The 1980s was a boom time for kid’s TV thanks to an FCC deregulation ruling that allowed series based on toy products. All of a sudden, the floodgates were open and soon G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K., Transformers, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and other shows inspired by toy lines were on store shelves. To quote Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, “it was a glorious time.”
What helped make these series so memorable were the theme songs that told young viewers about what they were going to see in the catchiest way imaginable. As a result, the decade is responsible for some of the best-loved themes in cartoon history. As we all bask in the first glimpse of the new DuckTales (which needs to only gently update its theme), let’s look back at the best of the best.
Before he was inflicting Josh Gad fighting Pac-Man in Pixels on the masses, Chris Columbus brought Galaxy High to Saturday mornings on CBS. The show chronicled the adventures of two Earth teens — lunkheaded jock Doyle and lovable scholar Aimee — as they attended a high school featuring students from across the galaxy. The underrated toon only ran for 13 episodes back in 1986, but remains fondly remembered thanks in no small part to its Daft Punk-ian theme song from The Eagles’ Don Felder.
Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats
In the 1980s, there were Garfield people and there were Heathcliff people. While Garfield was more of a passive character, Heathcliff liked to mix things up and take a more active role in his adventures. Regardless of which orange cat you prefer, chances are that you will also agree that the above theme song is a jam.
Disney’s Adventure of the Gummi Bears
You have to hand it to whoever is singing the theme song here, because he is selling the high-drama and excitement of a cartoon based on a tooth-rotting candy with the type of hushed reverence not heard since Kipp Lennon’s theme song for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
The American adaptation of Japan’s Space Battleship Yamato series, Star Blazers was originally produced in the 1970s but is included on this list for two reasons. First, the show was heavily syndicated throughout the ’80s, and second, because its theme song is so incredibly rousing that it is perfect for any era.
People animals? That’s a freaky scene. But between this and Manimal, the concept was huge in the 1980s. Which isn’t to say that Thundercats didn’t have a tremendous theme song, because clearly it does. Especially since an eight-year-old Mark Ronson wrote it, according to the unassailable internet.