Ah, I miss Saturday mornings as a kid in the 70’s and 80’s! Before the era of video on demand and the good ol’ Internet and YouTube, children had to wait until Saturday mornings to satisfy their jonesing for cartoons. Our parents certainly didn’t mind, as they got to sleep in while we were preoccupied with the adventures of Spider-Man, Scooby-Doo, and The Pink Panther (to name just a few). Here are some classic cartoon intros that shaped an entire generation that is now getting older and yelling at the post-2000’s young ‘uns to stay the heck off their lawn.
It is a shame kids these days will never truly experience the glory of Saturday morning cartoons. I mean, you just can’t beat these:
1. Spider-Man (1967)
When we talk about classic cartoon introductions, we gotta talk about ol’ Spidey. That funky 60’s style of music with brass instruments blaring and the bass plugging away, the Spider-Man cartoon intro could arguably be called the best ever. We all know the lyrics by heart and the intro doesn’t let up on the action for a second. Kids would wake up early on Saturday mornings to watch Spider-Man beat up a new super-villain, annoy J. Jonah Jameson, and swing around New York which, at times, had a really trippy colored sky.
Fifty-two half-hour episodes were produced during its three season run. The incidental music for the “Spider-Man” cartoon is highly regarded by 60’s music fans.
Fun Fact: the original studio creating “Spider-Man” was in Toronto, Canada, which was taken over due by famous animator Ralph Bakshi due to bankruptcy.
2. Scooby Doo, Where Are You! (1969)
The original show opening, of course, none of those horrible bastardizations of Scooby Doo that came afterwards. There is not one person on this whole wide world who likes Scrappy Doo. And speaking of bastardizations, the success of this series led to the creation of over a dozen “Scooby-clone” cartoons (which we all hated, of course. “Jabberjaw”? “Goober and the Ghost Chasers”? “Buford and the Galloping Ghost”? No. No. NO.)
Twenty-five episodes were made in the original series, and then a billion more in the various Scooby-related cartoon series that kept cropping up and disappearing.
Fun Fact: Scooby Doo, Where Are You! was one of the first shows of non-violent cartoons created in response to parental watchgroup complaints.
Second Fun Fact: The theme song for the show was recorded only three days before the show’s premiere.
3. Underdog (1964)
A cartoon only some of you real old school Slackers will remember. This Superman-parody cartoon character spoke in rhyme and saved his sweetheart Sweet Polly Purebred from many perils. Originally conceived for cartoon shows sponsored by General Mills, Underdog became a big success and 124 episodes of his daring exploits were made.
Fun Fact. George S. Irving, a two-time Tony Award winner, narrated the series.
Second Fun Fact: Underdog gets his superpowers by swallowing an “Underdog Super Energy Vitamin Pill”. During the “politically correct” atmosphere of the ’80’s and ’90’s, scenes of Underdog gobblin’ down the pill were edited out.
4. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (1972)
“Hey Hey Hey! It’s Faaaaaat Albert! And I’m gonna sing a song for you…”… er, sorry. One of the funkiest cartoon intros ever created, ostensibly played by Harlem kids using instruments made out of junk. Just imagine how good they’d sound on real instruments! (Although Rudy did have a real guitar, the self-important wealthy prick). Hosted by the real non-animated then-controversy-free Bill Cosby, each episode taught a valuable lesson about life. The origin of this show is the one-time special on NBC called “Hey, Hey, Hey, It’s Fat Albert”. The original series run had thirty-six episodes, and went on to do a whole lot more in other show incarnations and three more specials.
Fun Fact: The music for the original series was done by Herbie Hancock.
Second Fun Fact: NBC turned down the cartoon series because they thought it was too educational.
5. The Harlem Globetrotters (1970)
An incredible show intro, arguably up there with the intro to “Spider-Man”. We 70’s kids loved the crazy baseball antics of those Harlem Globetrotters! With Meadowlark Lemon, Curly, and the rest of the gang they’d have a basketball game against bad guys who would cheat in every game… but the Harlem Globetrotters would always come through.
Twenty-two half-hour episodes were produced, originally shown on CBS and later re-run on NBS under the name, “The Go-Go Globetrotters”.
Fun Fact: This cartoon series was the first Saturday morning cartoon to star African-American men.
Second Fun Fact: In 1979 Hannah-Barbera produced “The Super Globetrotters”, where each team member had a different superpower. Check out the intro below:
6. Hong Kong Phooey (1974)
“Hong Kong Phooey, Number One Super Guy!” The original theme song was sung by Scatman Crothers, whom we must all pity for having the first name “Scat”. (Must’ve had mean parents). But the man can sing. The Scat Man himself voiced Hong Kong Phooey, kung fu master superhero ably assisted by his cat sidekick Spot (although Spot usually saved the day while Hong Kong Phooey took the credit).
There were thirty-one episodes produced, aired between September 7th, 1974 to September 4th, 1976.
Fun Fact: In France, Hong Kong Pooey is called “Hong Kong Foufou”. Sorry, France. Fail.
7. Rocket Robin Hood (1966)
Some of us may not remember this classic cartoon because “Rocket Robin Hood” wasn’t as widely shown as “Spider-Man”, although both were made by the same company. In fact, sometimes the same backgrounds and even villains were shared between the two series to save money! The premise is your basic Robin Hood story updated to the year 3000. This series has one of the best opening theme songs ever, perfect for singing with your drinking buddies. Fifty-two episodes of “Rocket Robin Hood” were produced.
Fun Fact: The voice of J. Jonah Jameson in the cartoon “Spider-Man”, Paul Kligman, also voiced the character of Friar Tuck.
Second Fun Fact: This series spawned the legendary line: “The interplanetary villains quiver in their space boots when they hear the merry ring of his laughter and feel the blast of his mighty electro-quarter staff.” Quiver in their space boots?!?
8. The Pink Panther Show (1969)
Ah, that awesome long, sleek pink racer from the intro. Maybe a bit phallic, but many of us kids looked upon that shiny pink racer with covetous eyes. That was one cool car. And driven by a kid! What child wouldn’t want that car?
The Pink Panther made his first appearance in the opening and closing credits of “The Pink Panther Movie”; “Pink Panther” is actually the name of a diamond in the 1963 live-action film. The response to the character was so positive that United Artists signed Fritz Freleng, noted animator, to a contract for several cartoon shorts.
This series has had a lot of re-vamping since some of the episodes were meant to be played in theaters as cartoon shorts, and other shorts were put into new cartoon formats, but all in all there are 124 Pink Panther episodes and he’s been in ten TV shows and three specials.
Fun Fact: In some cartoons, the Pink Panther doesn’t speak. In others, he does. Over the years, David Niven, Rich Little, and Matt Frewer have been the voice behind the ‘Panther.
Second Fun Fact: Post Cereal produced “Pink Panther Flakes”, a breakfast cereal that lasted only about a year. Would you eat pink cereal? Personally, the only pink thing I want to wake up to is… never mind. Sorry.
9. Josie and the Pussycats (1970)
This series was inspired by the success of “The Archies” cartoon series and influenced by the success of “Scooby Doo, Where Are You!”. Josie and her friends would travel to strange locales to play bubblegum pop music and look sexy, but instead a mystery would rear its head… which they eventually solved, of course. Only sixteen episodes were made in the original series, the same with a spin-off show “Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space”. In outer space? Let’s all hope we get to see Melody getting probed by aliens. Sorry again.
Fun Fact: Hannah-Barbera put together a real “Josie and the Pussycats” group for the songs in the cartoon; actress Cheryl Ladd was chosen to play the part of Melody.
Second Fun Fact: One of the Pussycats, Valerie Brown, was the first Black character to appear in a regular Saturday morning cartoon.
10. Les Mystérieuses Cités d’Or (“The Mysterious Cities of Gold”) (1982)
The French version of the intro, not the horrible English version. It may seem odd that a cartoon intro sounds better in French that its English counterpart, but there you go. The French have to win something, and it’s this puny nomination, in this crappy article. Congrats, France!
The opening graphics are a treat, the show being a well-done anime import, but what makes this intro special is the French song, the name of which is the same as the show: Les Mystérieuses Cités d’Or. Very haunting, very smooth, very… mysterious. A story about a boy in the 1600’s in search of his father… and the Lost Cities of Gold. This series was also known as “Esteben and the Seven Cities of Gold”, and has thirty-nine episodes.
Fun Fact: It was first aired in Japan under the title “Taiyō no Ko Esuteban”.
I sincerely hope you enjoyed this article. Why not wake up early one Saturday morning and watch a few of these cartoons? Relive the experience, why not? A bright Saturday morning, a big bowl of Frosted Flakes, and the classic Spider-Man cartoon on TV… you can’t get a better retro experience.