It’s November again and that means it’s time once again, since November is the month of giving thanks, to give thanks to the classic childrens’ blocks we grew up as kids with in the 90s and 00s.
Starting the block out this year is Disney’s One Saturday Morning:
On September 13, 1997, Disney’s One Saturday Morning premiered as a two-hour sub-block within the ABC Saturday Morning lineup. It was originally scheduled to debut the Saturday prior on September 6, however its premiere was pushed back one week due to ABC News’ coverage of the funeral of Princess Diana (a news event which also resulted in CBS and Fox pre-empting their children’s programs block that day).
One Saturday Morning – advertised as “five hours of summer, once a week!” (as referenced in the theme song that introduced the block each week) – featured two parts: three hours of regularly scheduled cartoons and a two-hour flagship show that included feature segments, comedy skits, and the virtual world Peter Hastings had proposed, along with episodes of three series: Doug (which had been acquired from Nickelodeon), Recess and Pepper Ann, all of which were interspersed through the show. Schoolhouse Rock!, a longtime staple of ABC’s Saturday morning block since 1972, also aired as an interstitial segment (typically it aired during The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show, the only non-Disney series to carry into One Saturday Morning and one that would air until Warner Bros. ended ABC’s contract in 2000). Among the educational features were:
- Manny the Uncanny, in which the title character (played by Paul Rugg) would visit an unusual job site and observe how the job is performed;
- Great Minds Think for Themselves, in which Genie (voiced by Robin Williams, reprising of the character he voiced in Aladdin) highlighted moments in (mostly American) history in which famous figures bucked conventional wisdom;
- How Things Werk, a 1950s comic book styled segment explaining feats of American engineering; and
- Mrs. Munger’s Class, in which a page from an actual elementary school yearbook had its faces syncro-voxed for humorous effect (the actual people whose photos were featured never granted their permission for their likenesses to be used, prompting legal action against its producers and the eventual removal of the sketch). A similar sketch called Centerville replaced Mrs. Munger’s Class in 1999.
The live-action wraparound segments were originally hosted by now New York City based lawyer Jessica Prunell (in the role of Charlie) for the block’s first season in 1997, and later by Valarie Rae Miller (in the role of MeMe) beginning in September 1998; the segments also featured an elephant named Jelly Roll (voiced by stand up comedian and actor Brad Garrett), who served as a sidekick to the human host.
During One Saturday Morning‘s intro sequence as well as the opening titles of programs during the block, a tiny lightbulb icon appeared in a bottom corner of the screen (which during programs, often occurred during a static frame at the end of the program’s title sequence) with an announcer saying, “Illuminating Television,” in reference to the educational programming content within the block. Various animations in which the lightbulb was removed from the screen occurred after the bulb’s chain was pulled by a hand, differing depending on the program (such as the lightbulb turning into a rocket, falling into a garbage can or jumping in a pool). The icon continued to be used after the rebranding to “ABC Kids” until 2004, when it was replaced for the remainder of ABC Kids’ run by an “e/i” icon adorned on a mortarboard hat and a ball version of the ABC logo (based on the one seen in the logo used for the block) that bounced to the top of the screen to wear the e/i hat at the start of each act.
The shorts and hosted segments were dropped in 2000 in a reformatting of the ABC block due to low ratings; by this time, the interstitials within the block were relegated to bumpers and program promotions. In September 2001, live-action series were added to the One Saturday Morning lineup with the addition of the “Zoog Hour,” an hour-long sub-block featuring the Disney Channel original sitcoms Lizzie McGuire and Even Stevens (the sub-block, advertised in promos for One Saturday Morning promoting the two programs as “powered by Zoog,” was named after Disney Channel’s weekend programming block at the time, Zoog Disney).
One Saturday Morning was essentially a culmination of various Disney animated shows, you would get Disney’s version of Doug, which had started the year prior to One Saturday Morning’s launch in 1996, Pepper Ann, featuring work by Tom Warburton, the future creator of Cartoon Network’s Codename: Kids Next Door a few years later, and Recess, from creators Paul Germain and Joe Ansolabehere, who had just come off of working on Rugrats and Dexter’s Laboratory at the time.
And then after that, One Saturday Morning just stopped and the rest of the lineup included Disney shows 101 Dalmatians, Jungle Cubs, The New Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh, and Science Court plus Schoolhouse Rock and The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show, a Warner Bros. produced series. In fact, during the bumpers of Bugs Bunny & Tweety, the One Saturday Morning bumpers took out the Disney logo out of the normal logo…I guess it’s like when Cartoon Network would air promos for Nickelodeon movies coming to theaters and take the Nickelodeon logo out of the ads, maybe they don’t want to be associated with their biggest competitor…but then if that was the case, why the hell would the Bugs Bunny cartoons still be airing on ABC after Disney bought the company.
In the years after its’ debut, One Saturday Morning has added Hercules: The Animated Series, Mickey Mouse Works, Buzz Lightyear Of Star Command, Teacher’s Pet, Teamo Supremo, The Weekenders, Sabrina: The Animated Series, Mary-Kate & Ashley In Action, Lloyd In Space, and House Of Mouse over the course of its’ five year run. In its’ last season, they even added Disney Channel originals at the time, Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire, and they continued on to into the next incarnation of the ABC Saturday morning lineup.
One Saturday Morning officially ended in Summer 2002 before being replaced that fall with ABC Kids, literally done as a subtle nod to Fox Kids (who had just sold the Fox Family Channel over to ABC in 2001 to make it ABC Family (and it has stayed ever since….I’m still not calling you Freeform, dammit), and it was essentially like One Saturday Morning with the majority of the show’s lineup Disney owned shows and that continued until ABC Kids was dropped in 2011 for Litton’s Weekend Adventure, an educational block of nothing but live-action educational programming and for the first time since 1992, no network had animated series in its’ Saturday lineup anymore.
For me, as somebody who lives in Western Pennsylvania, we didn’t get One Saturday Morning until a couple of years after it debuted, 1999, which was pretty much the same thing what happened with Kids WB!, we didn’t get The WB in Western PA until about three to four years into the network’s run, don’t know why, maybe the affiliates here, WTAE and WB 22 didn’t have the clearance to get them until a few years after its’ run but yeah, we didn’t get these lineups until midway through the block’s runs.
Bottom line, One Saturday Morning had a ton of great memorable shows that any kid who grew up in the 90s can truly appreciate for the nostalgia factor. The block was so successful that it launched a spinoff block for syndication and that block is something we’ll look at next time.
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