The GeeksverseThe Roundtable | Favorite cartoon theme songs

The Roundtable | Favorite cartoon theme songs
Published on Friday, August 2, 2013 by
Join the Comixverse staffers and contributors and sing along as they take a walk down memory lane and recount their favorite cartoon theme songs.

For many of us who contribute to and visit the site, extensive sections of the personal soundtrack of our childhood consist of 1980s Saturday morning cartoon theme songs. The opening themes were as diverse as the shows themselves: You had the martial cadence of the G.I. Joe theme, the rocking theme from The Transformers, the doo-wop stylings of the animated Punky Brewster theme, the neo-funk/hip-hop hybrid of The Street Frogs (which asked the question: “Who can do hip-hop better than a frog can?”), and of course, the ear-wormy synth-pop theme from Jem.

But there are theme songs that really stick with us, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s a particularly catchy hook. Maybe it’s tied with nostalgia and feelings of childhood safety and security. Below, the Comixverse’s staffers and contributors share their personal favorites culled from decades sitting in front of the tube.

Zedric Dimalanta

I can easily see us revisiting this topic fairly regularly, not just because we all have lots of favorite cartoon theme songs from our childhood—whittling my choices down to three was waaaaay harder than I thought it would be—but also because new shows with great theme music come out all the time. That being said, two of my three current favorites are from shows I grew up watching during the 1980s.

All my candidates for third place were basically cut from the “pop rock” cloth that so many 1980s cartoon theme songs were woven from. Personal standouts of the era include Steve Tyrell, Max Gronenthal, and Ashley Hall’s ending theme for The Spiral Zone and pretty much every cartoon theme song composer Shuki Levy wrote or co-wrote (these include the music to shows like Ulysses 31, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, M.A.S.K., Heathcliff, and a song I was obsessed with when I was a kid, the theme to Pole Position). In the end, though, I settled on “Rangers are Forever,” the ending theme to The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, as performed by the British band FM:

It’s a nice counterpoint to the show’s more popular, absolutely ’80s-tastic opening theme (“No Guts, No Glory”) and I enjoyed watching The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers more than the shows I listed above.

My current second-favorite cartoon theme song is a recent one, the closing credits music from Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra, written by Jeremy Zuckerman of the Daytime Emmy Award-winning Track Team and featuring acclaimed traditional Chinese musician Hong Wang on the erhu. It’s a brief-but-beautifully textured piece clocking in at little more than 30 seconds, but an enterprising YouTube user has posted an extended version of the music:

As with most “martial law babies” however, the theme song to the 1970s giant robot anime series Voltes V (“Voltes V no Uta” composed by Asei Kobayashi, arranged by Hiro Takada, lyrics by Saburou Yatsude) holds a special place in the soundtrack of my memory.

I could write a whole essay on why Voltes V means so much to the generation of Filipinos who grew up during the Marcos regime and the years immediately after the dictator’s toppling, but even without the cultural and political context, the driving, aggressive tempo, the Columbia Orchestra’s soaring instrumentation, and Mitsuko Horie and Koorogi ’73’s vocals give the theme song a distinct quality that sets it apart from the male-sung themes of its giant-robot anime contemporaries such as the Daimos opening theme and that of later shows like the theme from 1982’s The Super Dimension Fortress Macross.

Troy Osgood

For the most part no themes really stick out.  Clicking through Zedric’s links helped bring a lot back but there were really two that have stayed with me through the years.

The first is the theme from Star Blazers [the American adaptation of 1970s anime series, Space Battleship Yamatoed.]:

The second is the main theme from The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers:

Not sure why those two stick out to me, it might have to do with the cartoons themselves, two of my top five of all time (the others: Gargoyles, Battle of the Planets, G.I. Joe with honorable mention: M.A.S.K.)

Jason Thees

Three??? Man… I’m sure the answers to this will change by next week.

#3 – I’m sure I’m going to get flack for this one, but… Muppet Babies. That show was just so damn much fun, and all of you know it. Don’t lie to me. You liked it. I am to this day a huge fan of the Muppets, so that show had instant appeal; then they had Star Wars episodes, and other assorted zaniness. Plus, a 50’s sock hop-ish Doo Wop theme song? Sounded like nothing else out there in the kids show market at that time.

Just for fun here’s Mikey Mason rocking out a cover to an enthusiastic crowd.

#2 – Silverhawks. Man, this show had it all. Gorgeous animation, awesome sound effects, characters that were interchangeable with Thundercats (which would be 2a on my list of theme songs, BTW) and a killer ’80s power ballad guitar solo [sounds like a synthesizer to me–ed.] in the middle of the theme.

That ’85–’87 time period was a pretty amazing time to be watching Rankin-Bass cartoons. Even TigerSharks looked great, but I didn’t find it to click with me like Thundercats and SilverHawks did, even though it used the same formula. Maybe because the theme song sucked.

#1 – Pole Position. This thing was the “cartoon car” equivalent to Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone,” from Top Gun. I don’t think I need to explain how cool Top Gun was to any child of the ’80s, and even though the actual show was a little lacking, the theme rocked, and the show started my lifelong want of a red ’65 Mustang. Someday, I’ll own one. And it better talk, or my whole childhood will prove to be a lie.

Moira Hunger (contributor)

I second Troy’s selection of the Star Blazers theme. That song still gets stuck in my head for no reason to this very day.

For sheer nostalgia’s sake, might I suggest the theme songs from The All-New Superfriends Hour and Voltron?

http://youtu.be/FpPzSJRTBy8

Joe Milone

It is so hard to narrow it down to three picks, so I hope we revisit this topic again someday.

My first pick is the theme from Inspector Gadget. [Incidentally, another theme composed by the king of 1980s cartoon themes, the aforementioned Shuki Levy–ed.]

A catchy introduction to the Don Adams-voiced clueless cop. ( I choose to ignore the Matthew Broderick live action movie.) And those of us that remember using Napster will surely remember downloading the remix:

My second pick is the Mark Mueller-written opening theme from DuckTales:

You all know you can stll sing along with this great theme song. And I know I can’t wait to play the remastered version of the classic Nintendo game which will be released very soon:

Finally I close with the theme from the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon:

I remember waking up early on weekday mornings and watching this show with my Dad as he got ready for work and I got ready for school. This is as classic as an intro as you can get.

And as a bonus, here is Director Sam Raimi’s homage to it

as well as the Ramones rocking it!

Did we miss any of your favorites? Does the Jem theme song need more love? Let us know in the comments section below or on our various social media channels.
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