For any kid who grew up in the '80s, it wasn't about the content of character. It was about the size of Transformer.
After school and Saturday mornings, masses of children spent hour after hour parked in front of turn-knob television screens, adjusting rabbit ears, dying to hear the first notes of their favorite cartoon theme songs come blasting through tiny speakers.
Prior generations had The Beatles, Buddy Holly, and Elvis. But for the children of the Decade of Decadence, the most important songs were the ones that evoked tales of musclebound hero cats or crime-fighting chipmunks.
In memory of a lost childhood, here are ten total tubular '80s cartoon theme songs.
10. Wuzzles (1985)
If Katy Perry were a Mad Scientist, then she would have created The Wuzzles. Oh sure, be fooled by the cute, happy song about originality or whatever crap they're selling. But read between the lines ... Through terrible gene-splicing experiments and forced interspecies mating, The Wuzzles were born, living in a nightmarish bubblegum version of The Island of Doctor Moreau, never able to escape, yet forced to entertain viewers week after week.
9. M.A.S.K. (1985 - 1986)
It's really hard not to crack up while listening to this theme. This band is seriously rocking out. These guys must have spent a ton of time in the studio, getting every harmony right, and agonizing over the mid-song chord changes. And for what? Sure, the '80s were ridiculous. But Ratt couldn't have busted out this song and kept their cool points. This is yet another tragic example of the sad lives of the cartoon theme writers, who remain forever unable to take credit for a song so masterfully written and performed.
8. Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1990 - 1996)
Captain Planet may be a bit of a squeeze in this list since the show started in 1990. But damn, this is one amazingly awesome theme song. This show featured a blue superhero sporting a green flat-top with mullet. And it was all about Ted Turner's dream of saving the Earth through cartoons. Then again, what was up with the racial undertones? North American guy embodies fire because Americans are such impulsive hot heads? The Mexican guy is all heart because Hispanics only want to have sex all the time? The African guy is Earth because dirt is all he owns? At least they had an all-star cast of voice actors. Wow, they were only missing Bono as the voice of "Poser Douchebag."
7. Jem (1985 - 1988)
Watching Jem every single morning isn't emasculating at all, right? Honestly, Jem was truly, truly outrageous. But every kid I knew preferred The Misfits, even though they were missing Glenn Danzig, the angriest lady of the '80s.
6. TailSpin/DuckTales/Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers (Late '80s and Early '90s)
The Holy Trinity of the Disney afternoon lineup. Since these three themes all had the weight of Walt's wallet behind them, it wasn't inevitable that they'd be totally tubular. And indeed, all three are instant earwigs. But Chip 'n Dale holds a special place. If Tiffany or Debbie Gibson had played it, there's no doubt it would have made it to the Billboard Hot 100.
5. Thundercats (1985 - 1990)
Why is there a weird inherent sexiness to Thundercats? Never mind the high-cut leotards, Panthro's bondage outfit, and the whole Snarf thing. Just listen to that intro ... Only The Divinyls' sung "I Touch Myself" breathier.
4. G.I. Joe (1985 - 1986)
Everyone had a love/hate relationship with GI Joe. It was definitely the most action-packed and potentially violent show of the '80s. But unfortunately, just when things would be getting good and a rocket screamed out towards a helicopter, the pilot ejected, and there would be an explosion in the background. What is it with that? Would it hurt to let a few nameless Cobra die every once in a while? Or maybe Shipwreck? No one liked him and his stupid parrot anyway.
3. Transformers (1984 - 1988)
Transformers defined cartoons of the 1980s. It had everything any little boy could want: toys, action, and sounds you could easily make with your mouth. A childhood friend could transform Optimist Prime as fast as the cartoon, while making the transforming sounds. Talk about learned skills that went to no use at all, unless he works as a Sex Reassignment Surgeon.
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987 - 1996)
You can tell a lot about a person by knowing which was their favorite ninja turtle. Dweebs loved Donatello, burnouts loved Michelangelo, moody emo artists loved Rafael, and overachievers loved Leonardo. The only song associated with TMNT that was better than the theme was Vanilla Ice's "Ninja Rap" from TMNT 2: Secret of the Ooze. Now that's some street cred.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
1. The Smurfs (1981 - 1989)
The Smurfs were wonderfully enshrouded in conspiracy theories. Particularly their thinly veiled Communist-inspired utopian village, a Satanist creator, and the nagging question of whose name was inside Hefty Smurf's heart and arrow tattoo (all signs point to Vanity Smurf). Yet they all pale in comparison to the whole Smurfette thing. Before her, there were no female Smurfs in the entire Smurf Village. Not only that, but she was created by Gargamel to ensnare the Smurfs. Well, at least until Papa Smurf got his mitts on her and Smurfed the Smurf out of her until she became the village's buxom, blonde Smurfy whore. Now that's entertainment.