Here’s the story behind Rhino’s Toon Tunes CD series, the first series to combine such a large number of cartoon soundtrack themes on single albums.
50 Favorite Cartoon Theme Songs
TV Marketed Version (Bubble Cover): R-Kive Music / Rhino Records R2-72528 (Two Compact Discs / Mono & Stereo / 1996)
Reissue (Hammer Head Cover): Rhino Records R2-72752 (One Compact Disc / Mono & Stereo / 1997)
Producers: Greg Ehrbar, Earl Kress. Remastering: Bob Fisher, Rae DiLeo at Digital Domain. Illustration: Steve Vance. Design: Lisa Sutton. Cover Concept: Hugh Brown. Running Time: 58 minutes.
Cartoons & Songs
• Popeye the Sailor: “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man” (Sammy Lerner) – Billy Costello
• Tom and Jerry: MGM Theatrical Opening (Scott Bradley) – MGM Orchestra
• Woody Woodpecker: Lantz Theatrical Opening (George Tibbles/Ramsey Idriss) – Mel Blanc, Grace Stafford
• Mighty Mouse*: Theme Song (Marshall Barer/Phil Scheib) – Roy Halee, Mitch Miller and The Sandpipers (Ralph Nyland, Bob Miller, Mike Stewart, Dick Byron)
• Casper the Friendly Ghost*: Theme Song (Jay Livingston/Ray Evans) – Peter Pan Players
• Howdy Doody Time*: “It’s Howdy Doody Time” (Traditional/Bob Smith/Edward Kean) – Pickwick Children’s Chorus with Music by “Bugs” Bower
• Ruff and Reddy: Main Title, Sub-Main Title (Bill Hanna/Joe Barbera)
• Huckleberry Hound: Main Title (Hanna/Barbera/Hoyt Curtin/Charles Shows) – Randy Van Horne Singers
• Quick Draw McGraw: Main Title (Hanna/Barbera/Curtin) – Randy Van Horne Singers
• Fractured Fairy Tales: Theme (Fred Steiner)
• Peabody’s Improbable History: Theme (Steiner)
• The Flintstones: “Meet the Flintstones” (Hanna/Barbera/Curtin)
• Felix the Cat: Theme (Winston Sharples) – Ann Bennett
• Yogi Bear: Theme (Hanna/Barbera/Curtin/Shows)
• Snagglepuss: Syndicated Titles with Sub-Main & End Titles (Hanna/Barbera)
• The Bullwinkle Show (Steiner)
• Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties (Steiner)
• The Alvin Show: Theme (Ross Bagdasarian) – The Johnny Mann Singers
• The Beany and Cecil Show: Theme (Bob Clampett/Sody Clampett) – Jim MacGeorge, Irv Shoemaker
• Wally Gator: Main Title with Sub-Main & End Titles (Hanna/Barbera)
• Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har: Main Title with Sub-Main & End Titles (Hanna/Barbera)
• The Jetsons: 1962 Stereo Main Title (Hanna/Barbera/Curtin) – Randy Van Horne Singers
• Top Cat: Stereo Main Title (Hanna/Barbera/Evelyn Timmens)
• Magilla Gorilla: Main Title (Hanna/Barbera)
• Jonny Quest: Main Title (Hanna/Barbera/Curtin)
• Underdog: Song (Buck Biggers/Treadwell Covington/Chet Stover/Joe Harris)
• The Pink Panther: Movie Main Title (Henry Mancini) – Henry Mancini Orchestra
• Peanuts: Linus and Lucy (Vince Guaraldi) – Vince Guaraldi Trio
• Gigantor: Main Title (Louis C. Singer/Eugene Raskin)
• Space Ghost: Main Title (Hanna/Barbera)
• The New Adventures of Superman (Filmation): Main Title (John Gart)
• The Atom Ant Show: Main Title (Hanna/Barbera)
• The Secret Squirrel Show: Main Title (Hanna/Barbera)
• George of the Jungle (Sheldon Allman/Stan Worth)
• Super Chicken (Allman/Worth)
• Spiderman (1967) (Robert J. Harris/Francis Webster)
• Speed Racer (Peter Fernandez/Nobuyoshi Koshibe)
• The Banana Splits Adventure Hour: Main Title (Richie Adams/Mark Barkan)
• Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines (“Stop That Pigeon”) (Hanna/Barbera)
• Josie and the Pussycats: Main Title (Hoyt Curtin/Joseph Roland/Denby Williams)
• Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm: Main Title (Hanna/Barbera/Curtin)
• The New Scooby-Doo Movies: Main Title (Hanna/Barbera/Curtin)
• Schoolhouse Rock: Conjunction Junction (Bob Dorough) – Jack Sheldon
• The Simpsons: Theme (Danny Elfman)
• Captain Planet: End Title (Boxer/McFadden/Michaels/Mulholland)
• Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Theme (Chuck Lorre/Dennis C. Brown)
• Rugrats (Hannigan)
• The Ren & Stimpy Show: Dog Pound Hop (Ricciardi/Smith/Huml/Krisfaluci)
• Animaniacs (Richard Stone/Tom Ruegger)
• Merrie Melodies Closing Theme*: That’s All Folks (Charles Tobias/Murray Mencher/Eddie Cantor)
Before anything else, it must be noted that Earl Kress is responsible for all the Hanna-Barbera material on the Toon Tunes series discs. He produced Rhino’s Hanna-Barbera Classics, Pic-A-Nic Basket and other CD collections, bringing material to discs that had never been accessible before. He was not credited on the Toon Tunes series, so this sets the record straight.
I was asked to work on Toon Tunes after participating in Rhino’s “Billboard Family Classics” CD series, which also compiled material from TV and film. The Rhino folks had already committed several of the selections to the album before my involvement (for instance, I might have recommended Pinto Colvig’s “Bozo Song”, given the opportunity), but that’s a minor quibble.
The first time Rhino first released Toon Tunes in 1996, it was as a two-disc set produced in cooperation with R-Kive Records, a firm specializing in direct mail order. This album was sold exclusively through TV offers, like Ginsu knives and Thigh Masters. On this TV version, the fifty themes were spread over two discs, simply because of how direct marketing works—the physical presence of two discs rather than one suggests higher quantity and implied value.
It would be several months before the 1997 retail version was available in stores (this is the one with the “hammer head” cover). The retail version included all 50 selections on one disc. All the music is identical on either version.
Cheers to the Rhino people for coming up with the Toon Tunes concept, the first collection if its kind. Before it came along, there were not many albums that compiled cartoon themes previously, and the few that did so had mixed results and offered far fewer selections. Admittedly, the first label to offer soundtracks and/or authentic cartoon themes in large quantities was Tee Vee Toons; indeed, if you put all of Tee Vee Toons cartoon tracks together, it would also yield a large quantity of animation music. But Toon Tunes focused on animation (plus Howdy Doody) and released a number of selections that were not on Tee Vee Toons discs. (My advice would be to collect all of them to get everything possible, because there are variations among the releases.)
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Jetsons Main Title” (1962, Stereo)
When Earl Kress produced the Rhino Hanna–Barbera Classics Vol. 1 album, he had uncovered stereo versions of Top Cat and The Jetsons. For the latter theme, he added a “Wizard of Oz” effect, having the music start in mono and blast into stereo at the point where, as you recall in the animation, the earth pops into confetti-like pieces and George zooms by in his flying bubble car (which of course, we all now drive in the 21st century, right?).
TOON TUNES: FUNNY BONE FAVORITES
Rhino Records R2-74336 (Compact Discs / Mono & Stereo / 2001)
Producers: Greg Ehrbar, Earl Kress. Project Assistance: Daniel Goldmark. Remastering: Bob Fisher, Rae DiLeo. Illustration: Steve Vance. Package Design: Lisa Sutton. Art Director: Hugh Brown. Editorial Supervision: Sheryl Farber. Running Time: 47 minutes.
Cartoons & Songs New to this Album:
• Inspector Gadget (Shuki Levy/Haim Saban)
• Pinky and the Brain (Richard Stone/Tom Ruegger)
• Dexter’s Laboratory (Thomas Chase/Steve Rucker)
• Mickey Mouse Club: Mickey Mouse March (Jimmie Dodd) – The Mellomen
• Mr. Magoo (TV Cartoons) (Carl Brandt)
• Rocky and His Friends (Jay Ward)
• Bozo the Clown (Alan W. Livingston/Billy May) – Mr. Pickwick Singers
• Donald Duck Song (Oliver Wallace) – Disney Chorus
• Johnny Bravo (Louis Fagenson)
Selections Carried Over from the 1996/1997 Toon Tunes: The Flintstones; The Jetsons; George of the Jungle; The Bullwinkle Show; Yogi Bear; Tom and Jerry; The Alvin Show; Fractured Fairy Tales; Top Cat; Huckleberry Hound; Animaniacs; The Pink Panther; Rugrats; Magilla Gorilla; Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties; The Banana Splits; Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines; Casper, The Friendly Ghost; Quick Draw McGraw; Woody Woodpecker; Ren & Stimpy; Peabody’s Improbable History; The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show; Peanuts; Merrie Melodies.
The first two Toon Tunes albums performed well enough to warrant follow-up releases, but this time, Rhino asked to split the selections into comedy and action categories, so I came up with the goofball titles of “Funny Bone Favorites” and “Action-Packed Anthems” and made sometimes arbitrary decisions about which cartoon belonged in which category (e.g. whether Popeye or Scooby-Doo were action or comedy cartoons).
The original Toon Tunes albums presented the cartoon themes in chronological order (I messed up on Top Cat’s date—sorry—but fixed it in the second release), but while that creates an interesting “time travel” effect, it can hamper the overall flow of the album as well as its sales potential. When deciding on track order for a compilation, part of the producer’s job is varying the selections by tempo and mood. Even though each selection can be completely different, a lot of thought is given to how one track sounds going from one to another. You have to keep the audience in mind: what cartoons they want to hear the most or what might spark forgotten memories or be heard for the first time. I also like to save some goodies for the latter part of an album to keep the interest level high.
From a sales standpoint, if someone picks up one of these discs in a store (online or retail) and starts reading the track list, you definitely want to start off with a few that will elicit a positive “gotta have this” response—and that the recognition factor will vary greatly depending on who is doing the shopping. It’s not an exact science, but there is a common sense logic to it.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Jetsons” (1985)
Although it was later included on a Tee Vee Toons 12” single called “Jane, Get Me Off This Crazy Thing”, this extended version was released on a promotional cassette called The Jetsons and Friends that, among other things, was sent to radio stations. (I remember seeing Hoyt Curtin on camera, conducting the orchestra for this version in an Entertainment Tonight segment about the new Jetsons series.)
TOON TUNES: ACTION-PACKED ANTHEMS
Rhino Records R2-74337 (Compact Discs / Mono & Stereo / 2001)
Producers: Greg Ehrbar, Earl Kress. Project Assistance: Daniel Goldmark. Remastering: Bob Fisher, Rae DiLeo. Illustration: Steve Vance. Package Design: Lisa Sutton. Art Director: Hugh Brown. Editorial Supervision: Sheryl Farber. Running Time: 51 minutes.
Cartoons & Songs New to this Album:
• Superfriends (Hanna/Barbera/Curtin)
• Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? (David Mook/Ben Raleigh)
• Batman: The Animated Series (Danny Elfman)
• The Tick (Doug Katsaros)
• The Powerpuff Girls (Chase/Rucker/James Venable)
• Sailor Moon (Andy Heyward/Kanako Oda/ Tetsuya Komoro)
• King Kong (Maury Laws/Jules Bass) – Al Hirt
• DuckTales* (Mark Mueller)
• X-Men (Haim Saban/Shuki Levy)
• The Mighty Hercules (Winston Sharples/Win Singleton) – Johnny Nash
• Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers* (Mueller) – The Jets
Selections Carried Over from the 1996/1997 Toon Tunes: Speed Racer; Jonny Quest; Space Ghost; Spider-Man; Underdog; Popeye the Sailor; Mighty Mouse; Super Chicken; The New Scooby-Doo Movies.
Another advantage to compiling a new Toon Tunes series is the chance to include themes that weren’t in the earlier albums. Several Disney selections were licensed for both 2001 releases, along with two rare extended Hanna-Barbera themes conducted by Hoyt Curtin. One is Superfriends (see “Give a Little Listen”) and the other The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan.
Of the two 2001 Toon Tunes albums, the “Action-Packed” one contains more tracks new to the Rhino series. Sometimes, when it is not possible to get the version requested, a backup is selected that is also very cool, like the stereo RCA Victor rendition of Rankin/Bass’ King Kong by Al Hirt (from his Green Hornet album). Also from RCA vinyl came Filmation’s Hardy Boys theme, which made its CD debut on this collection.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Also from The Jetsons and Friends cassette, this is a spectacular expanded version of an outstanding H-B theme, for which Hoyt Curtin must have brought in every brass musician in Southern California.