Category: Saturday Mornings

The Berenstain Bears

The Berenstain Bears

The characters of the popular children’s books by Stan and Jan Berenstain came to Saturday-morning in 1985. The episodes varied little from the books, emphasizing family and good moral behavior.

Living in Beartown, the family often had to deal with important issues, such as responsibility and sharing. Many stories revolved around the family’s close relationship with their community, including neighbors Big Paw Bear, Mayor Horace T. Honeypot, and scientist Actual Factual. Other times the family would be forced to deal with trouble caused by Raffish Ralph, a villain who enjoyed conning anyone he could. Whether Ralph was plotting to control all the honey in Beartown or causing earthquakes in the little community, the Bear family always found a way to work together and defeat him.

The popular Berenstain Books easily translated to a hit animated version. By keeping the family values intact, children could still learn from the same simple lessons that the Bear children were schooled on, as well as enjoy the warm and inviting animation that they came to love in the books.

It’s Punky Brewster

It's Punky Brewsrer

One of the most talked-about new series for NBC in 1984 was Punky Brewster. The show starred newcomer Soleil Moon Frye as the latest entrant in the “cute kid” sitcom derby (Diff’rent Strokes and the like). Punky was an orphan who, along with her dog Brandon, was discovered living in an abandoned apartment by curmudgeonly old apartment manager Henry. Soon enough, Punky warmed Henry’s heart and he decided to take care of her, opening the door to weekly adventures.

After one season, Punky became popular enough with viewers that NBC decided to give her a cartoon and a contraction. It’s Punky Brewsterfeatured the same characters as the live version and most of the same cast. The new addition was Glomer, a Gazoo-like character who would magically transport Punky and friends to faraway places.

The initial popularity of the primetime Punky wore off more quickly than expected, and the sitcom left the network for syndication in 1986. The cartoon followed suit a year later.

The Snorks


Take a Smurf, stick a snorkel on his head, put him underwater and force him to replace the word “Smurf” with the word “Snork” when he speaks, and you’ve got the basis for The Snorks.

The premise for the show was quite elaborate: In 1643, the captain of a ship under pirate attack discovered a tiny race of beings that lived underwater. After reaching the surface, the rescued captain shared his story of Snorks with a disbelieving world, while underneath the waves, an excited Snork by the name of Uncle Galeo was spreading the word about the surface dwellers.

Continue reading “The Snorks”

Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears

Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears

Disney’s first foray into Saturday morning was The Gummi Bears, a half-hour adventure series about a charming sextet of anthropomorphic, medieval bears. In a unique move for the time, the cartoon was based not on a comic strip, plush doll, or series of greeting cards, but rather a candy. The resulting show, however, bore little resemblance to candymaker Heide’s chewy, fruity confection.

The premise had six Gummi Bears protecting Princess Calla and her boy-page Cavin in the Kingdom of Dunwyn. The bears got their power from Gummiberry Juice—made by Grammi Gummi—which gave them the ability to bounce like no bear had ever bounced before. The potion came in handy in defeating the assembled ogres and other nasties who opposed the Gummis in every weekly episode. No bears were eaten during the making of this cartoon.

In the fall of 1989, the Gummi Bears joined everyone’s favorite non-edible bear, Winnie the Pooh, in Disney’s Gummi Bear/Winnie the Pooh Hour. The new arrangement lasted one season before the Gummis were again reassigned, this time to the Disney Afternoon block. One year later, the show found a longer-lasting home on cable’s Disney Channel.

Rocky and Bullwinkle’s June Foray and Bill Scott voiced characters on this show, as did Garfield’s Lorenzo Music and Married…With Children‘s David Faustino, who played one of the four Cavins.

The ABC Weekend Special

ABC Weekend Special

The ABC Weekend Special introduced kids to literature through live-action and animated retellings of popular children’s stories. Originally a monthly special, the show moved to a weekly run in the fall of 1977, and has appeared off and on ever since.

Culling from its own ABC Short Story Special and ABC Afterschool Special programs, the anthology show added new material from nearly every animation company around, including Hanna-Barbera, Ruby-Spears, Marvel, DIC, Film Roman, and more.

Michael Young served as the original host, replaced after two seasons by Willie Tyler and his puppet, Lester. The pair lasted until 1984, when they were ousted by Cap’n O.G. Readmore. Initials notwithstanding, the Cap’n was not an “Original Gangsta,” but rather an animated cat in a navy uniform.

With over twenty years on the air, it would be impossible to list the many stories The ABC Weekend Special has brought to young viewers. Among the more popular: The Red Room RiddleRikki-Tikki-TaviThe Trouble With Miss Switch and The Return of Miss SwitchThe Puppy’s Further Adventures (which later became its own series), the Little Lulu series, Runaway Ralph (starring a young Fred Savage), Liberty and the Littles(with ABC Saturday morning stars The Littles), The Secret World of OgThe Legend of Lochnagar (written and narrated by Prince Charles), and The Magic Pearl.

Airing early in the afternoon, The ABC Weekend Special may never have had the ratings and toy tie-ins of its morning competitors, but it taught kids an important lesson in an entertaining way. In the words of Cap’n O.G. himself:

“Read a book with me and you will see
That reading… is where it’s at!”

Thundarr the Barbarian

Thundarr the Barbarian Cartoon

Thundarr the Barbarian

Forget the global chaos myth that was Y2K. In the world of Thundarr the Barbarian, the end of civilization occurred six years earlier, when, in 1994, a runaway planet hurtled between the earth and the mooon, “unleashing cosmic destruction.” Now, 2000 years later, Earth is a savage world occupied by wizards, mutants and monsters.

Thundarr the Barbarian on DVD

…And one superhero, of course—the blonde, muscular Thundarr. The title barbarian was once a slave of the evil wizard Sabian, but he was set free by Princess Ariel, Sabian’s stepdaughter. Taking pity on the poor, good-looking slave, Ariel gave him a magic sabre that could send out an energy ray capable of destroying any foe. With the help of this Sun Sword and a lionlike mutant pal named Ookla the Mok, Thundarr and Ariel fought all manner of futuristic enemies to save their beloved Earth.

This post originally appeared on the long defunct Yesterdayland website.  We archive it here to preserve it.

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends Cartoon

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends

Marvel Comics’ famed webslinger returned to Saturday morning in 1981 with a pair of new companions. In this incarnation, Peter Parker was a college student at Empire State University, boarding with his Aunt May. While at ESU, Peter met fellow students Bobby Drake and Angelica Jones. The group ended up exchanging secret identities—Peter was the wall-crawling Spider-Man, Bobby was frosty mutant Iceman, and Angelica was red-hot fellow mutant Firestar. Bobby and Angelica moved into Aunt May’s as well (along with Angelica’s dog, Ms. Lion), and Peter and Bobby converted their room into a secret crimefighting HQ (revealed when anyone shifted the football trophy on the mantle). Continue reading “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends Cartoon”