(SPOT.ph) The opening song of an animated series must grab the attention of an easily distracted audience, both children and kids-at-heart, in the first few seconds. But once it successfully permeates the collective consciousness of its captive viewership, it takes root in the deepest recesses of the mind, surviving long after the show’s end. Resistance is futile—you can never get it out of your head—thus, the Last Song Syndrome.
Now these cartoon shows did not just give us amusing stories and fun visuals, they also gave us catchy music and/or lyrics that we could still sing along to even to this day. Let’s indulge in these grade-A (for animation) sounds that were instrumental (ahem) in forming our childhood musical taste.
Disclaimer: We are not liable for any actual Last Song Syndrome (LSS) symptoms that may develop while reading this article. Proceed at your own risk!
Here are the top cartoon theme songs that will get you humming along in no time:
10. Kim Possible (2002)
When Christina Milian sang “Call Me, Beep Me,” (with Kim’s voice actress Christy Carlson Romano harmonizing along) it certainly got the pre-teen party poppin’ in the early 2000s. It was the kid-friendly girl power song that made us feel like we were capable of achieving anything—including sporting cargo pants. That oh-so-familiar ringtone had us grabbing makeshift gadgets while answering, “What’s the sitch?”
9. Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1990)
This toon was peak edutainment featuring kids with elemental rings and an environmentally woke superhero fighting literal toxic villains. And speaking of the eco-baddies, Captain Planet featured many famous voices such as Meg Ryan, Martin Sheen, Sting, and Jeff Goldblum. The theme opens with a spirited chant before launching into some sick synths, slick beats, and powerhouse vocals that will make you wanna start picking up litter right this instant! With climate change being a hot topic these days, we’re hoping that they revive the series for a new generation.
8. Phineas and Ferb (2008)
“Today is Gonna Be a Great Day” sung by punk rock band Bowling For Soup does an extreme take on our ideal childhood checklist: fighting a mummy? Creating nanobots? Building a rocket? Yes, please! The funny side comments from the actual characters provide an inspired touch. The song was co-written by showrunners Dan Povenmire and Jeff Marsh alongside Carl Hill Williams, Michael Walker, and Michael Culross Jr. (the latter currently voices Mr. Drako in another Povenmire and Marsh show called Milo Murphy’s Law). That’s a whole lot of writers for a mouthful of song lyrics doing a hilariously long-winded approach similar tothe way some kids narrate their daily activities. This Phineas And Ferb opener was even nominated for the category, “Outstanding Main Title Theme Music” at the 2008 Emmy Awards.
7. Steven Universe (2013)
The intro song is a shortened version of “We Are The Crystal Gems”
and features the vocal stylings of its musically inclined cast. We’ve even got strong Filipino representation in this show with voice actresses Deedee Magno Hall (Pearl) and Shelby Rabara (Peridot) plus, the character of Lars is a Filipino who bakes an ube cake roll at one point in the series. In the show, the song actually exists and was written by Steven about his powerful Gem allies/adoptive family. It’s a superhero song with a wonderful message promoting teamwork and supporting each other in times of need. But in real life, series creator Rebecca Sugar composed the tune with musical duo Aivi and Surasshu. With the number of songs in the show, they should have enough for an entire musical!
6. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? (1969)
A lingering shot of a haunted house with thunder, lightning, and bat noises playing in the background quickly establishes the spooky setting. Zoinks! But once the upbeat keyboard chords and funky bass line starts playing, it launches into the grooviest track you'll ever hear in a cartoon. We felt emotionally invested as the song inquires the whereabouts of Scooby-Doo—we need answers! The verse simultaneously takes a dig at Scoob's skittish nature (he's a big mood) while also motivating the pup to help out his meddlesome human companions. (When will the gang learn to never split up when exploring an area?!) The opening sequence also features the classic chase scene, which has been parodied to an exhaustive extent, among the Scooby gang and the monster of the week. Despite the repetitive nature of the episodes, we could never contain our excitement whenever they're about to unmask the villain and reveal some rando orchestrating the whole haunting. Aha!
5. The Powerpuff Girls (1998)
The Narrator, well, narrates the opening sequence, in order to get viewers up to speed with the Powerpuff Girls premise and storyline. It’s a great way to invite newbies into the PPG fandom. Nobody says the term, “Chemical X” with as much gravitas as the show’s good ol’ disembodied voice. The rest of the song provides more information such as their personality, power, and punctuality (“Here they come just in time, the Powerpuff Girls!”). The show kept this theme song until the series finale in 2004 while modifying and adding some scenes, eventually airing a high-definition version during its last episode. This opening theme gave a whole generation of kids a reason to be pumped up in the mornings. And don’t get us started on their other song, “Love Makes The World Go ’Round!”
4. Adventure Time (2010)
The animated series has the unique distinction of setting the quirky toon trend (examples are Regular Show, Gravity Falls, Steven Universe, and the like) that dominated the 2010s and proudly featured a canonically queer couple (Marceline and Princess Bubblegum) sharing a kiss in the finale. Adventure Time remains on-brand with a mathematical animation sequence and vocals by series creator Pendleton Ward backed by the ukulele. The simple set-up, the short-and-sweet, straight-to-the-point lyrics, and twee tunes appealed to imaginative children and adult hipster sensibilities. You can find more than a dozen covers of the opening theme and their other songs online. Oh my glob, indeed!
3. DuckTales (1987)
The opening sequence was definitely a product of its time and wouldn’t be out of place in a late '80s-early '90s pop chart. The DuckTales theme starts with a sickening bass line that anchors the whole arrangement. Keyboards, horns, and a consistently great rhythm back the song. We dig the song's bridge, which gradually increases the volume of the horns, building momentum as it makes way for that memorable chorus. It is impossible to make it through this song without shouting, “woo-hoo” during this part. Watching Scrooge McDuck and his nephews go on grand adventures together in the opening sequence made us want to pick up our backpack and enjoy an all-expenses-paid trip care of our crazy-rich grand-uncle. When the 2017 reboot came around, they were wise enough to retain the original tune by doing an updated version with a female singer. Both the OG and the reboot features a chase scene with a mummy pertaining to the line, “There’s a stranger out to find you!”
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987)
If the skater boy/surfer dude expression of “totally radical” had a visual representation, it would be the entire opening sequence of this late '80s cartoon. The title itself sounds like the random string of words you can find on an anti-bot browser test. (You know, the one where you gotta click on all the pictures with cars on them?) That first twang of the electric guitar signaling the start of the show got us mad pumped to see these heroes in a half-shell in action. The verses effectively lay out the whole story without feeling too dragging. It also helps that the synthesized vocals are taking us along for the ride. The verse that most '80s and '90s kids try to memorize (more than history class) is the part where they do a rollcall of the turtles including their distinctive traits. While throwaway lines in the lyrics such as “that’s a fact, Jack,” “hey, get a grip,” and “we’re really hip” are outrageously dated in the present day. Those who feel a nostalgic connection with the show will hear such words and be taken back to a time when all they had to worry about was homework while sipping on juice boxes. The 2012 reboot kept the chorus alive and kicking while providing more rap verses in the theme song. Turtle power!
1. SpongeBob Squarepants (1999)
“Are you ready, kids?” “Aye-aye, Captain!” “I can’t hear youuu!” Ohhh, SpongeBob Squarepants’ iconic theme was both a blessing to children and a curse to parents who haven’t had their morning coffee. As soon as we heard the immortal question above, it was like a jolt to our system as we dove into the nearest couch to see SpongeBob’s onscreen shenanigans. This catchy bop contains all the elements of a maritime melody with the accordion and flute floating above (because the show’s underwater, get it?) a tapestry of sounds. The vocals feature Painty the Pirate and a group of kids singing in a call-and-response style. This encourages viewers to take on either of the roles or just be extra and sing both parts at the top of their lungs. (There is no indoor voice for the SpongeBob song.) The show’s creator Stephen Hillenburg wrote the tune along with Derek Drymon. According to the co-songwriter, Hillenburg deliberately wanted to make the most annoying song ever. We’re bummed that Stephen passed away back in 2018 but at least his legacy will live on and he’ll continue trolling everyone with this irritatingly infectious ditty for years to come. *Cue the flutes at the end*