You have yours and I have mine so let's get down to it. In no particular order, these are my ten favorite theme songs from cartoons and kids shows from when I was growing up. (Another list would be needed to list my favorites when my own kids were growing up. And still another for the crap I'm watching nowadays.) Why before 1983? Because sometime in late 1982 or early 1983, during my Junior year of high school after my first serious girlfriend, I distinctly remember making the effort to stop watching Saturday Morning Cartoons and be more "grown up."
The first show I consciously remember watching was Sesame Street which premiered four months after my little sister did in 1969, when I was this many years old. (I'm holding up three fingers.) The show was and is genius; I didn't have to force my own kids to watch it, just put it on and they gravitated towards it. And the coolest part of all is that some of the bits and stuff they created back at the beginning still gets airtime today, it's that timeless. After 46 years and nearly 4500 episodes the world still wants to know how to get to Sesame Street. Fun fact: I bought and enjoyed the crazy dance mix called "Sesame's Treet" by Smart E's on CD single in 1992 or 1993. It was the first CD I ever stepped on and broke as well.
Once you started referring to Sesame Street as "baby stuff", you moved on to The Electric Company and Zoom! Still educational but not nearly as timeless - both shows are very dated though Zoom! continued to evolve as time went on. The jazzed up theme song to Zoom!, like any good earworm would often pop into my head and come out of my mouth at inopportune times. I'm singing it now!
I don't know where or when it happened but I would like to thank whoever was responsible for my health and well-being on the day I first saw a Looney Tunes / Merrie Melodies cartoon. I know the two are different entities with different music and everything but aside from my folks, nothing molded, shaped and formed my sense of humor more than the shenanigans and hijinks Bugs, Daffy, Porky and the rest of the cast of 1000s. I am watching Looney Tunes: The Golden Collection Volume 4, Disc One - Bugs Bunny Favorites as I write this.
Another group of shows I enjoyed and still enjoy today are from the madcap mind of Jay Ward including The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, Fractured Fairy Tales, Peabody's Improbable History (above), Dudley Do-Right, George Of The Jungle and Super Chicken. For my purposes, the following four themes count as one towards my Top Ten.
"The Pink Panther Theme" is probably one of the most well-know cartoon themes there is though it started out as a movie theme for the first in a series of Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers vehicles of the same name. (Avoid the abominable Steve Martin remakes at all costs.) The opening sequence to the first film in 1963 featured an animated Pink Panther and he was spun off into his own series of shorts and cartoons the following year. I was fortunate enough to pick up the entire puffy pack, five disc Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection on DVD at Costco for $9.99 back in 2008.
Sometime in the mid-Seventies, maybe after we moved to Illinois in 1975 and started getting WGN out of Chicago, I started watching the Marvel Super-Heroes cartoons after school and each of them had a unique theme song. Also started watching Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can. I know I loved them back then but looking back its some pretty stilted animation (I looked it up, it's xerography) for the Super-Heroes but Spider-Man holds up a little better.
A similarly cool heroic theme song could be heard on the far less serious Underdog toon. This song was last one added to list barely beating out the theme from Mighty Mouse. Both songs have enjoyed pop culture revivals through the years: lip-syncing the Mighty Mouse theme was one of comedian Andy Kaufman's earliest routines while the multi-layered Underdog theme has been a favorite of acapella groups.
I thought about not including this one but reconsidered because it was such a huge part of my childhood. In a moment of poor timing, I picked up my DVD set of the show just weeks before allegations reached the media. I do not mean to offend nor defend anyone - just saying it was a good song for many Saturdays. Kim Carnes is one of the background singers of the theme song "Gonna Have A Good Time."
While the rest of this list is in no particular order, these last two songs are my runner up and favorite songs on the list, respectively. Scooby Doo Where Are You! really ranks right outside of the top spot. And I'm talkin' the original first season theme not the cuted up Second Season do over or any of the other themes that came down the line. I am not ashamed to say I have watched Scooby Doo more often than any other show of any kind ever. It is a part of me. Was more than happy to share it with my children as they grew up and look forward to sharing it with my future grandkids. (No pressure, kids.) Or just watching it alone until they pull the sheet up over my head, pry the remote out of my hand and take me away.
Which brings us to my favorite cartoon theme song ever, the Speed Racer theme aka "Go Speed Racer Go." The three coolest lunch boxes I had growing up were Evel Knievel, Hot Wheels and Speed Racer. And I'm pretty sure I had a Speed Racer t-shirt as a boy at one point. While I know the Hot Wheels car pictured above is not the Mach 5 - its actually called Second Wind - when I unwrapped it on Christmas Day 1976 or 1977, it became the Mach 5 and one of my most favorite Hot Wheels cars ever. Which brings up a great point: the Mach 5 was the star of the show for me, not Speed Racer himself though I tended to identify quite a bit with both Spridle and Chim-Chim. Yeah, I know it was just dubbed Japanese anime and I tired to get into the original Japanese version in the late 90s but by then I was already hard-wired fro the Americanized version. Never cared much for any of the revivals or remakes of the series through the years and I am the only fan of the cartoon I know of who also enjoys the movie.
Like the theme from Sesame Street, the Speed Racer theme also got the dance remix treatment in the mid Nineties by the Alpha Team, who wisely used many samples from the show. Think I could only find that one as a cassingle so I reluctantly bought it and dubbed it onto a few mixtapes. One of the mixes had clever sampling and editing that made it sound like Speed and Trixie were really enjoying themselves around the 2:30 mark. The theme was also re-worked for the 2008 CGI orgy that was the theatrical film by Ali D and The Deekompressors. Still nothing is better than the original theme song. Well, the Americanized original theme song from 1967 that is.
Songs that missed the cut:
- Mickey Mouse Club
- Howdy Doody
- H.R. Pufnstuf
- The Flintstones
- The Jetsons
- Mr. Magoo
- Captain Kangaroo
- Woody Woodpecker
- Hong Kong Phooey
- Speed Buggy
- Casper The Friendly Ghost
- Mighty Mouse
- Felix The Cat
- Yogi Bear
- Quick Draw McGraw
- Huckleberry Hound
- Josie & the Pussycats
- The Mighty Hercules
- The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan
- Tom & Jerry
- Bozo The Clown