Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Kids, Special Interests and Cartoons

It strikes me as a simpleton mind-set when someone insists if you show a cartoon character with a gun, then kids will grow up shooting people. The people that say such things are, of course, those who saw cartoon characters with guns when they were kids. Maybe they even had their parents buy a toy one (as seen on TV) when they were a child. And they grew up just fine in spite of it. Well, except for their ridiculous grasp of deductive logic.

That’s the basic message contained in this story in the Hutchinson News of Saturday, July 2, 1960. It’s unbylined, but a chap named E. Lawson May was the paper’s TV Editor.

The early Hanna-Barbera cartoons only come in for a mention at the end of the article. But because the writer is full of common sense (and declares Huck and Quick Draw as being more than suitable for children’s eyes and minds), it’s worth printing 52 years later.

Capt. Kangaroo Helps Care for Youngsters
Educators, psychiatrists and do-gooders have been shouting louder than usual for the past year about how the younger generation is being breast fed by TV rather than books.
The optimists among us, however, are aware that the learned gentlemen assembling all these frightening statistics received their own primary education over the radio perils of Buck Rogers, Tom Mix, Flash Gordon, Omar the Mystic and well-informed criticism from another generation of analysts.
The simple truth is that TV, properly used by a parent, can offer child some delightful entertainment.
If the set’s prime function, however, is to get the youngster out of the way, the parents never should have had children in the first place. A preschool child would never be sent out on a busy city street alone, and there’s no reason why they should be expected to function in the channel-jungle without guidance.
Thanks to an easy-going, heavy-set young man named Bob Keeshan, the young mother’s first experience with television is generally quite encouraging. Keeshan, along with his friends Mr. Green Jeans, and Mr. Moose, conducts the “Captain Kangaroo” show via CBS six mornings a week.
At one time the network gave up on “Captain Kangaroo,” but a storm of protest, plus the fact that the show was outdrawing Garry Moore’s expensive morning variety show, bought Keeshan a new lease on life. Today the Captain is SRO with sponsors and mother knows she has at least 45 minutes every morning when the little one is in good hands.
“Be Good To Mother”
Bob Keeshan is not a great educator or a child psychologist, but he understands his audience. He appreciates their short attention span and never keeps any game, song or cartoon running too long. At no time does the Captain talk down to his little viewers or does he patronize them. He stimulates their imagination without frightening them, and good taste guides his every move. He closes each show by reminding the kids that “it’s another be-good-to-mother day,” and nobody is “gooder” to mom than captain Kangaroo.
Once the Captain closes up his weekday Treasure House, the television industry chooses to ignore children until around five o’clock. This is a sad mistake, because mother needs more than 45 minutes to finish her chores.
No Steady Diet
From 5 to 7:30 in the evening and on Saturday morning TV caters to kids. Some of the successful shows are little more than old movie shorts which were condemned as harmful to children a generation ago. Among these are “Our Gang,” “The Three Stooges” and
“Popeye.” Actually they are as harmful as they ever were, but kids adore this type of comic violence and, provided they’re not permitted to watch it as a steady diet, it’s a good bet they’ll survive.
But TV has developed its own cartoon empire and can point to the product with pride. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who created “Tom and Jerry,” have come up with three of the most delightful and entertaining cartoon shows imaginable. They are such superb shows that the parents can laugh hysterically al the antics of the characters while the little ones are spellbound by the adventure.
Many a big city office is deserted early so pop can run home and enjoy “Ruff and Reddy,” “Huckleberry Hound,” and “Quick Draw McGraw” with his kids.
Perhaps “Huckleberry Hound” and his associates are the answer to many of TV’s critics. Because they are fun the parents are able to share them with the kids, and the shows are mature and intelligent, thus easing parental consciences.

Unfortunately, do-gooders today would complain about Quick Draw. He’s got a gun and shoots himself. Think of the kids imitating, blabbety, blah, blah. As it was, do-gooders manipulating studies and data managed to do a pretty good job of emasculating cartoons on Saturday mornings by about 1970. They guilt-tripped (if not pressured) networks and sponsors into filling the screens with cartoons with unsubtle (and therefore unentertaining) messages of doing good which, as we all know, ended racism, pollution, and violence forever because kids imitate everything they see on cartoons.

Oh. Right.


  1. Growing up in New York in the 1960s, it was interesting to compare the attitudes of the two main independent stations, WNEW and WPIX, towards how they handled the questionable aspects of their huge stock of theatrical cartoons, since New York was Ground Zero for those "responsible children's programming" types.

    While WPIX pretty much ran anything, reflecting the nascent anti-PC attitude of its parent company, the Chicago Tribune and its owners, the Patterson family, circa 1964 (their NY Daily News was ideologically what Murdoch's NY Post is today). WNEW, which was more tied into to being the independent station with the most concern towards community responsibility and public service programming (their Sunday morning Wonderama show with Sonny Fox would have guests like Sen. Robert Kennedy), was editing their Warners and the non-Popeye/Superman Paramount cartoons almost from the moment they got them, but more for racial stereotypes and WWII sensibility concerns.

    But they never edited out the violence. You had to go to the network level to see cuts for violence, and even then, those really didn't start until the end of the decade, when Peggy Charen and the Action for Children's Television crowd started pressuring the FCC to crack down on Saturday morning cartoons (IIRC, one of the first cuts was removing the Bugs-as-bobbysoxer scene from "Long Haired Hare", though since the explosion was off-screen I don't know why -- unless ABC was worried kids would start creating their own dynamite pens to hand out to people they don't like).

  2. I grew up in the same time and place as J. Lee, and wish to second his comments.

    Though, if there was any sort of suppression going on back then, my recollection was that it was of the WW II variety. That applied to both WPIX (Popeye, Three Stooges) and WNEW (Bugs, Daffy, etc.) Indeed, I’d never seen a large number of the WW II era shorts for these properties until (first) mid-‘80s VHS and, more recently the abundance of WW II Popeye, Stooges, and WB material that seemed to be released to DVD during 2008.

    From this perspective, I figure that, in the ‘60s,WW II was “still too close” in our collective memories for these shorts to air in kid’s time.

    I can understand WNEW’s declining to air “All This and Rabbit Stew’ under any circumstances – but others like “Bushy Hare” were seen every few weeks even into 1973 – when I would come home from HS, watch Bugs Bunny at 4 PM and Lost in Space at 4:30, and bus over to the mall for my after school / evening job. Though the “Mountie firing squad transformation” bit at the end of “Fresh Hare” was cut by Ch. 5 by that time.

    …How’s that for a “Metromedia 5 Memory”? Great comments, J. Lee. Thanks for taking me back!

    Oh, and how ironic is it that WNEW became the FOX station!

  3. An immensely long and important reply...the following is food for though, so hope you brought your drink of choice!

    J.Lee and Joe T., I grew up[ in the same time frame but on the other side of America and while WW II kept some of the popular singers of the THIRTIES and FORTIES on the radio - another thing ..very few of the era's popular singers [except ONE from..."Hoboken..OOH I'm DYIN'"-Bugs Bunny] would last the rock invasion, much like, ironically, the watchdog groups's own obvious current Vietnam era [the time mentioned, in war terms] favorites, "The Archies" by the studio that I like to dub "Fug-Mation"[Fug as in the current slang Fugly meaning, F****ing Ugly]. That of course put Peggy Charren in her own racist terms, liking something so whitebread as the Archies --- ironically, in other words, the racism applied only to the sanctioned Saturday morning shows, very few of which had REAL black sounds [Fat Albert, another Charren favorite, being the obvious exception]. ...while modern times have been kinder while perhaps mistaking WWII musically and culturally as the Frankie era and thus considering Sinatra politically correct while some such modern viewers might or might not enjoy the concurrent 1940s racist cartoons..

    Equitably, one of my favorite crooners from the GAC era and THE biggie, Bing Crosby, has gotten more than his share of modern criticism not just from being the laid back guy that doles out "beatings" then does ahnky-panky but also with his Father Christmas image is so squeaky clean so as to appear white thus..yep..racist. Yet he was one of the most racially CORRECT ever..ironic, so was him and Friz Freleng after many years of those two 1930s cartoons showing him as a coward and causing him to sue doing that underrated DePatie-Freleng Goldilocks special, a guilty pleasure of mine which I've blogged about.]

    THat's to say nothing of the generation gap during World War II musically...if you liked racism, you were into Al Jolson, you were a parent, not a 1940s teenager, you were racist, like that Little Black Sambo, yada yada, but supposedly then 2) if you were a teenager, you were a Sinatra or Benny Goodman fan, not racist, younger, not into those cartoons, etc. so says what I gather from my reading entertainment history books and watchung the actual shorts..

    In short, there were those two camps that kind of divide modern nostalgia when discussing bhistory, and pop culture and celebrity reference sin old shows and movies that could date them quick and bad, 1) the mainstream "racist, Middle Class/America/of the road"etc. types who made the Hit Parade and Tin pan Alley during the war and earlier, so popular back then and 2) the artists from then who we regard as timeless, which usually almost include 4 or 5 that survived through the rock era.

    Or in a tidy nutshell:
    The editing goes beyond offensive images including violent content to include celebrities not recognizable later on - Louis Armstrong, The Great Gildersleeve and other old time radio stars, even the younger Sinatra for that matter, not to mention sexiness!

    Much more about different things not even offensive [ice boxes, buggies, trolleys, Woolworth stores that would date a "'toon" or movie] could be written. Then there's that scene in Frank Tashlin';s 1937 Technicolor musical debut "Spekaing of the weather" that updates 1937 to 1944! And don't even get me started on Chuck Jones's 1949 "Frigid Hare" when Bugs says "1953" and then
    a modern actor [Jeff Bergman, perhaps?] dubs in say, 2003.[And Frigid itself got the title removed..a sexual content..]


  4. Thanks, Joe

    WPIX would often air the uncut "Seein Red, White & Blue", though they did draw the line at "You're A Sap, Mr. Jap" and "Scrap the Japs" in the Popeye series (they'd also run "The Kid from Borneo" in the Little Rascals series, which Ch. 5 would have never done).

    WNEW did edits on the post-48 cartoons for both time and for questionable gags immediately after acquiring the package in Sept. '64 -- they cut the Indian's reaction to buying Manhattan island in "Yankee Doodle Bugs", the 'Lawless Western Town' gags in "Drip-Along Daffy" and the opening section of "Baton Bunny" until the orchestra begins. The first definitely was due to the characture, the last was definitely for time purposes (when they needed a 'short' Bugs cartoon to fill a hole) and the middle one I think was for time also, since Ch. 5 really didn't have a major problem with the violence until well after the ACT crowd had started forcing the networks to edit their Saturday morning shorts.

  5. This article was published nine years before the premiere of Sesame Street in the USA.
    As you can see, Sesame Street brings the concept of edutainment (education and entertainment).
    Here in Brazil, Sesame Street (known here as Vila Sésamo) premiered in 1972 and was canceled in 1976. 33 years after, Sesame Street returned to Brazil.

  6. Growing up in the Hampton Roads, Norfolk area from the early 60s to the mid 70's, the local channels WTAR, WVEC, and WAVY ran just about all the " Looney Tunes ", Merry Melodies ", and yes, even the Stooges uncensored, including " Southern Fried Rabbit ". They aired the " Merry Melody " cartoons with the Native Kid, the Mynah Bird, and the lion alot. All gun shots and explosions were also shown. All the World War Two cartoons from Popeye and Bugs were aired. I started noticing edits on local television in those areas in the late 80's to early 90's. Then, ABC went off the deep end with their editing of " The Bugs-Tweety Hour " in the 90's. The network got so bad with the editing, if I hadn't grown up watching the un-cut version, I wouldn't have known what was going on..seriously. My dad taught me, and I taught my sons what real guns and dynomite will do as opposed to what guns, explosives, baseball bats, and electricity WON'T do in cartoons. Inspite of having me as a dad, and watching hours uncensored cartoons, Stooges, and Laurel and Hardy... the grew up level headed.

  7. In fall 1977 NYC's WPIX Channel 11 acquired the theatrical Tom & Jerry package that had aired on CBS 1965-72- the one that also included Barney Bear, post-1948 Tex Avery and the Cinemascope Droopies. A year later I went off to college in northwest NYS, where we could pick up Rochester and Buffalo stations. They showed T&J cartoons with Mammy in her original voice and butchered syntax; Channel 11 excluded her shorts or aired the neutered-by-CBS versions (June Foray dubbing in an 'Irish' voice, and the effects of some explosions on characters redrawn). And many 'blackface gags' edited in NYC aired uncut. Rochester and Buffalo had large minority populations themselves, but obviously the station managers were far more lenient over this type of thing.

    By the 1980s, WNEW/5 would only show the same thirty or so syndicated WB cartoons, and would cut off large parts of the beginning, middle or end- presumably for time. They might have done a few edits to Walter Lantz cartoons- such as Woody, fed up with endless commercials, gunning down an on-screen announcer through the cathode rays.