Your resident toonhead checks in again, this time to talk about two separate CDs which between them have some cool stuff for cartoon fans.
First, "Funnybone Favorites". This disc is jam-packed with more than thirty different theme songs from cartoons – interestingly, from many different studios, not just one, which is unusual in this sort of collection. Also, the tunes cover more than 40 years of cartoon history. Here you'll find such gems as "The Flintstones" and (an expanded version of) "The Jetsons" themes, the "Mickey Mouse March", recent themes like "Inspector Gadget" and "Rugrats", and even the venerable "Bozo the Clown" theme. Highlights for me include the themes from "Top Cat" (one of my "guilty pleasure" cartoon faves) and "The Magilla Gorilla" show. Cartoon Network's "Cartoon Cartoons" are well represented here, with "Dexter's Laboratory" and "Johnny Bravo" checking in. Even Henry Mancini's "Pink Panther" theme and the always-welcome "Peanuts" theme are here.
Then, on to "Action-Packed Anthems". As you might suspect, this disc is full of themes from the more dramatic action-oriented cartoons. Again, they represent a number of different studios and times; however this disc seems a bit more limited in range, probably because the "action adventure" cartoon is a fairly recent phenomenon, starting with the black & white Japanese cartoons "Astro Boy" and "Gigantor" (originally "Tetsujin-28"), both of which appear here. Later in the '60s, "Speed Racer" came along, and shortly thereafter, one of my old favorites, the original "Johnny Quest" – whose excellent and sophisticated theme song deserves its place here. Remember when "Space Ghost" was really a space hero (voiced by the incomparable Gary Owens) instead of the buffoon he is now? Well, the original theme should jog your memory. Another favorite of mine, the "Spider-Man" theme from the 60's, always brings a smile to my face. It's just so… so… 60's. "The Super Friends" are also represented, as are the recent "Batman" animated series, Disney's "Tale Spin" and "Darkwing Duck", and of course Cartoon Network's "Powerpuff Girls" – though the excellent PPG end title theme by Japanese girl rockers BIS is not included, boo! This collection would not be complete without the various "Scooby Doo" themes, and you'll find "Mighty Mouse" and the "X-Men" theme, too.
Both CDs are well mastered, but many of the older theme songs were originally recorded somewhat… hastily, probably not with top-notch equipment, and the digital CD format really exposes their sonic shortcomings. These tunes sounded great coming through the mono speaker that most televisions had in the 60's and 70's, received via static-y broadcast transmission – my little black & white Zenith did a fine job (you know, with a hand-turned dial and only 13 VHF channels?) – but on any decent stereo, some of these chestnuts sound pretty tinny. While it does sound like the mastering engineers did their best to improve the tones, there's only so much polishing one can do when the raw material isn't up to snuff. Now, this only applies to the older themes, the more recent ones sound excellent. I do find some of the choices on the Action disc a bit questionable. "Hong Kong Phooey", an action cartoon? I'm not so sure about that… I could say the same about "Captain Planet", but that one I can let slide? However, has anyone heard of "Touché Turtle"? I'll have to ask some of my friends in animation about that one. Perhaps one of them worked on that toon.
Anyway, if you're a toon fan, these CDs are for you. Even with some of the more obscure themes, they're worth having. Hey, and you can play them for your kids, who will laugh at you for liking geeky cartoon stuff! Or maybe they'll love them as much as you do.
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