The first successful, designed-for-television cartoon was not created for a TV network, but rather was released directly into syndication. Crusader Rabbit, created by Jay Ward (of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame) and Alexander Anderson, was first distributed in 1949. Network television cartooning came along eight years later. The networks' first cartoon series was The Ruff and Reddy Show, which was developed by the most successful producers of television cartoons, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. The Ruff and Ready Show was also the first made-for-TV cartoon show to be broadcast nationally on Saturday mornings; its popularity helped established the feasibility of Saturday morning network programming. Hanna-Barbera was also responsible for bringing cartoons to the prime-time network schedule--though its success in prime-time did not result in a trend. Hanna-Barbera's The Flintstones (1960) was prime-time's first successful cartoon series. It was also prime-time's last successful series until the premiere of The Simpsons in 1989.
TV cartoons in the 1990s were dominated by the phenomenal success of Matt Groening's The Simpsons, which thrived after its series premiere in 1989 (first appearing in 1988, in short form, on The Tracey Ullman Show). Its ratings triumph was largely responsible for establishing a new television network (FOX) and launching one of the biggest merchandising campaigns of the decade. In 1990, Bart Simpson was on T-shirts across the U.S. declaring, "Don't have a cow, man!" And yet, despite the trappings of success, The Simpsons was often a sly parody of popular culture, in general, and television cartoons, in particular--as was to be expected from Groening, who established himself as the artist of the "Life in Hell" comic strip. The recurrent feature of "The Itchy and Scratchy Show," a cartoon within The Simpsons, allowed the program to critique violence in cartoons at the same time it reveled in it. And in one episode, The Simpsons retold the entire history of cartooning as if "Itchy and Scratchy" had been early Disney creations.