The 18 Best Animated Bands Ever
It’s a wonder more animated characters don’t pick up instruments and learn to play considering how easy it is for them to instantaneously become amazing at it.
While music and animation go all the way back to to ‘Steamboat Willie,’ only a few brave cartoon characters made being in a band their livelihood (or tried to, at least). In this list, we’ll take a look back at some of the cartoon bands who have churned out surprisingly decent — if not altogether good — music. While some of the bands only stayed together one episode, others have gone on to transcend celebrity itself. Again, that’s one of the benefits of being fictitious.
Although Trent Lane (on MTV’s ‘Daria‘) usually introduced his “post-alterna-grunge” band as Mystik Spiral, he also (as you’ll see below) often followed that up with the fact that they were thinking of changing the name. (They also went with Helpful Corn and Something-Something-Explosion.) Although their Gen-X malaise often outweighed their ambition, Mystik Spiral nearly got their own spin-off after the end of ‘Daria’ in 2002.
Considering the impressive collective resume behind PusherJones, it’s a little weird we haven’t all heard a ton more about them. A “virtual” band created by Velvet Revolver guitarist Dave Kushner and ‘The Simpsons‘ creative director Dave Warren, the real-life musicians in the modern rock outfit include Weezer bassist Scott Shriner and Queens of the Stone Age drummer Joey Castillo. Self-described as “South Park on the Sunset Strip,” the fictional band had a song on the ‘Avengers‘ soundtrack, but a recent Facebook post promises a “new album, new sound and new TV series coming in 2015.”
If it wasn’t enough that the titular characters of this ’70s While Saturday morning cartoons were hip versions of Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolf Man, they were all apparently very capable musicians, too. In addition to performing one song in each episode, the Groovie Goolies were always joined by a similarly spooky outfit like the Rolling Headstones or the Mummies and the Puppies.
Griffin and Quagmire
After a bee makes Peter and Quagmire accidentally realize they have an uncanny ability to harmonize in a 2013 episode of ‘Family Guy,’ they quickly form a folk duo who rise to fame thanks to their Simon and Garfunkel-type ditties. We really only ever get snippets of their songs (including the mournful ‘I Can’t Poop in Strange Places’ and pensive ‘Have You Ever Put Butter on a Pop Tart?’), but from the sound of them, we’d pay for a whole album. The really impressive part is that Seth McFarlane does the voices of both characters.
The Hex Girls
It all started with the 1999 direct-to-video, ‘Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost,’ when the Mystery Inc. gang traveled to New England and stumbled upon a local goth girl group. Turns out they’re actually witches and “eco-goths” at that, (which means they’re environmentally conscious), making it easy for them to return to the series a couple more times through 2003. Still, you’ve got to wonder how Don Knotts and the Harlem Globetrotters would’ve reacted at this concert.
The Junkyard Gang
Although the Junkyard Gang’s songs are pretty dated, there’s something to be said for making studio-quality music on instruments they cobbled together from garbage. Led by ‘Fat’ Albert Jackson (voiced by Bill Cosby but with singing by Michael Gray), they spent 1972 through 1985 using Herbie Hancock-inspired songs to teach kids about things like the relative safety of hospitals.
It might be blasphemous not to include Jem and the Holograms on this list, but if we had to pick just one faux band from that ’80s after-school mainstay, we’d be hard pressed to go with anyone but Jem’s villainous rivals, the Misfits. Not quite as heavy as the horror-punk band they borrowed their name from, they were still about as punk (attitude-wise, at least) as you could get in their world. Keep in mind, there’s a live-action movie slated to drop later this year.
To a lot of die-hard fans, Sadgasm represent the worst … episode … ever of ‘The Simpsons.’ In 2008, Homer and Marge flash back to their early romance which is surprisingly set in the ’90s, when previous (and later) storylines place it in the ’70s. Whether or not you can get over the continuity breach (remember how he already had kids when he was in the Be Sharps in the ’80s?), you’ve got to admit ‘Margarine’ by Homer’s grunge band is just about as decent as the Bush song it’s based on.
According to their own website, nobody knows where Studio Killers came from: “One day, they were just here staring back at us through our high definition flat screens.” What we do know about virtual band members Cherry, Goldie Foxx, Dyna Mink and Bipolar Bear is that they were designed by Finnish artist and animator Eliza Jäppinen and that their 2011 song, ‘Ode to the Bouncer,’ reached No. 1 in the Netherlands.
Class of 3000
One part ‘School of Rock‘ and one part ‘Bebe’s Kids,’ ‘Class of 3000′ was the brainchild of Outkast‘s Andre 3000. Airing on Cartoon Network between 2006 and 2007, it was about a successful Atlanta musician who ditches his career to become a music teacher. Although the show eventually became embroiled in a copyright infringement controversy and canceled, many of the songs were legitimately kind of great.
Josie and the Pussycats
First introduced in ‘Archie‘ comics during the early ’60s, Josie and the Pussycats got their own Saturday morning cartoon in 1970. Although they’ve since been made over countless times and reimagined as a Rachel Leigh Cook vehicle in 2001, the core of the trio and their positive messages have remained in tact. They have two real albums to their name — one from the cartoon and another from the movie.
No, you’re not finding out in a roundabout way that the guy who made ‘Loser’ doesn’t really exist. Beck is also the name of the rock band in a Japanese manga series of the same name first published in 1999. Beck were brought to animated life in 2004 and quickly gained real fans for their music — which has spawned four soundtracks, a video game, a live-action movie and a line of guitars.
Timmy and the Lords of the Underworld
Ever since he rolled onto ‘South Park‘ in 2000, handicapped fourth-grader Timmy Burch has been a fan favorite. And although he can only say one word (his name), that only added to his rock star mystique when he joined up with the Lords of the Underworld for their surprisingly catchy hit (which was released as an actual CD single and made into a playable track for ‘Rock Band‘).
‘Doug‘ series creator Jim Jinkins took an untraditional approach to ’90s cartoon music and used it as another way to set his show apart from other Nickelodeon fare. It’s incredibly apparent in the music of Doug’s favorite band — Liverpool’s the Beets. Although they were an easily identifiable parody of the Beatles, their sound was definitely their own — even inspiring Doug to write his own awesome song, ‘Bangin’ on a Trash Can.’
Eskimo are an adorable, animated band featuring a penguin guitarist and giraffe drummer, but they’re also the virtual alter egos of British outfit One eskimO. The characters are everywhere in the band’s album artwork, online presence, live shows and videos — including one for ‘Hometime,’ which won a British Animation Award in 2008. That prompted One Eskimo to create the story, music and character design for a 10-part animated movie called ‘All Balloons.’
If there was a Cartoon Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Archies would likely be the first inductees. Stemming from the hugely popular ‘Archie’ comic strip, the band featured the whole gang — including Reggie on bass and Jughead on drums — and performed on ‘The Archie Show’ from 1968 to 1973. While cartoon bands were all the rage back then (see also: Cattanooga Cats and Jabberjaw), the Archies crossed over into mainstream music in 1969 with their bona fide bubblegum hit, ‘Sugar Sugar.’ Not only did the song reach No. 1 on the charts and stay there for a month, its success was an inspiration to generations of fictional bands.
In the hyper-violent realm of Adult Swim’s ‘Metalocalypse,’ death metal quintet Dethklok aren’t just the world’s most popular band, they’re also the most important cultural figures (and the seventh largest economy) on the planet. In our world, however, show creator Brendon Small is behind all the actual music, which is amazingly intricate and better than a huge portion of real-life metal. You can buy four full-lengths from the band, but Small also sometimes takes a live version of the band out on the road — like during their 2009 co-headlining tour with Mastodon.
What seemed like a novelty outfit from Blur frontman Damon Albarn in 1998 is now one of the more evocative and experimental music collectives of the 21st century. With music from Albarn and incredible animation by ‘Tank Girl‘ co-creator Jamie Hewlett, Gorillaz have far outlasted their breakthrough single, 2001’s ‘Clint Eastwood,’ and released four albums of increasing scope and ambition. Collaborators have included everyone from Lou Reed and members of the Clash to Snoop Dogg and Dennis Hopper, making rare live shows by the band into star-studded spectaculars. And Hewlett just revealed work has commenced on album No. 5.