopting public service initiatives to inform parents, and clearly identifying Educational & Informational programming on-screen. This was once again looked at in 2006, to update the Act for online programming.
This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you. It ensured that programming would be scaled back from the “30 minute toy ads” of yore. As a drawback, though, a lot of beloved franchises, from Transformers to Jem were born from the very same programming pool. So, in that regard, it was a double-edged sword.
But I digress.
While this isn’t something that affects me personally, as it’s likely something that doesn’t affect you or millions of others, I can’t help but feel a bit saddened by these events. As a child of the ’80s, that ritual of melting one’s brain with four hours of cartoons was one that everyone seemed to understand and adore. To us, those characters were heroes, and their experiences were our legends.
And, for many of us, this familiar ritual would serve as a gateway into the world of anime. We couldn’t process it at the time, though we knew that shows like Voltron, Robotech, and Dragon Ball were distinctly different from the norm. They something special and unique, where things weren’t always playful and happy, and stories weren’t solved in a 30-minute block. The characters looked nothing like what we had seen before, and there was a certain gravity to everything that happened.
Nowadays, we’ve seen shows of this sort migrate to cable networks. Disney XD airs shows like Doraemon, and Cartoon Network has the Toonami block. Nick hasn’t been a stranger to anime programming either, as they’ve shown anime titles like Dragon Ball Z Kai and Digimon Fusion in addition to their own anime-styled productions, Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra.
So, while we old farts take a moment to mourn the death fo the Saturday Morning cartoon, we can’t really be too sad. While these familiar constructs and traditions have faded away, things really couldn’t be better for fans of anime or western cartoons. Shows are more accessible than ever, and the overall quality is as high as it ever was (generally speaking).
With the decline of broadcast, and the changing in habits, this was simply inevitable. And, whether it was now, or fifteen years from now, our reactions would undoubtedly be the same either way. Looking forward, I think we all can agree, though: so long as the content is great, how it’s presented doesn’t really matter. Whether it’s on Saturday morning or late Wednesday night, people will always enjoy an amazing show.