By Max Nicholson
If there's one sign that '80s and '90s kids are taking over the world, it's that cartoons like "DuckTales," "The Smurfs" and "Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers" are getting revivals on TV and the big screen. In fact, the latest of these, the all-new "Inspector Gadget" series, just popped up on Netflix last week -- and we've got to say, it looks pretty faithful to the original series!
However, as any good cartoon buff knows, half of what made those old shows so great was their catchy theme songs. Alas, the new "Inspector Gadget" doesn't include the original "Gadget" theme, much to fans' dismay. (Although it didn't take long for someone to mash up the new 2015 intro with the original '80s theme. Enjoy!) But to paraphrase Dr. Claw, "Next time, Gadget... next time!"
So, in honor of "Gadget"'s original theme (may it rest in peace), here are 19 other '80s and '90s cartoon theme songs that were just as good, if not better, than the cartoons themselves:
The Powerpuff Girls
Let's be honest, one of the big draws of "The Powerpuff Girls" was its opening sequence: "Sugar, spice and everything nice -- these were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect little girls. But Professor Utonium accidentally added an extra ingredient to the concoction: Chemical X." Aaaaand... cue the butt-kicking montage!
It's the theme you love to hate -- or the theme you hate to love, depending on when you grew up. Is the first time watching the "SpongeBob SquarePants" intro the most grating 40 seconds of anyone's life? Possibly. Is it also hilarious and, dare we say, genius in execution? "Aye, aye, Captain!"
Freaka-me, Freaka-you, Freakazoid! Need we say more?
Okay, so technically this one debuted in 2001, but everybody knows that "Samurai Jack" defied time and space. Opening with a fiendish monologue from the shape-shifting demon Aku (voiced by the late, great Mako), the series' title sequence featured gorgeous animation and a sick beat.
Tiny Toon Adventures
"Tiny Toon Adventures" was sort of a next gen "Looney Tunes," only it was set in the fictional town of Acme Acres, where pretty much all the characters lived. In terms of the theme song, "Tiny Toons" stuck out for using a full orchestra (per executive producer Steven Spielberg's request), which at the time was a big deal for an animated series.
Batman: The Animated Series
This one's also a bit of a cheat since Danny Elfman's Bat-theme originated in Tim Burton's "Batman" and not "Batman: The Animated Series." Still, the TV show's intro remains one of the greats in all of animation. Just the final shot of Batman looking over Gotham City as a crack of lightning strikes behind him still sends shivers down our spines.
Rocko's Modern Life
Back in the day, Nickelodeon had a ton of great themes to go with their animated series -- Rugrats, Angry Beavers and Doug, to name a few -- but one show that immediately comes to mind in that regard is "Rocko's Modern Life." Equal parts edgy and abstract, Rocko's opener was definitely aimed at the preteen set, but even younger kids could appreciate the shenanigans of a
plucky kangaroo wallaby and his faithful dog companion. ("SPUNKYYYYY!")
"Darkwing Duck" was best known for its title character, a fly-by-night vigilante whose crime fighting was always in direct competition with his desire for fame (although the caped crusader always did the right thing in the end). In keeping with that idea, "Darkwing"'s intro was cool and slick, but also over-the-top. "Let's get dangerous!"
"The Tick" was way ahead of its time, lampooning superhero movies before superhero movies were really a thing. Regardless, it amassed a cult following thanks to its clever writing and endless quotable lines. ("SPOOOOON!") Meanwhile, the show's theme song was another classic in the compendium of '90s intros, showing the many zany adventures of the "nigh-invulnerable" Tick and his loyal sidekick/accountant Arthur. Plus, scatting!
Few shows were able to capture the ragtag feel of middle-school hijinks like "Hey Arnold!" While the series' title theme was deceptively simple, it also gave you just enough of its offbeat style to reel you in.
As a prequel to "The Muppets," "Muppet Babies" was unique in that it utilized stock footage from movies like "Star Wars," "Indiana Jones" and "Ghostbusters" to drive home the importance of imagination. Likewise, the series' intro featured the Babies getting lost in their make-believe adventures, all while singing a catchy doo-wop number.
In addition to the main theme (which won an Emmy for Best Original Song in 1994), "Animaniacs" churned out a ton of great songs and musical parodies over the years. And like "Tiny Toons" before it, the series boasted a full orchestra, lending to its already impressive output. The show's music was so popular in fact that it inspired "Animaniacs LIVE!," a concert tour featuring the original composer and voice actors, years later.
"Goof Troop" starred Goofy as the single father of Max Goof (who originated in this series). In a lot of ways, "Goof Troop" epitomized life growing up in suburbia in the '90s -- as did the show's theme song. It also paved the way for "A Goofy Movie," which itself popularized Powerline's hit single "Stand Out."
Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers
"Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers" followed Disney's beloved chipmunk duo as part of a gumshoe detective agency, along with their friends Gadget, Monterey Jack, and Zipper. Going off the show's lively opener, it's no surprise the upcoming Chip 'n' Dale movie is planning to use "Rescue Rangers" as the basis. Seriously, just look at that good-time mischief!
The sheer epicness of the "X-Men" intro knows no bounds. Not only did it introduce the full lineup of Marvel Mutants, but it also made time for some killer action sequences. Plus, the show's main guitar riff got stuck in your head for days on end... in a good way.
In concept alone, Disney's "TaleSpin" was pure ridiculousness. The idea of putting Disney's "Jungle Book" characters in a 1930s aerial series was proof of just how crazy '90s cartoons could be. And "TaleSpin" had the perfect opener to go with it: a rousing, island-themed number featuring ace pilot Baloo and his steadfast Sea Duck!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
At this point, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" has almost become synonymous with its unforgettable theme song. Granted, the tune has gone through some changes over the years, but no remix will ever compare to the original.
"Pokémon" was a morning ritual for a lot of '90s kids growing up -- and the show's theme song, their anthem. Not only did it pump kids up for school that day, but it also got them excited for the many Pokémon battles that awaited them at recess (via Game Boy Link Cable, natch). Beyond that, the show's intro was just plain awesome.
Honestly, "DuckTales" may be the catchiest theme song ever made. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find an '80s or '90s kid who didn't know at least few bars. It even spawned a Disney-approved live-action parody video -- with real ducks! Suffice to say, if the new "DuckTales" series doesn't include some version of this theme, we'll be slightly devastated. ("Woo-oooo-ooh!")