Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Triangle's Staccato Beat

I love cartoon music, both thematic and incidental. And I'm not talking about the garbage that passes for cartoon music nowadays, except for maybe a select few. I'm talking about the classic stuff from about the mid-70's backwards.

As a child of the 70's, I grew up watching the ever popular, ever omnipotent, the holy grail of animated cartooning, The Warner Brothers Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies. Everything else was a distant second. How distant, you may ask?

Go on, ask

"G, how distant?"

Well, I'm glad you asked. My list in no particular order of importance:

1} The classic Popeye cartoons from the 30's through the early 40's. The version from the 60's don't even make it out rookie league ball (for those who are not from the States, I would equate it with probably 3rd division football).
2} Classic MGM, including Tom & Jerry.
3} Pink Panther et al.
4} Fat Albert.
5} Fractured Fairy Tales (including Rocky & Bullwinkle, Mr. Peabody, etc.)
6} Mighty Mouse (the original, not the remake by John K of Ren & Stimpy fame)

The only post mid-70's cartoon that would even make the cut are as follows:

1} Rocko's Modern Life (theme was done by the B-52's)
2} First version of Ren & Stimpy.
3} The Klasky-Csupo empire (Rugrats, etc), music done by Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo.
4} Tiny Toon Adventures.
5} Police Academy, the series (short lived, theme was done by Heavy D and the Boyz who did the music for "In Living Colour").

Beyond that, absolutely nothing else makes the cut. And I mean nothing.

Anyways, like I'm want to do from time to time, I make distinctions in various things, this time as it applies to cartoon music. I've always been partial to the cartoons that used orchestras to create the music (Carl Stalling is God) and I think it's because that early on, I was exposed to classical music. Not from the Warner Brothers extensive use of it, but from having to play a good quantity of it during my formative years*.

*I played clarinet and marched in a marching band. There will be absolutely no discussion on this point. None. Nada. Zip. Zilcho.

Anyways, the reason for the title of the post, is quite simple. Whenever I get into a decent frame of mind at work (which is infrequent at best), I love whistling different parts of the theme to the Pink Panther cartoons. The Pink Panther cartoons, which were produced by, among others, Isadore Freling and Chuck Jones, matched up quite well with some of the better MGM stuff. They were really in a league by themselves, due to (in my opinion) the continental flare that was Europe in the mid-60's, and with Henry Mancini doing the theme and incidental music, the cartoon was absolutely perfect. The man was a master of using just a few instruments to convey the proper emotional depth at the precise point needed.

To be more specific, I always start off with the opening notes of the theme's simple triangle staccato beat. It's virtually impossible to describe in print, but that opening triangle has become the most identifiable part of the cartoon. No matter what else that may come after that, its that hook that will get you to stop and take a peek at the telly.

When I'm whistling that theme, there is absolutely nothing that will be able to touch me and ruin my day.


Cartoon music. It's da bomb.


  1. I love how music is woven through our lives...

  2. My Charmer and I bought (her idea) the Pink Panther on DVD less then a year ago and got a real quick out of them after all these years. It holds up quite well.

  3. Talon: Very much so. I would say a majority of my flash fiction has been inspired by particular songs. Music has been such an intergral part of my life that I don't know what I would do if I should lose the rest of my hearing.

    David: It's funny, but viewing habits have changed. Instead of watching certain cartoons for the chuckle, I now watch them for the music and who does the voiceovers.

    But I can say that the Pink Panther (plus the Ant & The Aardvark) really does give a very good taste of what life was like back then. At least the part that was uncorrupted by Hollywood schlock.

  4. My Dad loved the old Pink Panther movies. We would watch them over and over again. They were wonderful. My kids have discovered the Pink Panther cartoons on Boomerang. They are hooked.

    Loved Rocky and Bullwinkle too.

  5. 5} Fractured Fairy Tales (including Rocky & Bullwinkle, Mr. Peabody, etc.)

    My absolute favorite! I have a video of it which always brings a smile to my face when I watch it.

  6. Kelly: Jay Ward was superb with his freakly cartooning style. Having seen anything come even remotely close since then.

    Boomerang is great for rediscovering those lost cartoons from our teenage years.

    Bea: I always loved Edward Everrett Horton. He had that unique voice that was just perfect for cartoons. I saw a couple of old movies that he co-started in, but for my money, he was the perfect voice over artist.

    Sterling Hayden was much the same way as Winnie-the-Pooh.

  7. When you think about it, what a great way to introduce classical music to the kids, in cartoons. And I'd like to put an addendum to your post. Nothing beats the actual R&R music of the 70s, either. Well maybe some of the 60s, but since then? I'd say no.

  8. Fat Albert! I loved that show, although I could never figure out the guy with a clam on his head.

  9. I still remember my favorite cartoon music, from the Bugs Bunny episode where they sing Kill the Rabbit in opera.

  10. Joanne: Some of the R&R from the 70's leave a lot to be desired. But yes, cartoons back then were an excellent way to introduce kids to classical. Not only the WB cartoons, but some of the MGM cartoons as well.

    R.K.: Fat Albert was about the only 70's R&B/Funk that I actually liked.

    The guy with the "clam" was Donald. He was okay.

  11. Ah yes, Richard Wagner at its Elmer Fudd best.

    "Kill the Rabbit, kill the rabbit! Yo Ho Ho!"

    That bit was my favorite part of that opera.

  12. I was a massive Tom & Jerry fan. :D

    You are so right about the music too.

  13. Thanks, now I can't get pink panther out of my head!

  14. Joe: Tom & Jerry had a certain stylistic quality to them that ranks up there with the Pink Panther.

    The way that they used music as dialogue was something that was rarely used before or since (the Pink Panther was a noted exception).

    T1G: Sorry. If it helps, I have the same problem with a certain overplayed KISS song.

  15. I can only suggest...

  16. I love Tom and Jerry, too, and Mighty Mouse. The "Here I come to save the day!" song is my favorite, I think.

  17. Bearman: No, Scooby Doo doesn't make the cut. Too over-exposed. Scooby Doo is the cartoon equivalent of "Law & Order".

    Although if you can find it, there was a CD back in the mid-90's called "Saturday Morning Cartoon's Greatest Hits" which has a nifty version of the theme done by Matthew Sweet.

    Lynn: Yes, the operatic voice of Mighty Mouse's catch phrase was one of the best out there.

  18. Great post, G. I can't believe I'd forgotten all about Fat Albert!

    Oh, and if it makes you feel any better, I played the clarinet too...horribly.


  19. Thanks.

    I know I said I wouldn't entertain any discussions on the clarinet, but I will say that for the ten years I played it, it did leave me with some decent musical skills that I still use to this day.

  20. Rocko's Modern Life was the best! I used to watch that all the time.

  21. So what's that about the marching band and clarinet???

    Ever naughtily -- Jannie

  22. No, but seriously, there was a beauty in creativity back then that still shines through. Less technology invented amazing stuff.

    Tom & Jerry, the music and animation still has no equal, imho. Oh, yeah and Popeye -- agreed.

    Super post!

  23. Jannie: I definitely agree about the creativity back then. Doing more with less, there was a real beauty to it that almost nothing today can match.

    Not sure about Tom & Jerry having no equal though. Nevertheless, it does make my short list of great cartoons.

    There are some things that are buried deep within my past that will never, ever, ever see the light of day.

    That particular musical instrument and marching band are two of them.

    H.A.H: Rocko was and still is pretty cool. If you liked Rocko, check out Reno 911 as the actor who did his voice, Carlos Azquari(sp) is a mainstay of the show.

  24. OK, I just pulled the piss on your gravatar on Bschooled's blog so I thought I better check to see if you have a sense of humor. Whew, hate to be de-blogged.

  25. Ooooookay.

    I better check out that blog to see what it is exactly that you're talking about.


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