Today, I'll be talking about the death of Saturday Morning cartoons, and how I wish that somewhere down the line, network executives will realize that we don't want extended weekend news programs, or infomercials. We want Saturday mornings back to the way they used to be, with hours of cartoons.
I'd even watch a half hour of nothing but retro cereal commercials, just so I can watch the Cookie Crisp robbers or Fred Flintstone get cheated out of yet another box of Fruity Pebbles by Barney Rubble.
In fact, I'm just going to come out and say it. I hate that the children of today are getting gypped out of the opportunity to experience a good old-fashioned Saturday morning cartoon experience. I hope that with this blog, I inspire a lot of memories and fond remembrances of cartoons gone by for people my age and older. I also have a secondary goal of introducing these wonderful cartoons to the kids of today with great hope that they can take even a little bit of the Saturday morning magic that we adults wish we still had.
Back when I was a child, you had cartoons that aired all morning long, and then around noon, they would break for the weekend news break. On some stations, the cartoons would continue running until six o'clock in the evening. That's almost ten solid hours of cartoon watching!
Mind you, I didn't spend ALL ten hours in front of the television. That would have just been silly.
Truth be told, when a lot of the Canadian channels used to air cartoons until six o'clock, they would just rerun the more popular cartoons that aired earlier in the day. This worked for me though, because back when I was younger, I usually only watched the one network (more often than not, it was NBC), and watching them in the afternoon, I could get caught up on the shows that aired on ABC and CBS. Good times to be had. For many years, I would watch cartoons on and off, and had so many fond memories of watching them all. Of course, you knew that Saturday cartoons could only air for so long, and around five o'clock, when Global aired The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show, that the end of another Saturday was here.
I guess I feel bad for the children of today. They can choose between news programs, informercials, and four-year-old episodes of Hannah Montana and That's So Raven. To me, that's not even a choice at all. It's pathetic that Saturday mornings are so...well...dull now. Especially looking back and knowing that they weren't always.
Case in point...this block of cartoons that I used to watch on a station called ITV (which later became Global Edmonton).
The Disney Afternoon. Two hours of classic Disney cartoons that would air from 3:00-5:00 pm Ontario time. They showed all the classics such as Gummi Bears, Darkwing Duck, Tale Spin, and so many more.
I'm forming a tear in my eye just thinking about it.
The way the Disney Afternoon worked was that they would air cartoons and sometimes depending on where you watched it, you'd have a host broadcasting viewer birthdays, or going on live remotes that were Disney themed (on the station I watched it on, the host was Mike Sobel, who is now Global Edmonton's weather personality).
There were lots of shows that I could have featured as a part of the Disney Afternoon. Heck, I could have done a blog entry on the Disney Afternoon itself. But that would take away from the joy and the excitement that each show would bring. So I thought that I would open up the Disney Afternoon vaults and look at a random show, and try to find out why I liked it so much. (And at some point, the whole schedule will be posted as future entries.)
So to kick it off, I'll start by featuring a show that was one of my favourites in the Disney Afternoon block.
Ah, Chip 'N' Dale Rescue Rangers, how I do love you!
I'm being absolutely serious as well. If I could make a list of all of my favourite classic Disney characters ever, Chip and Dale would make the top of the list each time. These chipmunks always kept me entertained in their classic cartoons, but were more of less forgotten about over time in favour of more established characters such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
That was until the late 1980's when the chipmunks were given a new lease on life.
Created by Tad Stones and Alan Zaslove, when the Rescue Rangers show was first thought up, Chip and Dale weren't even to be a part of the show initially. Some of the characters that would appear in the show were created and managed to stay on, but the lead character was supposed to be a mouse named Kit Colby, dressed in a fedora and fluffy collared jacket, much like the character of Indiana Jones. The idea was pitched to Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg who loved the idea, but weren't too keen on the creation of Kit Colby.
Eisner suggested dropping the character of Kit Colby, and replacing them with Chip and Dale, since they were already established Disney characters.
After the show was retooled to include Chip (given Kit Colby's outfit), and Dale (given a Hawaiian shirt that made him resemble Magnum P.I.), the show was given the title of Chip 'N' Dale Rescue Rangers. The premise was for Chip and Dale to open up a detective agency and solve crimes that were too small or insignificant for the police to be called in.
A preview episode of the series debuted on August 27, 1988, and seven months later in March 1989, the official series kicked off. Below is the episode 'Catteries Not Included', the preview episode that aired back in 1988.
The reason why I chose this particular episode was because it was the first one that debuted on television (despite the fact that it is labelled episode two, but also because it does a great job of introducing and establishing the characters. It also explains why Chip and Dale opened up the detective agency.
If you've seen the episode, the little girl in the episode was looking for her lost cat, and the police flat-out refused to help her in finding him, saying that lost cats were out of their jurisdiction. So Chip and Dale took on the case, trying to reunite the cat with its owner, while at the same time stumbling onto a bigger mystery in the process.
That's really how every episode worked. They started off on small cases, but inadvertedly ended up contributing to solving a bigger mystery, or stopping larger crimes.
Naturally, the main driving forces behind the success of the Rescue Rangers were Chip and Dale. Chip is the more serious of the duo, and is so responsible and eager to get the job done that he's often accused of being a sort of killjoy. Sometimes, he is so set in his ways and the orderly manner in which he likes to work that he often has arguments with Dale, who is way more laid-back. Dale has a mischievious side to him and sometimes gets into trouble with his irresponsible personality. He likes to have fun in his spare time, and has an addiction to sweets.
Basically, Dale is quite a bit like I am...only I have Chip's responsible nature. Most of the time.
Chip and Dale do make a great team regardless, and often their teamwork (while usually on different pages in the same book) blends well and gets tasks accomplished. With arch-enemies like Fat Cat and Norton Nimnul creating one mad scheme after another, the detectives always had to keep an eye out for danger. But they didn't just do it alone. They had three friends who were willing to help them through.
First, you had Australian mouse Monterey Jack (or Monty for short), a mouse descended from a long line of travelling mice. He spent years touring the world before running into Chip and Dale and joining the detective agency. He even had a personal score to settle with Fat Cat after he was responsible for destroying his home. Monty proves to be a great ally for Chip and Dale. With his huge size, he definitely has more strength than the others on the team, however he has a quick temper. He also has a weakness, related to his strong addiction to cheese products. Whenever he sees cheese or smells cheese in any form, he is immediately drawn to it. Even his eyes show off a hypnotic glow whenever cheese is in the picture.
Next, we have Zipper, a green housefly who happens to be the sidekick of Monty. Don't let his small size and unintelligible gibberish (which only Monty and other insects can understand) fool you into thinking he's weak. His intense loyalty towards his friends can give him superhuman strength when the situation calls for it, and his ability to fly and sneak into small spaces are a huge asset to the team.
Lastly, you have Gadget Hackwrench, a female mouse, and the mechanic and inventor of the team. She was the one who designed the Ranger Plane, and can take ordinary household items and turn them into something fantastic and useful. Sometimes her inventions can stop working, or even fail entirely at the worst possible moment, but she does try new things. Chip and Dale both have a crush on her...crushes that remained unreciprocated for the duration of the series. Monterey Jack treats Gadget like a daughter (he was friends with her deceased father), and it was Monty who introduced Gadget to the team.
I think this show was a fond favourite of mine because it showed us that size is insignificant to determination. Nobody would expect a couple of chipmunks, two mice, and a housefly to break open some of the biggest cases in the whole city, but they managed to do exactly that. It may not have been exactly what they wanted to do, or they may have done it by accident trying to solve another case, but the fact remains that at least they made the effort to make things right, when their human counterparts never gave it a second glance.
The Rescue Rangers were my heroes, and until they left the Disney Afternoon timeslot in the fall of 1993, I watched them every Saturday.
I just wish other kids could enjoy them just as much as I did.