5 Reasons The 1970s Animation Malaise Wasn’t So Bad

The 1970s and early 80s is often seen as the malaise period of Western animation. Disney hit a rough patch after Walt died and the likes of Action for Children’s Television (ACT) had cut all of the fun out of the TV shows. This left animated content in a very stale place, despite all of the trippy happenings in the rest of cultural society.

Things weren’t so bad though, here’s a few reasons why the dearth of good quality animation in the mainstream was actually a blessing in disguise:

1. It meant the more off-the wall stuff stood out even more, and meant that artists were forced to use their independent works for real creative expression. It also meant that by the time the Simpsons came around in 1989, audiences were well prepared and hungry for something new and exciting.

2. Even the crappy TV shows had fans and they kept kids interested in animation. Many of today’s great animators grew up watching the tripe peddled by Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears yet they’ve gone on to create some truly memorable shows.

3. It reinforced the creative side of the business. This is especially true of the early 80s, when making TV shows of toys was all the rage. Unfortunately, those severely limited creativity on the part of the producers, and it shows! Thankfully people like Fred Seibert took notice, and began the move back to creator-driven shows to astounding success.

4. It kicked off some very long-running franchises. Scooby Doo has been around since forever. How many people has that kept employed over the years? OK, sure it isn’t the greatest show ever made, but when you figure that it has kept people busy since 1969, you realise that it really does have a staying power that even the Flintstones can’t match.

5. It allowed others to fill in the vacuum left by Walt Disney. Yes, Walt was pretty much the be all and end all of animated films for a long time, even after his death. But it was only after he had departed this world could other people begin to fill in the gap. After a few years you had the likes of Don Bluth step up and attempt the grasp the mantle from what had by that stage was a studio well on the way to becoming the faceless corporation it is today.

One Comment on “5 Reasons The 1970s Animation Malaise Wasn’t So Bad

  1. I have to disagree with some of the claims of this article. Yes, American TV animation entered a period of serious malaise around 1969, but a strong recovery was underway by the early 80s, long before the Simpsons made their TV debut.

    It is true that for the most part Hanna Barbera did not put out its best work during the 70s and 80s, but Ruby Spears had a solid run from the late 70s to late 80s. One of the highlights, Thundarr, is pictured on that DVD cover above.

    As for toy-based shows they were a mixed bunch to be sure. However, the better ones displayed ample creativity.

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