11 Cartoon Theme Songs You Loved To Rock Out To As A Kid
A trip down memory lane, here are 11 cartoons that you rocked out to as a child
Way back when, and I mean way back (like when you were 4 way back) your musical tastes were intrinsically linked to the kids shows you watched. Unless you were hip to the music scene since exiting the womb, or were some kind of musical prodigy, the only exposure you got to tunes in your infancy (aside from the CDs your parents played in the car) was from the many cartoon shows you watched on weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings.
But the theme songs of our favourite childhood cartoons are more than just the beginning of our collective career in musical appreciation, they represent a simpler time. A time when we could love a song that only had about three chords so long as the music was accompanied by a montage of cartoon action. Damn those were the days.
Most cartoon openers were a tad (or very far) on the simplistic side, which in many cases added to the charm, but some theme songs were legitimately amazing. You may not even like to admit it, but you know, deep down, that if the opener of that cartoon came on at a party, you couldn't help but get excited, singing all the words and grooving to the choreography you made up when you were too young to know shame.
In celebration of the cartoon theme songs that shaped are childhood and remain guilty-pleasures today, here are some of the best from cartoon-dom. Some of these show-openers were chosen for their catchiness, others for going against the norm, and others simply for being ridiculous. Whatever the case, you loved to rock out to these cartoon theme songs as a kid, and if you still don't on the regular, reacquaint yourself with the list below.
Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)
Even without a single lyric or word spoken throughout the entirety of Bruce Timm's Batman opener, the song is just as (if not more so) memorable as every other track featured thus far. You may not be able to rock your head to the beat or sing along, but the opening musical score, composed by Danny Elfman (who also did the Simpson's opener) is simply perfect for the Gothic and noir-ish tone of the show. Even when compared to many “adult” intros, Batman: The Animated Series' holds its own.
Fairly OddParents (2001-???)
Like a Nick 'toon wasn't going to make this list, and I bet y'all thought it was going to be SpongeBob, didn't you? Well, as memorable as SpongeBob's intro is, I think the opening to Nickelodeon's second-longest-running show, Fairly OddParents deserves the spot for word-play alone. Obtuse, rubber goose, green moose, and guava juice are all rhymed in the span of three seconds, so you have to give it up to series creator Butch Hartman and Ron Jones who collaboratively composed the track.
Pepper Ann (1997-2000)
Probably not the most popular of 90's era Disney cartoons, the opening to Pepper Ann earns its ranking simply because it perfectly embodies what the show is all about. No pretense of high-flying adventure or snippets of the most intense scenes from last season to draw viewers in, the Pepper Ann theme song, composed by Brian Woodbury, tells you what's the cartoon is about at it's core: an oddly imaginative girl who's kind of weird but still awesome. You also have to give the opener some cred given that it's sung by Pepper Ann Pearson herself, or voice actress Katherine Wilowhite if you want to be particular, which is pretty rare in all TV theme songs.
Kim Possible (2002-2007)
All the ladies reading know all too well that the opening to Kim Possible is perhaps one of the greatest fempower pump up jams ever; you can't help but want to kick ass in cargo pants as soon as you hear it. All the fellas are averting their gaze, making it look like they don't know (and love) every part of “Call Me, Beep Me.” You're not fooling anyone. Composed by Cory Lerios and George Gabriel, Kim Possible's title track actually has some star power behind it, being performed by Christina Milian.
Inspector Gadget (1983-1986)
Behind the infamously catchy intro to Inspector Gadget is another cartoon-theme song legend: Shuki Levy. A veritable powerhouse back in the golden years of 1980's cartoons, Levy composed the soundtracks to Inspector Gadget, Dinosaucers, Dragon Quest, He-Man, She-Ra, and many others. On the surface, Levy's tune for Inspector Gadget is as simple and catchy as any other cartoon opener, but apparently there's a theatrical inspiration to the track. In Ibsen's 1987 play Peer Grynt, a song by the name of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is played during act 2 scene 6, which inspired Levy when crafting the Inspector Gadget theme song.
Duck Tales (1987-1990)
Upbeat and altogether amazing, the theme song for Duck Tales definitely deserves a place on this list, but it's the musical score of the show itself that cements the cartoon's spot. A majority of the show's music was done by Mark Mueller, who wrote the theme song and scored the episodes, who is an Emmy-nominated American songwriter that's worked on a variety of projects, ranging from TV (Life Goes On, Quincy, M.E.) to pop tunes (he wrote Jennifer Paige's “Crush”) to other kids shows, like Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers. Taking a different approach to the task of creating a musical score for a cartoon, Mueller didn't want to go for the standard “cute” route, and instead took a more nuanced approach, scoring each episode as if it were an adult adventure, like Raider of the Lost Ark.
Truly a rare gem in the realm of cartoon theme songs, the intro to Arthur wasn't only a fitting intro to a kid's show, it was also feel-good reggae-style track that taught you the very important lesson of appreciating the moment. Arthur was a show all about life lessons, and maybe the most important one was thrown at you as soon as the show started. To be found on the iPods of many millennials (even if they don't admit it) "Believe in Yourself" was written by Judy Henderson and Jerry de Villiers Jr., and performed by Ziggy Marley (yes, that's Bob Marley's son) and the Melody Makers. To all the club kids looking to get more Arthur in their life, you'll be happy to know that a techno-remix of the song was created for the third Arthur album released in 2001.
Many of you may not be too familiar with the anime Cardcaptors (otherwise known as Cardcaptor Sakura) as the show tends to be eclipsed by more popular Japanimation imports of the era like Sailor Moon, Digimon, or Gundam. But whereas the theme songs of those shows tended to lose the grandeur of their original Japanese openings, Cardcaptors' still managed to be filled with pomp, even though it was a bit cheesy. Composed by Dave Doré, the Cardcaptors theme still tried to be a bit epic, a goal I think that was accomplished, rather than just slap on a catchy/kid-friendly track like most other English dubbed animes did.
Somehow, when the X-Men made the jump to the big screen, this iconic cartoon theme song filled with power chords and an epic build up got tossed to the wayside. A shame really, because X-Men 3 might have been watch-able if they tossed this bad boy in the mix. Created by Ron Wasserman, the animated X-Men theme is but one of the many feathers in this guy's cap, as he's something of a kids show theme song legend. Not only is he a member of the band Fisher (but who really cares about that?) Wasserman is also the brain behind the music for Dragon Ball Z, VR Troopers, and...wait for it: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Yes, Wasserman is the guy who created the MMPR theme song, for better or worse. Say what you will about Wasserman's work on X-Men and MMPR, but you gotta give it to the guy for making kids show theme songs that feature a bunch of shredding. Listen to the extended versions of both shows tunes to see what I mean.
Raise your hand if you instinctively began singing “I wanna be the very best” as soon as saw Pokemon on this list. Everyone? Thought so. You couldn't escape this theme song during the initial Poke-boom of the 90s, and if you did, your life was made darker because of it. Despite being incredibly sappy and over the top, no one can deny this tune, written and produced by John Loeffler and sung by Jason Paige (formerly of Blood, Sweat & Tears) is just as inspiring as Eye of the Tiger. Fun Poke-fact: throughout the opening, over 30 different Pokemon are featured. Mention that on your next date, it'll go over great.
Jem & The Holograms (1985-1988)
Unlike most other cartoons, which only featured a song during the show's opener, Jem & The Holograms, an ode to 80s glam rock made just for kids, featured three different songs in every single episode. Yeah, all the songs were kind of the same and super simplistic, but you can't blame the show for trying. The most iconic of these Jem-tunes, of course, was the show's original theme song "JEM – Truly, Truly, Truly Outrageous." Written by Barry Harman and performed by Britta Phillips (who only performed Jem's songs, not her lines) the title tune embodies the show's glitz, glam, and it's obvious ploy to appeal to kids by being MTV-esque, which had begun only 4 years prior to the show's airing. Plus, the whole thing is delightfully trippy.