Animated TV show intros are there to set the tone for what you're about to see. They help paint the atmosphere, themes, artistic tastes, and depth (or lack thereof) coming up, all within the space of mere seconds.
For producers who desperately want audiences to be drawn in, they have to have the perfect opening. If they don't, wavering viewers will lose interest and drop off from continuing with the series.
In animated television, where concepts and designs for intro sequences are limited only by imagination, we've seen all kinds of creative and eye-catching openings—to the point that intro sequences have evolved into an art form to themselves.
Many classic animated TV series are remembered as classics in large part due to their intros and openings. Here are our picks for the best animated TV show intros and openings of all time.
8. Hey Arnold! (1996–2004)
To this day, Hey Arnold represents 90s kids animation like no other show does. It's full of strange shapes and the low-key colors of post-Nirvana grunge, while becoming iconic for an entire generation who loved the bohemian adventures of its eponymous protagonist.
The opening credits showed Arnold walking through his neighborhood, gathering up his friends along the way, while his bully/girl-who's-secretly-in-love-with-him Helga shouted after him.
Not only does the opening showcase the appeal of 90s animation, but it also shows the impact of a catchy theme song.
7. Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994–1997)
One word comes to mind when remembering the intro sequence to the classic Spider-Man cartoon series from 1994: psychedelic.
Aerosmith's Joe Perry designed the music himself, making it a fun and unique opener that sticks around in memory long after. The visuals followed Peter Parker and Spider-Man, noting the difference between the lives of the two, while showcasing some of his deadliest foes.
The opening sequence defined what the show was about, with the graphics that were used to show Peter's spider-sense feeling straight out of a clichéd acid trip, making it feel edgier as a result.
6. Rick and Morty (2013–Present)
If there's an intro to an animated show that perfectly sums up the madness of its premise, it's the one for Rick and Morty.
Some have speculated that the opening shows the memories of Rick and his original Morty, which could imbue the sequence with more importance than you might expect at first glance.
If true, it'd be very in line with Rick and Morty—the multidimensional aspect of the show makes almost anything possible.
Beyond that theory, the opening depicts the everlasting adventures of the mysterious scientist and his grandson through all kinds of realities across the multiverse. The music is noteworthy as well, holding the note of the show's insanity perfectly and coming off as otherworldly.
5. Justice League (2001–2004)
After the success of DC's Batman: The Animated Series, Warner Brothers produced a show about The Justice League, and the opening to that show nearly became as iconic as its predecessor.
These opening credits are grand. It really represents the team of heroes who would die to protect Earth, and at the same time it individually showcasing the abilities of each member.
Plus, the theme music is superb. To this day, it remains bold, fearless, and tinged with a hint of bravery in the face of danger—a trait that each member of the team had in spades.
4. X-Men: The Animated Series (1992–1997)
This one was edgy, exciting, explosive, and everything kids wanted to watch on a Saturday morning before the day began.
X-Men: The Animated Series—which is currently in revival on the Disney+ streaming platform—became iconic for many reasons, one of which was its opening that perfectly summed up what the series was about.
The opening sequence had a killer all-electric theme, exuberantly showing the audience who the X-Men were, along with the foes they went up against. In the end, the intro punched through the TV screen and engulfed children viewers, who still talk about it decades later.
3. The Simpsons (1989–Present)
The single most iconic TV series of the 20th and 21st centuries, The Simpsons has become more than just a TV show—it's a cultural touchstone and a way to remember the times come and gone.
For a show as revered as this one, its funny how effortlessly simple its opening credits are. The Simpsons doesn't splice together segments from their various adventures or showcase any grand situations. It just shows the family coming home at the end of the day to watch TV.
Sure, there are a few mishaps along the way, but they all make it to the couch (before befalling a mad fate as they try to watch), and it's all backed by a theme song that needs no introduction.
2. Batman: The Animated Series (1992–1995)
The theme song by Danny Elfman. The darkly suspenseful tone of the images moving across the screen. The criminals of Gotham City. Everything about Batman: The Animated Series and its opening sequence remains an iconic piece of Batman's history.
As thieves break into and rob Gotham Bank, they try to flee from the pursuit of police. And when they make it to the rooftop, a black creature with glowing eyes lands in front of them.
Watching Batman defeat the criminals and look out over Gotham from atop a skyscraper? It defines the character across every medium he's been in, not just TV. The opening isn't just Batman in animated form—it's Batman as what he is: a creature of the night.
1. The Looney Tunes (1930–1969)
No other animated TV show intro or opening beats the legendary one by The Looney Tunes. It's simple—nothing more than a stylized hole with the name of the show written inside—but it's perfect.
The wacky-yet-incredible theme music that accompanies the opening is flawless. What music better represents what's about to unfold?
As the inspiration for every other animated show of its kind, The Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies (which were, in essence, the same thing) became a multi-generational show.
It first entertained children of the 1940s and 1950s, then every decade afterwards as it was endlessly repeated via reruns to every generation.
This means whenever that music starts up and the titles appear, the audience sits and watches regardless of their age—because they know the forthcoming minutes are worth sitting through.