A Lesson in Music History

The work of the great composers will live on forever.  Bach, Chopin, Mozart, Gershwin, and Beethoven are some of the most renowned names in music history, but some of our greatest composers are too often overlooked.  In this case, the musical genius that we will be discussing is none other than Walt Disney Animation Studios.

If you’re between 25 and 35, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about, and it’s not “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”  That’s right, it’s Disney cartoon theme songs from the 80’s and 90’s!  Your favorite!

For those of you that remember, cartoons used to be awesome.  Now they’re shit.  You can thank a lot of people for that, from the FCC to the asshole that came up with ReBoot.  Once upon a time, cartoons didn’t have to worry about violence or educational content, they just had to worry about selling toys, and that was the fucking way we liked it.

Now, Disney classed it up a bit, but let’s not pretend that a lot of these weren’t money-grabs.  Regardless, the difference between Disney and the more conventional studios like DIC, Ruby-Spears, or Filmation was that Disney made absolutely fucking flawless theme songs.  Let’s take a look, in roughly chronological order.

We start off with a classic that everyone remembers, Gummi Bears:

The lyrics are clever and informative, and the hook is unfuckwithable.  I dare you, the next time you’re hanging out with friends, just start singing “guuuuuuuuumi beeeeeeeears,” and there’s a 90% chance that people will start singing with you.  There’s a 10% chance that you’ll get your ass kicked, so be warned.  In either case, this was a classic show that was on the air for years, thanks in no small part to an awesome theme song.

A little less well-known show, The Wuzzles, was actually produced and released at the same time as Gummi Bears, but it was fucking ridiculous, so people didn’t watch it.

But that song kicks fucking ass, am I right?  As fucked up as this premise is, this song is amazing.  This song sounds like it was written by Chicago or something.  It’s pretty epic.  The show sucks, though.  It’s really bad.  The implied inter-species breeding is a little creepy, too.

We move onto the gold standard.  You all know this one:

Amazing.  Incredible.  Flawless.  I mean, that synth-brass that comes in under that chorus is mind-blowing.  Whoever sang this song needs to come to my birthday this year.  It can’t be touched.  I think we can all agree that music, as an art form, peaked in the form of the Ducktales theme song.  If this song had a vagina, I would have sex with it.  In fact, if it had an anus, I would have gay sex with it.

Moving on, a classic character gets a hip,  new update:

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have much stronger memories of watching that freaky-ass live action Winnie the Pooh show with everybody in crazy costumes and whatnot, but this song definitely burrows into your brain.  And you have to be careful, because if you get caught whistling the Winnie the Pooh theme while out with your friends, you’re getting made fun of for the rest of your life.

Here’s another one you’ll all recognize:

Man, that one gets really high at the end.  Not that… I’m trying to sing along.  I’m just noting.  It’s really the subtle things that make these great.  I don’t know what that weird synth percussion is at the into, but it really adds a lot.  Way to go, guys.

And now we move into the 90s:

A major style change, here.  TaleSpin was, as you know, based on The Jungle Book, so the theme has a “jungle” sound to it.  It’s still very well-written, but it doesn’t have the same magical feel to it that the earlier theme songs did.  Things changed in the 90s, and they were never the same.

Speaking of the 90s:

Classic series, classic theme song.  However, we still haven’t gotten back to that epic power pop style that carried all of the 80s theme songs.  This one sounds kind of like a Michael Jackson song.  That’s not a bad thing; it’s just different.  Youngsters were getting more “hip” and “edgy,” so our theme songs needed more edge to them.  Disney brings you Darkwing Duck.

Here is where things start to go downhill:

I don’t even know what’s going on here.  In some ways, they’re going back to the pop-heavy feel.  That hook is very poppy.  But then you’ve got this very corporate rap thing going on with the weird deep voice and awkward turntable stuff.  And what is it with the kid dancing with his shoes untied?  Was that a fad that I forgot about?  Goof Troop gets an F- from me, and things didn’t really get better from there.

Disney wanted to make an animated show based on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and after some changes, ended up with this:

This song is all over the place.  It’s loud, it’s “in your face,” and it’s obnoxious.  It’s fun, but it doesn’t have the kind of staying power that you get from a Gummi Bears or Ducktales theme.

Then things get really ugly:

What the fuck is this?  Which out of work, 80s hair-metal band did they hire to write this pile of shit?  It sounds like The Final Countdown being raped in the ass by Pour Some Sugar on Me.  And that’s not even examining the immense shittiness of the concept.  We’re going to adapt a movie series about underdog youth hockey players, and the TV show will be about duckfaced aliens who fight crime and play hockey on the side.  Whoever came up with this abortion of a show should be raped in the ass by Pour Some Sugar on Me.

I entered high school in 1997, and stopped following cartoons as much.  As I look back, most of them turned out to be pretty shitty, so I guess I didn’t miss much.  In conclusion, Ducktales is awesome.

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