Cartoon characters supposedly live forever but, realistically, they last so long as they achieve fame with each succeeding generation. That generally comes through exposure. Generally.
The cartoons I watched as a child aren’t ubiquitous on television as they were a generation or two ago, but the best of them are still known and loved. That includes some of the characters developed by Joe and Bill and their crew when they first went into television in the late 1950s.
If there’s any doubt, read the personal experience of one Mark Evanier, perhaps forever connected with Garfield the Cat, television version. Mark relates, on his blog, a recent trip to an elementary school. We’ll include the relevant portion:
I was telling them how when I was their age, I’d watch cartoons on TV or read comic books of the characters I saw on TV...and then I’d teach myself to draw those characters. One of the kids asked me what the first one was — and while I’m not sure it was, I said, “This one.” Then I turned to the whiteboard on which I was drawing and began sketching a Yogi Bear...about as well as I did when I was seven, I might add. As I started, I thought, “I wonder if they'll even know who this is.” Yogi’s not seen on Cartoon Network. He’s on Boomerang a lot but I don't know how many homes get that...and there are no comic books.
Well, I needn’t have worried. I was halfway through the drawing and everyone was screaming out, “Yogi Bear! Yogi Bear!” He was one of everyone’s favorite characters.
Yogi has a well-defined, likeable personality and was brought to life by talented people. He’s still popular with young ones, despite not very much exposure. It’s a shame a whole season of his cartoons (and those of Huckleberry Hound and Pixie and Dixie) are sitting somewhere other than on DVD for fans of all ages to enjoy.
Do a search on the internet and you’ll find the occasional news story mentioning Yogi, Huck and Quick Draw McGraw, not always within the context of cartoons, but using them as cultural icons for comparison. Obviously the writers (and their readers) are at an age where they understand the cultural reference. It looks like another generation, or at least some members of it, will too.