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Top 10: Kids cartoon theme songs

October 1st, 2008 · 41 Comments

Gummi Bears

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It’s time for another easy-to-write, stat-boosting injection of nostalgia, kids! Last week, I listed my favorite video game songs—this week we’ve got a similar countdown. It’s my favorite cartoon theme songs. Like video games, revisiting my favorite cartoon theme songs really just gets me thinking how incredible that much of my crucial stages of childhood development were spent immersed in modern culture’s stinking piss-trough …

Kidd Video

OK, OK, I’ll be honest—I still really love some of these songs. All of the stuff on this list is from the ’80s and early ’90s. I know there’s other great themes out there, but for me personally, that’s the era when I was actually watching cartoons so I have a lot of emotions wrapped up in the music. You have to admit—cheap synthesizers and digital were a huge creative boon for television theme songs. Before I get on to my list, though, I want to give out some honorable mentions to a few themes from cartoons that I never watched as a kid, but stumbled upon in my research and just had to list …

Three themes to cartoons I never watched but wish I had:

Teen Wolf

For starters, I’ll say that any TV theme song whose lyrics describe literally what the show is gets some immediate points in my book. The theme to Teen Wolf mixes spoken exposition in with the theme song, a common device used in cartoons (think G.I. Joe and He-Man). It’s not exactly my favorite type of cartoon theme. But Teen Wolf puts its exposition over a rockin’ ’80s song with totally cool, totally relevant lyrics about “gettin’ hairy” and “feelin’ mean.” And the totally ’80s animated photography style thrown in the mix doesn’t hurt. Too bad I never watched this show.

Galaxy High

Another example of a theme song literally explaining the plot and circumstances of a show.

Kidd Video

Do kids’ shows still go for the completely unbelievable, multicultural, politically correct group of friends and/or crime fighters theme that used to run rampant in the ’80s? I never saw Kidd Video, but from what I can tell from the intro, it follows in a proud tradition of inclusive friends groups a la Captain Planet and The Burger King Kids Club.

OK, on with the main event …

My Top 10 Favorite Cartoon Theme Songs:

10. TIE: Darkwing Duck and TaleSpin

Two of the lesser of the late ’80s/early ’90s Disney Saturday morning cartoon lineup. I can hardly remember what TaleSpin was about or what went on in it, but I remember liking it. The theme has a nice island vibe, and, again, I can really appreciate that because the show was about animals flying planes on islands or something. And the stuff about “friends for life”—that’s good for the kids.

Darkwing Duck has a great New Jack Swing-style theme, and, of course, “Let’s get dangerous” is a great tagline. I never really got how Drake Mallard fit into the whole duck family tree.

09. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

As a kid, I was a TMNT maniac—I had the toys, I had the VHS tapes—I even read the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventure Comics (published by Archie Comics) until my mom felt they started looking too violent. So this song is a natch for my list. I think I’ve probably just heard it too many times for it to be up higher. I have grown to appreciate the lyrics, especially the second verse:

Splinter taught them to be ninja teens (He’s a radical rat!)
Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines (That’s a fact, Jack!)
Raphael is cool but crude (Gimme a break!)
Michaelangelo is a party dude (Party!)

“Donatello does machines”? That’s weird. Raphael definitely was too cool for school.

08. Alvin and the Chipmunks

The ’80s reboot of Alvin and the Chipmunks totally fit in with the radical new decade of the 1980s right down to its synth-propelled theme song. “It’s been a while / but we’re back with style!” If their gimmicky sped-up voices aren’t annoying enough for you, just play this dangerously catchy song a couple of times and you’ll hear them singing in your head all day! I used to love me those Chipettes, too. Hotties.

07. X-Men

This is the only instrumental theme on my list. The adrenaline-filled lead melody, dramatic strings and explosion sounds just really get you pumped to see what those X-Men are going to do, right?

06. TIE: My Little Pony and Care Bears

That’s right—I’m a girly man. I totally watched My Little Pony and Care Bears and collected related toys. This was when I was around 3 or 4 years old, mind you, so it’s not like I had that much agency in the whole process, right? Still, these tunes are right up my alley. The My Little Pony theme has a great soft-rock melody. Care Bears theme is another great example of getting you real pumped for the show. Who are those Care Bears going to care about this time?

The My Little Pony theme also has and a sweet line: “Where will you wander / hither and yonder?” I hope more kids started using the phrase “hither and yonder” because of that song.

05. Muppet Babies

Muppet Babies was a fantastic show, and the doo-wop style theme fit it perfectly. Remember how they’d mix in live action with the animation? Shit was trippy! I need that on DVD …

04. David the Gnome

The theme to David the Gnome, much like the theme to Care Bears, taught kids the important lesson about believing. If you just “look around you,” there are many magical things about—”if you believe:”

Trolls and wizards and fairy kings
Birds that talk and fish that sing
and if your heart is true
then you will find them too

So true.

03. Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers

Similar to how Leonardo’s no-nonsense character was contraposed with Michaelangelo’s chillaxed, party animal ‘tude, Rescue Rangers’ Chip played the straight man to Dale’s screwball goof (note his Hawaiian shirt). But the truth of the matter was that neither of them were wearing pants.

Oh, I also had a huge crush on Gadget Hackwrench. I guess I just had a thing for cartoon she-rodents.

02. Gummi Bears

The show wasn’t the best, even amongst its Disney contemporaries (that honor would go to Rescue Rangers and DuckTales), but damn if this theme song wasn’t an operatic muzak masterpiece. The chorus soars along with the lyrics just like those Gummi Bears bouncin’ on trolls’ heads. Best line: “Magic and mystery are part of their history / along with the secret of Gummi Beary Juice.” Check it out in Japanese, Russian, and Slovak.

01. DuckTales

Yep, once again it’s a blowout for DuckTales. This song is an undeniable kids cartoon classic. Everything from the soft funk/pop vibe to the chorus’ masterful use of the formidable couplet: “Tales of derring-do, bad and good luck tales / Not pony tails or cotton tails but Duck Tales.” All for a cartoon about a rich, old Scottish duck who loves to swim in a pool of money located inside of a skyscraper.

Chips

Runners-up: Denver the Last Dinosaur, Animaniacs, Transformers, Smurfs, Inspector Gadget, Hammer Man

Tags: Lists · Tops · Videos

41 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Joe // Oct 1, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    I was afraid I was going to have to school you on Kidd Video. I’m glad to see it’s here.

  • 2 Joel // Oct 1, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Yeah, wish I could watch some Kidd Video eps. Never actually saw it …

  • 3 Leah // Oct 1, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    What about Doug? I still find myself humming that one more often than I should probably admit.

  • 4 Joel // Oct 1, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Doug was actually on my initial list of ideas, but, I dunno, it just didn’t make the cut. Maybe I’ll add it to the Runners-Up.

  • 5 Christian BC // Oct 2, 2008 at 8:12 am

    I’d put DW higher than that, but you’re the webmaster.
    But Ducktales is num1.

  • 6 jack // Oct 2, 2008 at 10:18 am

    I was gonna say, “Where’s David the Gnome?” but there he is. Yeah, I am kind of partial to a lot of Nicktoons themes, myself: Rocko’s Modern Life, Doug, Ren & Stimpy. But Nicktoons were kind of a different beast than regular Saturday morning fare. Other awesome kids show themes: Are You Afraid Of The Dark, Pete & Pete, Clarissa Explains It All.

  • 7 Deven Science // Oct 2, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Galaxy High, Muppet Babies, and Duct Tales would’ve been at the top of my list, definitely.

  • 8 jack // Oct 2, 2008 at 10:28 am

    If you ever need another stat boosting nostalgia post you could do a list of the best songs within the fictional universes of kids shows, like ” Think Big” from Doug. That song is the bomb.

  • 9 Joel // Oct 2, 2008 at 10:35 am

    @ Jack

    The fictional songs one is a great idea.

    I didn’t include Clarissa, Pete & Pete, etc. because they were live action shows, though Pete & Pete’s theme would definitely be on a list of best tv show theme songs …

    As far as Nicktoons go, I do like the themes to Ren & Stimpy, Doug, Rocko’s Modern Life, etc., but they’re almost musically in a different league than these songs. I dunno, I guess I was picking stuff with more cheese.

  • 10 Friesen Point // Oct 2, 2008 at 11:23 am

    First of all, very solid list. Everything I thought deserved to be there was there, though I must admit that I could have seen Darkwing Duck being a little higher than #10. My only real beef is that I really think Inspector Gadget belongs in the top five. That theme is timeless.

    Also, I was very glad to see that you included the theme from “Matt Crain Babies” on the list.

  • 11 Friesen Point // Oct 2, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Also, I had a couple thoughts about the Ninja Turtles. First of all, if they weren’t all turtles, I’m not sure they could all get along with each other. I mean, I could see someone who is “cool but rude” hanging out with someone who is a “party dude,” but I have a hard time believing that either of them would have much time for a guy who “does machines.”

    Second, I take issue with the lyric “when the evil Shredder attacks/these turtle boys don’t cut ‘em no slack.” It seems to me (if I recall the show correctly) that they always cut Shredder some slack. He always somehow escaped; if the turtles really didn’t “cut him no slack,” they would have killed him long ago.

    Also, that song should have been higher on the list. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I agree with all your choices, but I would jumble the order a little bit.

  • 12 jack // Oct 2, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    I agree that Nicktoons themes are fundamentally different and don’t belong in this list. I also just remembered another awesome, albeit live action, theme song: Saved by the Bell. Saved by the Bell also contained the fictional song “Friends Forever” by the Zack Attack.

  • 13 Joel // Oct 2, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    @Dan,

    I can see what you’re saying about them not getting along. I don’t find their working relationship too unbelievable—they’re disciplined enough to put aside their differences to fight for a common cause. But would they conceivably be friends, “roll-dawgs” if you will, after the masks come off? That’s a big pill to swallow.

    Second, you’re absolutely correct about the not cutting Shredder any slack line. The Turtles clearly cut Shredder a lot of slack. To borrow from the current political lexicon, they might as well have sat down with Shredder in the Hague for bilateral negotiations without preconditions.

    Another line from that song always bugged me. “Heroes in a half shell”? Isn’t it just a normal amount of shell? I guess the song follows the logic that something like an egg is considered a “whole shell,” turtle shells are “half shells” and snail shells are “three-quarter shells.”

    Despite all that, it is an outright classic theme song. I just think that, much like the Transformers theme, which only made it onto my runners-up list, I’m just burned out on the actually show and characters to feel very enthusiastic about it at this point.

  • 14 Joel // Oct 2, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    @ Jack

    Yes. That theme is great. “Friends Forever” also inspired that band that used to play in parking lots and tried to break the record for most albums recorded in one year.

  • 15 Ben // Oct 2, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Two runner ups if you will,
    Pro Stars
    Hammer man.

  • 16 Joel // Oct 2, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Dude, check it. I already have Hammer Man in my runners-up. I just wish it was a little bit better of a song or it might be in the top ten, but it’s no “Pumps and a Bump.” I definitely used to watch Hammer Man when I was a kid, I have no idea why …

  • 17 Friesen Point // Oct 3, 2008 at 10:53 am

    If you’re looking for good fake songs from TV shows, you need to find “Everybody Wants Something” by The Zit Remedy from Degrassi Jr. High.

  • 18 Friesen’s Top Five List #40: Things To See A Girl Wearing « Friesen Point // Oct 7, 2008 at 11:35 am

    […] 5) His mindless exclusion of the Inspector Gadget theme in his top ten cartoon theme songs list. […]

  • 19 Top 5: Cartoon Characters I’d Like to Bang // Dec 8, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    […] did actually have a conversation I had with my buddy Crain Train after I had published my Top 10 kids cartoon theme songs about who the hottest cartoon characters were for you as a kid. So the gears were already […]

  • 20 Layla // Dec 9, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    when i was a little kid living in SA, little lulu was my favorite cartoon:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4QiD2-K5bs

    also, i loved the last unicorn. this should get points for having a theme song written by america. horse with no name … last unicorn.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdsmqwCRoM8

  • 21 Layla // Dec 9, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    see? they love it over there
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiDhB2xyKRY&NR=1

  • 22 Joel // Dec 9, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    oh wow that arabic little lulu theme is so clazed. i never saw little lulu. i remember seeing part of the last unicorn at a friend’s house but i didn’t hear that theme song. I love “Sister Golden Hair”.

  • 23 Brett // Jan 5, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    I guess “along with the secret of Gummi Beary Juice” makes more sense than “the secret of Gummi Bear Jews,” but I think they really missed the boat for a spinoff there.

  • 24 Sam // Jan 8, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Best list of cartoon themes I’ve seen yet. Ducktails is the best. And gummi bears is awesome.

  • 25 Joel // Jan 8, 2009 at 10:58 am

    @ Brett :: The Gummi Bear Jews don’t bounce around on the Sabbath.

    @ Sam :: Thanks!

  • 26 Tina // Mar 19, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    I never seen The Smurffes theme song :( Blessings Tina

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