Comic-Con@Home: Warner Archives Provides A Brief History Of Saturday Morning Cartoons

by Ben Martin

Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but for this article, I will. I’m 31, yet I still watch Saturday morning cartoons a couple of Saturdays a month. I’m not watching current Saturday morning offerings, but instead, revisiting classic cartoons and those my youth. Therefore, when I heard that Comic-Con@Home was offering up a panel, Warner Archive’s Secret Origins of Saturday Morning Cartoons, I knew I had to cover it.

MSNBC political analyst and author of The End of White Politics, Zerlina Maxwell, moderates this very rich panel consisting of film historian and critic Leonard Maltin; animation historian and Animation Scoop editor Jerry Beck; Warner Archive senior vice president of theatre catalog marketing George Feltenstein; and Warner Archive Podcast hosts D.W. Ferranti, and Matthew Patterson. Before delving into bits of animation history provided in this panel, I would like to take a moment to talk about Warner Archives. For those unfamiliar, this boutique label of WB offers movie buffs the chance to own some of the esoteric movies put out by Warners. 

After informing us of what Warner Archives is and what they specialize in, the panelists get to the promised content. They dive into the fascinating history of animation designed for that Saturday morning time slot. Much of which was initially filled by WB’s Merrie Melodies/Looney Toons, which had begun their lives in a cinematic fashion as shorts before matinee screenings. But obviously, those cartoons enter every generation thereafter through their television sets. Following the discussion of these origins and evolution, the panel covers Hanna-Barbera and that animation studios’ vital place in the proliferation of beloved Saturday morning cartoons.

Along the way, we’re given some history, two bits of which I found incredibly interesting. Firstly, did you know that Tom’s name is Jasper in the first episode of Tom & Jerry? If you did, you’re certainly more of an animation aficionado than I can claim to be! Secondly, this panel taught me something of which I’d been entirely unaware. Since this animation was drawn and produced in color, they smoothly transitioned from black and white to color TV. Interestingly, there was a color television war between RCA, (who owned NBC) and CBS, who developed the NTSC color system. RCA and NBC ended up winning this format war, which was probably the first. As a result, the chairman of CBS would not allow color broadcast for the next decade, until 1965. Mind you, that’s just a taste of the medium’s history, which is gleaned from this panel. Folks, this panel is an absolute must-watch for fans of animation!

Two very significant announcements were made to wrap-up—Warner Archives in remastering Space Ghost & Dino Boy from the original 35-millimeter elementals for a Blu-Ray release. Furthermore, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will be releasing a Complete Series set of The Flintstones (1960-1966)! (The latter announcement was actually made a few days ago, and I might have to buy it.) 

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