Animation in the United States in the television era

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The state of animation changed dramatically in the four decades starting with the post-World War II proliferation of television. While studios gave up on the big-budget theatrical short cartoons that thrived in the 1930s and 1940s, new television animation studios thrived based on the economy and volume of their output. By the end of the 1980s, most of the Golden Age animators had retired or died, and their younger successors were ready to change the industry and the way that animation was perceived.

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From the big screen to the small screen

Cartoons were never intended just for children. Cartoons in the Golden Age, such as Red Hot Riding Hood, contained topical and often suggestive humor, though they were seen primarily as "children's entertainment" by movie exhibitors. This point of view prevailed when the new medium of television began showing cartoons in the late 1940s.

One of the very first images to be broadcast over television was that of Felix the Cat. In 1938, cartoonist Chad Grothkopf's eight-minute experimental Willie the Worm, cited as the first animated film created for TV, was shown on NBC.[1][2]

As TV became a phenomenon and began to draw audiences away from movie theaters, many children's TV shows included airings of theatrical cartoons in their schedules, and this introduced a new generation of children to the cartoons of the 1920s and 1930s. Cartoon producer Paul Terry sold the rights to the Terrytoons cartoon library to television and retired from the business in the early 1950s. This guaranteed a long life for the characters of Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle, whose cartoons were syndicated and rerun in children's television programming blocks for the next 30 to 40 years.

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