Disney films weren’t the only animated media going through a renaissance in the 1990’s. Animated television never had and never has been better. Or even as good. You may disagree with me but as a former animation student and animation historian my favorite era of the medium was the 90’s. What I may miss most from that time was the lost art of the animated series intro. This used to be your pitch for a series to a kid. Kids have short attention spans and you need to capture their imagination in less than a minute. Most shows nowadays just cut together a bunch of clips from the first season and maybe a couple character shots then slap a title card in there. This isn’t a list of THE best intros but they’re 10 that had an impact on me and I felt had all the criteria needed for an awesome intro; all original animation (usually MUCH better than the animation in the actually show), cool/catchy theme tune, and tells you something about the show and its characters. 10. The Critic
This is a show that was just plagued with bad luck. It was bounced around from network to network and never really given a fair shake. The Critic had some of the smartest writing we had seen in a primetime animated show and filled a niche for film nerds with it’s jabs and in-jokes at the industry. And come on, John Lovitz was fantastic on it. The intro perfectly encapsulates the shows love of New York, tells us all we need to know about our hero Jay Sherman, and has a wonderful jazzy theme tune. It’s like a whole Woody Allen movie squished into 60 seconds
[Watch the Critic Intro here] 9. X-Men
X-Men deserves a spot on the list just for having the power to confuse kids all across America and make them believe Wolverine can shoot electricity out of his adamantium claws. The world was X-crazy in the 90’s when Jim Lee was drawing the book and comics were the hottest thing around (before the huge industry crash later in the decade) so naturally they’d get an animated show. This series and Spider-Man helped start a slew of Marvel properties getting their own animated treatment including Iron man, The Hulk, and The Fantastic Four. X-Men and Spider-Man were pretty much the only good ones.[Watch the X-Men intro here]8. Beetlejuice
I wish more people remembered this show. Beetlejuice the series was made of pure nightmare fuel and at times could be more effed up than the Tim Burton movie it’s loosely based on. The intro is evident of this fact by having the main characters head bitten off on a rollercoaster ride through Hell.
[Watch the Beetlejuice into here]7. Freakazoid
You know you hummed this song every day in the 5th grade. The brain child of Bruce Timm and Stephen Spielberg (and some would say Mike Allred) Freakazoid mixed the superhero crime fighting cartoons that were so popular at the time with the wacky madcap short format cartoons that were also huge. The series didn’t start with an origin story like most animated superhero cartoons and no one worried about that because everything we needed to know was right there in the intro.
[Watch the Freakazoid into here] 6. Men In Black
The good guys dress in black remembah dat just in case we evah- NO. No… not THAT song. Loosely continuing the story of the box office hit of the same name, Men In Black is one of the most under-appreciated animated series of the 90's. The basic characters are all there; K is a stoic old badass, J is a rookie, L is hot, etc. But the series takes on its own identity in this alternate continuity. This is another show that I wish more people remembered. The intro is what I see as a perfect animated series opening and the opening that spawned the idea to make this list. Plus that song is just bitchin’.
[Watch the Men In Black intro here]5. Sam & Max Freelance Police
Indie comics and video game fans everywhere were pleased to see this awesome property come to TV when Sam and Max hit the road again in Sam & Max Freelance Police. Perfectly capturing the sense of humor and adventure of the comics/games this cartoon and its intro deserve to be in the top 5.
[Watch the Sam & Max into here] 4. Batman Beyond
Juuust slipping under the 90’s wire 1999’s Batman Beyond exceeded all expectations as the spiritual successor and sequel to the enormous hit Batman TAS. When Bruce Timm and Paul Dini were asked to make a show that was marketable and that they could make toys of they made a show that was not only awesome but really didn’t have many characters you could get a good toy out of. Most of the villains were in one or two episodes and there was a LOT of character development in the show that really only focused on Terry. It also did something that has been tried before and since but has never really been done as well. They made another Batman. Not just a guy with pointy ears that people called Batman. He was the Batman.
[Watch the Batman Beyond intro here] 3. Animaniacs
With possibly the catchiest theme toon of the decade and some gorgeous animation Animaniacs falls firmly in the top 3. This show and Tiny Toons made a valiant effort to bring the sense of humor and tone of the Looney Tunes back to animated television. With a stable of memorable characters, a fantastic voice cast and an all ages, self aware sense of humor Animaniacs was not only one of the greatest animated shows of the 90’s but ever.
[Watch the Animaniacs intro here] 2. The Simpsons
Two words and a classic tune by Danny Elfman that anyone in America can hum at any given time juxtaposed over a sweeping montage of the Simpsons family each on a quest toward what’s most important in life… the TV is all it takes to start off the show that would become it’s own culture throughout the 90’s It took almost two decades for them to update this intro and many of us were sad to see it go (those of us that still watch the show). I don’t even know what to write about this show that hasn’t been said a thousand times. An entire college class on the decade could be told just by showing episodes of the Simpsons.
[Watch The Simpsons intro here]1. Batman: The Animated Series
The intro that they sold a series on. This sequence was originally animated as a pilot for Bruce Timm and Paul Dini to sell what a Batman show would be like. The original animation was slightly different but essentially the same with Batman stopping the two bank robbers. This intro tells you all you’d ever need to know not only about this series but about Batman. Two robbers try to rob a bank, Batman swoops in and beats the hell out of them, and leaves just as quick. No other series on this list except for the Simpsons has the staying power that this show had, so much so that the character is still being voiced by Kevin Conroy in other properties. When this show became a hit Timm and Dini were given the golden keys to the DC universe creating series after series and building their own animated universe that many people consider their definitive DC world. Also notice that there is no title card and no narrator telling you what show you’re watching. When you see this intro you know that it is Batman.[Watch the Batman: TAS intro here] As I said before I’m not saying these are THE best intros of the 90’s but they all certainly had a lasting impact on me. Did I miss any that you think should be included? Tell us in the comments section!Honorable mentions:
Rocko’s Modern Life
Come on, how many other shows were cool enough to have their theme performed by the B52s? Superman: The Animated Series
After the huge success of Batman Timm and co had the opportunity of bringing the big blue boyscout to TV also. The original plan was to have an all originally animated opening sequence like Batman but when they ran out of time it had to be cut to just a montage of clips from the show and some new animation. That’s what keeps it off this list. Darkwing Duck
I love things that are a product of its time and DD is pure early 90’s. You can practically imagine the Fly Girls dancing along. SWAT Kats
A lot of shows tried to imitate the look and feel of comics during the 90’s and no show did it better than SWAT Kats.Duck Tales
OO-WOO-OO! Ducktales just gets edged out as it ended in 1990 thus not really being a 90’s show. Shame as it’s an incredible opening. Tiny Toon Adventures
It didn’t feel fair to have this AND Animaniacs on the list. Yeah, I know I have both Batman shows on there, so sue me. The Tick
DAP-DWEEEEEE-DAP DAP DAAAA-DOW