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Music and animation are a delightful pairing, and it can tremendous fun when the music is represented onscreen by a cartoon band. The most recent example is the brooding boys of BroZone, who made their debut in Trolls Band Together, but there have been many animation bands who have come before them. Today, we thought it would be fun to take a musical journey through history and highlight memorable cartoon bands from the last century of animation.

Let’s kick things off with The Powerpuff Girls. In the episode “Mime for a Change,” directed by Craig McCracken and Genndy Tartakovsky, the girls restore color to a black-and-white world through the power of music. The catchy song is a great example of the series’ winning blend of appealing cuteness and tongue-in-cheek camp.

Almost as soon as the movies learned to talk in the late 1920s, cartoon animals started performing in jazz bands. The Rudolf Ising short You Don’t Know What You’re Doin’ (1931) has a lion in a tuxedo leading a red-hot jazz ensemble that really swings. The music here is by the Abe Lyman Orchestra, with trombone licks provided by Orlando “Slim” Martin.

And listen to this arctic band going to town in The Penguin Parade (1938). Carl Stalling’s scores for the classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons are good enough to rival the best big band swing of the era.

One of my favorite bands, cartoon or otherwise, is Pee-Wee Runt and his All-Flea Dixieland Band (a parody of jazz trombonist Pee-Wee Hunt) from the Tex Avery classic Dixieland Droopy (1954). In the film, Droopy conducts a band of musical fleas living on his fur, and the sheer amount of audio-based gags Avery spins out of this premise is spectacular. Scott Bradley’s exhilarating score perfectly matches Avery’s fever-pitch jokes.

It’s a shame the rise of rock and roll coincided with the decline of theatrical animated shorts (imagine the possibilities of a rock-themed Bugs Bunny or Tom & Jerry cartoon). Still, there are hints of the new sound in films like Friz Freleng’s Three Little Bops (1957), which transforms the Three Little Pigs into a musical trio. The score, composed by West Coast jazz pioneer Shorty Rogers, has a jazzy flavor, but there seems to be a rock influence in the Bill Haley-style musical narration by Stan Freberg and electric guitar riffs by Barney Kessel (who, among other things, played guitar in Julie London’s “Cry Me a River” as well as the opening notes in the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”).

Many early tv cartoons featured fictional musical groups that appeared in one episode to spoof some modern musical fad. In a memorable episode of The Jetsons, teen idol Jet Screamer (voiced by Howard Morris) shows up to perform the future’s #1 smash hit “Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah.” I wouldn’t say Hanna-Barbera correctly predicted the sound of future pop music here, but this stylish sequence – designed by UPA veteran Robert “Bobe” Cannon – does anticipate the then-unknown concept of music videos.

Alvin and the Chipmunks, the famous rodent musical group based on Ross Bagdasarian’s novelty record “The Chipmunk Song,” have had countless incarnations over the years, but my favorite is The Alvin Show from the early 1960s. You can’t beat those wonderfully goofy character designs and the stylized art direction by Jules Engel. I love this bit from “Alvin’s Orchestra,” where Dave finally has enough of the chipmunks’ sped-up voices.

In addition to inspiring their own Saturday morning cartoon and animated feature, The Beatles prompted numerous cartoon parodies. One of those parodies, the obscure 1960s series The Beagles, is notable as the first cartoon band to release an album. You have to wonder if the creators of the show were really down with the kids they were trying to appeal to, given that the Beagles’ similarities to the Beatles begin and end with the name and the fact that they’re a rock band (there are only two members of the Beagles, and they talk like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis). Still, the songs do sound like “real” pop-rock tunes of the 1960s. Sadly, the master negatives of The Beagles were destroyed, and only a couple of episodes have surfaced online. I like those flat character designs by Joe Harris (who also designed Underdog and the Trix Rabbit).

Hanna-Barbera got on the rock and roll train with the animated series The Impossibles (featuring a rock band that doubles as a superhero team) and the live-action series The Banana Splits (featuring a band composed of people in large furry animal costumes). The Cattanooga Cats, a show about a hillbilly feline rock band, boasted original songs from Mike Curb (founder of Curb Records) and even spawned its own soundtrack album. The bubblegum pop and psychedelic visuals make the show a real 1960s time capsule. Session singer Peggy Clinger provides Kitty Jo’s vocals here.

It wasn’t only American cartoons that featured rock bands. The Russian cartoon The Bremen Town Musicians (1969), directed by Inessa Kovalevskaya, became a cult classic in the Soviet Union for its Western-influenced rock music soundtrack.

The Archies, from Filmation’s The Archie Show, might be the most successful cartoon band of all time. The show’s soundtrack was overseen by Don Kirshner, music supervisor of The Monkees, and the catchy Archies single “Sugar, Sugar” became the no. 1 hit of 1969 on the Billboard charts. The song is a lot better than the animation.

The success of The Archie Show inspired a flood of music-based Saturday morning cartoons. Some were based on real musical acts (The Jackson 5ive, The Osmonds), while others were based on singing groups from live-action sitcoms (The Brady Kids, The Partridge Family: 2200 A.D.). However, many were formed around fictional bands, with original songs created for each episode. Lots of shows from this era drew humans in a semi-realistic style and rotoscoped their actions while playing their instruments, which to me seems to defy the entire point of creating a cartoon rock band in the first place, but see what you think:

Hanna-Barbera’s most successful attempt to mimic The Archie Show format was Josie and the Pussycats, based on characters created by Archie Comics artist Dan DeCarlo. This crime-solving girl group clad in leopard print leotards inspired reboots, spin-offs, and a live-action feature film. The 2001 Cartoon Network short Musical Evolution, a beautifully animated little music video directed by Jonas Odell, might be Josie’s best appearance.

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! was originally intended to be about a teenage rock group named Mysteries Five. The band angle was eventually dropped, although the original songs were retained for the chase sequences. Many real bands have made guest appearances on Scooby-Doo over the years, but the show has also introduced a few fictional groups. The Hex Girls, a macabre group of singing “eco-goths,” first appeared in Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost (1999) and have amassed a devoted online following.

Another popular animated girl group is Jem and the Holograms, from Christy Marx’s 1980s tv series Jem. Jem is supposed to be the star, but I prefer the songs by the mean rival group, the Misfits.

The early 1980s saw the release of films like American Pop (1981) and Heavy Metal (1981), which included edgier content and heavier soundtracks than had been the norm in mainstream animation. The angsty Canadian film Rock & Rule (1983), which features a hard-rocking animal band called Drats!, deserves more of a cult following for its over-the-top style and surprisingly good animation. The real band performing as Drats! here is Cheap Trick.

For a more wholesome cartoon band, here’s the 4 Sides, from a classic Sesame Street segment spoofing Huey Lewis and the News. This segment was directed by Candy Kugel and Vincent Cafarelli.

One cartoon band that became a surprise phenomenon in the 1980s was the California Raisins, an R&B group of claymation raisins brought to life by Will Vinton. In this 1988 ad, the raisins share the spotlight with the legendary Ray Charles.

Nearly every animated series of the past thirty years has done an episode where the regular cast forms a band. In a classic episode of The Simpsons, Homer starts a barbershop quartet called the Be Sharps, and they achieve amusingly unlikely success, winning the Grammy Award for Outstanding Soul, Spoken Word, or Barbershop Album of the Year. That’s George Harrison in the limo.

When talking about cartoon bands, you have to bring up the Bikini Bottom Super Band from the Spongebob Squarepants episode “Band Geeks.” The finale, where the cast performs the hilariously ill-fitting rock ballad “Sweet Victory” (by David Glen Eisley) at the Bubble Bowl, is a magical moment. The artists found the song while looking through Nickelodeon’s library of royalty-free music. As C.H. Greenblatt recalled, “It was different than what we were looking for, but it was so amazing that we knew we had to use it.”

Speaking of Nicktoons, there’s also ghostly rockstar Ember McLain from Danny Phantom. In the episode “Fanning the Flames,” Ember and her band feed off the idol worship of teenagers by hypnotizing them with a pop song called “Remember My Name.” If you haven’t heard the song before, I guarantee it will be stuck in your head forever after watching this clip. The vocals here are by Robbyn Kirmssé.

The plot of Trolls Band Together revolves around boy bands, and there has been no shortage of boy band spoofs in animation. In addition to solo teen singing sensations like Chip Skylark from The Fairly Oddparents and Brandon Bubbler from Fish Hooks, we’ve got the Party Posse from The Simpsons, Fingerbang from South Park, Boyz 4 Now from Bob’s Burgers, Boys Who Cry from Spongebob Squarepants, Boyz on Da Run from Shorty McShorts’ Shorts, Boyz in the Sink from VeggieTales, Teensicle from Totally Spies, and (in a slightly less sarcastic depiction) 4*Town from Turning Red. In Kim Possible, the Oh Boyz are able to use their cheesy dance moves to dodge lasers.

When I think of Disney movies, I think of characters breaking into song rather than performing in a band, but there have been several Disney characters who like to jam with instruments (the monkeys in The Jungle Book, the alley cats in The Aristocats, the “hot crustacean band” in The Little Mermaid, etc.) The entire plot of A Goofy Movie (1995) revolves around Max’s efforts to see musical sensation Powerline in concert. Powerline’s hair and outfit are such a funny cartoon exaggeration of a ’90s pop star.

Following in the footsteps of the Beatles, many real bands have inspired animated series. The Cartoon Network series Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi introduced the Japanese pop-rock group Puffy AmiYumi to kids in the United States.

And then you have real bands like the Gorillaz, who never show their real faces and instead perform through animated avatars, sort of a modern-day extension of what Alvin and the Chipmunks did back in the 1950s.

Lastly, I’d like to give a particular shoutout to one of my favorite cartoon bands that never got a fair shake: 3 Dog Band. Paul Rudish created these musical dogs for a Cartoon Network pilot that didn’t get picked up. The cartoony designs are insanely appealing, and the song the dogs perform is genuinely great.

What are your favorite cartoon bands? Let us know in the comments below!

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