Toon Tunes

Toon Tunes

Action-Packed Anthems

Funny Bone Favorites

Kid Rhino

Proving once again that Rhino excels not only at archiving decades worth of popular music, but decades of popular culture as well, these two discs (each sold separately) collect a total of 72 themes from some of your favorite cartoons, from the early days of television to today.

Action-Packed Anthems features 36 themes from super-hero, action-adventure, and mystery shows, including all-time classics like the unforgettable themes from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, Speed Racer, Spider-Man, Space Ghost, and Superfriends, and modern favorites like Batman: The Animated Series, The Tick, The Powerpuff Girls, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It ends up being the more diverse of the two discs, going from the (fairly tepid) J-pop of “Sailor Moon” and Disney-riffic stuff like “Duck Tales” and “Tale Spin” to the ’70s pseudo-funk of “Hong Kong Phooey” and hoary classics like “Popeye The Sailor” and “Mighty Mouse.” The disc is pretty satisfying, though if they were going to expand the definition of this disc to include shows that were more comedy than adventure, I wish they’d included “Inspector Gadget” (which instead appears on the other disc) and “Freakazoid!,” which is criminally the only of the ’90s Spielberg/Warner Bros. cartoons missing from both discs. Really, I wouldn’t have minded missing such lesser fare as “The Hardy Boys,” “The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan,” or “Captain Planet and the Planeteers” if it meant that these two super-catchy classic themes could have been on this disc. For that matter, I’d have skipped duplicative themes like “The New Scooby-Doo Movies” (a less clever version of the original) and “The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest” in favor of including a few more shows. Still, Action-Packed Anthems is a solid disc that mostly sticks to the original versions you’re familiar with from television (though “Superfriends” seems to be some extended remix kinda gig, if memory serves me right).

Funny Bone Favorites doesn’t fare quite as well, unfortunately. It’s still a solid collection with a really good mix of stuff, from classics like the themes from The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and George of the Jungle to modern favorites like the themes from Dexter’s Laboratory, Animaniacs, Johnny Bravo, and The Ren & Stimpy Show, but it suffers on a few points. First is a seeming over-reliance on Bullwinkle-related music — the disc not only includes the themes from The Bullwinkle Show and its antecedent, Rocky and His Friends, but also the themes from such segments as “Fractured Fairy Tales,” “Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties,” and “Peabody’s Improbable History.” I’d have been happy with just “Bullwinkle” and perhaps “Rocky” to represent the (admittedly groundbreaking) show, to give other shows a shot at representation. Likewise, as the series is entitled Toon Tunes, I’d have skipped over themes from non-animated shows like The Mickey Mouse Club, The Banana Splits, and The Bozo Show. While all are classics (especially the ever-catchy Banana Splits theme, I’d rather see them on a separate disc of non-animated favorites, maybe alongside music from the great Sid & Marty Krofft shows of the ’70s, for example. My biggest problem, though, is when the CD doesn’t stick to the original TV versions of the themes. The most glaring example of this is the theme from Tiny Toon Adventures, which appears in a version that must have been on a Tiny Toons CD in the ’90s, made obvious when the characters sing “and this afternoon-y we’re invading your CD,” as opposed to the original “and in this cartoon-y we’re invading your TV.” The version’s also twice as long as the original, meaning that, again, room that could have been given to represent another show was squandered (though admittedly, hearing the Tiny Toons sing in foreign languages is amusing). I could quibble with the inclusion of the theme from The Pink Panther, too — the music was written for the live-action movie, not the cartoon — but it’s more identified with the cartoon, so I’m inclined to let it slide.

All this may sound like a rare misstep for Rhino, but the quality otherwise is top-notch, with excellent masters (on both discs) making most of this material sound far better than it ever did on TV, and more than making up for any shortcomings. Frankly, only nostalgia connoisseurs like myself would even notice most of the things I point out in this review — the average fan will simply love these discs, and as well they should, because quibbles aside, they’re great. Hearing themes from The Yogi Bear Show and The Magilla Gorilla Show straight from the original shows, complete with endorsements intact, is endlessly fascinating, and all in all, it’s wonderful that this material is being preserved. Pick these up and relive part of your childhood — no matter what your age, these discs should bring a smile to your face.

Rhino Records, 10635 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025-4900; http://www.kidrhino.com

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