What’s New With Cartoons?

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Published on September 8, 2017, at 2:01 p.m.
by Katie Willem.

Cartoons on Saturday mornings are a tradition for many families. Classics like “Tom & Jerry,” The Flintstones” and shows featuring the Looney Tunes are often favorites in the family, but the same shows have been running for years. They’re simple, fun and oftentimes family-friendly. The question is how these shows stay alive despite animation advancements in the entertainment industry. The answer lies at the beginning of this blog post: Cartoons are part of many family traditions.

My parents grew up watching these shows with their brothers and sisters on Saturday mornings. They know that the Road Runner always gets away from Wile E. Coyote and that Jerry always seems to have a trick up his sleeve. They trust that these shows will instill the same lessons in me and my siblings that they were taught while growing up.

However, channels ask for new episodes from some shows, which sometimes can lead to a plummet in the shows’ ratings. Take Scooby-Doo and the gang, for example.

The show “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” aired in 1969, and today has a rating of 7.8 on TV.com.

This version developed into movies, and new episodes and movies ran through 1973, though the original show still had reruns after the end of the series.

Creators came back with “A Pup Named Scooby-Doo” in 1988, and the show ran through the beginning of the 90s. It now holds a rating of 7.9 on TV.com.

Fast forward through several remakes of the show to 2010, when “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated” aired. This show followed a story arc through the series, instead of the previous shows’ history of individual episode arcs. This series also has a 7.8 on TV.com.

Finally, in the most recent airing of Scooby-Doo, “Be Cool, Scooby-Doo,” the show modernizes the characters into what’s called “Modern Cartoony” style (think along the larger-than-life animation style of “Adult Swim,” “The Simpsons” and “Rick and Morty”). The show has a rating of 6.5 on TV.com.

There’s a lesson to be learned in a 1.3 percent change. This cartoon style is “in” right now, as most new shows are designed this way, but the Scooby-Doo franchise took a hit on its ratings here. The Scooby-Doo gang has looked relatively the same for over 40 years — until this most recent series.

I think this decline is because the producers and promotion people didn’t take time to think about how tradition affects a person’s emotional connection to an object or, in this case, a show. As PR professionals, we have to know what these emotional connections are.

Scooby-Doo showcased friendship and teamwork. Shaggy and Scooby taught those watching that it’s okay to be afraid, as long as you learn to stand up to your fear. These are life lessons that kids can take with them to their later years and into adulthood.

Upset fans of the original series have taken to the internet with complaints like What In The Sam Hell Did Cartoon Network Do To Scooby-Doo?. It’s pretty obvious that the way Scooby and the gang were portrayed had an effect on the audience’s emotional connection to the show, as illustrated by the audience’s aversion to watch the reboot that Cartoon Network has been airing.

As human beings, we resist change pretty hard, even though that change is sometimes good for us. But it is possible that cartoons don’t need to change when they have no reason to. The Tom and Jerry characters lost their outlining in the 2014 series, but still look like the 1940s versions of themselves, despite the small update. Perhaps a lesson we can learn as PR practitioners is that you have to know when you have a good thing going for you and use that to your advantage.

One Comment

  1. Jeff Harding

    While I think you have a valid point, I would say its more of a “cartoon network” problem, not an industry wide epidemic. Cartoon Network has tried to revival multiple old IPs that have totally missed the mark, such as Powerpuff Girls and Teen Titans, GO! Conversely, looking at the success of many Disney channel cartoons (specifically, the VERY promising Ducktales reboot) it seems Cartoon Network is extremely disconnected from what their viewers want

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