Compiled by Ben
Arguably the best thing about children’s television is the splendid array of theme tunes. Who can forget the craziness of the ZZZap! theme, the rock guitar based Art Attack, or indeed Mike Batt’s beautiful orchestral score that opened each episode of The Wombles? Some of television’s greatest music lies within children’s television, but as new versions of beloved kids classics are being remade, so the themes they are a changin’. Oh come now, that was a good pun, surely! Let’s take a stroll down memory lane then, and revisit some classic theme tunes that didn’t need to be changed but were.
Okay, so the original wasn’t brilliant, but it was good enough and the chorus was catchy with a lighter, swinging beat that you can sing along to. I would agree that the original is a bit slow and could be sped up just a little, but the new one is harder to sing along to and doesn’t really work for me.
The original theme, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, was written by David Mook and Ben Raleigh and performed by Larry Markes. It was Larry who suggested the line ‘Scooby Dooby Doo, here are you’ (no, that’s not a typo, it’s near the end of the song) and it was also him that sung all of the backing parts. What’s New Scooby Doo? was written by Rich Dickerson and performed by Simple Plan, or as I like to call them… Another Busted. The new theme uses the same ‘Scooby Dooby Doo’ melody that made the original theme what it was, so this is essentially just a remake with different lyrics and instruments. It’s like they knew the original wasn’t worth changing, so they kept the melody and changed the words to match the title. This theme has been updated to stick with the times. At the time this was first broadcast (2002) this type of music was all the rage.
This has to be the worst remake of a theme tune in the history of theme tunes. You start off with the cutest bit of music ever and end up with some crappy hip-hop rap that nobody would like! I’m so angry about this one. The original is quite weird actually, but it’s cool. As mad as it sounds, it sounds like something you would expect a penguin to sing. Or is that just me and my crazy fantasies again?
It seems that both themes were written by the production team, The Pygos Group. In the first episode, the theme was the only piece of music in the entire episode, which says something about the quality of the theme. Why would you need anything else?
There’s only one thing worse than the new theme: David Hasslehoff’s rap. Sadly, all traces of it seem to have been removed from Youtube, so you’ll have to find it yourself. The new theme was sampled from the rap, which is absolutely terrible. From the singing to the lyrics, it’s just… I imagine even Hasselhoff looks back at it and shudders.
So the original is typical 80s, but it’s the one that everybody remembers. Sam is the hero next door. And that’s why they didn’t change the lyrics. They just updated the singers. I’m going to try and ignore the animation for now, which they’ve completely ruined, going from lovely stop-motion to awful looking CGI.
The original theme was composed by Ben Heneghan and Ian Lawson, with lyrics by Robin Lyons and sung by Maldwyn Pope. A bit technical now, but words in the verses alternate between the first and fifth notes in the scale (when he hears the firebell chime… down up down up down up down), which gives the impression of a siren. Pretty neat huh.
The same composers were used for the new theme, with Lyons updating the lyrics. This time it was sung by Cameron Stewart, singer and guitarist from the Cardiff band Session. Ben Heneghan and Ian Lawson also wrote a number of other Fireman Sam-related songs that were released on a cassette by BBC Records.
The thing about this change in theme – which is similar to the Scooby Doo change – is that they’ve just updated it to a ‘pop song’ sound. The originals were a lot lighter, the Fireman Sam one with more of a swinging timbre, but now they’re harsher, with rock drums and guitars. But theme tunes shouldn’t be pop/rock songs. They should just be a fun little ditty that’s memorable and gives a general feel of the show you’re about to see.
As a little side note, for some reason I always sing “Sam is the neighbour next door.” Don’t know why, cos it’s a tautology, but there you go.
Altogether now! Teen-age Mu-tant Ninja Turtles! Here’s an odd one. They’ve kept the opening bit that everyone remembers and just updated it. Okay. But by updating it you’ve lost that classic sound and made it sound like a generic RnB song. And then the rap! My god that’s stupid. That’s not a theme tune anymore, it’s a half-assed rap song.
The original was composed by Chuck Lorre and Dennis C. Brown, the former being the creator of sitcoms including Two And A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. Lorre also did the voices of all four Turtles in the theme. So yeah, there’s a bit of trivia for you. The new diatribe… sorry, ‘theme’, was composed by Sebastian Evans II (even the name angers me!). I can’t seem to find who ‘sung’ the new one, it seems they’re too ashamed to be named.
Now, Pokémon has evolved over the years – if you’ll pardon the pun – and there have been different Pokémon shows, so it’s arguable whether they’ve remade this theme or just composed a theme for a new show. But i’m going to compare them anyway. The original is a gamer’s idea of nostalgia. You hear that and you think original Pokémon. Back when life was much simpler and there were only 250 Pokémon in existence. I don’t know all the lyrics personally, but I’m guessing most kids will know “I wanna be the very best” and if you’re a bit more of a geek you’ll know “…like no one ever was. To catch them is my request, to train them is my cause… Pokémon!” That’s all you need to know really. The song feels like you’re part of the adventure too. Many a time I ran through forests singing that and throwing mother’s priceless spherical ornaments at wild animals. The new theme is some sort of pop ballad. Again, trying to make a theme a pop/rock song doesn’t work! Nobody’s going to remember any of these lyrics.
The original theme was written by John Loeffler and sung by Jason Paige. The new theme was written and composed by John Loeffler and David Wolfert, and sung by Kirsten Price. This makes it the first title song to be sung by a solo female.
Thomas the Tank Engine
The trouble with this new version is it sounds too much like it’s trying to be educational. Starting with numbers and then colours… and kids aren’t going to know words like “shunting trucks and hauling freight”. They probably don’t even know what freight is. I know I don’t. It’s also got the list of main characters. Surely after 17 seasons you’d think that kids would know them by now! The original was an instrumental and quite a catchy one too. Quite a jazzy tune actually. I’ve never heard it all the way through, but I quite enjoy it. It’s like Pet Shop Boys meets Chas and Dave.
The original theme was composed by Mike O’Donnell and Junior Campbell. The new theme was composed by Peter Hartshorne and it’s sung by a bunch of kids.