They were the melodies that announced that cartoon funtime was here, that it was time again to surrender to the animated haze. In our Pavlovian raptures, us kids didn't notice that a lot of those songs were pretty lousy. Presenting part one of a three-part exploration we're calling Saturday Morning Nightmare: The Worst Theme Songs In Cartoon History.
Nobody could have predicted that this half-hour candy commercial would give birth to an entirely new musical genre: synth-filk.
The Karate Kid
From the opening flute flourishes, we know we're on a musical journey to the mysterious Orient. True to form, the rest of the music sounds like a bad Vietnamese karaoke backing track. In a nod to ascetic Asian minimalism, the only lyrics are "Karate Kid". It's a musical Zen koan of crap.
Tom and Jerry Kids
This isn't the only cartoon theme that brings overheated, soulless, sub-Speedwagon rock. (You'll be hearing plenty more of those in the next few days.) But it might be the only one that soils the legacy of two truly iconic characters in the process. WARNING: sax solo ahead.
Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kids
In the world of Hanna-Barbera, it's always hard to tell if the concept sucks, or just the execution. I say, why choose? When your basic idea is "Butch Cassidy as globetrotting rock star detective with a wacky mutt sidekick", an hour spent writing the theme song is 55 minutes too many.
The Super Mario Bros. Super Show
Speaking of new genres, here comes the "Blitzkrieg Bop" of nerdcore. Bonus ironic racial commentary: "The Brothers! The Brothers! The Brothers!"
The New Shmoo
Maybe this song's abrupt shifts in rhythm and mood are supposed to reflect the protean nature of the Shmoo himself. Then again, maybe the music is just as half-assed and thrown-together as lyrics like "He's gonna please you / This incredible new Shmoo likes you."
Jayce & The Wheeled Warriors
Here's more of that wailing generic '80s rock I promised you. This groin-straining FM anthem makes Loverboy sound like Nirvana. Sing us out, Jayce!
Tune in tomorrow for more Saturday Morning Nightmare: The Worst Theme Songs In Cartoon History. We dare you.
Assembled with help from Scott Lydon, Jason Hinklin-Lauderdale, Randy Cleveland, and Josh Boelter.