Scoring a segment such that the music punctuates the physical motions occurring. This is a technical term coined in the early days of animation
, though the practice of synchronizing actions to the rhythm of the music goes back much earlier.
In a slapstick cartoon, this can be used as a complete substitute for the normal sound effects. In live action this is more commonly used alongside the normal sound effects, making it seem like a choreographed dance. In either case the effect is usually comedic, whether this was intentional or not, which is why the term is often used as a pejorative in film scoring circles.
While it was prevalent in the early days of animation due to how efficient it was for the animators to time the animation to, it soon became derided as cliché and corny, and its usage decreased considerably in the following years. That said, it's certainly not
a Discredited Trope
—there are still some modern cartoonists who still use this, such as Genndy Tartakovsky
(who loves timing his cartoons to tempos) and Danny Antonucci
. Feature animated films still make some use of it, but it's limited to musical sequences, like the ones seen in Rio
where the player can cause Mickey Mousing, see Musical Gameplay
See also Mime and Music-Only Cartoon
, Musical Chores
, Standard Snippet
, Theme Music Power-Up
, Record Needle Scratch
. Compare Variable Mix
. May be used in conjunction with Left the Background Music On
This is not the same as a Leitmotif
, which is a particular theme tied to a character, object, or idea. It is also not the same as the use of music to express emotions. It only counts as Mickey Mousing if the music is timed to - and usually similar in contour to - the actions on screen.
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Anime & Manga
- This is actually a very rare practice in anime, where shows almost exclusively rely on a library of tracks composed for the show and thrown in where appropriate. Thus it is very glaringly obvious (and audibly jarring) in anime that's given an entirely new music track when it's dubbed, especially those handled by 4Kids. Then end result gives the show a Tom-and-Jerry-trapped-in-the-eighties feel. This is usually done to save money, but also to remove potential gaps in the original music caused by cuts and edits.
- Justified with the "Both Of You Dance Like You Want To Win" attack in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Shinji and Asuka must fight an Angel that splits in two and can only be killed by destroying both pieces simultaneously. It's decided the best way to do this is to have them perform an attack choreographed to the rhythm of a piece of music.
- Blue Submarine Number Six does this. Repeat with me: naval battles punctuated with bossanova.
- The Funimation dub of Dragon Ball Z did this at times.
- Spirited Away has this when Chihiro is making her way down the rickety stairs to the boiler room.
- Kimba the White Lion has its moments.
- My Neighbor Totoro does quite a bit of this, most notably in the scene where Mei chases Chibi-Totoro and Chu-Totoro through her backyard.
- Castle in the Sky has this early in the movie, when the Dola boys fight the Boss.
- Legend of the Galactic Heroes first episod choreographs a space battle to Ravell's Bolero
- A quick example in the original OP of Genshiken, where gameplay footage of Guilty Gear Isuka is shown, with Sol performing a three-hit combo in time with the music.
- It could be argued that all scores for operatic performances and ballets are this, by their very nature. But pieces of music that do not quite fit the description of "choreography" or "libretto" might include:-
- Prokofief's Peter and the Wolf, the story of a young boy fighting off a big bad wolf, in which the various instrumental groups of the orchestra "voice" the characters and actions.
- It wasn't by accident that Disney animated this note for note and added pictured to the "Mickey Mousing" instruments.
- Britten's ''The Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra", where "Mickey Mousing" themes are used to characterise the instruments.
- Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" Mickey Mouses the principle themes of Shakespeare's play - the conflict between the two Houses, the fight scenes, the recurring love theme, the death of Juliet, et c.
- Arguably, the 1812 Overture Mickey Mouses the story of the 1812 war with France.
- Nu, Pogodi! synchronizes the action with its eclectic soundtrack.
Live Action TV
- Done very often in Latin American soap operas, where, for example, in a scene with dialogue against music with lyrics, speech and singing will alternate, resulting in a pretty neat scene.
- In a rare live action example, The Dick Van Dyke Show used it to great effect — but then, Dick Van Dyke is something of a walking cartoon when he wants to be.
- The '60s Batman TV series, along with many other cheesy movies of the decade, tended to feature obnoxious, brass-heavy music during fight scenes, which would provide a stinger chord for every punch that landed.
- In the Firefly episode "Safe," the semi-Celtic-style folk music River dances to in one scene happens to synch up beautifully to the fight scene occurring over with Mal and the crew.
- Firefly actually does this routinely due to its aversion of Space Is Noisy requiring something else to punctuate the otherwise silent action onscreen.
- Malcolm in the Middle plays with this trope in the episode "Kicked Out," where the nephew of Francis' employers does this to Francis with a keyboard, which drives him crazy.
- Done during the Buffy the Vampire Slayer's silent episode, "Hush", despite also having sound effects.
- Unusual example from Your Show of Shows: Sid Caesar and Nanette Fabray playing a married couple arguing to the tune of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Watch it here.
- Done once in Two and a Half Men, with Charlie behind the piano, slowly but surely driving poor Alan insane.
- The absolutely classic Morecambe and Wise Breakfast sketch.
- Often the music in Jeeves and Wooster, particularly during Bertie's schemes, would complement the action quite well.
- Spoofed in The Facts of Life: The episode, a parody of slasher/horror films, features Tootie sneaking through the house, with pizzicato strings accompanying her every step. Finally she gets fed up and yells at the music conductor: "Do you MIND? I'm TRYING TO SNEAK UP ON SOMEONE!"
- A favorite comedic device of Ernie Kovacs was having musical interludes in which mundane objects would move in time to the music. E.g. his "Kitchen Symphony".
- Used many times in Kamen Rider Hibiki, set to anything from a fight scene to a bike-ride through town.
- In every episode of The Monkees, slapstick gags are punctuated by the music.
- Mr Rogers Neighborhood often uses little piano twinkly-charm things to orchestrate Mr Rogers' movements when speaking to the audience.
- This scene from Scrubs had JD listening to music with his earphones and notice that everyone else's movements sync up perfectly. At the end, Kelso even looks like he's singing along, as he's saying the same thing the singer is at the time.
- The heavy metal music played during The Road So Far at the start of Supernatural episodes lines up with action.
- Funny background sound effects and musical stings are synched-up with the movements and gestures of the characters in Lizzie McGuire in many scenes for comedic effect.
- Blake's 7. This was planned for a scene where our heroes are captured and marched off by Federation mooks. In order to sync the actors to the martial music, the director had them march to the beat of a metronome. Unfortunately a practical joker on the set thought it would be funny to increase the rhythm so everyone had to march faster, making this impossible.
- Marilyn Manson's music video for his song "Antichrist Superstar" (which is just a video of a live performance), manages to have a living being falling straight into the Uncanny Valley by moving like a badly controlled puppet, as he jerks harshly to the guitar. It's somewhat unnerving.
- The video for System F's "Out of the Blue" features two backup dancers listening to the song on headphones accompanied by pulsating distortion effects, rapid zoom-ins and zoom-outs, and footage of city traffic alternating between fast-forward and rewind in time with the music.
- Done in the music video (but not the album version) for "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Fat." Lampshaded at one point when Al realizes it and starts doing random motions just to hear what sounds get made.
- During the attract mode, The Addams Family will occassionally flip the lower flippers in tune to the finger-snapping of the Addams' Family theme.
- The song "Now (It's Just The Gas)" in Little Shop of Horrors begins with chords that match the action of Orin struggling to remove his mask.
- Cho Chang's introduction in A Very Potter Musical is timed to the music (especially the classic "Bitch, I ain't Cho Chang!"/"Racist sister!" exchange).
Games should only be included if their case of Mickey Mousing isn't Musical Gameplay
- Happens often in the Kirby series, most prevalently in 64: The Crystal Shard' cutscenes. Super Star Ultra attempted it in places, but in several occasions, most jarringly in the cutscene that occurs wherein you find Nova, the music is just barely out of sync with the video.
- The Moblins in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker do this, the music usually beating in time with their footsteps.
- The game also plays musical Stings whenever Link lands a blow on an enemy, with a slightly more elaborate one if it's a fatal blow.
- In the Sly Cooper series, sneaking up on an enemy would shift the music volume down and play a series of single notes in time with each step the player took.
- Epic Mickey, naturally. Bonus points for the player to do it themselves whenever you make Mickey sneak and a little musical dun plays with every sneaking step.
- The "Record of the Graylands Incident" in Vagrant Story, which serves as the opening sequence of the game, punctuates dramatic events with musical cues, from Ashley's first appearance in the game to Sydney's wyvern D'Tok crashing through the chapel's ceiling.
- Sheep, Dog 'n' Wolf lets you do this whenever you sneak around.
- Odd World does this in games featuring Abe, with a dramatic drumbeat whenever he starts chanting.
- Banjo-Kazooie does it at the beginning of the game with the Nintendo 64 logo walking across the screen. For the X-Box Live Arcade version, however, it was removed for obvious reasons, so we just get Mickey Mousing without visual accompaniment. No, really.
- In the Touhou series, various events and bosses are partially scripted to coincide with the music:
- One of Kogasa Tatara's appearances coincides with the sound of Youkai giggling in Undefined Fantastic Object.
- Another example from UFO is stage 5, where some enemies appear with their sound effects, contributing to the melody.
- Hina's first appearance in Mountain of Faith is timed to coincide with 0:20 of her stage theme, when the tone of the music changes,
- Some other boss spellcards are timed to match the tempo of their leitmotifs very well. Special mention to Yuyuko's finale, which goes into a guitar solo as the whole pattern explodes around you.
- Other bosses aren't assured to match up as well depending on how quickly the player defeats them, but a straightforward kill keeping decent pace will often see things line up suspiciously well. This happens as early in the series as Yuki filling the screen with red right as the percussion drops off, or as recent as Miko going up in a technicolor blaze as the music peaks, or Raiko's soundtrack dropping away into a thunderous drum solo during her two most difficult attacks and the final phase of her finale.
- Perfect Cherry Blossom stage 4 has shifts to coincide with Lily White's appearance (which is also when the background starts to turn white) and the pause at the end of the stage before the boss battle.
- This is itself a take on the third stage of Story of Eastern Wonderland back on the PC-98. Near the end of the level, you go over a cliff, the enemies all clear out at once, and the music dramatically drops off back into its quiet intro...and goes back into its buildup when you see the boss.
- In fact, many stages are scripted to exactly correspond to the music, to the extent where the game will throws out bonus enemies for you to destroy if you kill the midboss quickly, and sometimes skip midboss patterns if you kill them too slowly, all in attempts to perfectly synchronize the stages with their themes (assuming your game isn't running slowly for some reason, that is).
- In New Super Mario Bros.: The Goombas and Koopa Troopas, among other enemies, as well as the powerups, interact with the music. Whenever there is a "wah-wah", all of the enemies will stop and do a half-step.
- In Sonic Unleashed, specifically in "The First Night" cutscene around 1:25. Please pay no mind to Dan Green crying.
- Ikaruga mickey-mouses its music to the scripted events of the levels. As a result, if you complete certain enemy waves or midboses early, extra enemies will spawn while there is extra time.
- The most impressive of which is that if you play your tennis properly, the final boss dies exactly at the end of the musical phrase.
- Among other things, the third boss starts firing its rotating lasers right as the boss music hits its big dramatic chorus.
- RefleX is another shmup that utilizes this in some levels. The same could be said for the original Reflection.
- In ALLTYNEX Second, The Area 5 theme speeds up and segues into an arrangement of "Raiwat Virgo" right as you encounter the midboss, the shell of ZODIAC Ophiuchus.
- Tigger does this in Piglet's Big Game, essentially making two areas of the game Metal Gear Solid with Mickey Mousing.
- Sort of at the end of Team Fortress 2 "Meet the Spy"; you can hear his stabs in time with the theme music!
- Halo does this several times. In the mission 343 Guilty Spark, a Scare Chord in the soundtrack is timed to play when a corpse falls through the door during the Pvt. Jenkins cutscene. A certain percussion hit plays when the Athens Station explodes in Halo 2, and another scare chord is used when MC rides the bomb out of the Cairo. During the final Escape Sequence in Halo 3, the music segues to the final phrase exactly when you make the jump to the ship.
- In the Dark Side Ending of The Force Unleashed II, the music matches with the lightsaber clashes.
- In the Thunder Plains of Final Fantasy X, the lightning strikes in time with the music.
- An extremely noticable trait in Hellsinker. You can easily keep track of your progress throughout the stage just from the music; if anything, it's easier to gauge distance that way than by the on-screen time counter.
- The final boss of Ristar has a soundtrack that starts off slow and ominous while he sits in the background and throws minions at you and makes some preliminary attacks — if you make decent time on this phase, it builds and gets faster while he tries to suck you into a black hole, and then turns into chaotic, fast-paced jazz right as he starts warping all over the place and dropping lightning on your head.
- The Famicom puzzle game Banana plays extra notes over the main theme whenever the mole character is moved around. 
- Done occasionally in Rayman Origins. Most noticeable in the treasure chase stages in which the levels seem to be partially based around the music.
- Each world in Rayman Legends features a "Musical Level," in which jumps, attacks, item pickups, and other in-game events are synchronized with the background music.
- Kid Icarus: Uprising does this in the flight sections during gameplay, as the music syncs to dialogue, changes in atmosphere, and the beginning and end of the level.
- The FEAR series uses this trope regularly, usually with scare chords, such as when Alma appears or a Sentry Gun activates.
- A very unsettling variant occurs in Mass Effect 3 where a Reaper Destroyer blows its horn synced with the background music as it prepares to shoot down a shuttle with children on it.
- The screen in Super Hexagon will often pulse with the beat.
- In Conkers Bad Fur Day, the battle against The Great Mighty Poo is a crass, childish, and elaborately scripted setpiece of the game, set to the Poo's ridiculous opera music. His weak point is exposed when he opens his mouth to sing harmony with the BGM's bridge.
- The GameCube logo would appear as a series of squares unraveling into a stylized G/cube, each square laid down would produce a note and once completed the logo would "hop" landing with a final note. As seen here.
- Elite Beat Agents does this twice in cutscenes. First with the dogs barking at the start of of Canned Heat, and later with the screams for help at the start of Without a Fight
- Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge does this using the iMuse music system in several places. Just to name a few, there's Guybrush swinging his rope and pillars crumbling in time to drums, LeChuck stabbing Guybrush with a voodoo doll to some riffs, among other things.
- In Pokémon X and Y, The members of the Elite Four will send out their first Pokémon in time with the music
- In Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, If you try to rush through important cutscenes, the text on screen will actually slow down to keep pace with the music.
- The day/night cycle in Bravely Default will adjust as necessary to line up with the melodic transitions of the overworld theme. Night falls as the music backs off to an oboe, and the orchestra and pipe chorus come back for sunrise.
- In Valiant Hearts, when Anna drives taxi through war zone, the car movement synchronized to the tune of the Can-Can.
- Performing an Ultra Combo in the 2013 Killer Instinct will cause the music to cut out and start playing notes for each hit.
- The titular characters in Mario And Luigi Super Star Saga start dancing in time with the standard battle theme if they're selected in combat..
- In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, Claptrap's Pirate Ship Mode has him create four cannons that fire to the tune of the 1812 Overture.
- A fun Flash animation example: Shoo Fly.
- Reasonably common. Another good example would be The Nut Job. Word of God confirms that a certain scene in Katan has arrows simply because the artist heard appropriate sounds in the music used.
- Another example found in the Flash Tarboy. The eponymous hero is creeping along in a dark storage facility, tracked by an insect-like robot. Their footsteps and actions mesh with the song pefectly, and are even sound coded.
- An Easter Egg at the end of an episode of Teen Girl Squad syncs up dialogue in time with the background theme:
I miss video games.
I miss my mom.
I miss video games.
I—I—I miss my mom.
- A stick figure animation by the name of Breaking Rust has Mickey Mousing sprinkled over the course of the fight, matching attacks to the lyrics of The Rocket Summer's Break It Out.
- Slamacow Creations' character Bartenderman does this in Slam's Minecraft Endertainment shorts.
- Numerous animations by Youtube user Cyriak feature plenty of Mickey Mousing alongside stacks and stacks of horrific imagery and Soundtrack Dissonance. Click at your own risk.
- Named after the extensive usage of this in the Classic Disney Shorts.
- Special mention goes to one scene in "The Three Little Pigs", where the music is provided diegetically by the brick-builder pig on his piano. The way he does it to mock the Wolf's attempts to get in borders on parody.
- A lot of cartoons tend to use the same staccato strings (often called "Mysterioso Pizzicato") when a character tiptoes.
- Carl Stalling's work for Warner Bros. (which included many of the classic shorts) deserves some kind of special award. Particularly notable in that the music makes no attempt at coherence on a purely musical level: it's just a disjointed series of glissandos, pizzicatos, runs, and stingers designed to match the action.
- Not to mention: before that he composed the music for most of the early Mickey Mouse shorts (although not the very first), making Carl Stalling some sort of meta trope codifier.
- Every episode of most cartoons with any sort of budget. For example, Animaniacs, Freakazoid!, House of Mouse, you name it.
- Common in The Fairly OddParents, so much so that in one episode, Timmy wished for all noise to be removed from the world. The Mickey Mousing was used as a sort of thematic replacement for all other sounds.
- Subverted/parodied twice in Family Guy. In "The Story on Page One", Peter provides his own Mickey Mousing while sneaking around. In one of the segments in "Family Guy Viewer Mail #1", he asks a genie for his own personal soundtrack, and the music does this (being light and breezy when he's skipping, turning into a Sexophone when he and Lois are about to get intimate).
- Stewie also gets a job following fat guys around with a tuba, playing in time with their steps.
- Also parodied in The Emperor's New Groove, when Kronk provides his own theme music.
- Done a lot in Ed, Edd n Eddy. They played with this in one scene of the episode "Brother, Can You Spare An Ed?", where Edd provided Mickey Mousing on his pedal-steel guitar until Eddy told him to knock it off.
- The classic opening sequence for Batman: The Animated Series was composed entirely of the serious version of this. Done so well that you don't realize that the jet engine of the Batmobile turning on is actually a cymbal roll.
- You also didn't notice that it didn't actually name the show. It was just that awesome.
- So awesome that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hammill forgot they were supposed to be recording lines during playback and spent a few seconds wondering why the vocal track wasn't working.
- The BBC/EBU series The Animals of Farthing Wood did this extensively. Not only did it play for every single animal in the show, but every animal had its own particular variation, from the whistle-tune of Whistler to the high-end xylophone of the rodents.
- Pixar's dialogue-free short Presto, that screened just before WALL•E in theaters, uses Mickey Mousing extensively, among other classic animation comedy tropes.
- This is sort of the point of Disney's Fantasia and Fantasia 2000, though it was actually done in reverse, with animation produced based on existing music.
- The "Hungarian Dances" are some of the most popular pieces used, especially in Looney Tunes: Pigs in a Polka
- In the long-buried Disney film Song of the South, Mickey Mousing is rampant. However, special mention goes to Br'er Bear, whose inability to keep up with the Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Leitmotif is a sign that he is The Ditz of the story.
- Ruby Gloom uses this up to a point, but it is particularly notable for the character Doom Kitty, whose every movement and action is punctuated by an appropriate violin chord. It's adorable.
- An episode of The Schnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show had the eponymous duo gaining super muscles, with their ever step being punctuated with an "AH" sound.
- Used all the time in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, mixed seamlessly with some Leitmotifs and music reflecting the mood or tone of a moment or action instead of the physical action.
- In "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000", the eponymous machine's sounds match up with the music.
- Used extensively in Kung Fu Panda 2 (fittingly enough) during the fight scene in the musicians' village.
- The album Suspended Animation by Fantomas could be described as "children's metal" and was written after Mike Patton realized that you can tell what's going on in a cartoon that's playing in another room simply by listening to the music.
- One very memorable piece of Demoscene music is an S3M file titled "Catch that goblin!!" by Skaven of the Future Crew. It's a perfect example of Mickey Mousing, even though there isn't any video footage to go with it. The piece sounds very cartoony, with the composer's selection of instruments and sound effects. It really does sound like it could have been taken from a cartoon, but it's actually all mixed in realtime by the computer.
- The Demoscene in general takes Mickey Mousing very seriously. Watch some of the better demos, and you can see that the team responsible went to a lot of effort to synchronise the graphics to the music. When you consider that some of the routines used could be either very slow or fast, depending on the computer running the demo, the synchronisation is even more impressive.
- One of the most common examples of mickey mousing are found in music players themselves where there's usually a set of bars which expand on every beat.
- Technically, that's a Fourier Transform of the last fraction of a second of audio data, with the bar lengths corresponding to intensity of sound frequencies present in the audio.
- Happens almost unnervingly well in this YouTube video. Who knew The War of the Worlds synchronised so well with Yackety Sax?
- And similarly, there's this scene from No Country for Old Men, set to the theme from The Life Aquatic.
- This advertisement hangs a lampshade on the idea, by combining it with Left the Background Music On.
- A stand-up routine by Bill Bailey explains how scoring childrens cartoons is a low point for a session xylophone player.
"What's the mouse doing now, going up a hill? Right," * deedlydeedlydeedlydeedlydeedlydeedly ding!* "Oh, now it's coming back down," * doodlydoodlydoodlydoodlydoodlydoodly dum!* * sighs*
- Happens a lot in trailers for films with lots of action sequences, normally with bits from lots of different scenes. For example, a trailer for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has cuts from a few of the 'boss battles' to the beat of 'Invaders Must Die' by Prodigy.
- Scott Pilgrim also Mickey Mouses the Universal Studios fanfare with Lucas Lee cricking his neck and skateboarding on set. It's more funny than it sounds.
- Used in this Goblins review.
- Andrew Hussie of Homestuck inverts this trope often. The music from the artists is composed ahead of time, then Andrew picks one piece and animates the Flash sequences to its beats and any Leitmotifs present.
- Best seen when Karkat facepalms in time. (Remember the "give out bunnies like it's Christmas while in a lab" event?)
- Progressive metal guitarist Ron Jarzombek and his band, Blotted Science wrote music for previously existing movie scenes, following every movement. It's mind-bogglingly complex and precise.
- The 2012 logo for Universal has a glare on the company name that beams in time with the final notes in the fanfare.
- Some Spike Jones songs are a kind of all-audio version of this, or something closely related to it. For example, the final section of "You Always Hurt the One You Love".
You always hurt gunshot scream the one you love wolf howl the one you shouldn't hurt at all gunshot scream gunshot ...
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