The Saturday morning cartoon is an art form in and of itself; an entire sub-category of animation that requires all the right factors to come together for its success. They need to be able to keep an audience’s attention, mix action, drama, and comedy into one twenty-minute period, and have an animation style that glues kids to the screen – and buying lots of toys.
NBC were experts at the Saturday morning cartoon during its heyday, especially during the 70s and 80s. They knew what kids wanted in a short-burst of animation, and they especially knew how to deliver a cartoon that kept kids watching for hours on end.
Based on Jim Henson’s live-action puppet TV show of the same name, this colorful Saturday morning cartoon followed the familiar cast of muppet-like creatures as they learn to get along and coexist in the same habitat together. The show followed the formula of the original show almost to a tee, but with a few minor changes. It only lasted one season during its 1987 run.
9 Sealab 2020
A classic adventure cartoon from the early 70s, Sealab 2020 followed a research team working at an underwater base filled with futuristic gadgets. Every episode they would face a new dilemma, from attacking sea critters to dangerous natural disasters. The show didn’t last long, only making it through one season in 1972, but it has forever been memorialized by the parody show on Adult Swim titled Sealab 2021which used original footage from the show.
The king of the monsters got his own NBC Saturday morning cartoon from 1978 to 1981fighting monsters and saving the good folks in the city below, along with his goofball nephew, Godzooky. Godzilla may not have had the destructive streak as he showcased in the movies, but he could still pack a punch, especially when it came to the other monsters. More of a comedy than anything, this cartoon proved Godzilla had staying power.
7 Star Trek: The Animated Series
Continuing the adventures of the USS Enterprise’s crew, star trek handled the transition from live-action to animation quite smoothly.
This Saturday morning cartoon was an in-between for Trekies to munch on after the live-action series was canceled, and before any movies came to fruition. The creators of the show were able to use the animation to their advantage and craft some seriously strong plot lines.
6 Alvin And The Chipmunks
ALLLLLVIIIIN! These iconic chipmunks started as a novelty musical act but they made it big as a Saturday morning cartoon. This massively popular 80s cartoon followed the rapscallion chipmunks as they got into mischief and found adventures around town. These little forest critters made Saturdays fun, and many of the aspects from the cartoon actually made it into the live-action movies. These chipmunks were a big hit, getting plenty of spin-offs and cartoon movies in the 80s and 90s.
One of the original Saturday morning cartoons, this 60s cartoon jump started the craze of early morning cartoons. As a parody of Superman, Underdog was the perfect foil to the typical macho superhero. A bubbling pooch, Underdog made use of his infinite powers to vanquish crime and save the day, one way or another. While this show might appear rudimentary nowadays, it was actually pretty cutting edge back in the day and helped bring cartoons to a larger audience.
4 Birdman And His Galaxy Trio
Another Hanna-Barbera superhero show that caught a second life as an Adult Swim comedy, birdman followed the intergalactic adventures of a gang of superheroes dedicated to fighting evil. Birdman was once an ordinary human man who gained superpowers through Ra, the sun god. Each episode would follow the battles of him and his squad against monsters, aliens, and robots from the depths of outer space. Eventually, Birdman would retire from saving the universe for the most lucrative job of practicing law in his Adult Swim show.
3 The Pink Panther Show
This long-running Saturday morning cartoon was a staple of the NBC line-up during the 70s, mixing together cartoons starring the Inspector and the titular Pink Panther. This show was more of a hodgepodge of different cartoons mixed togetherincluding The Ant and the Aardvark, Tijuana Toads, and Misterjaw. The combined cartoon formula would prove influential, as many other networks would explore similar concepts for their Saturday morning cartoons as the decade went on.
2 Super Mario World
It has been a long time since mario has graced the screen of Saturday morning cartoons, but for a brief moment in the 90s, mario reigned supreme in the cartoon world. Working off of his popularity in video gamesthis NBC cartoon still only made it one season, but the cheap comedy of the show is still legendary to this day.
The “Mama Luigi” especially seems to have worked its way into same culture and is still openly referenced on the internet to this day.
1 The Smurfs
This immensely popular NBC Saturday morning cartoon absolutely dominated the 80s. The toys and clothing from the show were as successful as the show itself, if not even more. These cute little blue creatures would woo audiences of kids and adults for the entire decade, producing a total of 258 episodes. The combination of cute fantasy and carefree plot lines made this cartoon a winning combo. The Smurfs have continued to succeed in movies and subsequent media, but they will forever be remembered as a Saturday morning classic.
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