Friday, June 5, 2009

80's Cartoon Themes are...Unique

I've been doing some research for my upcoming "50 Greatest Animated Theme Songs" countdown when I stumbled upon this video of someone's Top 10 80's Cartoon theme songs:

It's basically "Nine 80's Shows You've Never Heard of...And Jem." You'd think that kind of video would feature the themes for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, GI Joe, Transformers, or Thundercats, but nope. Who ended up winning? Jayce & The Wheeled Warriors.

For those of you who think themselves as too important to watch a ten minute video, the rest of the themes are: Visionaries, Dinosaucers, SpiralZone, Mighty Orbots, Galaxy Rangers, M.A.S.K., Defenders of The Earth, Pole Position (seriously?!)...and Jem.

Looking at the info of the vid, the creator had picked his criteria on the theme song alone, and not the entire show itself, and I'll admit that I agree with him. I've noticed that theme songs from the 1980's had a unique trait not found in any other decade, which is that they could take the lamest premise ever and make them incredibly kickass. They made you PUMPED to watch the show, and you wouldn't care until fifteen minutes in that it sucked hard. I was quite surprised about how many of them were ripoffs of Thundercats, Masters of The Universe, and/or GI Joe.

"Dude, they're like GI Joe, only they drive vehicles that spit out smaller vehicles, and they wear MASKS!"

"Some of the GI Joes wear masks, too!"

"But it's the 80's, so they're going to wear big-assed square robot masks! Square, large and bulky is the future! No one is going to have electronics that are are small, curvy and practical."

"(sigh) Gnarly."

Take the first theme seen in the video, Visionaries. It was a show based around figures that looked like this:

Toys with holographic animals on their chests for no exact reason. But according to their theme song? Totally fucking nuts. The animals jump out of their chests and beat up...the bad guy's chest animals. I once knew a girl who had a chest animal, but I think it was just her excuse to not go out with me.

Then there was the seventh theme in the vid, Defenders of the Earth, who consisted of Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, and Lothar The Token 80's Minority Guy along with four generic kids defending the Earth. They were all bound by their sense of justice, adventure, and the fact that they were all owned by King Features Syndicate and it was an easy way to exploit these unrelated characters. Robot Chicken righteously mocked the series by having them be part of a Neighborhood Watch Association, with their jurisdiction of "The Earth" only being their block.

As Lots of synthesizers, guitar riffs and F-list glam rock singers usually spruced up any 80's theme song. But in the decades beyond the 80's? If the show had a lame premise, the theme song quite reflected that.

There's also the fact that theme songs have been getting shorter and shorter to fit in more commercials. While I do despise this grim fact, there have been many an 80's cartoon whose theme had nearly a quarter to half of its run time devoted to exposition of the series. Not in song or in tune, either. Someone just speaks the premise of the show and throwing off the entire groove of the song. This is all because the main plot, if there was any, wasn't going to devote any of their own damn time to do it. They just wanted you to see which character or accessory was blandly animated that week and persuaded you to beg your parents to buy it.

I don't think any of those themes will show up for my list. Maybe Jem. But that's pushing it.


Guise said...

I was fairly surprised that the video was from someone in Detroit, because of the shows mentioned Jayce & The Wheeled Warriors, Visionaries, Galaxy Rangers, M.A.S.K., Defenders of The Earth, and Pole Position were all fairly big in the 80s/early 90s in the UK.

Visionaries was picked up by BBC for saturday mornings on Going Live (they at the time only really showed one cartoon on Saturday mornings, so it was a big deal and it got a feature slot in Marvel UK Transformers comic as back-up series). Defenders were shown once a week on BBC too. Jayce had a long run on Channel 4, as did Pole Position. MASK was quite a major toy line too. Galaxy Rangers had limited exposure, but was still popular - sort of what happened with Centurions - limited TV airing, a couple of special comics and toys released at a price no kid could afford.

veggiemacabre said...

Top 10 theme songs? I know two. Is that guy from Finland?

Galileo said...

@Guise: Heh, good to know that some shows were popular on the other side of the pond than over here. That, I'm a child of the 90's and barely knowing about many of these shows. It greatly depresses me whenever I find someone who never heard of Rocko's Modern Life.

@Bill: Who is "That Guy?"

Anonymous said...

I had Arzon with his totally awesome unicorn staff as a kid, completely forgot about it till i found a youtube video of old 80s cartoons showcase it, dear lord i was shot with maximum nostalgia.