Best Cartoon Theme Songs Made by Famous Music Artists
One of the biggest challenges for any musical artist is creating a compelling theme. But there’s a whole new level of difficulty in finding theme songs for children’s shows, given that kids are the toughest customers on the planet, and finding a way to fit one’s musical sensibilities unique to a well-established formula is one of those tasks that seems much easier than it actually is.
With the premiere of the 25th (and final!) season of the long-running PBS series arthur today (February 21), Result decided to unleash his inner child by thinking back to the many times a great animated children’s series got musical help from a well-known artist, starting in the 1990s.
This list includes, therefore, a remarkably eclectic collection of artists with one thing in common: they have all seen their worth in contributing their talents to a genre that may not have much critical respect, but mean the world. absolute for the younger generations.
— Liz Shannon Miller
Reverend Horton Heat – Ren & Stimpy (1991-1996)
There’s something ineffable about rockabilly staple Reverend Horton Heat’s jazzy, idiosyncratic theme on a millennial favorite Ren & Stimpy; the frenetic bongos, the surf guitar, the always lively double bass.
The tune, titled “Dog Pound Hop,” is a curiously appropriate contrast to the grotesque close-ups of Ren and Stimpy’s adventures. After all, if you’re about to see an enlarged photo of the bloodshot eyes of an anthropomorphic chihuahua, you’re likely to seek solace in the tiki-bar warmth of a slide guitar. — Clint Worthington
Mark Mothersbaugh (DEVO) – Rugrats (1991-2006)
Devo frontman and keyboardist Mark Mothersbaugh has long made a name for himself as a prodigious composer of film and television, whether for Marvel (Thor: Ragnarok), Wes Anderson (aquatic life) or animated walks like The Lego Movie and The Mitchells vs. the Machines.
But he cut his teeth writing some of the most iconic Nickelodeon themes of all time in the ’90s, from the upbeat bassline and catchy lyrics of Clifford the big red dog (co-written with Josh Mancell), the frenetic drumming of the 90s rocket poweror the strangely reggae-inspired theme for the Super Mario World cartoon.
Clearly, however, its greatest contribution to our collective childhood has been the deceptively simple, yet oddly playful synthesizer theme for Rugrats, with its bizarre, carnival chirps and human sound samples. It’s a work of quiet genius, of a genre he would turn into dozens of scores by then. — C.W.
Danny Elfman– Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)
This one almost feels like cheating, since Danny Elfman’s signature theme for the TV show is largely derived from his work on the 1989 Tim Burton classic. But former Oingo frontman Boingo pours still loads of gothic brass and haunting orchestral sweep in this evolution of the theme, expanding it in a way that Shirley Walker would use in her moody, evocative score for the series proper. For a lot of kids in the 90s, it’s the definitive theme for the Caped Crusader. — C.W.
The B-52s – Rocko’s modern life (1993-1996)
Between trips to the Love Shack, 80s new wave darlings B-52 lent their talents to the energetic and effervescent theme of Rocko’s modern life. It’s a perfect fit: after all, Rocko, with his breathless exuberance and relentless taste for life and adventure, feels like Fred Schneider if he was) wearing Hawaiian shirts and no bottoms ( !) and b) was a wallaby. (Fun fact: Apparently Kurt Cobain was their second choice to write the theme. We wonder what Grunge Rocko would sound like.) — C.W.