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. 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.
See also Standard Snippet, for tunes like "Entry of the Gladiators" and "Over the Waves" that are synonymous with circuses.
- 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".
- 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.
- 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.
- 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". 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.
- Marc Andre Hamelin's "Circus Galop" is an incredibly fast and energetic circus theme written for player piano.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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: Joilant Fun Park has its own cheerful brass band music.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.