It's time for a singalong! Music! Words! And... Follow the Bouncing Ball, everyone!
"Follow the bouncing ball" was a technique of directing singalongs in movie theaters where the lyrics are displayed as onscreen subtitles while a ball bounces along each word or syllable of the lyrics, in sync with the actual beat and rhythm of the song.
Sort of the karaoke of its time, but intended for a mass audience. Musical literacy was a much bigger deal in the early 20th Century.
According to Wikipedia
, the bouncing ball was named
and invented by Max Fleischer
, the founder of Fleischer Studios
, in 1924. Usually the "ball" is a big red dot, but sometimes it'll be a different color, or some manner of icon appropriate to the setting. The ball may also highlight whatever word or syllable it touches, or leave a dotted line as it travels across the words.
To this day, kids' singalong tapes and DVDs still use this technique from time to time; modern karaoke videos use a variant without the ball, merely by highlighting the appropriate text with the appropriate rhythm.
There's also a dangerous bouncing ball
which you probably shouldn't follow
. Do not confuse with Happy Fun Ball
Anime and Manga
- An early ad for ZooPals (a brand of animal-themed paper plates for kids) used the plates themselves instead of a ball.
- An advertisement for Fererro Rocher had the audience follow the bouncing candy to "Deck the Halls", while more of the candies were passed out at a party— until they ran out, at which point a woman took the candy from the screen... and the singing stops.
- This 1970s commercial for Detroit-based Faygo soda pop.
- Advertisements for Meow Mix cat food occasionally feature a bouncing ball while the cats are meowing the product's theme song.
- Many fansubbed anime openings have a variation of this, using text effects instead of a bouncing ball on the romaji lyrics. The Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann fansub does this for the opening, insert, and ending... and the attack calls. Nothing quite like karaoke GIGA DRILL BREAKAAAAHHH!!!!!.
- To some, the flashy text looked a lot better than the standard texting, and actually helped enhance the moment. As much as it can be enhanced.
- Gurren Lagann isn't alone with the attack calls. Many shounen series take it; One Piece in particular even had different fonts for each character that matched them; Luffy had a stretchy-green, Usopp's letters were in cross-hairs, Zoro's were like slashes, etc.
- Speaking of One Piece, some TV Specials had a song called "Family" as their ending, sung by each of the Straw Hats. The lyrics in romaji were shown on the bottom of the screen, with a cute bouncing ball representing whoever was singing at that point (If it was the entire crew, it was the Going Merry's figurehead).
- This 1930 cartoon short called Mura Matsuri (Village Festival).
- The Great Race stopped in the middle of the movie for one.
- Seen in the closing credits of Black Adder Back and Forth, where the "ball" is Edmund's head.
- In the film In Like Flint, when Derek Flint was on an Aeroflot plane going to Cuba, he started a sing-along in Russian and a red star (symbol of the Soviet Union) bounced on the subtitled words (also in Russian) as they were sung.
- When Monty Python performed "The Philosopher's Song" during Live at the Hollywood Bowl, the "bouncing ball" was the head of a Bruce.
- The DVD of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie includes a sing-along version of the "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish" song with a bouncing dolphin, naturally.
- In the documentary of Woodstock, there are lyrics with a bouncing ball to "Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag":
"And it's 1-2-3, what are we fightin' for? Don't ask me, I don't give me a damn, next stop is Viet Nam!"
- Averted in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Godzilla Vs Megalon during the "Jet Jaguar Song" host segment: "I'd tell you to follow the bouncing ball, but...uh... we don't have one."
- In Star Trek Insurrection, a gone berserk Data is brought back to his senses when Picard and Worf sing "A British Tar" from HMS Pinafore, using the bouncing ball technique to recall the lyrics.
- Hedwig and the Angry Inch used this during part of "Wig in a Box," with the ball being a wig
- I'm Tex Richman, Mr. Texas Tea, people call me rich 'cause I got MO' MO-NEYYY!!
- The trailer for Madea's Big Happy Family features a rap with complimentary bouncing purple ball.
- The dvd of "Repo! The Genetic Opera" had a bouncing heart for select songs in the special features.
- The teaser trailer of The Flinstones movie consisted of this with the lyrics to the Theme Tune ("Flintstones! Meet the Flintstones!...") The ball was a rock. The words were rocks. The ball partly demolishes the words as it strikes them, and at the end flies into Fred's (John Goodman) hand. Yabba-dabba-doo!
- Used in a TV show called Sing Along with Mitch with the bandleader Mitch Miller.
- CBS used this trope for some versions of their 1982 "Great Moments" promos.
- Horrible Histories uses a bouncing skull during the Pachacuti song.
- Subverted in Top Gear When Jeremy, trying to prove the resilience of the interior trim on a Skoda Yeti throws in a bouncy ball in order to convince a large dog to chase it around inside the car. Needless to say the dog is not compliant.
- Played straight in Guns N' Roses' "Garden of Eden"... and not only the song has the fastest singing/lyrics possible, but during the guitar solos the ball keeps bouncing in plain air.
- The music video for Metronomy's "A Thing for Me" carries this into the real world...with hilarious results.
- The J. Geils Band's video for "Love Stinks" does this with a bouncing heart for a ball.
- Referenced by name in the Big And Rich song Freak Parade. Of course, the song consisted almost entirely of the phrase "Somebody's got to be unafraid to lead the freak parade" repeated over and over again, faster and faster until the end of the song.
- In the novelty video "Rats on a Budget", an animated cartoon rat jumps from subtitled word to word during the final chorus.
- Ron James, in a bit on how liquor used to be cheaper in Canada before the government monopolized it, notes that you used to be able to get a gigantic bottle of rum for $4.95 at the Liquor Barn. He then sings a probably-fictional jingle for the store, noting, "The lyrics are fairly simple; follow the bouncing bottle!"
- Robert Wuhl did this in one HBO special, beginning a string of jokes with the set-up "A man comes home from a hard day's work," which involves the audience and folks at home following the bouncing ball. The ball is replaced with a tiny, grinning Robert Wuhl face for the last few jokes.
- Aries Spears suggested that Shaquille O'Neal ought to have his words transcribed this way whenever he gives an interview.
- During a song that played during the intermission in London's version of Avenue Q, "Time", in order to get the people on the bathroom line out, Nicky asks the audience to help him sing along to the final part of the song (well, only "Time, to do the things that you want to do!/Time, it's well spent when it's spent on you!") using this method. He addresses it as "Let's get them out everybody! Ready?"
- The 2002 version of Journey Into Your Imagination With Figment had this at the end of the Sight Lab scene.
- Most versions of the Ghostbusters Licensed Game by Activision do this on the title screen with the movie's Theme Tune.
- Used in the PS2/XBox remake of The Bard's Tale, whether the song is 'Beer, Beer, Beer', 'The Tale of the Nuckelavee' or any of the several renditions of 'It's Bad Luck to Be You'.
- Also used in several other songs. The bonus joke in 'Beer, Beer, Beer' is that the singers are off-tempo to the bouncing ball, since they're drunks in a bar.
- Skullmonkeys did this for a part of the ending cinematic for the song "Klogg Is Dead?" with a bouncing skull.
- In Black & White, the sailors on the first island do one. A different stanza for everything they need. (Wood, Grain, Meat)
- Miniature replica soldier! Possibly the best DLC advert ever.
- This was used in the Great Mighty Poo's Villain Song in Conkers Bad Fur Day, where the lyrics were put up onto the screen whilst you read it with a ball made of crap...made even funnier by the profane and crude lyrics of the song.
- Averted in Silent Hill 3's joke ending. The ridiculously goofy lyrics to the "Silent Hill Song" are simply highlighted in red as they are sung, even though a SH-themed bouncy ball likely would have made it even funnier.
- Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist does this with the opening theme song.
- Mario Paint has a bouncing Mario in place of the bouncing ball.
- Beat Plants vs. Zombies and the reward music video features a bouncing brain.
- Similarly, Double Dragon Neon's ending song features a bouncing Skullmageddon logo.
- WarioWare D.I.Y.'s music editor has a bouncing character, much like Mario Paint.
- Drill-X in Skylanders Giants is a large drill robot ... who sings. Sort of. True to form, his singing is subtitled, with a miniature icon of the robot's face bouncing across to the beat. (video)