You know how it is when you go on the Internet, more specifically, YouTube. A video pops up from one of the channels you’ve subscribed to and you watch it. You then take a glance at the related video and something catches your eye. You click on whatever that video that is and then another, so on and so forth. Before you know it, you’re watching something totally unrelated to the first YouTube video and you wonder how the heck you go to where you are right now.
This happened to me just now. But instead of getting mad or feeling frustrated at the last video, I am very happy that I got to it. This is a video that reminded me of a great ’80s film, GI Joe: The Movie. Okay, the movie was good but it wasn’t great. I bet it would’ve had more of a punch if the folks over at Hasbro or whoever produced it didn’t chicken out and let Duke die as originally intended.
But because of GI Joe: The Movie, we did get probably the most kickass theme songs ever made.
Honestly, after watching the intro, I don’t really feel the need to see the actual movie! It’s that good!
But what makes it good? Heck, what makes it the best intro theme song of the ’80s? In my opinion, of course. Well, I will admit nostalgia is at play a bit. I still fondly remember when local TV (RPN-9, to be exact), would always rerun GI Joe: The Movie and Transformers: The Movie back-to-back. I know I’ve watched them last year and the year before that but I never got tired of them. I to realize that I could’ve taped them on my old VCR (because that’s how we used to record things from the TV, young’uns) but there was just a certain charm to watching the “live” broadcast of both movies.
It’s no surprise that both GI Joe and Transformers were probably my favorite cartoons growing up. I’d even put them in my top five ’80s cartoons. I will say that Transformers always edged out GI Joe for me. I just like giant robot fighting each other over real American heroes defending human freedom, I guess. Even so, GI Joe was “must watch” in my book and I had the toys to prove it.
It certainly helped that the GI Joe theme song from the show was already good to begin with. It was rather slow paced and more… methodical but that was generally the standard for the time. The original theme song was still a fun little ditty that was, importantly, catchy. It was memorable enough for anyone to remember the lyrics to. Just listen to in once and you’ll probably be blending in “GI Joe” and “a real American hero” repeatedly because that’s how you’re supposed to sing it! That’s really, really clever and it took me a while as a kid to realize what they were doing.
GI Joe: The Movie takes the original theme song and injects it with a serious cocktail of adrenaline and rocket fuel! The song just rocks! The intro is loud, boisterous and, most importantly, filled with dread. It the juxtaposition of how patriotic the the TV song sounds. It’s supposed to because The Movie theme song does something that the original song doesn’t: give Cobra a voice.
The Movie theme song actually does a great contrast between how “evil” Cobra is and how “good” GI Joe is. You have a vocal performer give a low and almost gutteral tone to the lyrics that are focused on the ruthless terrorist organization. You then have the incidental yells of what sounds like Major Bludd or a very sane Cobra Commander screaming “Cobra” once in a while to add a little more impact.
The tempo then builds up until you hear the familiar battlecry of “GI Joe” and then we switch to a more upbeat and optimistic performance of the original theme song. We then switch back to the Cobra part of the song and then back to the GI Joe chorus line. At this time, it sounds like battle between Cobra and GI Joe, but with singing! It’s a see-saw battle, with one side getting the upper hand before the other force makes the comeback. By the end, the song swells, Cobra Commander orders the retreat and we get one last soaring repeat of the chorus.
While the song is brilliant by itself, what makes GI Joe: The Movie’s intro the best from the ’80s is how the visuals tie in brilliantly to the song. I assume it was general practice to put a lot of effort into the animation that accompanies the theme song. I mean, just look at the intro to another classic cartoon of the ’80s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Of course, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has a great theme song. But have you noticed how much better looking the Turtles and everything looks in the intro when compared to the actual animation of the show? The intro to TMNT uses some beautiful shading and dynamic camera angles for the most part. The backgrounds are also really details and there are even some great flourishes, like April O’Neil’s hair blowing while driving the Turtle van. While I won’t say the animation of the original Turtles cartoon was crap, it certainly doesn’t look as beautiful as the animation shown during the theme song!
This is true for GI Joe: The Movie as well; the intro animation blows the actual movie animation out of the water! They put a lot of work to put in some really clever details, Duke punching Cobra Commander off the Statue of Liberty so we can see a beautiful laser light show reflected off the Commander’s mirrored helmet, Shipwreck ducking under Bazooka’s errant shot and Duke picking up the American flag and we see the camera follow him up the Statue of Liberty. My favorite flourish is, hands down, Snake Eyes flying out of nowhere, flipping a Cobra Flight Pod to get rid of the Viper piloting it and then commanding the vehicle himself to save Alpine. The animation of the flip is just so smooth and realistic! It’s just beautiful!
You also have a quick story to follow throughout the entire intro. Cobra attacks a celebration at the Statue of Liberty in an attempt to blow it up. GI Joe comes to save the day and, after a hard fought battle, Cobra Commander sounds the retreat and the GI Joes celebrate atop Lady Liberty. It’s not the best story ever but it’s definitely a spectacle.
Even though I did come across the GI Joe The Movie intro purely by accident, I’m really happy I did. It brought me back to a time when I loved GI Joe and I got to hear a rip roaring song accompanied by fantastic animation. It’s the best cartoon intro of the ’80s.
What’s your favorite cartoon intro from the ’80s? Let me know in the comments section below!