Dan: The representatives of Patty and Mildred Hill.
Isaac: Took two people to write that song?
It's the most-recognized song in the English language, but before September 22, 2015, the lyrics to "Happy Birthday to You" weren't in the public domain in most countriesnote . Its copyright in the United States and Continental Europe was held by Warner/Chappell Music, a division of Warner Music Group, which had acquired it in 1988 from its takeover of the original holder. note WMG aggressively enforced the copyright, too, which netted them around $2 million per year in royalty fees. As a result, when a birthday is being celebrated on television, it's fairly rare for those involved to actually sing "Happy Birthday to You".
To avoid fees and/or lawsuits, productions typically either substitute a public domain folk song "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" is one example (British shows may use "A Fine Old English Gentleman" instead), or they just make up their own lyrics which may or may not use the actual melody. This is all in stark contrast to the real world, where singing anything other than "Happy Birthday To You" is almost unheard of except when the singers were the waitstaff of certain chain restaurants, for exactly the same reason as media.
The fact that a little ditty sung thousands of times a day around the world, and which only contains five words (not counting the person's name), was subject to copyright laws was serious Snark Bait for decades. The fact that you could've been sued for realistically portraying an Anglophone birthday party is mind-boggling. Even foreign language translations were not exempt — Star Trek writers found out that even showing it in Klingon would cost them.note This case of copyright laws run amok was often subject to Lampshade Hanging, which was really all anyone could do, as WMG was expected to hold the rights to he lyrics until 2031 at the earliest. note
That all changed in The New '10s. In 2013, a lawsuit was filed against Warner/Chappell Music by Jennifer Nelson, whose production company, Good Morning to You Productions, was filming a documentary about the song and its history. To secure the rights to the song and ensure the documentary would be made, Nelson had to pay $1500, which she claimed was unreasonable. During pretrial hearings in 2015 one day before a scheduled ruling, in fact Nelson and her lawyers discovered evidence that WMG's copyright claim was likely invalid thanks to the discovery of documents "mistakenly held from them" by WMG, including a book published in 1922 titled The Everyday Song Book. That book contained the lyrics to "Happy Birthday" with a disclaimer that they had been used with "special permission through courtesy of the Clayton F Summy Co."note but that's not a valid copyright notice, which was required at the time of publishing. note
Furthermore, only works published in 1924 or later are still potentiallynote under copyright. Finding it published in 1922 leaves few ways the claimed 1935 copyright could be valid. About the only defense would be that the publication was unauthorized — that the Hills had shown the song to the publisher of The Everyday Song Book but didn't reach a deal, didn't publish it for thirteen years, then copyrighted it in 1935. Even if someone else had coincidentally come up with the same lyrics in 1922 (it's not that complicated a song) but didn't copyright it, it wouldn't help. Unlike patents, independent creation is allowed for copyrighted materials. This makes the 1935 copyright valid but useless, since everyone can just say they're performing the 1922 public domain version.
As a result, Nelson's lawyers, Betsy Manifold and Mark Rifkin, claimed Warner/Chappell did not own the rights to the lyrics — and on September 22, 2015, a U.S. District Court Judge agreed with them, ruling Warner/Chappell's copyright claim officially invalid (with a settlement between the parties involved precluding any further appeal). However, the summary judgement did not by itself put the song into the public domain; it only said that Warner/Chappell's claim is fraudulent, and there is no proof that Summy Co. ever had a valid claim either. It was theoretically possible that someone, like an heir to one of the Hill sisters, could have stepped forward with a valid claim, but no one did so, and "Happy Birthday" officially entered into the public domain in the United States with the court approval of the settlement on June 28, 2016.
In the European Union, copyright lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years. As Patty Hill, the last surviving author, died in 1946, "Happy Birthday" was already set to fall into the public domain on December 31, 2016. American court rulings have no effect across The Pond, so Europe had to wait several more weeks.
Time will tell what effect this has on public performances of the song, though at least one thing is finally certain — producers, filmmakers, and ordinary citizens posting Grandma's 100th birthday/a real cute kid's birthday on YouTube can now likely sing the familiar refrain without having to worry about Warner Music Group tackling them to the ground out of nowhere and slapping a $10,000 fine on them.
Keep in mind that the majority of these examples are either in the U.S. pre-2015 or in other countries where the U.S. ruling has no effect.
- The current Chuck E. Cheese advertising campaign uses "Happy Birthday To You" in it. A lot. The song is also used within the live birthday shows, even before 2015. It is believed they paid to use the song.
- The Partnership for a Drug Free America PSA "Faces" from 1987 used a creepy version of the tune but different lyrics ("How old are you now? La da dee da da dee...").
- A Dairy Queen commercial had an interesting variation: the first line of the song is the same but the other lines talk about other occasions one could celebrate while showing the different ice cream cakes one could have made by the company for said occasions.
- Space Runaway Ideon: The second movie had children singing it... right after the Kill 'em All slaughterfest.
- In Ai Yori Aoshi, the Japanese vocal track used "Happy Birthday to You", while the English dub track substituted a different song.
- Azumanga Daioh:
- After Yukari's class offers her a belated birthday present, she triumphantly belts out a Gratuitous English rendition of "Happy Birthday To You."
- In the dubbed version, though, she sings a different birthday song. And "Kimurin" sings a really different one.
- Zoku Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei gets away with a Gratuitous English version of the song, too.
- Assassination Classroom: Class 3-E celebrate the anniversary of the moon explosion as Koro-sensei's birthday, so they get him a cake and sing Happy Birthday to him. Terasaka refuses to join in, claiming it to be "some bullshit", but is pinched into singing along by class representative Kataoka. They also sing the song in the English dub, which was released soon after the Happy Birthday song was deemed in the public domain, but that doesn't stop Terasaka from lampshading the trope:
Terasaka: Dude, do we even have the rights to this song?
- Sakura Wars TV has an episode where the mostly-Asian team tries to celebrate Iris' birthday in the Western manner to which she is accustomed, including an attempt at singing an original "happy birthday" song. Kanna is still singing bits of the song to herself several episodes later...
- In an episode of Sgt. Frog, Keroro gets Mutsumi to compose an original birthday song for Natsumi's surprise party. Lampshaded in the English dub, where Keroro tells Mutsumi that he's in charge of "non-copyright-infringing birthday song composition".
- A particularly soul-crushing variant occurs in an episode of Fist of the North Star, with little Lynn singing the most depressing rendition of the song you'll ever hear after the birthday girl's brother is murdered by bandits.
- The Japanese dub of Nightwalker uses the traditional melody, although with different lyrics, in one episode. The same scene in the English dub does the same, with another set of lyrics.
- Mayo Chiki! has an original birthday song composed for Kureha's birthday. Compared to other substitutions, it's not a bad song.
- An episode of Shugo Chara Doki! used the song "Kimi ni Birthday" as a birthday song.
- The original Japanese version of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai has the Neighbors Club singing the traditional Happy Birthday song to Kobato before she blows out her candles. The English dub, however, has them sing an original song which is very bizarre indeed:
"It's a nice day for a birthmas,Happy birthmas for you.Who was born today?It was: Kobato/Kodaka's sister!Happy birthmas to you!"
- Big Windup!: In Chapter 10, the characters sing that song. At least when the chapter is translated to English.
- Hamtaro had an original song, "Happy Ham-Ham Birthday". And it's not just the English dub- the Japanese dub has a different but also original song, albeit with the same title.
- In Saikin Imouto no Yousu ga Chotto Okashiinda ga, Yuya tries to sing this to his sister Mitsuki, but he's Hollywood Tone-Deaf and turns everybody off. He even admits he doesn't know the lyrics and just keeps LOUDLY singing the worlds "Happy Birthday" over and over again.
- In Suzy's Zoo: Daisuki! Witzy, the English dub used an original birthday song in the episode Surprise, Witzy!:
It's your birthday Witzy/What a happy way/to celebrate a piece of cake/and play the day away.
- PriPara has two original birthday songs-"Lucky! Surprise Birthday", which was the first song performed in Dream Theater, and "Thank You Birthday", which was the ending theme of an episode about Laala's birthday.
- This is sung on the birthday of Carmine Falcone in The Long Halloween, which so happens to be the same day Harvey Dent is going to make a landmark case against him. The comic intercuts with the song being sung to Falcone and a paid hitman attacking Dent, ending with acid being thrown into his face.
"Make a wish, Papa!"
- In The Emperor's New Groove, this trope is lampshaded by the staff of Mudka's Meat Hut when they celebrate Yzma's supposed birthday. A few establishments sing this song IRL!
One! Two! Three! Four!
Happy, Happy Birthday, from all of us to you!
We wish it was our birthday, so we could party too!
Happy, Happy Birthday, may all your dreams come true!
We wish it was our birthday, so we could party too!
- Aversion (sort of): In the Wallace & Gromit film The Wrong Trousers, Wallace gives Gromit a birthday card which plays an instrumental of "Happy Birthday to You." But even though the melody is not copyrighted, the producers were still forced to replace it (with "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow") after the first video release.
- In the first Madagascar movie, Alex, Melman, and Gloria sing the This Loser Is You version to Marty. (Happy birthday to you, you live in a zoo...)
- The Delivery Stork that brought Dumbo to his mother helps celebrate the occasion by singing to him, which also gives Mrs. Jumbo the opportunity to name him.
- Alice in Wonderland has the Unbirthday Song serve this purpose.
- The Disney version of Robin Hood has this sung to Skippy by his siblings despite the film taking place centuries before the song existed.
- In The Kentucky Fried Movie, a character remembers his name by singing "Happy Birthday to You". The directors' commentary notes that that one bit cost them $10,000 (roughly 1.5% of the film's budget).
- The song is sung in the Canadian slasher Happy Birthday to Me with the lyrics slightly altered to reflect the title. It's a pretty creepy scene too. The end credits features an original dark birthday song.
- Frank's parents sing "Happy Birthday" via a prerecorded message in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- In the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the main cast sing "Happy Birthday" to Rocky, but are cut off by Frank N. Furter when the song is near completion.
- ...And then the audience usually finishes it for them: "Happy birthday, fuck you!"
- The Room. Tommy Wiseau actually paid for the rights to the song.
- During Beaver's birthday on the Leave It to Beaver movie, as everyone sings "Happy Birthday", two of the kids briefly interrupt with "You smell like a wino".
- In the documentary The Corporation it is claimed that Warner/Chappell charges up to $10,000 for the song to appear in a film. To drive the point home, the sound of the song on archive film is muted, and the narrator explains that they'd rather spend the money to send a crew to Los Angeles to shoot an interview.
- In Rom Com The Wish List, the party guests sing "We Wish You a Happy Birthday."
- Ladder 49: Actually sung at Jack's daughter Katie's birthday party.
- Office Space has the actual song sung during a birthday party in the office.
- On Golden Pond has the characters perform the song for Norman's birthday.
- The Three Stooges sang their own, to the tune of "London Bridge":
Moe: We baked you a birthday cake
Larry: If you get a tummy ache
Curly: And you moan and grown and woe
All: Don't forget, we told you so!
- In Full Metal Jacket, Hartman has the recruits sing it on Christmas Day for Jesus.
- In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Max Dillon sings this song to himself as he's repairing Oscorp's power lines.
- Wild Tales has the actual song sung during the Surprisingly Happy Ending of the fourth story.
- Passengers (2016) has Jim program a bunch of robots to sing this to Aurora, commemorating the anniversary of her waking up.
- Arthur and the Invisibles has Arthur's granny sing it to him in the English dub of the film.
- Police Squad! used the copyrighted tune in one episode when it was originally broadcast, but because of rights issues replaced it with a far funnier droning dirge of a birthday song for subsequent home video release.
- The UK Region 2 copy of the DVD still has the performance of "Happy Birthday".
- One episode of X-Play based around Adam's birthday had fun with this, as his cohost informed him that nobody cared enough about him to spend money on the rights to "Happy Birthday." Instead they opted to have the wait staff from a local restaurant do their birthday song instead.
- Some shows that are predominantly African-American use the chorus of Stevie Wonder's "Happy Birthday" instead. That may also be under copyright, but it's "in sync" with the "hot urban" lifestyle.
- An Internet example: The Funday Pawpet Show have their own birthday song:
"This is your birthday song,It isn't very long."
- A subplot in an episode of Sports Night involves Danny being fined for singing "Happy Birthday to You" on the air, and subsequently trying to find public-domain songs to sing to each of his co-workers. The episode, quoted at the top, also misidentifies the copyright holders (to an extent, as Warner Music Group are publishers, they could be seen as representatives of the Hills).
- An episode of 30 Rock got around this by having the characters sing it in German. (This occurred at the birthday party of a fictional Austrian prince.)
- In a later episode, however, Jennifer Aniston's character does actually sing the song seductively in the style of Marilyn Monroe.
- Lampshaded in another later episode. Kenneth asks, "Did you know that if you sing 'Happy Birthday' on a TV show, you have to pay for it?" When everyone begins singing the song later, it gets interrupted after the first syllable of "happy".
- iCarly hangs a lampshade on it when the characters try to explain why they are in Sadist Teacher Mrs. Briggs' house.
"It's your birthday! Let's sing a Public Domain birthday song! 'For she's a jolly good fellow...'
- In another episode, at Sam's birthday party, they begin to sing "Happy Birthday", only for Freddie to shout out "Not P.D.!" They switch to "For She's a Jolly Good Fellow."
- The TV show Lost in Space celebrated the birthday of one of the characters by doing a song that began "Today is Penny's birthday" done to the tune of "For (S)He's a Jolly Good Fellow."
- Hi-5 has used their own original birthday song:
"Happy happy happy happy birthday,
With love from me to you, may your wishes all come true,
Happy happy happy happy birthday,
Shout hip hip hooray for your very special day..."
- In a Season 5 episode, Chats suggests singing the song. Kellie decides to write her own instead.
- Zig-zagged in the Surprise! tour, where Chats sings the song to herself. Meanwhile Tim and Lauren write their own birthday song, which is the song mentioned above.
- On Are You Being Served?, the floor staff discovered through some incredibly subtle hints that it was Mrs. Slocombe's birthday, and did various things in preparation, including practicing singing "Happy Birthday to You." They also discovered that they didn't actually know her given name, and test the variable portion of the song with different syllables:
Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to youHappy birthday, dear ahh-ahhhhh
- An episode of the short-lived CBC adaptation of Douglas Coupland's jPod had video game programmers attempt to get rights to use the song by kidnapping the rights holder, who just happens to be Canadian. Especially weird, considering that as noted above, the song has been public domain in Canada for years!
- Not weird at all, assuming they would sell the game outside of Canada...
- This was actually sung on a few Sesame Street episodes, such as when the cast celebrated Big Bird's sixth birthday in the 1991 special Big Bird's Birthday OR Let Me Eat Cake. Of course, Sesame Workshop has a hassle getting the song to be sung on home video releases; one episode had to have a brief scene cut just because a character sings the first line of the song!
- Or a brief sketch in which Ernie sings the song to the letter "U", leading to some confusion on the part of Bert, who thought he meant "you", i.e. Bert, whose birthday it isn't.
- An episode in which the cast visits Puerto Rico had them sing it in Spanish. The song has been performed several times on the show, due to TV broadcasts in the United States coming under compulsory licensing standards. They just don't have the rights to release it on home video.
- On America's Funniest Home Videos, videos that feature the song replace it with a wordless version (la la la).
- An episode of Gekisou Sentai Carranger does use the copyrighted version for Blue Racer's birthday.
- In an episode of Get Smart, in order to get Fang (the dog) to blow out a bomb's fuse they sing "Happy Birthday" to him.
- Subverted on Moonlighting, when David Addison and the detective agency's staff throw a surprise party for Maddie Hayes. Instead of either "Happy Birthday" or any public domain options, they sing a different copyrighted song, "Birthday" by The Beatles ("Ya say it's your birthday! It's my birthday too, yeah!")
- Lampshaded in Double Dare (1986), when Harvey began singing a different version of the song (same lyrics, different cadence), but cuts himself off before he sings the sixth word, saying Nickelodeon would have to pay royalties if he sang another word.
- The copyrighted version appears to be Kousei Kougami's favorite song in Kamen Rider OOO. He often sings it while baking cakes.
- Played with in an episode of Community. The episode opens with the cast singing just finishing the song, with only "...to you!" being shown on screen, which would be acceptable under copyright law. Then it's revealed that the episode didn't cut off any lyrics; "To you" was, in fact, the only part they sang. It's then justified in-universe in that the party is for Troy, who as a Jehovah's Witness technically isn't allowed to celebrate his birthday.
- The original version was sung twice in Look Around You at Pam's birthday party, but a new verse was put in between the more familiar one:
Birthdays are a time for celebrationA time when all around you is good cheerSo please all raise your glassAnd party may you laughAnd toast this merry fellow that is here!
- When it's Sophie's birthday on Peep Show, her family sings the Altered Images song "Happy Birthday", to the utter bemusement of Mark and Jez. Maybe they thought if they were going to pay royalties for a birthday song, they may as well wring some comedy out of it...
- On the Sprout network's ''Sunnyside Up Show", the host/hostess sings to all the children whose birthday is that day "Happy, Happy Birthday to You", in which it's noted that "you're good to grow/So count the candles and blow!"
- Sung on Gilmore Girls during Rory's 21st birthday which was held at her grandparents' mansion led by Logan
- Averted on Star Trek: The Next Generation where the Enterprise crew sings "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" in Klingon for Worf's birthday. An annoyed Worf complains that that is not a Klingon song, ignoring the fact that it's also not a song humans typically sing for birthdays.
- A.N.T. Farm playfully hangs a lampshade when Chyna stops Olive from singing it and tells her that she knows how it goes. Lexi also does this to Paisley later on in the same episode.
- On Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, a song called "Happy Birthday" written by Rogers (but with different music and lyrics) is used.
- In addition, the actual Happy Birthday song was actually sung on at least one episode (the fifth "Pets" episode), in a rare aversion to this trope. The reasons it was possible was likely the same as the Sesame Street example mentioned above.
- Punky Brewster once had piano lessons from Henry, who tried to make her play that song.
- 2 Broke Girls has Caroline sing the first line to a customer. However, the melody is highly stylized, almost unrecognisable as the original tune. She's cut off by Max shortly thereafter, appalled at the soulful singing style.
- Saturday Night Live had a sketch where a songwriter (played by Jack Black) had devised an absurdly elaborate miniature Rock Opera that was supposed to be sung at birthday parties in lieu of "Happy Birthday To You". However, "Happy Birthday To You" itself was used right in the beginning of the sketch.
- Breaking Bad had Skyler sing "Happy Birthday" in the style of Marilyn Monroe to her boss, Ted Beneke, even extending "Mr. Beneke " to include his full job title.
- Todd and the Book of Pure Evil parodies this by having the characters sing possibly the dumbest replacement song ever. Multiple times.
Happy Happy BirthdayHappy Happy BirthdayToday is it your birthdayYay yay yay yay yay
- In Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David refuses to sing the song at Ben Stillers birthday party. Hilarity Ensues.
- In Girl Meets World they go the substitute-song route, particularly wincingly since the kids come together spontaneously to sing it with no Lampshade Hanging at all, and it's not even the usual Disney one that they might conceivably have all heard.
- Averted in Mystery Science Theater 3000. On several occasions, Mike/Joel and the Bots will break into a rendition of "Happy Birthday" only to stop or trail off before the first line is finished.
- Subverted in the Barney & Friends episode "Happy Birthday, Barney!"; while Min initially sings the titular song in Tagalog, "Maligayang Bati", the song is eventually sung in English as the cake is wheeled out. The show likely falls under the same case as Sesame Street above.
- In one episode of the the Canadian sketch show, The Red Green Show, Red visits his nephew Harold at his office job in the city on his birthday. Red brings Harold a present: his old video effects switcher from the show. Red has Harold press a button on the switcher, which plays a Minsky Pickup-type sound. Then along come several other members of Possum Lodge to sing "Happy Birthday" to Harold, but they sing out of tune and hold several notes for long periods of time. Harold is so embarrassed at this site that he picks up the phone on his desk and calls security.
- One episode of The Goldbergs heavily discusses it. After Erica refuses to sing the Dreidel song, leaving the school with no Hanukkah songs for the holiday show, meaning they can't sing any Christmas songs either (religious equality), Beverly tries to convince Erica to write her own song. She refuses until Barry steps up, claiming song writing is easy money, because "Happy Birthday" is a simple tune that nets "those two old ladies" millions every year (the episode aired in 2016, but is set in "198-something"). Barry's song is unusable (it includes references to Judah Maccabee fighting pterodactyls), and Erica's song is just "Happy Birthday" with "Hanukkah" substituted in. The music teacher points out she can't use it without paying "those two old ladies," so they're still left without any songs.
- The October 10, 2015 strip of Thatababy spoofs the copyright expiring on the song. As the main family is celebrating the father's birthday at a restaurant, the employees are performing an original salsa-themed birthday song, to their annoyance and the family's amusement, until another employee calls out the traditional "Happy birthday" song is now public domain, so they switch to singing that, to their enjoyment and the family's disappointment.
Garfield: Happy Birthday to meHappy Birthday to meHappy Birthday dear GarfieldHappy Birthday tooo meee!Jon: Happy Birthday to youHappy Birthday to you...Happy Birth-Day, you're for-ty...Happy Birthday tooooo yoooou! (gets cake splashed at his face)And ma-ny mooooore.
- On Bear in the Big Blue House, a new song for Tutter's birthday was made up called "Happy, Happy Birthday."
- The Noddy Shop had a weird example of this trope: the song "Partytime", while being a song about birthdays, only says "Happy Birthday" once and is more about how giving is better than receiving on birthdays.
- A BBC Radio 4 digest of the Edinburgh Festival had an impromptu live performance of the song interrupted by an American lawyer explaining to the producer precisely why they couldn't use that song, so that all we hear is the opening "Happy Birthday " and closing " to youuuuu!"
- In On the Town, the emcee at Diamond Eddie's invites the crowd to sing "Happy Birthday" for a "man we all know and love" whose name means nothing at all to the main characters or the audience. Oddly enough (for probably this reason) the script doesn't contain the lyrics or music; it only instructs the actors to sing "Happy Birthday."
- Hallmark's Request a Song Mimi has a original birthday song, unimaginatively titled "The Happy Birthday Song".
- Hatchimals typically sing a version referred to as the "Hatchy Birthday" song among hatching from their eggs or when growing into another stage. They sing gibberish sounds to the tune of the traditional song.
- The original DS version of Ghost Trick plays the first five notes of the song as part of a celebratory Rube Goldberg device, since the melody isn't under copyright. Regardless, the later iOS port adjusted the last couple notes so that it was no longer a match.
- In the Japanese, Korean and Chinese versions of the Pokémon games after Generation VI, the Happy Birthday song plays in the background during the first time the player enters a Pokémon Center on their birthday, and a celesta version of the usual Pokémon Center music plays during subsequent visits on that day. However, in other languages, the aforementioned Pokémon Center theme is played instead of the birthday song during the first visit.
- In Tomodachi Life, when a Mii's birthday rolls around, other Miis will sing the "la, la, la" version of this song to them.
- In the anime version of Aim for the Top! GunBuster Noriko's first near lightspeed mission goes awry and due to time dilation she misses her shared birthday with fellow pilot Jung Freud. In the PS2 video game version however it is possible to complete the mission on time, rewarding the player with Noriko and Jung singing Happy Birthday to each other.
- In Animal Crossing: New Leaf, on your birthday or the Saturday just before it, you can request "K.K. Birthday", a song that sounds kinda like Happy Birthday, but is distinct enough to evade copyright troubles. This despite the fact that K.K. only sings in Simlish.
- This Partially Clips cartoon has fun with it.
- In El Goonish Shive, Elliot suggests singing "a Happy Birthday song" to Susan; subtly referencing this trope. In The Rant, Shive references it directly mentioning if the scene comes to pass he will "come up with [his] own horrible lyrics".
- In Bobbins, Amy's coworkers singing a mangled version of the song's lyrics on her 18th birthday may be a nod to this trope.
- When Michelle sings "Happy Birthday" to herself in the Scrambled Eggs comic "Leap of Doom," she uses the lyrics for the This Loser Is You version. (Happy birthday to you, you live in a zoo )
- On the web version of the Homestar Runner short "Strong Bad Sings", the song plays during the "Strong Mad Forgets the Words To His Favorites" scene. On the DVD version, it's changed to Hot Cross Buns.
- In How Did This Get Made?? the team is speculating about an imagined version of From Justin to Kelly which used entirely public domain songs, singing various Standard Snippets to each other in overwrought American Idol-style oversinging "oooOOooh, country 'tiiIIIIiis of theeee ". June-Diane then sings the first line of "Happy Birthday", prompting both Paul and Jason to yell at her for bankrupting the show.
- Blue sings the first two lines of it in the second episode of Dick Figures.
- In enttry 37 of Marble Hornets, Alex Kralie's family (and a special, uninvited guest) celebrate Alex's fifth birthday exactly as a normal human being would. With the addition of a Humanoid Abomination singing along.
- Averted in the May 2016 episode of Barbie Vlog. Chelsea hums the tune of the "Happy Birthday" song.
- In King of the Hill, to celebrate his birthday, Bill uses an incredibly awkward replacement song which goes "Someone's got a birthday, I wonder who!" over and over and over again!
- In the episode immediately following that one, the same song is used in Dale's flashback to his childhood birthday party.
- In The Powerpuff Girls episode "Birthday Bash" everyone is about to sing the song. However, they are quickly stopped by Bubbles shouting "No singing!", because the Girls are in a hurry to get to opening their presents.
- In an episode of Metalocalypse, Murderface is treated to a birthday-themed death metal song entitled "Birthday Dethday": "Many years ago today/Something grew inside your mother it was YOU"
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force references this trope in the episode "Spirit Journey Formation Anniversary," by having Shake commission Zakk Wylde to write a new, heavy-metal birthday song. It's all an attempt to cash in on royalties (expecting everyone to replace the traditional song with his new one and then pay him for using it).
- He got Geddy Lee in on the project too.
- Spoofed in an episode of Futurama. While celebrating Nibbler's birthday, all of the cast sing a similar but different song (in lyrics and melody), which is assumed to be a version that was adopted sometime in the future. Fry, being from the 20th century, sings the line "And you smell like one, too!" with the original melody after everyone had finished.
- In Bionic Six, the characters sing a song loosely based on the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah.
- Dora the Explorer got away with using the song with Spanish lyrics on one of its episodes. Nickelodeon's parent company, Viacom, presumably paid for rights to use the song.
- Averted in the episode "Whose Birthday Is It?", when the cast sings the traditional Happy Birthday song to Swiper.
- Pingu also managed to feature the song in the episode when Pingu celebrated his birthday, but then again, his friends were singing the song in Penguinese (a gibberish language everyone speaks on the show), and the show was animated and voiced in Switzerland, so they were able to get away with it.
- The American Dragon: Jake Long episode "Bite Father, Bite Son" has a similar birthday song to the one in The Emperor's New Groove. Same melody, but slightly different lyrics.
- The writers of Arthur simply wrote a new birthday song for one episode, which has the same melody as "My Darling Clementine".
"Happy Birthday, it's your day,
- On the other hand, Microsoft followed in the Berenstain Bears' footsteps by writing a birthday ditty around London Bridge for the Actimates D.W:
It's your day, It's your day!
Happy birthday, it's your day,
you're one year older"
- An episode of The Berenstain Bears entitled "Too Much Birthday" (based on the book of the same name) has, as mentioned in the previous example, everyone sing to the tune of "London Bridge":
"Happy birthday, Sister Bear,Sister Bear, Sister Bear,Happy birthday Sister Bear,We all love you!"
- The Simpsons:
- A Wall E. Weasel establishment has a cheap animatronic animal band singing "You're the birthday - you're the birthday - you're the birthday - boy or girl!"
- In another episode, a group of waiters sing "Happy First 'A'", to Bart, when he celebrated that.
- A classic early episode had a guy who claimed to be Michael Jackson serenade Lisa; "Lisa, it's your birthday...happy birthday, Lisa!"note
- Earlier in the same episode Lisa sang a forlorn "Happy Birthday to Me" to herself, since she was the only one in the family who remembered her birthday.
- And who can forget the famous/infamous "Happy Birthday" song The Ramones played to Mr. Burns in his birthday. Just 15 seconds, and just the "Happy Birthday to YOU!" chorus, and they left the poor old man trembling and angry.
Mr. Burns: Have The Rolling Stones killedSmithers: But, sir...
- In the first season episode where Homer buys Marge a bowling ball after forgetting her birthday, they go to a restaurant with singing waiters, who do sing the actual song "Happy Birthday to You."
- In the season 5 episode "Rosebud," Burns and Smithers are discussing the preparations for Burns' upcoming birthday:
Smithers: On another topic, the preparations for your birthday have begun.Mr. Burns: I won't get what I really want.Smithers: No one does.Smithers has a fantasy of a naked Burns popping out of a cakeMr. Burns: (singing à la Marilyn Monroe) Happy birthday, Mr. SmithersSmithers: Mmmmm
- In the Simpsons comic "Hotfoot in the Park" (issue 93), Homer and his pals became volunteer firefighters. When they realized they couldn't do anything when a fair caught on fire, Ralph comes up with an idea to put out the fire, by singing the birthday song and blowing it out like birthday candles. The whole cast begins to sing the song, but then the Blue-Haired Lawyer comes in warning them about the royalties of the song they'd need to pay to sing it before he passes out from the smoke. So Lisa writes up a new unique birthday song (" pleasant birthday to that person, we're glad you're not dead!") and then they all blow on the fire, which actually extinguishes the blaze!
- In "Krusty Gets Busted", a little girl was having her birthday celebrated at Krusty's show and Krusty offered her a choice: have Krusty sing her a birthday song; or have Sideshow Bob shot off a cannon. She chose the cannon.
- In The Venture Bros., Dr. Girlfriend was going to surprise The Monarch wearing panties and a strategically placed bow (and boots and pillbox hat) singing "Happy Birthday" a la Marilyn Monroe to JFK, but instead sang "For He's a Sexy Good Fellow." In that stevedore voice of hers.
- An episode of Garfield and Friends gives us this little number.note
- Home Movies has an episode at Fenton's birthday party, with a birthday song so annoying and asinine that it's an object lesson against copyrighting tunes like 'Happy Birthday'.
- In Adventure Time, the party-goers at Finn's birthday party are only heard singing the last two words to the song.
- Gravity Falls gets away with the same trick in "Weirdmageddon 3: Take Back The Falls".
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic had Pinkie Pie sing a variation to the Cake's newborn twins ("Happy happy Birthday to you and you today
") but she gets cut off by the nurse before getting any further (singing in a maternity ward and all). She's later able to finish it, albeit as "Happy Monthiversary," which celebrates the twins'
well, one-month anniversary of their birth. Witness it here.
- In a later episode, Pinkie Pie sings a special birthday song at Rainbow Dash's birthday party.
- South Park: In a Christmas Episode, the lonely birthday boy was singing "Happy Birthday to Me".
- In an episode of Rugrats entitled "Baking Dil", Didi (who is celebrating her birthday in that episode) and her friend Betty go out for lunch at a restaurant where a quartet sing a birthday song for her to the tune of "Rule Britannia". In order to stall her (as there was a surprise birthday party for her at home), Betty gets the quartet to sing her an anniversary and a Bar Mitzvah song, too (also to the tune of the aforementioned song).
- "Happy Birthday To You" was used as background music in a Popples episode about Bonnie's birthday when the kids see a cake in Bonnie's room.
- Spongebob Squarepants:
- Happy Birthday Squidward! Pin the tail on the seahorse!
- Free cheers on your birthday, SpongeBob! Free cheers for you!
- Clerks: The Animated Series: Averted; they sing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" instead.
- Sockarang sings a Happy Birthday song to Axe Cop to the tune of "B-I-N-G-O."
- The Wander over Yonder episode had a fast-paced, high-energy song "It's Your Happy Birthday," Wander performed for Lord Hater.
- Strawberry Shortcake has the original song "A Very Happy Birthday" written for the episode "Meet Strawberry Shortcake", which was sung at the end of the episode when they were celebrating Apple Dumplin's birthday. Yes, American Greetings cashed in on the song by producing musical greeting cards that play that too.
- In the ChalkZone episode "Lost In Chalk", the characters sing a new song written for Snap's birthday ("Happy birthday to you, happy birthday, Snap!")
- In The Smurfs episode "All Hallows' Eve", the Smurfs sing a happy birthday song to Jokey to the melody of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas".
- Regular Show's Farmer Jimmy is not a fan of the song's composition and stages a contest in order to find a replacement. The anthropomorphic personification of the song is allowed to sing it at the contest, but gets interrupted at various points as if to invoke this trope. He does end up slowly singing the full song. During production, the crew were worried the episode wouldn't make it past planning because of the song's rights, but it did because Cartoon Network is owned by the same parent company (Time-Warner).
- The Mixels episode "Elevator" has nearly the same lyrics as the real song, but to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star".
- The Trash Pack episode "Completely Armless" makes their own song up that lampshades this issue.
Birthday song, the birthday song,
It's all for you, 'cause it's not too long.
(We don't have the rights to the real) Birthday song!
- In an episode of The Fairly Oddparents where Timmy celebrated his birthday, Chip Skylark sang a birthday song for him to the tune of "My Shiny Teeth and Me", a song originally written for the show. He even lampshades this in the lyrics, mentioning that this birthday song "is royalty-free".
- At the beginning of one episode of The X's, the family is celebrating Truman's birthday and they sing the song for him, though all the viewers hear is " and many more!"
- Similarly to the Bionic Six example above, an episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron features a birthday song to the tune of the Hallelujah chorus.
- One episode of Class of 3000 involved a birthday party for Eddie, and at one point, the other characters are heard singing "And you smell like one too!" to a pinata version of him (it's a long story).
- Cool McCool: For his birthday Harry McCool is serenaded with this original version.
- One episode of Teen Titans Go! involves Beast Boy's birthday. Robin keeps on breaking the forth wall about how the characters can't afford the normal "Happy Birthday" song. However due to the Animation Lead Time the episode came out after the copyrights expired. A later episode would have the characters singing the song three times in a row without raising any issue about the rights.
- Elena of Avalor: In "Island of Youth", Esteban's birthday is celebrated and a birthday song is played. It's not the famous one.
- Time Squad: On Otto's birthday, Larry and Tuddrussel sing a birthday song that we as the audience has to assume is traditional in the year 100 Million.
- Beat Bugs doesn't use this for its birthday episode. But then again, would you use this when your show has the rights to use "Birthday" by The Beatles?
- Twenty-five years before the song became public domain, Tiny Toon Adventures had an episodenote actually use the tune at Monty's birthday party. Justified as the show was by Warner Bros., which held the rights to the song at the time.
- The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Gift" is about Darwin and Gumball trying to find the right gift for Masami's birthday. When she says she just wants her friends to sing "Happy Birthday", the two try to oblige but get tackled by the police (for unrelated reasons), and the episode ends.
- Pinkalicious & Peterrific actually got away with singing the song in "Best Pink Present", since the show was in production at the time that the song entered the public domain.
- The Disney Silly Symphonies short "Elmer Elephant" has the song sung at Tilly Tiger's birthday party.
- Chain restaurants like Applebee's, Bennigan's, and TGI Friday's usually make a fuss over customer birthdays, but before "Happy Birthday" definitively entered the US public domain, the staff had to sing an original corporate birthday song or chant because it is a "public performance"; if they sang "Happy Birthday", a paid license would have been required. Since, as previously mentioned, it's only the lyrics that were copyrighted, not the melody (although apparently you could still be sued for translations, as noted with Star Trek performing it in Klingon above), this tends not to be the case at foreign-food places; for example, a certain Italian chain restaurant sings a Pavarotti-esque rendition of "Happy Birthday" in Italian, albeit with the lyrics completely changed as opposed to a straight literal translation to avoid any chances of a lawsuit. Even with "Happy Birthday" now PD, the restaurants still typically use their original material, more out of inertia than anything else.
- Until they got an incredible amount of flak, the rights holders to the song were threatening to sue the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts for use of the song (without, of course, having purchased a performing rights license) at campfires and scouting events. The bad publicity wasn't just loud, it was positively deafening, so much so that they agreed not to do so.
- Italian rock band Elio e le Storie Tese had the song "Al mercato di Bonn" removed from their 2003 album "Cicciput", because it was about the discovery that Beethoven wrote the melody for "Happy Birthday to You", and thus contained a sample of the song, lyrics and all. Luckily for the fans, they managed to "accidentally" broadcast the song during a popular radio show.
- This resulted in Malaysia actually adopting a different and original Malay birthday song. Up until the 90s, the defacto Malay birthday song was a literal translated version of "Happy Birthday to You". Then Warner Music Group stepped up and demanded royalties from performances of the song left and right. The Malaysian government responded by commissioning a new Malay birthday song and started teaching the song in schools and mosques. It's rare to hear the translated version of "Happy Birthday to You" nowadays, although the English version is still sung at private parties and functions held at Karaoke clubs (who had bought the rights to use the tune and lyrics for private performances).