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Theme Music Abandonment

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Theme tunes are a very important component to films, TV shows and video games. Many iconic works are easily identifiable with their themes. Sometimes to change stuff up, a work's familiar theme music is missing from its latest franchise entry. This is often polarizing. Why it's done can usually be blamed on either creative or legal reasons. The appearance of this trope can make many people decry the work as Ruined Forever.


Compare with Theme Music Withholding.


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It's somewhat common for the final episode of an anime to not include the opening theme:

  • Our Miss Brooks, the cinematic series finale to the long-running radio and television series of the same name, dispenses with the usual series theme, opening with a fanfare and a cheery new tune.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge is the only Elm Street film not to feature Charles Bernstein's theme.
  • Batman Forever and Batman & Robin replaced Danny Elfman with Elliot Goldenthal, who provided a lighter and more traditionally heroic theme as part of the shift to a Lighter and Softer tone.
  • Never Say Never Again, as a third-party remake of Thunderball, was forced by law to not include the James Bond theme.
  • Basil Poledouris' RoboCop theme is absent in RoboCop 2, but returns in RoboCop 3.
  • Django Strikes Again, the only "official" sequel to the original Django, never features Luis Bacalov and Franco Migliacci's theme at any point, it would turn up as a cover in the Japanese remake/homage Sukiyaki Western Django, and the 2012 Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained.
  • Halloween III: Season of the Witch: Was an attempt at a different storyline and is the only entry in the series not to use the theme, though parts of the new soundtrack do echo the original, iconic piano motif.
  • The two Peter Cushing Doctor Who films.
  • Very common in the Alien series, of which no films have ever shared a composer. The original film’s iconic Jerry Goldsmith theme did not reappear in the series until a brief recurrence in Alien: Resurrection (which otherwise uses its own themes); it also makes a short, distorted appearance in Prometheus before making a full return as one of the main themes in Alien: Covenant, alongside some other music cues from the first film. Meanwhile, despite “Bishop’s Countdown” becoming common Stock Trailer Music, none of the themes from James Horner’s Aliens soundtrack returned in the following films, nor did Elliot Goldenthal’s Alien³ themes or any others since - until Prometheus, which also got some short musical callbacks in Covenant.
  • All of the X-Men Film Series have completely different themes, which is unusual for superhero films, but somewhat inevitable given that every film up until 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past has a different composer. The trope was finally averted in that film, when John Ottman returned to the franchise for the first time in over a decade, remixing his much-liked title music from X2: X-Men United; he does a more classical version for X-Men: Apocalypse, to spectacular effect. And then the trope was played straight once again with Dark Phoenix, where Hans Zimmer stuck to his own material.
    • Double aversion for Days of Future Past, as the film also incorporated some of Henry Jackman's Magneto theme (and a few others) from X-Men: First Class, despite the composer change.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Man of Steel, as a reboot of the Superman films, has a new theme by Hans Zimmer, retiring the well-known John Williams theme that had been used on every Superman film for over thirty years.
    • Similarly, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice does not include the Batman theme from The Dark Knight Trilogy, despite them sharing a composer. Zimmer expressly avoided reusing his iconic motifs in order to better distinguish the film from the Nolan-directed series and help it develop its own identity. Junkie XL collaborated on it.
    • For Justice League, Danny Elfman scrapped the Zimmer/Junkie XL template of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman and brought back his own Batman theme as well as the John Williams Superman theme (with a dark twist). He also rearranged the Wonder Woman theme, truncating it and making it orchestral (without electric cello).
    • Then Elfman's compositions were discarded for Zack Snyder's Justice League when Junkie XL was brought back to restore continuity with Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman. He brought back the Man of Steel themes for Superman as well as Wonder Woman's entire theme, and also composed a new theme for Batman (while bringing the BvS one back for a short moment).
  • VERY common in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Ramin Djawadi's themes for Iron Man were never used in Iron Man 2 or 3, nor were John Powell's themes for Iron Man 2 used in 3 (which was scored by Brian Tyler). Some of Tyler's themes do briefly appear in Avengers: Age of Ultron, however, as that film was co-composed by Tyler.
    • Craig Armstrong's music for The Incredible Hulk is never utilized in any of the character's future appearances.
    • Patrick Doyle's theme for Thor is replaced by a new theme for Brian Tyler's Thor: The Dark World score. However, both scores are briefly utilized in Thor: Ragnarok (In-Universe in the latter case), though composer Mark Mothersbaugh primarily uses his own theme for the character instead. None of these themes are used in the Avengers films.
    • Alan Silvestri's theme from Captain America: The First Avenger does briefly appear in The Winter Soldier but is never integrated into Henry Jackman's score for it or Civil War. However, the theme is reprised in The Avengers (2012), as well as its sequels Infinity War and Endgame, which were composed by Silvestri. Conversely, Jackman's Captain America themes aren't used in any other MCU films, though many returned in Jackman's score for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
    • Averted by Avengers: Age of Ultron; despite being composed by Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman, rather than Alan Silvestri, the film heavily utilizes the first film's theme alongside its own compositions. The sequels, composed by Silvestri, naturally retain the theme as well; however, they do not utilize any of the Tyler/Elfman compositions. Silvestri's Avengers theme has largely been embraced as a theme for the MCU itself, including making a brief appearance in Black Widow and being featured heavily in that film's marketing.
    • Akin to the Captain America example above, Avengers: Infinity War includes a brief snippet of Ludwig Göransson's theme from Black Panther, but said theme is not incorporated into Alan Silvestri's score for the film.
    • Later franchises in the MCU, such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and Spider-Man, have generally averted this trope by establishing composer continuity. However, this trope can still occur when the characters appear in other MCU franchises, such as Ant-Man's appearance in Captain America: Civil War and the Guardians' appearance in Avengers: Infinity War. With Avengers: Endgame, however, composer Alan Silvestri made a more concerted effort to avert the trope by incorporating the themes for Ant-Man and Captain Marvel (among others) in the film. The score for What If… also largely averts this and brings together character themes from all corners of the franchise.
    • Even occurs with the Marvel Studios logo. Thor: The Dark World, the first film released fully under Marvel's own banner, retired the "pages flipping" sound for MCU works and introduced a new company theme composed by Brian Tyler, but it only lasted for two more films before disappearing. New fanfare by Michael Giacchino accompanied the revamped logo introduced in Doctor Strange; this theme has lasted through the remainder of Phase 3 and into Phase 4, including the associated TV series.
  • Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers, although they were produced simultaneously and are two halves of the same story, have completely different scores written by two different composers (Michel Legrand and Lalo Schifrin respectively). The sequel thus lacks the first movie's very distinctive main themes.
  • Both Mac Gyver Lost Treasure Of Atlantis and Mac Gyver Trail To Doomsday TV-movies are missing the classic MacGyver theme.
  • Danny Elfman composed his own thing for Hellboy II: The Golden Army, discarding the Marco Beltrami's compositions and theme from the first film.
  • Despite all films in the trilogy being scored by the same composer, Howard Shore, the two later installments of The Hobbit trilogy do not reprise the first film's main theme for the Dwarf company. Shore has said this was intentionally done as a way to convey the sequels' darker tone by creating a sense of absence.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Law & Order: UK is the only off-shoot of the franchise that doesn't has a variation of the original Law & Order theme.
  • Starting with season three, Happy Days dispensed with Bill Haley & His Comets' "Rock around the Clock" in favor of an original song called "Happy Days" by Pratt & McClain which had previously been played over the closing credits and which had become a hit in its own right. (Haley likely had no cause to complain, as the use of his song on "Happy Days" had helped return it to the Billboard charts in 1974, 20 years after it was first recorded.)
  • Due to copyright and licensing issues, this trope occasionally occurs with DVD releases of TV series when a theme song has to be removed and replaced with generic music (most notably the original DVD releases of Married... with Children, for which the studio were unable to obtain the rights for "Love and Marriage" past the first two seasons, and had to substitute a lame generic piece of music). Public domain releases of shows such as The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction have also run into this.
  • John Sullivan wrote the theme music for Only Fools and Horses when he wrote the first series, but the BBC decided to go with a different theme composed by Ronnie Hazelhurst. Sullivan disliked the new theme, and before the second series aired he persuaded the producers to use his own compostions instead.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer uses an alternate theme tune for the musical episode Once More, With Feeling.
  • Community occasionally replaces or abandons its theme music for specific episodes (e.g. the Western version of the theme in A Fistful of Paintballs or the dropping of the theme entirely for Geothermal Escapism)

    Video Games 
  • Metal Gear Solid 3 dropped the classic Metal Gear Solid theme tune due to legal pressure by the estate of the deceased Russian composer Georgy Sviridov, whose song "The Winter Road" sounded very similar to the theme.
  • Final Fantasy XIII switched out the series' iconic victory fanfare for an original piece, and also completely dropped the Prelude and the Prologue, featured in the series since the first game.
  • New Super Mario Bros. U uses the classic Super Mario Bros. music often enough, but completely abandons the NSMB theme song used in the previous three games.
  • Happens in Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, where remixes of well known and popular themes from the animes appear in the original Japanese releases of the games, but not the Western localizations. This is due to the licensing fees for using those songs in the West, which would be astronomical for a game appealing to a niche market. Fans have not been happy about this, especially since many of the removed songs are considered iconic of their respective series, such as Rhythm Emotion and Burning Finger.
  • Only a brief fragment of The Legend of Zelda's iconic theme was used in its most famous entry, Ocarina of Timenote . The 3DS remake included the full theme in a new portion of the end credits.
  • Kirby Mass Attack is the only game in the Kirby series where the classic victory dance music is never played at any point, even in the sound test.
  • Shantae and the Seven Sirens throws out almost all recurring themes from the rest of the series, except for the "item get" fanfare and a very brief snatch of "Burning Scuttle Town" during the intro FMV.

    Western Animation 
  • The Powerpuff Girls episode "See Me, Feel Me, Gnomey'' (the season 5 Rock Opera episode) eschews the opening theme and goes right to the title card, episode title and writers/director bylines. This is most likely due to it being considered as the show's Grand Finale.
  • The Wander over Yonder episode "My Fairy Hatey" lacks the theme song, likely due to it already being a Musical Episode with a large focus on the Story Arc.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars drops its usual upbeat Star Wars credits music in two episodes: the season 5 finale "The Wrong Jedi" and the series finale "Sacrifice"; it is replaced with more solemn music to be more consistent with the tone of the episodes' endings, specifically Ahsoka leaving the Jedi Order in "The Wrong Jedi" and Yoda realizing the Jedi will likely lose the Clone Wars in "Sacrifice".
  • The Animaniacs episode "The Warners' 65 Anniversary Special" does not use the regular intro due to it being the season finale.
  • While early installments featured it noticeably, later entries in the My Little Pony: Equestria Girls series largely eschewed the classic My Little Pony theme as the spinoff took on its own identity and made fewer references to Friendship is Magic and its characters. The theme does appear for a brief Mythology Gag in the web series episode “Festival Filters” when the characters use a G1-inspired pony filter on themselves.


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