Top 50 90s kids’ TV themes
It's time for... Animaniacs, Playdays and Round The Twist - We double dare you to not sing along with these...
“What’s the criteria here?” you may ask. Well, to rank the Top 50 90s kids’ TV themes, the show has to have been originally broadcast in the nineties, or have the majority of its original broadcast in the nineties. Occasionally there’ll be a situation as with Knightmare, where I deem the eighties version of the theme tune superior, and then it becomes clear that I’m basically making this up as I go along.
Ultimately, it turned out that quite a lot of shows I remember from the nineties are just repeats of ones from the eighties. Thundercats, M.A.S.K, DuckTales and Bertha for example. We’re starting with the nineties because that’s when this writer was watching children’s television. I’ve missed some out, deliberately or otherwise, so please let us know your favorites in the comments. Remember not to post links, as comments with links are sent to a computer in the caves under Dudley, and Simon has to charter a barge to get out there and release them.
The ranking here is irrespective of the quality of the actual show, and it’s not intended as an ordered ranking so much as the order in which the shows occurred to me. So why, you may ask, are we doing this? Pure uncut nostalgia, mainly. Don’t examine it too closely, it’s an entirely shallow enterprise. Relax. Enjoy. Obey. Consume. Conform. Sleep.
1. The Legend Of Prince Valiant
I have never seen this song on a karaoke machine. This baffles me. It’sperfect for singing after sipping bourbon with your bros before finishing your perfect night with a big pillow fight. It also stayed in my head far longer than the actual cartoon, which gets mixed up with Highlander: The Animated Series in my memories. The voice cast has got some impressive names (and a few Lord Of The Rings connections). It’s more fondly thought of than the 1997 film, both based on the Thirties Hal Foster comic strip.
2. Dark Season (Composer: David Ferguson)
This was one of many CBBC shows that temporarily replaced Doctor Who as a source of childhood fear. Not a shock when you consider it’s by Russell T. Davies and features Pat Gorman as an extra. When that clip gets to the theme music you’ll understand why. It’s like someone screaming ‘You WILL BE SCARED’ right into your face over and over again.
3. Bucky O’Hare And The Toad Wars! (Doug Katsaros)
Why bother with laborious exposition in your script when you can cram it all into your theme song? What’s Bucky O’Hare’s raison d’etre? To croak some toads. What sort of rabbit is he? Ah, a funky fresh one. Thank you kindly sir. This has set the scene for adventure and no mistake.
4. The Raccoons (Kevin Gillis, Jon Stroll, Steve Lunt)
The opening credits aren’t bad – though they do feel more like a fever dream crossed with a business induction day video – but no one remembers them like they do the closing credits. The song “Run With Us” – here sung by Lisa Lougheed – also features in the closing credits of the Rutger Hauer movie Hobo With A Shotgun, presumably due to its similar themes of environmentalism, friendship and teamwork.
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Chuck Lorre – yes, that one – and Dennis C. Brown)
A fun game to play with your loved ones is to see how long you can repeat the refrain “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Teenage Mutant NINJA TURTLES” before everyone in the room wants to kill you. Matt Edwards‘ record is four days and counting.
6. Spider! (Brian Stephens)
Spider! is the kind of show that illicits a warm glow from many upon remembering it, especially the “Spider In The Bath” episode. Only one series was ever made, though a potential revival in 2005 mentioned the possibility of Andrew Sachs as host, though whether this meant presenting the show or being a foodsource for spiderlings to consume from within is unclear.
7. Moomin (Pierre Kartner)
This is here because there aren’t enough children’s TV themes that sound like Divine Comedy b-sides. The English language credits were by Pierre Kartner, aka Father Abraham, aka That Guy Who Did The Smurf Song.
8. Sharky And George (Philippe Bouvet)
It transpires that you can sound endearingly louche while using synth brass settings, but it takes a special talent with only one IMDb listing to his name to pull this off. Possibly Philippe Bouvet heard his work and decided to quit at the top.
9. Byker Grove (Kane Gang and Simon Etchell)
Ah, Byker Grove, famous at the time for depicting things other children’s shows wouldn’t, grimly killing off its characters and incurring the rage of The Sun for depicting gay teenagers, but all we remember is the Paintball “AH CANNAH SEE” incident. All of this bookended by a song made famous as a Radio 1 jingle, complete with faintly sinister children’s laughter in the end credits version.
10. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (Ron Wasserman)
Kids in 1993 didn’t stand a chance.
11. Captain Planet And The Planeteers (Tom Worrall)
So lame. But so catchy. But so lame. But so catchy.
Tune in next week for more of the in-depth analysis that keeps you coming back to Den of Geek.
12. Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes: The Animated Series (John De Bello)
Home to a well deployed kazoo solo – a phrase used on this site about as often as you’d expect it to be. The fact that this became a children’s series makes me curious as to the extended franchise potential of Re-animator.
13. Pokemon (John Loeffler)
Another expert combination of the epic and nakedly commercial. Did you know that you don’t actually have to catch any of them and you can still have a rich and fulfilling life?
14. The Trap Door (Bob Heatlie)
This song contains sage advice. I have stayed away from trap doors all my life and I am currently still alive. More public safety videos should convey their central message in a song, especially ones written by a guy from Craigmillar who wrote the Shakin’ Steven’s hit “Merry Christmas Everyone.”
We’d learn so much, and so enjoyably.
15. Grange Hill (Peter Moss)
Ah, but which Grange Hill? The more famous comic strip title sequence and tune belongs to the eighties – and belongs to Saturday morning repeats rather than early evening week nights – but this version screams nineties like a supervisor during a fire drill at an old folk’s Home. I don’t know this for certain, but like a lot of music on this list it feels like it was composed in one room by one man who was probably wearing a baggy shirt and a waistcoat.
16. The Really Wild Show (David Lowe)
Home to many legends of broadcasting – witness the man known simply as Nutkins – this theme tune recently returned to public consciousness due to its similarity with “Uptown Funk.” It’s been a while since we had a kids’ TV theme influenced by Quincy Jones, written by the guy who went on to do the BBC News music, but then that is quite specific.
17. Bodger And Badger (Peter Gosling)
If there’s any Quincy Jones influence here it’s lower in the mix. Another song that explained the show’s setting (although Bodger And Badger has a lot less backstory to get through than Bucky O’Hare) the main reason this lodges in the brain is the shout of “MASHED POTATOES” that can still be triggered in people of a certain age by singing the preceding line.
18. Playdays (Richard Brown, Jonathan Cohen, Kim Goody, Liz Kitchen, Tim Spencer and Alan Coates)
19. Round The Twist (Andrew Duffield and Tamsin West)
A strange, filthy and weird delight, Round The Twist‘s theme song also left its mark on a generation. Anything that asks of children “Have you ever, ever felt like this?” during their formative years was always going to, but it helps that the refrain is something of an earworm, albeit one that reduced people to choking fits whenever they tried to emulate the final “Twi-i-ist.”
20. Funnybones (Ernie Wood)
Before you watch the video, see how much of this you can remember. I’ll start you off: “This is how the story begins…”
21. Rugrats (Mark Mothersbaugh)
You might know Mark Mothersbaugh as the lead singer of post-punk legends Devo (they of album titles such as Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!), or from his work as a composer (including Dumb and Dumber, The Royal Tenenbaums and Crash Bandicoot.)
Alternatively, you might know him as the man who wrote “Everything Is Awesome” for The Lego Movie. Given all this, and the fact that Chucky’s appearance was based on him, it’s not really a surprise that the Rugrats theme is good.
22. Brum (Kjartan Poskitt)
I have to include this as part of this site’s subtle pro-Birmingham agenda. To be fair though, the bit you remember is as good as you remember (when the drums kick in around about the minute mark), and they manage to use purely visual storytelling instead of expositional lyrics, which helped the show in the international market.
23. Dizzy Heights Hotel (Ken Dolan)
A mixture of rubbery gargoyle-esque puppets and two human hotel managers, Dizzy Heights Hotel spawned a spinoff featuring its puppet family the Gristles. Running for three series as a midpoint of The Muppet Show and Bottom, Dizzy Heights also had a title sequence that wasn’t a million miles from the kind of advert you’d see on early nineties regional TV, only with more pratfalling.
24. Pinky And The Brain (Richard Stone)
Gets lodged in your BRAIN brain brain brain BRAIN brain brain brain BRAIN brain brain brain (brain)
25. The Demon Headmaster (Richard Attree)
A cynical person would say “This is basically just The X-Files theme music, slightly tweaked,” but I suspect a lot of you would put that to one side in favor of “Ermagherd I used to love this show.” Basically, no one looks at a picture of Terrence Hardiman anymore and thinks “Oh, that’s Terrence Hardiman.” He is The Demon Headmaster now, although I suspect he wouldn’t mind if you went up to him and said “You were also good in Gandhi.”
We only split articles over multiple pages if they’re massive, like this one. Click on for entries 26-50.
26. The Animals Of Farthing Wood (Dennis Cooper)
The Animals Of Farthing Wood – based on the books by Colin Dann – was an animated series about the adventures of animals escaping a housing development being built on their woodland. It might as well have been subtitled Everything Dies, but at least the theme music ended on a note of hope. “Come on,” it seemed to say, “Let’s regroup and see if any of us can not die in next week’s episode.”
27. Animaniacs (Richard Stone)
Ramping up the Looney Tunes style, the Animaniacs theme is long, self-aware, and on the cusp of being smug. As the writer of this article I therefore have to like it.
28. Sabrina The Teenage Witch (Danny Lux)
We have chosen the theme music from the first series of Sabrina The Teenage Witch, based on the Archie comics of the sixties, as unfortunately the theme music got progressively worse as time went on, culminating in the low point of series four, which feels more like a pro-biotic yoghurt commercial than a sitcom title sequence.
29. The Secret Life Of Toys (PEEK-A-BOO)
This sounds like Jim Henson asked a twee indie band to write a song in the house style, and is accordingly brilliant.
30. Teletubbies (Andrew McCrorie-Shand, Andrew Davenport)
There’s a good chance that you never actually watched Teletubbies, but that you knew the theme tune anyway. When you release it basically unaltered as a single and it reaches number one, that’s quite a good indicator of it being more popular than normal.
31. Spider-Man: The Animated Series (Joe Perry)
This series was my introduction to Spider-man, and if I recall correctly did a pretty good version of the Venom storyline. I had also completely forgotten that The Punisher was in the title sequence for what I assume wasn’t a riff on the Garth Ennis comic where he and Spider-man have a team up.
In terms of the music, when kids are singing “Radioactive Spider-man” in the playground while trying to do their own vocoder effects and miming guitar squeals, you know you’re probably doing something right.
32. Sailor Moon (Tetsuya Komoro, Andy Heyward)
When this anime series was dubbed into English, producer Andy Heyward took the original melody composed by Komoro (the original song also known as “Moonlight Densetsu”) and wrote new lyrics for it.
A translation of the original Japanese lyrics on the Sailor Moon Wiki has such couplets as “Moonlight makes me want to cry/At midnight I can’t call you/But I’m so devoted, what should I do/My heart is a kaleidoscope.”
The English language dub has “Fighting evil by moonlight/Winning love by daylight/Never running from a real fight/She is the one called Sailor Moon.”
Aren’t cultural differences interesting?
33. Chucklevision (Dave Cooke)
Simple. Classic. Broadcast for twenty-two years.
34. Albert The Fifth Musketeer (Kick Production)
This one reeks of ditty, and contains a line that the writers were so pleased with (both fitting the rhyming scheme and being factually accurate) that they opted to highlight it with a funny voice:
“He’s sharp, he’s cool, he rides on a mule, he’s Albert the Fifth Musketeer.”
35. Dragon Ball Z (Shuki Levy, Haim Saban)
For anyone lamenting the lack of Mighty Max on this list, I chose this instead as I believe its style of balls to the wall weirdness and violence combined with fret-churning to be of a superior ilk.
36. Taz-mania (Richard Stone)
It will astonish you to learn that the vocalist here is not actually from Tasmania. Or Australia. Or indeed anywhere on that continent. Nevertheless, the quiet/loud Men at Work homage thing wormed its way into plenty of heads.
37. Babar (Milan Kymlicka)
Babar was the first series to ask “Would people like the Royal Family more if they were talking elephants?”
Despite the answer obviously being “yes,” so far they have all stubbornly refused to have the operation.
38. X-Men (Ron Wasserman)
You might have noticed a few names cropping up more than once. It’s fair to say Ron Wasserman knew his child-friendly action-orientated onions. Having dedicated a surprising amount of his life to Power Rangers music, he also wrote the theme music for Sweet Valley High, which is The Last Stand of Wasserman’s nineties childrens’ music trilogy.
39. Live And Kicking (David Arnold)
Not that David Arnold, no. This David Arnold did not compose the music for Independence Day or the remake of Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased), but does do a lot of TV themes and jingles, including Sky News, Mazuma Mobile, and a BBC 2 ident for Heroes. This, of course, remains his crowning glory. This is the good shit. Woo mama.
40. James Bond Jr (Dennis C. Brown, Maxine Sellers)
Now, I’m not going to pretend that this is one of the top fifty theme songs of the era. That isn’t what this is about. I just thought it was worth drawing attention to the fact that there was an animated series featuring James Bond’s nephew James Bond Jr., Goldfinger’s teenage daughter Goldie Finger, and the villainous organisation S.C.U.M (headed by, of course, the Scumlord). I just thought you ought to know.
41. Earthworm Jim (William Kevin Anderson)
This one gets bonus points for imploring the audience to sing along, and for doing its best to completely contradict its own lyrics based on what’s on screen.
42. Cousin Skeeter
Some of you may recognise this as a reworking of the song “Steelo” by the group 702, with input from Missy Elliott and a sample of music from Sting. That’s 702 in the video. Cousin Skeeter takes the Carlton/Will relationship dynamic from Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, puts it in a new setting, and uses a presumably cheaper puppet instead of Will Smith, and you’ve probably all written your own scientology jokes in your heads by now.
43. The Queen’s Nose (Carl Davis)
It doesn’t race out of the blocks to grab your attention, but The Queen’s Nose theme sets the tone for what you’re about to watch just as well as Captain Bucky O’Hare does, and as such means you’re completely taken by surprise when Gary Mabbutt turns up.
44. Sonic The Hedgehog (Noisy Neighbours)
The mid-paced rocker The Fastest Thing Alive opened the animated series Sonic The Hedgehog, and is possibly the best example of a musical hagiography from its period. For those of you unaware, Sonic is not too fast for the naked eye. This would make a computer game franchise and animated series starring him untenable.
45. Maid Marian And Her Merry Men (David Chilton, Nick Russell-Pavier)
Everyone loved Maid Marian. It was like Blackadder for kids. Though so was Blackadder, to be honest, but much as it had a great theme tune it doesn’t lend itself to group singalongs like this one does. Try it next time there’s enough of you in the car together.
46. No Sweat (Tect Two)
Using a trick that S Club 7 would later pull much more successfully, No Sweat introduced us to struggling boyband North And South, as played by struggling boyband North And South. While low on lyrical nuance, this was an undeniably catchy deployment of the sound “Na.” Whoever wrote these songs was utterly prepared to repeat something until it lodged permanently in everone’s brain, but I don’t actually know for sure who songwriter “Tect Two” is. If anyone from North And South is reading this, could they write in and let us know please? Ta.
47. The Riddlers (Neil Innes)
Neil Innes, a hero of children’s television, came up with this absolute beauty of a theme. Without any memory of The Riddlers itself, the second I heard it again I remembered that I had watched it, and even then the music was both beguiling and threatening. I have had to resist the urge to go back and listen to it again five times while typing this.
48. Uncle Jack (Jonathan Cohen)
The Uncle Jack series was another one of the many Doctor Who surrogates available in the early Nineties, and with its knowing camp (Fenella Fielding playing a villain called ‘The Vixen’ anyone?), mild peril and freeze-frame cliffhangers it certainly didn’t hide these influences. One of the things that made it different from Doctor Who was its incredibly jaunty theme music. No matter how extreme the danger Uncle Jack found himself in at the end of the episode, this strident beauty confidently waded into the mix like a winking Lionel Jeffries.
49. Sister, Sister (Tim Heintz, Randy Petersen, Kevin Quinn)
Actual Choon. As in, if your job was to play music for people to dance to, you could probably get away with playing this.
50. Fun House (Dave Pringle, Bob Heatlie)
Like Dark Season, way back at the other end of the list, there’s no faffing about with subtlety here, to the point where you feel like the songwriters might have just got people to sing the pitch document to the catchiest tune they had.