I’ve been obsessed with Pokemon 2048 of late, and it led to a conversation with DH about childhood cartoons. While we were talking, DH said something about remembering when cartoons weren’t based on toys. I looked at him perplexed. Aren’t all cartoons based on toys? He mentioned Merrie Melodies and Tom and Jerry, and I was like, okay sure, really old cartoons, before marketed toys were a thing. Then, he brought up Scooby Doo, and I explained that it was definitely based on toys, just like everything else. I started citing every cartoon I knew, at which point he had to explain that Scooby Doo and other cartoons he grew up with were not based on toys. They were often based on comic strips or comic books, but they weren’t derived from toys or built just to sell a toy. He was dumbfounded that I couldn’t imagine a cartoon not being based on a toy, and I was equally dumbfounded that there could be cartoons that weren’t.
That led to us looking at prime time TV listings and eventually stumbling on some history that explained this. It turns out that in 1984, just as I was beginning my prime Saturday morning cartoon years, the Reagan administration deregulated children’s cartoons. During the sixties and seventies, children’s programming couldn’t sell products to children. Hot Wheels, a 1969 cartoon series, was not allowed to air because of this restriction. There was also a series called Linus the Lionhearted, based on cereal mascots, that wasn’t allowed to air.
DH’s generation was basically one of the last to “grow up” with regulated cartoons, and mine was one of the first to grow up with nothing but. So, the next time you run into someone talking about how all kids’ shows are just long commercials now, you can let them know that it’s thanks to the free market, unimpeded by government interference.
- The Irony of Regulatory Reform by Robert Britt Horwitz