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Old 10-12-2019, 04:32 PM
Hermione is offline
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Whatever happened to the prime-time network animated special?


When I was a kid in the 1970s and 80s, it was always a treat to see TV specials. This was way back, of course, when there were only three major networks and a handful of UHF channels, but even after we got cable in the early eighties the prime-time special was still very much a thing.

Of course, there were specials for every kind of holiday--Peanuts even covered Arbor Day and Election Day ("You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown"--they usually run that with "Great Pumpkin" these days). But there were often specials for no particular reason or holiday at all...including quite a few of the Peanuts and Garfield ones.

And it wasn't just established properties like Peanuts or Garfield or The Flintstones or whatever Saturday morning cartoon was the biggest deal at the time...there were entirely original ones. There was one that stood out to me called "No Man's Valley", where a condor searches for a home for endangered animals and ones that had been thought extinct (including a passenger pigeon).

Nowadays, though, you rarely seem to see any new prime-time specials. They re-run the best of Peanuts at Christmas and Halloween and Thanksgiving (sometimes pairing them with lesser-known ones to fill out an hour), and the most classic Rankin-Bass ones (although quite a few of those are on ABC Family or AMC) but you don't see very many new ones, except the occasional one based on Shrek or some Disney property.

So why do you think they died out? Is it the fact that there are no longer just three networks? Is it the fact that you can get so much viewing material on demand and don't have to wait for something to show on TV? Or the fact that "wow--CARTOONS after dark!" just isn't that unique anymore? What do you guys think?

(Whatever the reason, I'm a little sad for the kids who'll never know the pleasure of seeing this and knowing something good was about to come on. Or felt just a little sad when this ended a special--knowing it was going to be whole year before they could see Rudolph or Frosty again.)
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Last edited by Hermione; 10-12-2019 at 04:33 PM.
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Old 10-13-2019, 12:52 PM
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Just a WAG but I'd pick the fact that watching cartoons during prime time just isn't that special anymore. That and the fact that they don't want to invest in properties that aren't proven. Just look at how many Scooby Doo movies there have been.
There were a whole slew of Christmas specials a few year back. Maybe they didn't do well?

Last edited by furryman; 10-13-2019 at 12:54 PM.
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Old 10-13-2019, 01:07 PM
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My WAG is that first videotapes, then DVDs, then downloadable and on-demand streaming video giving people the ability to watch "special" shows at any time were the biggest factor in killing off the TV special.
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Old 10-13-2019, 07:06 PM
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I think there was a sort of golden age of these specials during which nearly all of them were made. ( For Rankin -Bass, approximately 1964-1988, about 22 years) But the lack of new ones isn't recent - my kids were born in 1989 and '90, and mostly they seemed to watch the same ones I watched as a child. There may have been one or two new ones made after they were old enough to watch , but I don't remember many.

There's are a couple of reasons no one has mentioned though. First is that kids will watch the same specials year after year- that's why those specials were shown every year.* Second, children age out of them and new kids are born - a kid who was born in 2017 will happily watch "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" in 2019, even though it was made in 1964." ** Between those two factors, there just isn't a reason to keep making new specials.


* And they probably are all still shown every year, on one cable network or another's "25 days of Christmas" or " Best Christmas Ever" event.


** Disney used to re-release certain movies in theaters every 7-10 years because by that time, there would be a new audience. They did the same with VHS and DVD releases of certain movies - which would go "into the vault" and be unavailable for years.
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Old 10-13-2019, 08:57 PM
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Originally Posted by doreen View Post
There's are a couple of reasons no one has mentioned though. First is that kids will watch the same specials year after year- that's why those specials were shown every year.* Second, children age out of them and new kids are born - a kid who was born in 2017 will happily watch "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" in 2019, even though it was made in 1964." ** Between those two factors, there just isn't a reason to keep making new specials.
That's my take on it as well. I mean, what subjects haven't been covered already that need to be? What's wrong with the old shows that they need replacing?
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Old 10-13-2019, 09:07 PM
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It's gotta be cheaper to produce 500 Hallmark Christmas movies than one cartoon special.

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Old 10-13-2019, 09:24 PM
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There are still a few of these made. Disney aired "Toy Story of Terror!" in 2013, and NBC aired "The David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special" two years ago. Disney also did a couple of "Prep & Landing" Christmas specials.

The nice thing about these specials is that they're easily rerun the next year (given that they only air once each year). So it's not that important to create new ones all the time.
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Old 10-14-2019, 02:03 AM
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There is also the fairly recent (and weird) How Murray Saved Christmas.
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Old 10-14-2019, 02:48 AM
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there's a lot of "syndicated" specials like yogi's first Xmas which signaled the start of the Xmas season in la county cause channel 13 played it every year at 8 pm on Black Friday (or occasionally on thanksgiving night ) but one trend was s after a while the networks only made Xmas specials for their Saturday morning shows ...

a recently new one is "olive the other reindeer" that drew Barrymore and friends made .. I remember one year tho cartoon network had a week of Xmas anti specials they were "twisted" Xmas stories also theres the straight to DVD/Netflix market .....
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Old 10-14-2019, 03:39 AM
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I'm guessing that the fact that everyone is so touchy about advertising to children is a major factor in the decline of children's programming on the advertiser-supported networks.

If everybody's going to have fits over showing ads for Sugar Pops, GI Joe, and Barbie, what's the incentive to air children's shows?
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Old 10-14-2019, 06:20 AM
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a recently new one is "olive the other reindeer" that drew Barrymore and friends made ...
...back in 1999.
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Old 10-14-2019, 07:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
My WAG is that first videotapes, then DVDs, then downloadable and on-demand streaming video giving people the ability to watch "special" shows at any time were the biggest factor in killing off the TV special.
I figured this might have been a factor. On the one hand, it's great to get to watch what you want when you want. On the other...we've lost that sense of "specialness" that we got when things only showed once a year.

For example...remember when The Wizard of Oz only showed once a year, on CBS? On a Friday night shortly before Easter? And you got your bath early and got into your jammies so you could watch it, and when you heard the last notes of the score, you'd think, "Aw man, that's it for another year"?
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Old 10-14-2019, 10:43 AM
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I am under the impression that most of the animated specials that air on broadcast TV are targeting the nostalgic parents (and grandparents) more than the kids. This is why, for example, they never air You're in Love, Charlie Brown, or He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown, or Play it Again, Charlie Brown - there aren't enough adults who liked them enough to make them worth showing again. (Only one is really "dated" - Charlie Brown's All-Stars, the ending of which makes no sense ever since Little League Baseball was pretty much forced to start letting girls play about 40 years ago.)

Remember, there hasn't been a new Peanuts comic strip in almost 20 years.

Besides, there are a few new ones that make it to network TV - the Toy Story specials come to mind. They're just not as noticeable, or memorable, as the earlier ones.
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Old 10-14-2019, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Snowboarder Bo View Post
That's my take on it as well. I mean, what subjects haven't been covered already that need to be? What's wrong with the old shows that they need replacing?
You'll never make it in Hollywood with that attitude.
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Old 10-14-2019, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
...back in 1999.
wow its been that long? we still watch it everytime its on ...
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Old 10-14-2019, 03:05 PM
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is the peanuts gang still popular among kids these days? i know boomerang had a french animated series that was just pretty much-animated strips .... .(they ran for about 2 minutes or so each )
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Old 10-14-2019, 03:32 PM
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Disney has been doing some. Toy Story got Halloween and Christmas specials. The were three "Prep & Landing" specials.
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Old 10-14-2019, 05:48 PM
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Other than How the Grinch Stole Christmas are any of the Dr. Seuss cartoons shown anywhere?
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