Since August 1973, consumer advocates Action for Children's Television (ACT), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and industry representatives National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the Senate Commerce Commission (SCC) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) had met regularly in an attempt to agree on ways to police programming for children on TV and children's commercials.

Peggy Charren of ACT told the 'Washington Post' in 1974, "Children are not the proper target for sales messages." The 'Washington Post' continued, "All the networks are signing on educational consultants in such numbers that our colleges and universities may soon lack faculties." Saturday morning television were expected to air programs showing pro-social values and teaching good citizenship, loyalty, trust and friendship.

Speaking to the press in 1978, Norman Prescott of Filmation Studios argued, "We're not saying children's shows are all they should be. We do say there isn’t enough children's programming. But if parents use TV as a babysitter, then the shows aren’t going to improve. As for the commercials, parents control what foods are brought into the home. Not the kids. If parents don’t approve of the products being advertised, they shouldn’t buy them.

"Producers have the duty and the responsibility of leaving a child with some kind of learning experience. When you take a young, pliable mind and introduce it to any form of entertainment, it’s wrong to reinforce a lack of reality in their everyday world. We’re the guys who innovated the educational content in action-adventure and comedy shows for kids. Overall the quality of Saturday morning shows is bad, but I think we're a shining example.

"No one had tried to educate through commercial entertainment TV. 'Fat Albert' is about a contemporary 'dead end' gang of ghetto kids. We've handled subjects like divorce, alcoholism, death, drugs, junk food and even the problem of watching too much TV. One of the real problems in children's programming is the difference in the ages of viewers. The kid audience, estimated at 35 million, is broken down into two major groups, those from 2 year-olds to 6 and 7-year-olds to 11."

Lou Scheimer added, "There's so much mindless material on TV the child is bombarded with meaningless movement. He sits, transfixed, watching action and color without content. There’s nothing wrong with showing right from wrong or where to go for help or how to solve a problem, along with entertainment. But it must be remembered that aside from our shows and Hanna-Barbera, most of the cartoons on Saturday morning were done for theaters as family entertainment long ago.

"Some of them go back to the '30s, '40s and '50s. It began with 'Fat Albert' in 1971. We used pro-social messages through entertainment. The networks didn't think it would work. But we organized a group of educators and consultants to include worthwhile themes. It's ('Tarzan') at the top because it is fantasy and Tarzan is a super-hero who is perceivable as a human being they can copy and there are a lot of animals. Each episode involves a moral question and resolution. Eventually, cable TV or pay TV of some kind will provide the right kind of kid shows. Until then, we’re doing our best."

In 1981, Tony Thomopoulos outlined ABC prime time lineup for the 1981-82 TV season, "The feel of the schedule reflects the mood of the country. It's a return to more traditional values."

At the same time, Joe Barbera made the comment about Saturday morning TV, "All I hope is that we leave education to the schools, where I believe it should be, and leave entertainment to us. I hope someday we can again have a cat chasing a mouse (as in 'Tom and Jerry') and not have to stop in the middle and start teaching him basketweaving or glass-blowing, because someone says you have to have something educational.

"You've got to grab them (the viewers) in the first shot. You've got to grab them with something exciting, which is a big deviation from what it used to be 20 years ago (say around 1961), when you'd open with Huckleberry Hound sauntering along singing, 'Oh My Darling.' Today (in 1981), by the time we get to the second phrase they'd go, 'Wait a minute, where's the action?' I think what has happened is that television has created a bunch of restless youths."

In 1958, Belgian cartoonist Pierre "Peyo" Culliford created the Smurfs. In 1978 (some 20 years later), a British oil company launched a Smurfs merchandising promotion. The campaign attracted the attention of an American novelty company. In the 1981-82 season, the 'Smurfs' went on air. Joe Barbera conceded, "I'm still trying to figure out why it took off. I remember we had another animated series that didn't work. We had to eliminate the villain.

"That was it. Gargamel and Azrael the cat are the villains. I think that's what makes the show work. Kids have never seen anything like this before. This is what life is all about. When they grow up they're going to meet all kinds of problems and I think they should learn about it and prepare for it. The way you look at most things on television is that they last two seasons. We did six years with 'The Flintstones' in prime time. I think the 'Smurfs' have a future in prime time specials. Our first prime-time special did good in the ratings."

Lucy Johnson of NBC acknowledged, "You ask yourself why they're popular. You study it and end up saying you don't know. It's an indefinable chemistry and charisma that the kids relate to but I would say that the merchandising was already there so kids were familiar with the characters." It was reported NBC earned about $150 million with sales of Smurf dolls, figurines, puppets, pins, pajamas, clothing, posters, school bags, lunch boxes, cups, stationery, records and books.

Lucy Johnson continued, "And secondly, they're cuddly and loveable and represent the kids' point of view. All the elements of good and evil are there, but it always ends on a positive note. And I think it's important that Papa Smurf is the authority figure in charge. The Smurfs react like humans. They stray and do things they shouldn't, but always in the background is Papa Smurf as that strong central figure in their lives.

"I got involved in children's programming a week after the premiere. Hanna-Barbera couldn't deliver the shows fast enough. The quality is so much higher than what we're used to on Saturday mornings that it takes much longer. So around the third week we had to start repeating. It didn't make any difference. There was such a hunger for this show that all the typical taboos didn't apply. Nothing has slowed it down.

"We started the (1981-82) season in third place. The show has been No. 1 four weeks in a row. Its broken all viewing records for Saturday morning. This is the first time we've had a No. 1 children's show in years. It's an extraordinary turnaround. It's not just a hit – it's a megahit. It's going to create a lot of imitators, and for once they'll be imitating something worthwhile.

"I think the imitators might have trouble. This is something pure and it works. The characters are very well defined. I think when something is created from a body of work that's stood the test of time for 20 years it shows. There are thoughtful stories. That's what makes it so nice – something good is being imitated instead of just something that's popular."

In the 1985-86 TV season, Walt Disney Productions joined the Saturday morning lineup with 'Gummi Bears' and 'The Wuzzles'.

Gary Krisel of Disney insisted the Saturday morning animation was not the same as the popular Gummi Bears candy sold in Europe, "That's a German name for rubber, but we just liked the sound of it. We're not tied into the candy. Disney has always had a strong licensing and marketing division. I know there is a lot of controversy about cartoons based on toys. But that's not the way we do things here. Here the stories come first. We're not going to be adding characters or accessories to sell more toys.

"There's been a change in thinking. We now see television as having a very important role in communicating to children. We also think that Saturday morning television has improved in recent years. We're creating a new style of animation that hopefully will raise the standards. One reason many Saturday morning cartoons don't have the high production values is because the producers want to make a profit right away."

It was noted the drawings were done by Japanese artists. Gary Krisel continued, "That's the only way to hold down costs and we're closely supervising all the work. The storyboards and ideas are all done here, along with the writing, music, editing and voices. In fact you may have noticed that some films such as 'Star Wars' do not play as well on the small screen as they did in the theater. The same thing is true for animation. There is no need to make the elaborate effort that goes into one of our feature-length projects.

"Now we're not going to be offering the same sort of detail and quality and special effects that go into our feature-length animation, but these new efforts will be better than anything new that's been seen on television. You won't see figures walking like sticks and then moving their jaws a couple of times to suggest talking. We'll also be trying to keep that Disney charm. Care has been given to character development. The Gummis, for example, are fond of puns and they like to play on words. Subtle messages about health and safety will be in the stories. For example, the bears 'buckle-up' when they rode on their little cars."

In 1918, Joe Barbera, then 8, began third grade at Holy Innocence School in Brooklyn. Between 1957 and 1974, he tried unsuccessfully to sell to the TV networks on the idea of a series of animated bible stories, "I think they felt, and rightly so, that any biblical subject would involve a difference of opinion. They just didn't want to get into anything that controversial." Fortunately, the advent of home video solved Joe Barbera's problem.

In 1986, Joe Barbera took six cassettes of 'The Greatest Adventure Stories From The Bible' to a convention of Catholic educators in Anaheim, California. Each cassette ran for 30 minutes and the first six biblical stories were: 'Moses: Let My People Go', 'David and Goliath', 'Joshua and the Battle of Jericho', 'Noah and the Ark', 'Samson and Delilah' and 'Daniel and the Lion's Den'.

Joe Barbera expressed, "It was at Holy Innocence that I found out I could draw. I reproduced the famous picture of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. I did it in chalk on the blackboard. Later, I read about Michelangelo lying on his back painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and getting full of plaster dust. With me, it was chalk dust. When my mother found out I was spending all my time doing biblical scenes and neglecting my other studies, she yanked me out and put me in public school."

Joe Barbera defended the violence in the stories, "How do you hide the violence? When David marches out and faces Goliath, he's there because Goliath has been taunting the Israelites. He kills him with a slingshot, which was a deadly weapon in its day." Each cassette opened with the youths on an archaeological expedition, falling into a sand whirlpool and a time warp, "Our young observers help bridge the gap. Then we added things we felt would have happened. Noah's ark had to leak. And the ark would rock, so the elephant would slide back and forth. Each story also has an underlying moral, but we don't hit you with it. You turn off young people if you try to preach."

The $2 million project was financed by Hanna-Barbera and Taft Entertainment Co. At the time, Joe Barbera stated, "If it goes the way we think it will, we'll soon have 26 cassettes out. We'll do as many as it will take. The story of Joseph alone could take up to six parts." Before the convention, it was reported over 250,000 cassettes had been sold in advance sales for $19.95 each.

Back in 1970, Joe Barbera told the press, "Sometimes we have as many as 650 artists employed here (at Hanna-Barbera Productions). They are all very good and, being artists, they want special treatment. Can you imagine what it would have been like to have had Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and El Greco in your employ at the same time?”

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