Cartoons Can Rock
The 80s and 90s was the Golden Age Of Cartoons. An era of television that explored complex storylines all under the guise of children’s programming. While some TV executives bowed to corporate pressure of putting out catchy singalong jingles masked as theme songs.
Other more adventurous producers and, consequently, the composers they hired were highly influenced by popular music of the times. Because even cartoons know how to rock.
9. Batman Beyond
Set in the distant future of the year 2039. Batman Beyond capitalises on the exploits of the Dark Knight from almost half a century ago. Just as the Batman Beyond series lays claim to what made Batman: The Animated Series so popular. Mixing retro aesthetics with modern day technology.
This personifies the inspiration of the Batman Beyond theme song. Laying claim to popular underground music tropes. An industrial rock lead layered over the top of darkened EDM beat. More tech, less organic. A fad the late 90s cult digested faster than Oswald Cobblepot ate a chocolate cake.
8. Mighty Max
In an era where the cartoons were created before the toy they were meant to be based on. Because that makes sense, right? Mighty Max was one of the few exceptions where the show was on equal footing with the toys. Each episode acted as a companion to the miniature toys of its namesake.
Horror, supernatural monsters, fantastical beasts, warriors, deformed underlings. No surprises that the show, clearly inspired by 80s horror, has a theme as fantastic as those horrific soundtracks.
7. Dragon Ball Z
Few anime series are as synonymous with the 90s as Dragon Ball Z. A sequel series to the manga fan favourite, Dragon Ball. An unforgettable chapter to the series in its own right.
Dragon Ball Z continues the saga of lead protagonist Son Goku and his friends as they struggle to overcome an ensemble of weird and wonderful bad guys. From the alien species known as the Saiyans right through to Galactic Overlord Frieza.
The Dragon Ball Z theme song mirrors the friendship and amelioration the show preaches. Each movement is filled with bounding riff savagery. Worthy of Shenron.
6. Extreme Dinosaurs
Extreme Dinosaurs. Because why the hell not? This show set the blueprint for copycats such as Street Sharks and Battletoads.
But we are talking about a time where Dinosaurs were as synonymous with pop culture as MTV. Unsurprisingly, the theme song is as kick ass metal as the show itself featuring Dinosaurs kicking ass. Turn up the volume on this one.
5. Biker Mice From Mars
Biker Mice from Mars, starring three anthropomorphic mice brothers (Throttle, Modo and Vinnie), follows their adventures on planet earth. As they attempt to foil the world domination plans of Lawrence Loctavius Limburger, who destroyed most of their home. The Biker Mice From Mars theme is a perfect hype song for a show where the recurring themes are brotherhood, heroism, loss and PTSD.
Written and performed by Jeff Scott Soto, who metal heads will remember from his days in Yngwie Malmsteen and Journey. Biker Mice From Mars continued on in the traditions of anthropomorphic animals made animated flesh (TMNT, anyone?). While several other imitators have followed the framework left in the wake of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
2006 saw the series receive a Reboot of sorts which only lasted one season. In other words: Don’t bother. Stick with the original.
4. Skeleton Warriors
Most people who think CBS Network think about shows like NCIS or The Big Bang Theory. Few think about an obscure 13 episode cartoon featuring hover bike riding undead skeletons. Aptly and simply named Skeleton Warriors.
The show owes much to the groundbreaking He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon. Where Skeleton Warriors went wrong is the most interesting aspect of the show was the antagonists. Something 1995 just wasn’t ready for.
One thing is for certain – 80s stylised hair metal guitars mixed with the undead will always work.
3. Spider-Man TAS
Scoring the coveted 3rd slot is everyone’s favourite wall crawling superhero. The theme song of the Spider-Man TAS came from the second highest grossing Marvel cartoon of the 90s. Mixing a powerful lead guitar as the center piece in the track.
The mix of this tune was fleshed out with the distorted vocals of “Spider-Man, Radioactive Spider-Man.” While appropriately timed Thwips rounded out this absolutely bitching theme song. A musically rebellious “F- you, this is the 90s” to the campy cheese that was the 60s cartoon.
With great power comes great shred-ability.
2. Beast Wars
Set in the future of the original Transformers continuity, Beast Wars built upon the already established lore and canon of the transformers franchise. The future descendants of the Autobots and Decepticons, now known as the Maximals and Predacons, battle for supremacy in earth’s prehistoric past.
Beast Wars did away with the tacky 80s singalong of its forebears. Opting instead for a modern heavy metal driven lead guitar solo that moves and shapes the mood of the show. Beast Wars’ theme song is as exciting and primal as it is head banging material.
1. X-Men TAS
Easily the most memorable theme song of the whole bunch. X-Men: The Animated Series (or, TAS for short) was Marvel’s second attempt at a cartoon starring Professor X and the Gang.
Before Cyclops and the gang got the green light a Pilot episode starring a slightly different iteration of the X-Men (titled Pryde of the X-Men) was trialed. As fate would have it – Pryde of the X-Men failed miserably.
While X-Men TAS went on to be one of the highest grossing children’s cartoons of the 90s. Second only to Batman. It boasts the most memorable electric guitar theme of this entire list. With each episode the X-Men theme set the expectation for an exciting, mutant menace filled, super heroic half hour.
What was your thoughts on our Cartoon Themes That Absolutely Shred? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
Editor & Writer. When not immersed in questionable 90s pop culture I can be found covering News and Reviews. Convinced 4/4 time signatures were invented by the devil.