I’m 40 years old, which means that my formative years (from 6-15 years old) were in the perfect Saturday Morning Cartoons time period of 1977-86. Five years earlier (1971) and there would have been way fewer cartoons available to watch on Saturday (there wasn’t even any electric back then!) And five later (1991), after the cable boom, and the Looney Tunes were already starting to be phased out by politically correct censors.
Come on, I still wouldn’t know what an anvil is to this day had I not watched those cartoons. They were educational! Sure, a kid would try to do a Wile E. Coyote off a cliff every now and then, but really — if he was that dumb, wouldn’t he have been outwitted by a lawnmower or a garbage disposal later in life?
Looney Tunes just helped our lives by getting dumb children out of school and off the roads as adults. Also, during my cartoon-watching tenure in the late 70s, The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show became The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour — once CBS decided to add 30 minutes to the cartoon block. That’s like saying, “Hey, we just made your life 50-percent better.” Here’s how I remember Saturday mornings in the Gonos household in the late 70s (upsate New York):
I’d wake up at 6 or 7 in the morning and immediately run to the television. From what I remember, from Sunday through Monday, it was much tougher to get me out of bed. Sure, Inspector Gadget on a Tuesday morning had its appeal, but let’s get real, I was 11 or 12 years old at that point and Gadget’s voice was Don Adams — or Tennessee Tuxedo, who often quipped, “Phineas J. Whoopee, you’re the greatest!”
I realize now in life that I happen to look more like Chumley than I do Tuxedo, and I have no idea who Phineas J. Whoopee is, but I bet he’s cool. (Keeping along that same thread, Sherman, Mr. Peabody and the Wabac Machinewere awesome. That whole grouping of cartoons was a fantastic one. I think they were on in the early 70s, but I don’t remember much of them in the 80s.)
Anyway, I’d wake up pretty darn early, eschew breakfast, get the TV going (remember, back then, they were mostly just big console TVs without cable, and you had to click the huge nob to the right channel). Red footy pajamas that I had to step into and zip up was my outfit. Once I outgrew them, like a month later, my Mom took the ol’ scissors out and just like that, they were no longer footy pajamas.
Now when you got up that early, you usually had to sit through a good number of crap cartoons before the good ones began. You always had some of those stupid claymation cartoons where they were always trying to “teach” you something. I think they even had CHURCH cartoons for goodness’ sake.
Just give me some cartoon animals that:
- Talk with a stutter
- Use a handful of explosives
- Teach me that dead things have X’s on their eyes
- And show me how you can stop a shotgun by sticking your finger into the barrel and I’m fine.
Around the time “Overture, curtains, lights! This is it, you’ll hit the heights!” was sung to me and my brothers by Bugs, Daffy and friends, my parents would slowly begin to wake up from their drunken slumber from the night before. (By the way, am I the only kid that would march around the living room — trying to be quiet — singing the “Overture, curtains, lights” song out loud?)
My dad would give me some paint chips to chew on until breakfast was made, and my mom would toss us some poorly made toys my way with loose pieces just small enough to fit in my esophagus. How great was it to be a kid in the 70s!?! It was basically an unwritten rule with my parents, they knew that Saturday mornings were the only thing I lived for as a kid, so it was rare that a chore was asked to be done before 11am or so.
One thing that got me though was that my parents weren’t big fans of buying us sugary cereal. In our house, we never had Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes, Cap’n Crunch, Sugar Smacks, Cocoa Puffs, Fruity Pebbles, Apple Jacks, Honeycomb or Diabetes Crunch. We always had stuff like, Cheerios (BEFORE they added flavors like Honey-nut and Apple Cinnamon), Shredded Wheat (seriously, I’ve tasted better gauze bandages), Corn Flakes, Wheat Germ-ios, Golden Herb-Nuggets, and Grape Nuts (literally, the worst-named cereal in history — both names referring to testicles? For BREAKFAST?)
Looking back, I realize that I was a victim of no-sweets child abuse. My mom would not allowing me to rot my teeth out and make me a better candidate for childhood diabetes. Not cool. Don’t judge her though, she only knew what she grew up on. I think her parents gave her a bowl of washers and bolts for breakfast … But I’ve derailed.
As much as I loved Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Sylvester, let’s not forget some other Saturday morning cartoons favorites:
- Fat Albert— Between this cartoon and Kool-Aid commercials, every fat kid in the land was scared of wearing an orange or red tshirt for fear of hearing someone yell, “Hey! Hey! Hey! It’s Faaaaat Albert!” or “Hey Kool-Aid!!!” But why did Dumb Donald have eyeholes cut out of his ski cap? I never got that.
- Josie and the Pussycats — I remember liking this show … a lot. And not really knowing why. I’d find out a couple years later.
- Superfriends — Let’s get something straight. I like the Superfriends. Later in life I learned to love the Superfriends (especially Wonder Woman — see Josie and the Pussycats). But they happened to be on at the same time as Bugs Bunny, so here I am, looking stupid in my red non-footy pajamas with holes in the knee that have been sewn over two or three times now, with no TiVo or DVR, and I’m forced to make a decision between Bugs Bunny and Superfriends. I learned every Saturday morning, my friends, that life was not fair. If Batman would change a roadsign every now and then, making Superman run straight into the side of a mountain that had a fake road painted on it, I wouldn’t be explaining myself right now.
- Pink Panther — This clip is from the movie, I guess, MGM rooted out the cartoon clips. Whatever, it wasn’t THAT great of a cartoon. I loved the Ant and the Aardvark . An Aardvark voiced by Jackie Mason — that’s a classic right there. If they could have had the aardvark in Caddyshack II, instead of Dan Aykroyd’s lame character, it would have been a winner. And an ant with Dean Martin’s voice!?!?!?!?!? Marvelous.
- The Smurfs — Look, I know I was too old to be watching The Smurfs at age 11 and 12. I’m not proud of it by any means. But come on, you gotta watch something Saturday mornings when you’re 11!
- Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? — I remember watching this more after school than on Saturdays for some reason. Either way, it jumped the shark once Scrappy showed up.
- Spiderman and His Amazing Friends — Later, when I was like 20, Marvel came out with an X-Men cartoon Saturday mornings too. AWESOME, I loved them all. But Ice-Man, on this 80s cartoon, was my absolute favorite, hip, cool superhero. Firestar was hot, too.
- Dungeons and Dragons — Dumb game for nerds, but what a great cartoon! My cousin Richard and I would watch this faithfully.
- The Wacky Races and the Laff-a-Lympics — An All-Star game for cartoons — BRILLIANT!!! I think I loved these cartoons the most because I rooted for certain ones to win, and each time, I would have a Fantasy draft, although I didn’t know it then!
Another point I’d like to make is that after seeing this webpage devoted to TV I like from this era, ABC and CBS were really the only guys that were in serious competition for my cartoon-viewing patronage. NBC tried to compete for my attention with “Godzilla,” “The Fantastic Four” and “Krofft Superstars.” Before I get thousands of emails from the Krofft Superstars apologists out there, let me say I didn’t hate it. But as far as that as a Saturday morning lineup? [Put hand to mouth, make farting sound.]
Then there’s this — a book called, Saturday Morning Fever. Here’s what the end of the synopsis reads: “Little did you know that this cherished world was also the battleground where greedy toy advertisers, network flacks, cutthroat cartoon companies, opportunistic politicians, and concerned parents struggled for the attention-deficit souls of America’s youth. Brothers Tim and Kevin Burke bring us a loving, insightful, and hilarious examination of all aspects of Saturday morning television. Tune in and get ready for some fun.” I MUST GET THIS BOOK!!! That sounds awesome! We can get it at Half.com, shipped and everything, for like $5 … SWEET!
CBS had Bugs Bunny, ABC had Schoolhouse Rock. There were no other channels as far as I was concerned. (Well, literally, there were no other channels, since FOX wasn’t invented yet, and our nob was broke and wouldn’t click over to NBC.) I also remember Dobish blogging about this stuff, and showing a video for Laff-a-Lympics I think, but I couldn’t find it. I did, however, catch his take on cartoons that I missed the first time he posted it — GOOD STUFF! I also caught that we both weren’t big fans of Tweety Bird. L-A-M-E. My Top Five Schoolhouse Rocks
- Conjunction Junction — It’s really in a class by itself.
- I’m Just a Bill
- A Noun is a Person, Place or a Thing — I dare you to not keep this in your head all day.
- Three is a Magic Number — You have to love a cartoon that Blind Melon can cover and and De La Soul can sample.
- The Energy Blues — Al Gore has nothing on a singing planet.
And now, without further adieu, here are the Top 20 Greatest Bugs Bunny & Friends characters ever (While the Tiny Toons were certainly great, I don’t include them in this list):
- Daffy Duck — Without question, the best character ever. (You have to watch this clip — why does the camel squeak when it runs?) From the voice, to the fact that he transitioned from being Daffy outwitting Elmer Fudd, to being dastardly Daffy when trying to get Bugs Bunny in trouble. Let’s not forget Duck Dodgers either.
- Bugs Bunny — The greatest smart-ass in the history of cartoons.
- Foghorn Leghorn — A fat southern rooster that hums “Camptown Races” while pulling pranks on a dumb dog — what’s NOT to love?
- Sylvester the Cat — Again, this is one of the more versatile characters in the Looney Tunes library. Consider that he was the victim when he was in Porky Pig’s cartoons, and he was the villain when he chased after Tweety.
- Wile E. Coyote — His work with the Road Runner and Bugs is well documented, but having to clock in and out with the Sheepdog — that’s pure genius. “Mornin’ Sam.” — “Mornin’ Ralph.”
- Marvin the Martian — Space Jam made him famous, but you have to appreciate the fact that he needs the Uranium Pu-36 Explosive Space Modulator to blow up Earth just because it blocks his view of Venus.
- Pepe Le Pew — Sexy french cats would get anyone excited!
- Yosemite Sam — Classic case of “Short Man’s Syndrome.” Watching this old clip reminds me of that Bugs Bunny when he’s fighting with the two hillbillies that kinda represent the Hatfields and the McCoys.
- Tasmanian Devil — Emack when the food arrives at a restaurant.
- Rocky and Muggsy — I still, to this day, when someone asks me a question, like if I think they’re dumb enough to do something, I say, “You might, rabbit, you might.“
- Elmer Fudd — I can’t decide if I like chubby Elmer (early years) or regular Elmer.
- Porky Pig — Man, between Elmer, Sylvester, Tweety and Porky, they really made it tough on kids with speech impediments!
- Sylvester Jr. — “Oh, the shame of it all.”
- Speedy Gonzalez — So, cartoons in the ’50s were insensitive to those with speech issues and they were racially insensitive? Got it!
- Gossamer — How do you make a big, orange alien funny? Give him huge basketball sneakers.
- Beaky Buzzard — “My mama done told me, to get something for dinner.”
- Spike and Chester — “Hey Spike, what do you wanna do now? … Spike’s my friend, cuz he’s so big and strong.”
- Goofy Gophers — Cartoon Gophers + British Accents = High Comedy.
- Tweety Bird — I liked when he drank the Dr. Jekyll/Mr Hyde potion to get huge.
- Pete Puma — Very underrated. Didn’t get a lot of gigs, but he was a star when he was on screen. I think he had a drug problem. Crying shame.
And I haven’t said his name yet, but Mel Blanc is a god. And Saturday morning cartoons made me into the man-child I am today!
David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.