tooned in, turned on
A somewhat comprehensive list of animated rock bands.
As rock music started to reach a younger audience in the 60’s, Hollywood tried to profit off of this fairly new phenomenon in any way possible. This included animation studios, who jumped on the bandwagon in an attempt to raise their hipness quotient. Primetime stalwarts the Flintstones and Jetsons turned out pop music-themed episodes while countless other series were built around brand new rock star characters. The tables were turned when the Beatles got the pen and ink treatment in their own weekly cartoon, starting yet another trend that would continue through the years with the likes of The Jackson 5, The Osmonds, and New Kids on the Block.
By the time the 70’s rolled around, music segments were finding their way into an overwhelming number of animated favorites. Some ended up classics (like ‘Scooby Doo’) while others were short-lived (do you remember ‘Mission: Magic’?). But every last one had a hippy trippy soundtrack. In 1995, pop stars paid homage to the shows they grew up watching and came together to create ‘Saturday Morning’, a compilation of songs that appeared in various animated series. Everyone from Matthew Sweet (“Scooby Doo, Where Are You?”) to the Ramones (“Spider- Man”) to the Butthole Surfers (“Underdog”) contributed material for the collection, cementing the idea that cartoons can be cool.
— A Somewhat Comprehensive List of Animated Rock Bands —
The Alvin Show (1961-65)- When songwriter Ross Bagdasarian’s songs “Witch Doctor” and “The Chipmunk Song” became novelty hits, a television program about the rodent trio was commissioned and “The Alvin Show” was born. Alvin, Simon, and Theodore lived with human David Seville (Bagdasarian’s performing name) and drove him crazy with their music skits and nutty antics. The show reemerged in the 80’s as “Alvin and the Chipmunks” but this time, the boys were a real rock group, with David as their manager.
The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan (1972-74)- This animated version of Charlie Chan solved crimes with the help of his “Clan”, Charlie’s ten kids and their dog Chu Chu. It just so happened that, in their off hours, the Chan Clan made music together in a band. But not Charlie, though. Maybe he was too old to rock out.
The Archie Show (1968-69)- Based on the popular comic book series, Archie Andrews and his pals were just a gang of regular teenagers who liked to hang out and have fun, which included being in a band together, aptly called The Archies. They scored a #1 hit with “Sugar Sugar” in ‘69, with Ron Dante providing the lead vocals for the song.
The Beagles (1966-67)- Not a Beatles parody but musicians just the same, Tubby and Stringer were a couple of pooches who performed as a rock duo when they weren’t getting into trouble.
The Beatles (1965-68)- The first living people to be recreated onto TV celluloid, Paul, John, George, and Ringo didn’t provide the speaking voices for their cartoon alter-egos, but each episode did contain real Beatle songs (it is worth noting that King Features, who produced the series, was also hired on to do the full-length psychedelic feature Yellow Submarine in ‘68). As with everything they did, even having their own cartoon series started a trend; other shows to follow in the Beatles’ animated footsteps include “The Jackson 5ive” (1971), “The Osmonds” (1972), “New Kids on the Block” (1990) and MC Hammer’s “Hammerman” (1991).
The Brady Kids (1972-74) Cindy, Marcia, Jan, Bobby, Greg, and Peter were voiced by their real- life counterparts in this spin-off of “The Brady Bunch”. The kids hung out in a tree house, happily solved life’s little problems, and sang together as a pop group which, come to think of it, is not all that much different from the live-action version.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids (1973-74)- No, these weren’t a group of badass gun-toting gangsters. They were a co-ed, mini-skirted, bell-bottom-wearing bonafide rock band! No wait, that was just a cover for their real jobs, which were undercover crime fighting agents. Say what you will, but that Butch Cassidy was such a dreamboat!
The California Raisins Show (1989-90)- As Claymation characters in stop-motion animated TV ads, initially this trio of soul singing grapes was created in an effort to boost the sale of raisins. But their surprise popularity boosted them to pop culture phenom status which resulted in licensed products bearing their likeness as well as this 2-D Saturday morning cartoon series that seemed to last only moments longer that any of their 30-second commercials.
The Cattanooga Cats (1969-71)- Used as a means of introducing the main segments of the weekly program, this group of rock ‘n’ roll kitties included Kitty Jo, Country, Groovey, and Scoots and had the pop-art look of the period.
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (1972-84)- Bill Cosby created and voiced many of the characters on this popular series about a gang of street kids growing up in urban Philadelphia (Cosby’s hometown). The youngsters learned lessons about life and culture while playing music together on homemade instruments at the end of each episode.
The Flintstones (1960-1970)- The Way-outs, the Beau Brummelstones, Jimmy Darrock, and some smashing lad called Rock Roll all made their way through Bedrock at one time or another. Also making an appearance was rock impresario Brian Eppystone who was responsible for Pebbles and Bamm Bamm’s hit song, “Open Up Your Heart (and Let the Sun Shine In)”.
The Groovie Goolies (1971-72)- Drac, Wolfie, and Frankie were the undead cousins to Sabrina the Teenage Witch who got their own series when they proved somewhat popular. They were wacky and funny and, most importantly, played instruments as a rock ‘n’ roll trio.
The Hardy Boys (1969-61)- Based loosely on the popular book series, Frank and Joe still solved perplexing mysteries, but this time around, they also were members of a pop group called The Hardy Boys Plus Three, which included equally switched-on pals Pete, Chubby and Wanda.
Gorillaz (1998 – present) – Collaborators Damon Albarn (Blur) and Jamie Hewlitt (“Tank Girl”), who refer to themselves as the ones who “discovered” rather than “created” this two-dimensional band of misfits, were fed up with the sorry state of the current music scene and the prefab schlock that rules the airwaves. Out of this frustration came Gorillaz, who were, essentially, born to wage war against the evils of mainstream pop music.
The Impossibles (1966-68)- As the second half to the program “Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles”, the latter were crime-fighting secret agents Coil Man, Fluid Man, and Multi Man, who hid under the guise of (what else?) a rock band.
Jabberjaw (1976-77)- A group of teenagers formed a band in 2076 and called themselves The Neptunes way before the current record producing duo adopted the same name. With the great white shark Jabberjaw as their drummer (and comic relief) the group toured the underwater world while also involving themselves with way too many shady characters.
Jem (1986-87)- Independent woman Jem and her band The Holgrams rocked onto television screens as a group who were something of a cross between Bananarama and Josie and the Pussycats. Jessica Benton (as Jem was called when she wasn’t performing) was the head of Starlight Music and got advice about life and love from her computer/ mentor, Synergy. Unfortunately, Jem’s good nature was always being tested by vindictive rival all-girl band, The Misfits. MTV style music videos with original songs accompanied each episode.
The Jetsons (1962-76)- Teen dream Jet Screamer organizes a contest with the grand prize being a date with himself (talk about your self-absorbed celebrity). Low and behold, lucky lady Judy Jetson wins. However, when Mr. Screamer accidentally gets a hold of Elroy’s secret computer code, “Eep Op Ork Aha” becomes an intergalactic hit song.
Josie and the Pussycats (1970-72)- Like The Archies, Josie and her sexy feline bandmates Melody and Valerie jumped off the pages of a comic book right into their own weekly series. Along with Josie’s roadie boyfriend Alan, their manager Alexander Cabot III, and his bitchy no- talent sister Alexandra, the posse traveled the planet performing and generally getting mixed up with all the wrong people. The show proved popular enough to spawn a sequel series “Josie in Outer Space” as well as a pointless live-action flop of a movie three decades later.
Mission: Magic! (1973-74)- As a last ditch effort to make a young Rick Springfield into an American teen pop idol, ABC came up with this forgotten cartoon series, inspired by his album “Comic Book Heros”. Rick played a more superpowerful version of himself who, along with the help of magical school teacher Miss Tickle and her students, alternated solving the problems of the world with being a foxy guitar-playing rock god.
The Partridge Family: 2200 A.D (1974-75)- With the live-action sitcom “The Partridge Family” an enormous hit, it wasn’t long before they too became as two-dimensional as “The Brady Kids”. This time, they were thrust a couple centuries into the future, trading velvet hip-huggers for Jetsons-style threads. But a family that plays together stays together so of course, they were still a rock band. However the famous psychedelic bus was traded in for a psychedelic spaceship.
The Pebbles and Bamm Bamm Show (1971-76)- In this “Flintstones” spin-off, Pebbles and Bamm Bamm are now hip teens who hang out with their Bedrock pals at Bedrock High School and have formed a band called The Bedrock Rollers. They just probably needed to prove that they were more than one-hit wonder child stars with “Open Up Your Heart (and Let the Sun Shine In)”.
Schoolhouse Rock! (1973-85)- Not a 30-minute weekly show, the now legendary “School House Rock!” was a series of 3-minute vignettes (not unlike music videos) that were shown throughout regular children’s programming during ABC’s Saturday morning line-up. Songs were turned into lessons for everything from math, to science, to history. And like the “Saturday Morning” album, “School House Rock! Rocks” was recorded in the mid-90’s when alterna-rockers decided it would be fun to cover some of the tunes from the show, including “My Hero, Zero”, “Conjunction Junction” and “I’m Just a Bill”.
Super Bwoing (1966-69)- As a separate segment of the “The Super Six” weekly series, Super Bwoing was a superhero who got around by flying on a giant guitar, and quite enjoyed playing one as well. Factoid: Pop group Gary Lewis & the Playboys performed the theme song.
Scooby-Doo (1969-86)-Sometimes those famously meddling kids needed help in solving some of their more complex mysteries and therefore, celebrities started making guest appearances in “The New Scooby-Doo Movies” (the new name for the series in 1972). Musical guest stars included Mama Cass Elliot, Sonny and Cher, Davy Jones, and some other kids called Josie and the Pussycats.