The Rise & Fall of Saturday Morning Cartoons: How Technology Influences Imagination.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
― Albert Einstein

It can’t be argued that Netflix has afforded us much greater access to TV & film content in the form of instant gratification, much to the chagrin of traditional cable providers, especially here in Canada. There is recent news that they are on the warpath to prosecute purveyors of so-called android boxes, in the hopes of recovering some of the losses they’ve suffered from the rise of cord-cutter culture.  The simple reason for their revenue loss is a much lowered cost coupled with convenience from competitors. With Netflix, android boxes, or any number of web stream providers, there’s a seemingly unending plethora of commercial free content that you can select to watch, when you want to watch.

For many younger people, and in fact for an entire generation, this relatively new concept will be all they know. The notion of commercials will be limited to the billboards they see while driving their cars. Actually, a more hopeful idea is that the cars will be driving themselves, but you get the idea. While I’ve never been a fan of advertising, I think we may have lost something significant along the way.

The mystery of anticipation and reward is now a thing of the past, at least in terms of viewing habits. When  there is a structured, finite time slot for something to plan towards, you have something to look forward to.

When you have something to dream about, the imagination kicks into overdrive. If you were a child in the 80s, or 90s, the magic set in for only a few precious hours that Saturday morning, and then it was gone. It was up to you to integrate and transform what you had just seen and apply it to real life playtime scenarios.  Once the last show was over and the tv set turned off, you got outside and played with your friends, mimicking, remixing and re-inventing those animated tales into tangible storylines or unstructured roleplaying that blended reality with imagination, until next Saturday when the cycle repeats itself.  Boredom is what initially led to creativity. Now boredom’s cure is the next episode. You don’t even need to click on anything.  It plays itself, makes the decision for you.

This doesn’t just have far reaching implications to our physical nature; with sedentary lifestyles follow a distinct rise in obesity.  They also have a huge impact on the mind.  Without the crucial process of switching off, we can’t absorb, reflect, learn or grow. This doesn’t just apply to kids. It applies to all of us.

Don’t get me wrong, Netflix is great; but as with all new technologies, something gained is often also something lost.

Columbus, Ohio animator and artist Jason Moody of Arch City Studio has created a new episode of their ongoing Nostalgia Snax series where he explores what made Saturday morning cartoons so special back in the 1980s and 1990s.*

* via Laughing Squid.

Featured graphic courtesy Nostalgia Snax.

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