Ah, it feels good to be firmly in the realm of toys and cartoons again. Like sinking into a warm bath, or slipping on an old pair of shoes – you know the ones; with the heels worn through and the laces that you haven’t undone in seven years.
It may surprise you to learn that I love music. Not any specific music or genre or artist, just music in general. It’s a uniquely human thing; of all the animals on this planet we alone have the ability to appreciate it. So, to that end, I have compiled a list of the top tunes from Eighties cartoons. I’ve left out a few of the obvious ones that always come up in these lists because, well, they’re usually shit. Memorable, perhaps, but not necessarily any good.
Let’s begin – grab your headphones, plug in and let the music flow unimpeded through you. Like the Force. Or my mum’s casserole.
#10 Care Bears Family
Right, I’d like to make one thing clear. I love the Care Bears. All they do is care. If they were real, there would be no problems in this world. Just look at them, with their fat tummies and button noses. Each one proudly bearing an insignia; a bastion of love, hope, sharing or whatever. They’ll help you out of any predicament. And if you won’t open your heart, if you’re so filled with hate that you can’t be reached and become a danger to your friends, they’ll fuck you up. Fuck you up with love – beams of condensed caring will shoot out of their bellies like the USS Nimitz unloading a phalanx of cruise missiles.
Anyway, this tune is just the thing to chase away the dark clouds of doubt that hang over us all. And if your heart doesn’t melt at the sight of those colourful bears dancing in a kickline, then there’s no hope for you. Resign yourself to the dark side and await the onslaught of tummy-beams.
#9 The Raccoons
I’ve already mentioned The Raccoons this week, but they still deserve a place on this list. This is one of those heartwarming tunes. It makes you feel like you’re there in the Evergreen Forest – you have some good friends to help you out, and all is right with the world. But then the menace of Cyril Sneer approaches! Oh noes! The vaguely threatening music quickens the pulse. Tensions rise! Danger…!
Nah, it’s alright. We’re the Raccoons, and this crescendo means we’re the good guys. We’re going to live happily in this peaceful forest forever. Right, guys?
#8 Disney’s Gummi Bears
Hold up, fellas. We haven’t left the forest yet! These little guys look sort of familiar, but they wear clothes and don’t descend from the sky in a little car. It’s the Gummi Bears! Clearly, unlike their pacifist cousins, they have all sorts of adventures, full of action and derring do. Like miniature Robin Hoods, it seems.
Yup, the Gummi Bears lived in a tree, and would emerge to help people or thwart the villainous schemes of the evil Duke Igthorn. Apparently all victims of substance abuse, the Gummi Bears would guzzle down some magic juice when they needed an edge; it heightened their athletic ability and caused them to bounce like rubber. For this reason, Gummi Bears are banned from entering the Forest Olympics. Turns out smashing the high-jump record by thirty six feet will cause the adjudicators to ask for a second urine sample.
I didn’t care much for Heathcliff, really. He was the poor man’s Garfield. The cartoon itself was sort of a two-parter, the first half focused on Heathcliff and the second half was a back-up cartoon that centered on auxiliary characters The Catillac Cats. These guys have stuck in my memory for two reasons. Firstly, they had a transforming Caddy. I thought that was cool. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, they had a censor-baiting female character called Cleo. She was essentially naked apart from her leg-warmers, and although her fur was patterned to look a little like a leotard, it just served to accentuate her feminine attributes. I’ll stop now, as there’s the genesis of a very rude joke in there. I’m a gentleman, after all.
#6 Fraggle Rock
What is a Fraggle, exactly? They look like the offspring of Kermit the Frog and a shaved cat. They’re really small, but not as small as the Doozers, the little green guys with tiny construction hats and a hive mind. Anyway, the Fraggles are a fun-loving race, and have all kinds of debauched adventures in their underground caves.
You just can’t resist clapping along to this one. We all have troubles, and the Fraggles teach us that with a positive attitude you can, for the most part, just dance your cares away.
#5 Bucky O’ Hare
I’ve written about Bucky and his friends before, so I won’t repeat myself. It’s one of my favourite cartoons/comics, and it’s a crying shame that it was so short lived. The theme song does a good job of bringing you up to speed on the plight of those animal adventurers from S.P.A.C.E as they cruise the universe in their ship, the Righteous Indignation. It’s worth noting that the name “Righteous Indignation” inspired modern-day Transformers writer James Roberts to give all his ships funny names, such as the Lost Light and the Weak Anthropic Principle.
I love this tune, it’s almost like a rap. There’s somebody in the background arguing with the lead singer. Coupled with the animation, this one never fails to bring a smile to my face.
#4 Action Force
I like GI Joe, I do. But there’s something a little disturbing about its patriotism. An almost jingoistic undertone – “A real American Hero”, the tagline read. I can just imagine the young zealots sitting down in front of the TV on a Saturday morning, with a bowl of Coco Pops in one hand and American flag in the other, vision blurring as the tears come.
I much prefer the idea of “Action Force”. For a start, it sounds like it could actually be the name of a team. It’s plural, which helps. They were also re-dubbed “International Heroes”, a much more inclusive-sounding epithet. Along with the new name came a new theme tune. The differences are subtle, but the result is a much more appealing and exciting song that will likely stay with you forever.
M-M-M-M-MASK! This is one of the few cartoons from the eighties that hasn’t had some kind of revival. It’s a real shame, as it’s one of the more fascinating concepts to come from the decade. A team of heroes (and their villainous counterparts) would hide their identity under custom-built masks, each one providing an ability or superpower. The masks themselves were named, for example “Spectrum” would give the wearer super vision, and “Grasshopper” would let the wearer leap huge distances.
However, the central concept, and the one the show is remembered for, was one of transforming vehicles. The masked men had a whole fleet of vehicles that would change from one type into another. Say, a motorbike into a helicopter or a jeep into a boat. Anyway, the show has a top tune, but I’ll be damned if I can understand half the lyrics.
#2 Ulysses 31
I don’t really remember what this one was about. My friends refer to it as “the one with Space Jesus”. A succinct summary, perhaps, as all I remember about it was that there was a man who looked very much like the Son of God (according to the colouring books they gave us in Sunday school) gallivanting about in the inky void of space. I was quite happy to sing along to the theme song, though. Apparently so was Philip Schofield, along with Gordon the Gopher. I loved those guys! Gordon was one of the best puppet mascots, I reckon, alongside Gus Honeybun. I always wanted him to give me bunnyhops for my birthday… But it never happened. I’ve never truly gotten over this, and each year I grow older but more bitter. What was I talking about again?
If you were to whisper in my ear “By the Power of Grayskull…” I would tear off my clothes and scream “I HAVE THE POWWEERRR!”. It’s an involuntary, Pavlovian response. I love He-Man. I am He-Man. Or at least, that’s what my underwear says. He-Man wears pants with his picture on them, right?
Anyway, I’m rather fond of the theme tune. I find myself humming it for no reason at all. It’s indelibly burned into my brain, like my own name or the fact that I shouldn’t talk to strangers. I’m a little young to have been caught up in He-Man fever, but I’m told that the corrupted-lyrics version was a playground favourite: “I have the power, to pick up a flower, might take me an hour… or two!”
I can’t resist repeating another He-Man anecdote, so brace yourselves: Alan Oppenheimer, voice of Mer-Man (and the Transformer Seaspray) was said to have been able to do the ‘underwater voice’ without any mechanical assistance at all. You’d think he talked into a submerged drainpipe or something, but no. Legend has it that he would adopt a bow-legged stance, cup his hands behind his ears, and the voice would come out just like you hear it on TV. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.
“Accentuate her feminine”