As a kid I got to experience Disney’s renaissance not only from the cushioned chair of a movie theater, but also from my living room floor. Though The Little Mermaid jump started an incredible animated film run that included The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, there was also some magical animation happening on the small screen after school or on the weekend cartoon block during the ’80s and ’90s. One of the reasons many of these cartoons are ingrained into our memories is due to their catchy theme songs that would leave viewers singing long after the television tube went black.
I’ve taken it upon myself to look at some of the most popular and iconic Disney cartoons from my childhood and rank them based solely on their theme song intros. This is not a definitive list, as I’m sure I neglected mentioning a few cartoons. Also, this is only my opinion, but I have a suspicion that I won’t be alone with some of my choices. Be warned when reading this list, however, I can almost guarantee you’ll be humming a few of these songs for days to come.
Let’s just call this an honorable mention. Wait! Don’t throw stones yet! Remember, this list is solely about cartoon intro theme songs and not how cool a series was in general. While I love Gargoyles, their intro didn’t really include a theme song, it was simply some grim and gritty narration layered on top of a pretty haunting score that rivals the best in any Hollywood classic. Even though the intro is a perfect setup for the series, it can’t really compete on this list.
Quick! Before you click the video try to dig back deep into your memory and hum this song. More than likely, you can’t. That’s because this song is as much of a trainwreck as Bonkers himself. Yeesh! What’s going on here? I have no idea.
Don’t get me wrong, Arabian Nights is a fantastic song… but is it a fantastic theme song? Remember, a theme song is supposed to set the tone for the show, draw interest, and be unique. While Arabian Nights is a perfect fit for the magic and the mystery of the theatrical release of Aladdin, I’m not sure it works for the much looser and goofier television series. However, regardless of that, I only put this one this far down on the list because it was just a rehash of the movie’s theme song, otherwise it would have ranked higher.
8. Goof Troop
Goof Troop tried to throw a little soul in the mix of their cartoon lineup, and the performer is certainly belting it out so high I can’t tell if I’m listening to a man or woman. Whoever it is, they’re no Tevin Campbell. If Goof Troop had tapped Campbell to craft and sing a television intro with the same talent he displayed on A Goofy Movie‘s soundtrack (Seriously, “Stand Out” and “Eye-to-Eye” were on constant loop on my Walkman, listen for yourself), we could possibly have a new contender for number one on this list. Instead we get a song that was pretty forgettable, just like this show.
7. Mighty Ducks
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really watch this cartoon. I was a tad too old and groaned just a little too hard at the live action film’s “Quack! Quack! Quack!” rallying cry. However, the intro to this mostly forgotten cartoon is definitely deserving to be mentioned in this list. A little more rock ‘n’ roll than the rest of the list, Mighty Ducks‘ theme song gets your head bobbing even if you find your head shaking in disbelief when you wonder how this cartoon was ever greenlit. Though the cartoon only lasted one season, at least the intro performer has a possible future as lead singer for Stryper.
Oh-wee-ay! Too much grunting! And what’s with the stiff “Ha! Ha! Ha!” laughter? Creepy. I appreciate what they were trying to do with a tropical island vibe to the song, and I’ll give it to Disney, it certainly was unique and was pretty catchy. However, unlike some others on this list, even though I caught myself humming this theme song as a kid, I would purposely try to replace the song stuck in my head with almost anything else.
5. Darkwing Duck
“Let’s get dangerous!” For some reason, I didn’t even recall Darkwing Duck as being a Disney property, but rewatching the intro again and again (and again), I’m not surprised. The song builds to a catchy hook, throws in some surprises (“When there’s trouble you call DW!”), and is just plain fun – exactly what a Disney cartoon should be. Plus, I’m a sucker for some funky bass licks.
4. The Wuzzles
A little bit of this? Check. A little bit of that? You bet. Catchy hook? Got it. Earworm? Yessir. Ending on a literal high note? You got that right! This theme song alone should have earned The Wuzzles more than one season. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be.
3. Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers
Remember what I said about how I’m a sucker for a smooth bass line? Well, this theme song delivers more bass action than American Idol’s Randy Jackson did during his Journey concert days. I love how this one starts out with a sense of mystery that includes thunderclaps and police sirens, but then slowly builds to a high-energy chorus. Are the Chi-Chi-Chi-Chip ‘n’ Dale lyrics poetic? No, but who cares? I dare you to not find yourself singing this one in a few minutes.
2. Gummi Bears
I’m a firm believer that almost everything sounds better with a full orchestra. Gummi Bears‘ intro starts off with a light-hearted sing-songy tale perfectly suited as the beginning of what proves be a fantastical adventure before reaching full swell with an insanely entertaining hook. The song even serves a dual purpose of drawing attention at the same time providing new viewers a little background of the story before diving into the episode.
1. Duck Tales
I couldn’t tell you a single plot of an episode of Duck Tales, but I can still sing the entire theme song from memory twenty years later. That speaks to just how awesome this theme song remains to this day. Duck Tales was a great cartoon, lasted four seasons, enjoyed 100 episodes, but this theme song is a masterpiece in its own right.
What do you think about my rankings? Which of these theme songs do you now have stuck in your head? Let me know in the comments below!