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The Disney channel series inspired by Zelda finally gets a retro-game reimagining

Watch Amphibia’s new 8-bit theme song, inspired by RPGs

Petrana Radulovic is an entertainment reporter specializing in animation, fandom culture, theme parks, Disney, and young adult fantasy franchises.

Disney Channel’s animated series Amphibia is a wild portal fantasy following a young girl named Anne who finds herself in a swampy world full of anthropomorphic amphibians. Creator Matt Braly (Gravity Falls) was influenced by classic video games like The Legend of Zelda and Chrono Trigger when creating the world of Amphibia, so when he got a chance to re-envision the series’ opening sequence, he immediately wanted to reimagine it as a video game.

Disney’s Theme Song Takeover features characters from popular animated shows taking over their respective series’ opening sequences and giving them a redux. In the past, villains and minor characters usually commandeered the theme songs, but this newest short features Anne and her frog-friend Sprig discovering a new game on Anne’s phone, which ends up being the Amphibia theme-song — but in 8-bit video game form. It’s an art-style takeover too!

Braly and Gino Guzzardo, Executive Director of Multiplatform Content at Disney Television Animation, shared some thoughts on creating this 8-bit sequence, the video game influences that inspired it, and what other Theme Song Takeovers are in the works.

the cast of amphibia reimagined as 8-bit characteres Image: Disney

What was the inspiration for creating an 8-bit for this Amphibia Theme Song Takeover?

Matt Braly: I have always wanted to see Amphibia represented as a video game. When we got together with the Multiplatform Content team at Disney Television Animation to talk about what a Theme Song Takeover could look like for the show, we all agreed this kind of thing could be awesome. It’s fun too because it really switches up what a Theme Song Takeover can be.

Amphibia’s world owes a lot to classic games like The Legend of Zelda and Chrono Trigger so seeing it interpreted like this is super satisfying.

Gino Guzzardo: The most thrilling part of making a Theme Song Takeover is taking something familiar — a theme song you’ve heard a million times before — and messing it up real bad, in way that’s driven by character dynamics and hopefully creates something new. I have a lot of respect for our shows’ beautifully crafted intros, so I’m always holding my breath when we approach a show creator, like Matt Braly, and propose to subvert everything they hold dear. Thankfully, Matt is as open-minded as he is talented, so he enthusiastically jumped onboard, and in fact challenged us to do it as 8-bit! I love how every show creator we approach leaves their imprint on these Theme Song Takeovers, helping it evolve beyond where I envisioned.

Theme Song Takeovers started with bad guys taking over their shows’ intros, like Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb and Flintheart Glomgold from DuckTales, then we expanded to fan favorite characters, and now with 8-bit Amphibia, we’re getting into ‘art style’ takeovers. The only way to keep the format growing is to be as open-minded as we ask our show creators to be.

Were there any video game influences that went into creating the short?

Braly: The video game portion of the short was animated/produced by legendary pixel animator Paul Robertson. We’ve collaborated with Paul before (he brought the character Rumble McSkirmish to life for Disney’s Gravity Falls episode called “Fight Fighters”) and were excited to see the world of Amphibia filtered through his style.

The music was composed by the indie chiptune group, Hyper Potions. Despite this being called an 8-bit take over, the biggest influence for this piece is probably the 16-bit era. Paul’s beautiful big sprites and kinetic action really make you feel like you’re playing a classic Sega Genesis game like Gunstar Heroes.

The idea that Sprig would die over and over again came from Gino Guzzardo, Executive Director, Multiplatform Content, Disney Television Animation, and is a direct reference to the two-player mode from Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

Guzzardo: I grew up playing video games when 8 bits were a limitation, not an art style, so Super Mario Bros, Battletoads, and the original DuckTales come to mind. Sprig’s penchant for repeatedly dying an 8-bit death came from my own failed attempts playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as Tails. My cousin never let me play as Sonic, and that still stings enough to include in this article.

Working with Paul Robertson was a treat. He’s in Australia, so we’d send him direction at night and then wake up to stunning artwork and animation in the mornings. The 2D scenes, hilariously boarded by Drew Applegate, were key to give context for Paul’s video game sequence.

Can you talk about any other “Amphibia” Theme Song Takeovers that are in the works?

Braly: There’s one more Theme Song Takeover coming for Amphibia that is all about Sasha, one of our antagonists, taking over and making the song all about her. The fun thing about this one is that it’s 100% canon and fills in the gaps about what Sasha was up to while Anne was spending her first couple months or so in Wartwood. Writer Dan Siegel did an amazing job with it and the lyrics are great. It’s a fantastic way to give fans a different perspective on the show.

Guzzardo: We’re working on a side-by-side comparison video to showcase how well the 8-bit and original versions match up. In addition to that, we’re getting back to Theme Song Takeover’s bad guy roots with the next Amphibia short where Sasha takes over the theme song from Anne and Sprig. Even though the actual theme song doesn’t include lyrics, our writer Dan Siegel can fit the cleverest rhymes into any measure of any song. And after Amphibia 8-bit? I’d be holding back if I didn’t mention I hope to have one show take over another show’s theme song. Think of the mash-up opportunities!