Defunctland uncovers secret behind Disney Channel’s iconic musical theme

Popular YouTube filmmaker Kevin Perjurer shines light on a late composer with a prolific history

Theme park YouTuber and documentarian Kevin Perjurer, has shed light on the works on a departed composer who never got his due.

Perjurer, known for his long-form and deeply researched videos on the history of theme parks and deep-dives into millennial-era media, took a turn with his latest 90-minute film on his popular “Defunctland” channel. The mission was seemingly simple: find–and give credit–to the man who wrote the iconic four-note mnemonic that serves as the brand identity of the Disney Channel.

Titled “Disney Channel’s Theme: A History Mystery,” much of the film focused on the various rabbit holes Perjurer fell down while researching the “Bump-bah-da-dahhh” that is ingrained in many young adults’ minds to this day. One would think such a narrative structure–focusing on a creator’s search rather than the end result–would feel self serving. Instead, it gives the viewer an inroad to care about finding the truth behind those four notes.

Along the way, Perjurer gives a detailed history of music’s use in television. From the 90-year-old G-E-C tone that is used as NBC’s station identifier, to cable channels’ like HBO ad using sound as a way to instill excitement in viewers for the premium programming to come. He also delves into music’s importance at helping kid-focused channels obey early laws that demanded clear distinction between programming and advertising blocks. Channel ID bumpers were universally accepted as the best way to do this. Soon, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, ABC Saturday Mornings, and more had all adapted an audio and visual method for bumping in and out of commercial breaks.

On Disney Channel, stars holding a magic glow stick would introduce themselves and then draw the mouse eared-shape of the logo, as the four note mnemonic buttoned the interstitial. These so-called “Wand IDs” became iconic, and took on a life of their own. Perjurer even mentions that a recent D23 conference had a booth where the Disney faithful could snap a photo while pretending to draw the ears’ outline, just like those idents.

Perjurer–the false “Defunctland” identity of a Florida-based filmmaker — is lit in silhouette as if in a noir film, and the footage follows him as he googles, YouTubes, and message boards his way through the complex world of brand-sound identity.

SPOILER ALERT: If you wish to watch the full investigation for yourself, this is where the SPOILERS start.

He eventually stumbles onto the biggest brand jingle firm in the biz, Elias Arts. This leads him to Alex Lasarenko. Lasarenko is listed as Creative Director and Executive of Tonal Sounds, a firm he started in 2002 after leaving Elias. It is because of this title that Perjurer easily overlooks him as a possible composer for those famous four notes. But, he soon learns, Lasarenko was much more than an executive. Unfortunately, we find this out second-hand, as Lasarenko passed away in 2020. He was approximately 57.

Alex Laserenko’s friends, family, and colleagues gather to praise him, his creative genius, and his ability to concisely communicate an idea in a few brief notes. Lasarenko’s sister Lisa told Perjurer that even while sitting still, Alex would keep his right hand moving as if constantly writing music.

Lasarenko’s colleague at Elias, Eric Perlmutter, also spoke to this talent. Perlmutter said having a “creative genius” as a boss was intimidating because you wonder if you are worthy enough to “Breathe the same air.”

In the end, Perjurer’s investigative documentary turns into a moving tribute to an unsung hero of TV music composition. If it were not for Lasarenko, perhaps the memories of growing up watching Disney Channel Original Movies, or binging Suite Life marathons would not be as nostalgic as they are, 20 years later. The documentary proves how strong a trigger music is for important, formative memories. And it is wonderful to see the man responsible for an iconic piece of childhood for millions finally receive due recognition.

So the next time you hear a piece of music — even something as simple as a four note tone — that transports you back to a happy time, a cozy memory, or long-forgotten summer vacation watching Hannah Montana, think about the people who made the music that allowed that memory to be imprinted upon you.

Matt Bailey
Matt Bailey

Matt Bailey is podcast producer and writer located in the Northeast. Since 2013, Bailey has produced more than 160 episodes of his own online radio show, Talk For Two. In 2016 alone, he interviewed Kevin Bacon, Crystal Gayle, Bob Barker, and Gilbert Gottfried, among several other stars. As a Correspondent for The Music Universe, his focus is Broadway, country music and concert reviews.