Growing up in the country, I got a whopping total of three channels for most of my childhood: ABC, CBS and NBC. No PBS. No MTV. Not even a small UHF station broadcasting out of some shack on a hill.
But around sixth or seventh grade, cable TV finally came into my area. I remember the wait. My friend a few miles away got it first, and the cable company slowly worked its way toward my house.
The blessed day that was celebrated in my house as I got great stations like WPIX, WGN and TBS the Superstation — not to mention a freebie connection to HBO.
Through my earliest years, I was always eager to see cartoons, and for most of that time they only came on Saturday mornings, and one weekday afternoon show that featured either “Tom & Jerry” or “Scooby-Doo.” But with the addition of cable, and some loosening of FCC standards about advertising to kids, I got cable right as some great shows first aired.
With my love of Saturday morning toons and those pumped to me by cable, I’ve come up with my “Top 10 Cartoon Theme Sequences.”
No, this isn’t the best ever or “World’s Greatest,” just my Top 10.
No. 10 — THE VISIONARIES
“The Visionaries” was a cartoon based on a Hasbro toy line that was one of the few to delve into swords & sorcery. Sure, He-Man’s cartoon did — in a sense — but that show was definitely not for me. The Visionaries, on the other hand, was perfect. It was serious business and had some great animation as evidenced in its opening sequence. http://youtu.be/rBoxGdz2Km4
No. 9 — DRAK PACK
Now “Drak Pack” is a bit of an acquired taste. In the early 1980s, I was crazy for the Universal Monster series of films, and this was an ingenious take on the genre. Even with the advent of YouTube, I haven’t watched an episode in 20 years. But what I have watched is this theme sequence because it sets up the show perfectly. Heck, it would even be a great set up for a modern comic book or fresh animated series that takes things a bit more seriously. http://youtu.be/BYG9FgWvsqw
No. 8 — FLASH GORDON
Combining remarkably smooth animation and rotoscoping, Filmation’s “Flash Gordon” series was the adventure show for 1979, even beyond anything that was being offered in prime-time live action. The stories were as good as anything “Buck Rogers” or “Battlestar Galactica” could offer. I was lucky enough recently to find the entire series in a $5 bin at a toy store. Great stuff, especially its title sequence where the show’s name appears in an explosion. http://youtu.be/6mT3FeaO_sM
(And I always loved Lou Scheimer/Norm Prescott spinning credit.)
No. 7 – BIONIC SIX
“Bionic Six” had a tragically short life, and was definitely my favorite cartoon show ever. Even beyond “Batman: The Animated Series” and “Justice League Unlimited,” Bionic Six captured humor, adventure and peril in one finely crafted cartoon. As far as I know, it’s still not available on DVD, except through pirated copies. The absolute best episode is the series finale, but don’t skip ahead to it. You really need to know the characters to enjoy it.
But why is the theme sequence only at No. 7 on my list? It’s amazingly energetic, and I even find myself singing it from time to time. The problem is that it should have been better. For such a good show, it was a bit weak. http://youtu.be/dybEWywXxJ8
No. 6 — GALAXY HIGH
Speaking of great shows, dig up an episode of “Galaxy High” sometime. This is a show that should have been huge, but it was scheduled very late in the CBS Saturday morning lineup, so it would often be pre-empted for “Bowling for Dollars” or “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” Its alleged weak performance got it canceled after 13 episodes, but it lives on as a cult favorite. In particular, I love the character designs for the show. But even beyond that, it has an amazing opening sequence that takes a while to decode because it’s in “digital speak.” http://youtu.be/ISdr6wf68Kk
No. 5 — CHALLENGE OF THE SUPERFRIENDS
Now it’s starting to get tough. I’ve got five more picks, and they are definitely all good. Coming in at No. 5 is “Challenge of the Superfriends.” The theme music, along with the boisterous announcements from the narrator can sometimes send chills up my spin, especially when I have it turned up REALLY loud. http://youtu.be/ZL8i_AnZQ18
No. 4 — JEM
It’s taken me half my life to remember that “Jem” is not the correct spelling for the word “gem,” so that shows you how much I liked this show. While marketed to girls, you’ll find a lot of guys who dig this show because, like “Sailor Moon” and three thousand other anime cartoons, it features a lot of hot cartoon girls. That’s hard for a boy obsessed with animation to ignore. The theme song for “Jem” is what’s so catchy to me. My only dream is to hear the Spice Girls sing it. http://youtu.be/aRyDxEBiQUY
No. 3 — G.I. JOE
OK, I’m cheating a bit here. This is actually the theme song for the “G.I. Joe: The Movie,” so they had a great budget for it. This is just a beautiful animated sequence that shows the energy of the Joeverse. It features some excellent use of shading and “laser” colors that’s layered with a new, expanded version of the G.I. Joe theme song. http://youtu.be/HL1q9JPpNes
No. 2 — M.A.S.K.
Mixing the digital voice mentioned in the “Galaxy High,” the theme sequence to “M.A.S.K.” creates a simulated ride through a computer mainframe while sporting a surprisingly catchy theme song. And yes, I often sing this when no one’s looking. http://youtu.be/o2Z1yLO9C-Q
Now we’ll add a little bit of tension before we get to my No. 1 pick.
Here are some that didn’t make the list, but I still enjoy:
These guys are more than meet the eye, but not the apple of mine … http://youtu.be/Ae-Pl-Q34ng
Or how about “Mighty Orbots”? http://youtu.be/an5VfHRSmnY
There were some good adventures with “The Littles,” and the way the animators rotated the camera is fantastic! http://youtu.be/-Ls5K0bSfj0
It’s hard not to appreciate the base line in “Duck Tales.” http://youtu.be/koSl8JX5BeI
I even enjoy the effort put into the computer sounds of “Pac-Man.” http://youtu.be/n3n22GQMgcU
As for animation, C.O.P.S. offered some great animation, but the theme song was non-existent. http://youtu.be/D6WGi10vd2Y
But I will torture you no more … on to No. 1
No. 1 — VOLTRON
While I wasn’t really a huge fan of this show — somehow I found it a bit creepy thanks to that witch — I loved-loved-loved the title sequence. Narrated by voice over god Peter “Optimus Prime” Cullen, you can’t help but feel the desperation of the situation for the Voltron team at first. But by the time the title sequence is over, you just know that big, pouty-lipped robot is gonna kick some serious butt. http://youtu.be/Ub5bl2QNHPw