Step right up and join us at the circus
There's a lot to do and see you've never seen before
Everyone is welcome at the circus
Get ready for the show!
Circus music comes in a few recognizable styles. It may be a march played by a brass band, or a cheerful ditty on a calliope, or a sweeping waltz. These styles all used to create a fun and welcome atmosphere at the greatest show(s) on earth. Even music that doesn't exactly fit one of these styles can be used as circus music as long as it keeps that fun, bouncy spirit in some way.
But then, eventually the Monster Clown and Circus of Fear became popular, and that led to Creepy Circus Music — circus music distorted, played in a minor key, or otherwise altered from traditional circus music to make it scary.
Despite that, traditionally happy circus music is still common in fiction. It makes great background music for circus or carnival settings (or an extended slapstick sequence). That's what this trope is for.
Please note that even circus music that's in a major key or has a "traditionally" happy sound still counts as Creepy Circus Music if it's used in a scary context. See Soundtrack Dissonance. To count for this trope, the music has to be used in a genuinely happy and non-threatening context.
- The Boxtrolls has "Cheesebridge Funfair," a short waltz tune on brass and woodwinds.
- Charlotte's Web:
- Played for Laughs with "A Fair is a Veritable Smorgasbord". The music itself has an elegant carnival waltz tune, but the lyrics are very inelegant. In the song, the Goose convinces Templeton the rat to go to the fair so he can chow down on all the food left behind when the fair closes. "Where a rat can glut, glut, glut," is not how most people would happily describe a carnival.
- Later in the movie, the song plays again, this time in a fast-paced madcap style as Templeton raids the fair for leftover food during closing hours, then turns slow and intoxicated towards the end as Templeton gets fat from eating and enters a state of bliss.
- Dumbo has a scene where the circus marches into town, advertising their arrival with a parade and cheerful music.
- Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted features the main gang of zoo animals joining a travelling circus, thus, predictably, has some cheerful circus music — most notably "Afro Circus", sung by Marty the zebra to the tune of "Entry of the Gladiators".
- Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase has the End Credits music being this.
- The English dub of Wabuu the Cheeky Raccoon by Dingo Pictures, reviewed by Phelous here, has a circus organ tune looping throughout the entire film, save for the intro and outtro, even while other situational music pieces are playing. In one scene, the loop plays on top of itself. The tune appears in a few other Dingo films such as Animal Soccer World, albeit not looped.
- In A Day in the Life of a Two Dollar Bill, the toy store scene, alongside the array of dolls, features a circus march titled "Entry of the Artists" by Gerhard Narholz under the alias Otto Sieben.
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: "Me Ol' Bam-Boo" easily qualifies, given it's sung by a group of carnival dancers with a fittingly bouncy and energetic circus-y score.
- In the Elementary episode "Crowned Clown, Downtown Brown", investigating the death of a man dressed as a clown, Watson comes home to find a Calliope cheerfully blasting away inside the brownstone. Understandably, she questions Sherlock on this, who shouts back over the racket that "It's helping to put me in the mindset of someone who'd want to kill a clown!"
- In The Good Place, Eleanor's house is decorated with clown posters, because real Eleanor likes clowns and Eleanor doesn't dare take them down because of The Masquerade. The coup de grace is the bedroom doors, which slide together to the sound of circus music ending in a cheer, revealing an extra-huge clown painted on them. Played for Laughs in that Chidi isn't so pleased by the whole thing.
Chidi: Well, that's terrifying.
- The series I Love Toy Trains, which showcases toy trains and real trains, would sometimes show off model carnival sets. These scenes would have happy carnival music playing in the background.
- LazyTown: In "The LazyTown Circus", Robbie and the other LazyTown residents sing "Welcome to the Circus" (also called "Time to Start the Show"), which is all about the fun things at the circus they're holding. Robbie is disguised as the ringmaster and is plotting to use the circus for an evil purpose (getting rid of Sportacus), but doesn't indicate this in the song, instead getting quite invested in his ringmaster performance. The others genuinely want to put on a good show.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus: A strange example. The show's theme song is "The Liberty Bell," an upbeat brass band march tune by John Philip Sousa. The Pythons mainly chose it because it was in the public domain, but it does fit the "Circus" in the title (which was chosen by BBC executives), along with the wacky and surreal nature of the show.
- Only Murders in the Building: In "Flipping the Pieces," a cheerful, nostalgic circus waltz tune is heard as Theo plays a claw crane game at Coney Island.
- Derek and Brandon Fiechter's "Circus Performers" is a slow but upbeat waltz on organ meant to accompany a circus scene. This is perhaps the only circus song (out of several) they've composed that isn't Creepy Circus Music.
- Of course, no list of happy circus music is complete without the original and best-known — Julius Fucik's "Entry of the Gladiators". Yes, that's the song's name. Interestingly, it seems that the use of this piece to represent clowns was originally meant in itself as a joke, but the loss of context means that "Entry of the Gladiators" is now considered the Standard Snippet for circus music, having lost its original meaning. Nowadays one can only wonder why Mr. Fucik thought that such an upbeat and whimsical song should take its name from a caste of badass warriors trained to bloodily maim each other.
Youtube Comment: You are not a gladiator. You are the entire Colosseum.
- The other iconic circus song is "Sabre Dance". What is it with these goofy songs getting such badass names?!
- Juventino Rosas' "Sobre las Olas" ("Over the Waves") is a cheerful waltz that is often covered by calliopes and circus orchestras. It has also been made into the English song "The Loveliest Night of the Year".
- Marc Andre Hamelin's "Circus Galop" is an incredibly fast and energetic circus theme written for player piano however, it is evident that things get out of hand soon, veers into Creepy Circus Music and all ends in a fatal accident.
- Marc Jungermann's "The Carousel", described as "Happy Carnival/Funfair Music" is a simple calliope waltz tune, with ambient carnival sounds as well.
- Kevin MacLeod has written a few songs in this style:
- The B-section of Boots Randolph's "Yakety Sax" interpolates the first two bars of "Entry of the Gladiators".
- Russya has "Зачароване Коло" which definitely evokes this sound.
- BioShock has the "Circus of Values" vending machines, which greet users with a cheery little ditty. The music itself is cheerful; the effect on the player (particularly by the time you've heard it twenty times already) is very much not.
- Inkwell Isle 2, which is an Amusement Park, has some jaunty orchestral music.
- The music for the circus level "Funfair Fever" is a light ragtime-esque tune on piano and flute.
- "Coin-Op Bop" was written for a minigame in the amusement park area. It sounds like it was played on a fairground organ, and it starts out quite upbeat. However, as the song goes on, it does get faster and eventually switches to a minor key, turning it into Creepy Circus Music.
- Goat Simulator: In Cabrito Park, the Amusement Park in the city level, a traditional-sounding carnival waltz tune plays. The song sounds slightly off-key, fitting the game's Stylistic Suck nature.
- King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow: The Leitmotif of Jollo, the Court Jester, is a happy, calming waltz tune on music box and flutes/calliope.
- Klonoa: Door to Phantomile: "Inquisitive Waltz" is an unusual example. The music itself fits the "happy circus" mood perfectly, as a cheerful waltz on a fairground organ. However, rather than being used in any circus setting, it's only used in the "name your profile" menu when you start a new game. The beginning of the game is quite cute, so this music fits the beginning, but the game gets quite dark as it goes on, so it's less fitting for that.
- Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil:
- The game's main theme, "Welcome to Lunatea", starts out with a bright, sparkly melody before transitioning to a waltz tune on a fairground organ. Like the Inquisitive Waltz from Door to Phantomile, it is not explicitly used in a circus context, but it captures the feel of circus music perfectly and gets players excited for the adventure ahead.
- Joilant Fun Park has its own cheerful brass band music.
- Momett, the showman of Joilant Fun Park, has a jaunty ragtime leitmotif called "Quenchless Curiosity" that sounds like something straight out of an old-timey carnival.
- Mega Man 8: Clown Man's stage, a colorful carnival-themed level, is accompanied by an upbeat theme on music box, strings, and drums.
- Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl: Glove World's background music is a bouncy, quirky organ theme. It even incorporates the Mocking Sing-Song tune for extra comedy.
- Part Time UFO's Circus levels use an appropriately bombastic and jaunty version of the title theme.
- Sam & Max Hit the Road: "Carnival of the Odd" is a quirky, bouncy theme on calliope and brass. While the Kushman Brothers' Carnival, where the song plays, is a bit of a Crappy Carnival, it is always played either for laughs or as a genuinely fun place.
- The Simpsons Game: "The Land of Chocolate 2" can be best described as "Calming Circus Music".
- Super Mario Bros.:
- In Paper Mario: Color Splash, Mossrock Theater and the Emerald Circus have an upbeat ragtime track play while battling certain enemies on stage. There's even an old-timey piano variant.
- Super Mario Sunshine has a rather unusual example with the Pinna Park music. It's a swingy tune on piano/xylophone, not quite what you'd expect from an amusement park. However, it still keeps the fun, bouncy spirit of more traditional circus music.
- Super Mario 3D World: The level Switch Scramble Circus has a very fun, bouncy orchestral theme.
- Toonstruck: "Fun Fair", a happy calliope waltz by Dick Stephen Walter, plays during the puzzle to get into Spike the clown's room. It's a Simon Says Minigame where you click different parts of a giant clown face.
- 3-2-1 Penguins!: Played straight and then subverted in "The Amazing Carnival of Complaining". Uncle Blobb sings an upbeat song about his carnival (accompanied by him playing a calliope). However, Blobb soon switches to singing about why his visitors shouldn't like his carnival or any of the rides, since he secretly has an evil plan depending on this. The tune stays mostly the same, though.
- The theme to Bozo: The World's Most Famous Clown certainly qualifies. The original recording is a little slower than the version in the cartoon.
- Garfield and Friends: Binky the clown is often accompanied by upbeat calliope music. In one episode, he is shown to actually have a calliope in the back of his clown car, and he sings and plays "Happy Birthday" in a similar style.
- Little Clowns of Happytown: The Expository Theme Tune, which introduces the Little Clowns and tells about how they spread happiness, is done in a circus march style.
- Looney Tunes: The calliope instrumental in the Cool Cat cartoon "Three-Ring Wing Ding" was reputedly first composed to be the new Merrie Melodies theme (replacing "Merrily We Roll Along"). Snippets of it are heard on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, in the very opening title (with the faces of Bugs, the Road Runner and Coyote in the spotlights) and at the opening title of Bugs' cartoons.
- The Magic Roundabout's opening theme is an upbeat, bouncy organ tune meant to create a cheerful mood for the show, and to fit the titular Magic Roundabout or carousel.
- Rocko's Modern Life: In "Wacky Delly", the in-universe Wacky Delly cartoon has upbeat fairground organ music playing in the background. While the cartoon has nothing to do with a circus, the music still sets a comical mood for the surreal cartoon.
- The Simpsons: In "Homie the Clown", Homer sees an ad for Krusty's Clown College, and despite his insistence "That advertisement had no effect on me, whatsoever.", he starts seeing clown imagery everywhere, accompanied by a cheerful circus tune.