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Soundtrack Dissonance: Western Animation
  • Adventure Time. We often hear characters singing jaunty, cheerful songs at inappropriate times- such as very suspenseful scenes. In "Beautopia,' when the team is on their way to rescue the last possible humans alive from terrible monsters, we have Jake's jaunty Dixieland diddy, "I'm On A Boat." And it comes right out of nowhere. "Ooooh, I'm on a boat with a couple of wackos, Shaking mah hips and dippin' mah fat toe in the wadaaah... Dippin' in the waddah, this party's gettin' hottah, It's so hot it's stupid!"
    • In Lemonhope Part 2, Princess Bubblegum is singing a cheerful tune talking about how Lemonhope will be the savior of his lemon people, only for the song to be done over Lemonhope walking through the desolate ruins of Ooo a thousand years in the future, the Candy Kingdom as a bombed-out ruin of a formerly thriving metropolis, the Ice Kingdom nowhere to be seen, Lemon Castle looking like it was abandoned shortly after Lemonhope left, and him ultimately climbing into a bed after turning off his biosuit, presumably to die from old age.
  • Sym-Bionic Titan makes use of this in the episode "Lessons in Love", when, while the protagonists are fighting a gigantic alien, an upbeat 80s rock song named "Space Age Love Song" by A Flock of Seagulls plays.
    • The episode "Elephant logic" features a happy-go-lucky children's song that plays when the main protagonists are under attack by military soldiers.
  • Futurama's "Time Keeps on Slipping" has a pretty sad ending, but it also ends with the song "Sweet Georgia Brown", which is not exactly the saddest song in the world. Mind you, Bender was whistling it rather wistfully and slowly, and it had a cool echo effect that made it sound all alone in the universe.
    • Futurama additionally parodied the one in Dr. Strangelove in the episode "A Big Piece of Garbage" by also playing "We'll Meet Again" when a giant ball of garbage that destroyed another one is implied to eventually come back to destroy the Earth in the same way the first one did.
    • Then there was the episode which continued this trend, ending on a song with the line "I will wait for you/for a thousand summers", which twisted the theme of ironic end themes in that this one is played straight — the ending of the episode revealed that after Fry was frozen, his dog was so loyal that he literally waited for him, in the same spot, every day until he died.
  • In The Simpsons "War of The Simpsons", the morning after Homer makes a fool of himself after getting drunk at a party, Marge drags him into the car and puts on a tape of the Mexican hat dance and starts arguing with him, presumably so the kids can't hear them. However, they're staring out the window...
    Bart: They're fighting in the car again.
    Lisa: That music always sends a chill up my spine.
    • Done again in Homer's hallucination in the episode "The Fat and the Furriest". Where the Intensive Care Bear puts on Mexican Hat Dance just before all the bears prepare to tear him apart.
    • This also shows up in "Trash of the Titans". After Homer crashes a U2 concert and rushes the stage, the band's security guards drag him backstage and give him a Jumbotron-projected beating as the band plays "(Pride) In the Name of Love".
    • In "Mother Simpson" Mr. Burns starts playing "Ride of the Valkyries" on his cassette player for a raid on the Simpsons home only for it cut to "Waterloo" by ABBA—which Smithers taped over the original recording—and they commence without turning the music off.
    • An in-universe example comes when Otto proposes to his girlfriend while playing "Every Rose Has It's Thorn"—which is a Breakup Song. Either Otto doesn't realize this or he cared more about playing a song he liked than one that made sense. It's little wonder that their wedding was cancelled with him literally choosing music over her.
  • South Park:
    • The episode "You Got F'd in the A" had a particularly hilarious usage of the trope: all through the episode, Butters has nightmares about the last time he tap-danced (he accidentally killed eleven people). At the end, he pulls through and joins the dance group for South Park: he tap dances fine, until he accidentally kills their opponents. This means the South Park boys win and he is hailed as a hero, all while crying "No... no... NOOOOOO!" The same song plays both in his flashback and the end credits: a cheery, if somewhat Double Entendre-laced jazz song, "There's Something In My Front Pocket".
    • Professor Chaos' pitiful attempts at committing evil are only made all the funnier by the genuinely sinister and dramatic orchestral Leitmotif accompanying his schemes.
  • Drawn Together uses this trope quite frequently, especially in montages. Examples include the happy lighthearted tune that plays while the human race is being wiped out by aliens in "Dirty Pranking No. 2", and the song "Winner Takes It All", which understandably plays during Captain Hero's big AIDS-Walk competition... while he is brutally murdering all of the participants.
  • In Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, as Harvey is being prepared for his execution in "Deadomutt" the song "It Is Such A Good Night" is played.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Interview with a Platypus" while Candace is being chased by a heard of angry animals, accompanied by an upbeat song called "Perfect Day".
    • The Meaps' song in "Meapless in Seattle" definitely counts:
    We we we we (whee!)
    Are going to war (We're going to war!)
    We're going to war (We're going to war!)
    We we we we (whee!)
    Are going to war (We're going to war!)
    We're going to war (We're going to war!)

    De- de- de- de- de- de- de-
    Destroy our enemies!
    La- la- la- la- la- la- la-
    Let's bring them to their knees!

    We we we we (whee!)
    Are going to war (We're going to war!)
    We're going to war (We're going to war!)
    We we we we (whee!)
    Are going to war (We're going to war!)
    We're going to war (We're going to war!)
  • The big series finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender reaches the climax of its Zuko and Azula subplot when the two challenge each other to one final Agni Kai. We expect some epic, fast-paced music to start, but instead, the melody that greets us is a very sad-sounding, slow, beautiful piece called "The Last Agni Kai".
  • Batman: The Animated Series has a truly wonderful soundtrack. One of the happiest, cheeriest themes heard frequently throughout the series is a upbeat flute-played tune that would be right at home in a circus... which also happens to be The Joker's theme music. He sometimes whistles it.
  • Happens sometimes during The Backyardigans. A cowboy episode set to hip-hop, or an Ancient Greece episode set to samba, are such examples of that.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog is very fond of this trope. One memorable example involves peaceful nature music being played while savage vegetable-piranha hybrids began to rip each other apart as their gooey remains splattered across the room. Another episode played the same music as the title character is tossed off a cliff.
  • In the episode of Arthur where Buster comes back from being absent for half a season and finds himself locked out from everyone, the guest narrator, a singing moose played by Art Garfunkel, sings at one point (in a happy upbeat tone) "He's a sad, sad bunny/ A sad, sad bunny..." to which Buster yells "Hey, that isn't sad music!". The narrator quickly changes his tone and tempo to a depressing one.
  • Justice League: "Maid of Honor", Part 2. Batman and Wonder Woman fight the Kasnian military to wedding music.
  • 9: "Somewhere over the Rainbow" plays while 5 is desperately trying to escape a huge and psychotic robot.
    • Made all the more disturbing when it cuts back to the others still playing happily, while in the background you can hear 5 screaming for help.
  • The Street Fighter animated series episode "The Medium is the Message" features a slow build to an upbeat, heroic fanfare. Said fanfare plays while M. Bison is exclaiming his joy at what he thinks is the heroes' imminent doom.
  • In Beauty and the Beast, the original music for the beast's death scene was rejected because it sounded too cheery.
  • The Venture Bros. is known for using this trope quite often in several moments in the show.
    • Phantom Limb murdering a customer of his by electrocution, set to classical piano music.
    • In "I Know Why the Caged Bird Kills", Dr Orpheus and Myra are fighting each other while Dr. Venture is in the car with acoustic guitar music playing on the radio.
    • Dr. Orpheus's has overly dramatic background music that will often play when he makes an entrance.
  • In the Ben 10: Ultimate Alien episode "It's Not Easy Being Gwen", Gwen's friend Emily play's Chopin's Fantasie-Impromptu while Ben, Gwen, and Kevin defeat Dr. Animo. That's five minutes of laser beams and explosions set to classical piano music.
  • At the end of The Transformers episode "The Golden Lagoon", as Beachcomber sits glumly staring at the beautiful lagoon a recent battle destroyed and laments "We won..." while the other Autobots celebrate more typically, the standard cheery and upbeat-sounding "Autobot Victory!" music plays.
  • A humorous example occurs in the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Pranksters": When Heffer's rocket makes its way to China, Scottish bagpipe music plays in lieu of Chinese music.
  • A very good example is the end of the short film Alma. The character has her soul transferred into a doll and another doll is made for the next victim. All of this is scored to very cheery music.
  • The song "Two Worlds" sung at the very beginning of Tarzan is actually sung over scenes where Tarzan's parents and Kala and Kerchak's biological son are both killed by a leopard.
  • The song played in the cartoon Monkey Love is called "Vahine Anamite", a song written by Eddie Lund about Indo-Chinese women working so very hard in Tahiti... and it's played in a story about Interspecies Romance with a sailor and the monkey princess! Really?
  • From American Dad!'s episode "The Kidney Stays in the Picture": "Before you can react, a man in a ski mask'll tie you to a chair with an Indian braided belt he got on vacation in Santa Fe. He'll turn on some Huey Lewis...and then cut the damn thing out with a rusty keyhole saw!"
  • The Tiny Toon Adventures cartoon "Out of Odor" ends with happy upbeat music. While Elmyra might have liked the ending, Fifi didn't and noted it stinks.note 
  • El Manana by Gorillaz is a slow, peaceful song, and the video for it has Noodle sitting on a windmill in the clouds, surrounded by greenery and looking pretty chilled out. Then helicopters arrive and start shooting at her, sinking the island and apparently killing her. Cloud of Unknowing, whilst being very sombre in tone, also has a very violent video.
  • In Blue Cat Blues, an old Tom and Jerry cartoon, the music is the gentle, endearing sounds of a past age you'd expect from Hanna Barbera 'toons of the day. Even the maudlin pieces sound more cute than tragic. The piece opens with Tom waiting for a train as he sits on the tracks, heartbroken over a woman. Jerry narrates, and refuses to help Tom, his best friend in this 'toon. He even says, "For the first time since he met her, I suppose he'll be happy.... I suppose people will say I should have helped him, I know, but it's better this way." Cue flashbacks to Tom's failed romance, which drives him to drink milk. Jerry later finds out his girl married another, and joins Tom on the tracks. Tom makes room for Jerry to commit suicide right next to him. Cue train whistle, fade to black, and cheery outro music. That's right, a blatant reference to alcohol abuse and a double suicide in a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Go see for yourself.
  • The Looney Tunes Show's Merrie Melodies musical segments are usually upbeat and fun (in most cases), but the intro theme to these segments is a very strange, off-key and dissonant version of "Merrily We Roll Along," something you usually wouldn't expect to hear in front of silly or cheerful musical segments...
  • An absolutely glorious example of this in Invader Zim: In the second episode, Bestest Friends, the titular invader attempts to befriend a human in order to appear more normal. Cue a dastardly montage of Zim abusing said friend set to the most ridiculously upbeat score of music possibly ever composed. It must be heard to be believed.
  • The opening of Sonic Satam: Bafflingly, it depicts Robotnik's conquest and roboticisation of Mobotropolis while a Bragging Theme Tune keeps going on about how cool and fast Sonic is.

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