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Mickey Mousing

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"He was playing music... while I did stuff!"
Francis, Malcolm in the Middle

Scoring a segment such that the music punctuates the physical motions occurring. This is a technical term coined in the animation industry in the 1930s, though the practice of synchronizing actions to the rhythm of the music goes to the days of silent film.

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 sound cartoons 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.

For video games 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 
  • 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. As a result of this, the battle-sequence plays more like an Olympic gymnastics highlights-reel.
  • 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 episode 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.
  • The ED theme of Urara Meirocho, Go to Romance. Not only are the girls' movements and camera cuts perfectly timed with the music, several of the lyrics directly refer to their moods and actions during their respective portions of the sequence.
  • This pops up attached to certain characters in Symphogear. Specifically Autoscorers, which are "living" puppets; only two actually make those sounds and fittingly both are Cute and Psycho in personality. This is also in-universe examples as it's implied that the sounds they make are heard by the cast.

  • A stand-up routine by Bill Bailey explains how scoring children 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]

    Eastern Animation 
  • Nu, Pogodi! synchronizes the action with its eclectic soundtrack.

    Films — Animation 
  • Parodied in The Emperor's New Groove, when Kronk provides his own theme music.
  • 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.
    • Of particular note is the "Dance of the Hours" segment, where timpani sound every time a character falls down. They were not part of the original piece, they were added just to underscore the pratfalls.
  • Likewise Disney's version of Peter and the Wolf in Make Mine Music.
  • Used extensively in Kung Fu Panda 2 (fittingly enough) during the fight scene in the musicians' village.
  • In The Princess and the Frog, this is subtly done throughout "Down in New Orleans", mainly to beats of the trumpets.
  • In Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion, the opening theme tune is set in rhythm with the inhabitants of the village, including the chickens pecking, Fulliautomatix hammering, etc.
  • Frozen:
    • Used in "Frozen Heart" with the ice harvesters as they go about their business
    • Used in "Let It Go" as Elsa builds her ice palace
  • Subtly used in Turning Red in the track "Turning Panda" where some of the beats are in time with Mei's transformation poofs and her bed creaking.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 2012 logo for Universal has a glare on the company name that beams in time with the final notes in the fanfare. The 1994 and 2009 logos for 20th Century Fox do something similar with the sun flashing at the fanfare's midway point.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): The entire score steps up a key in tone each time one of the Guardians adds themselves to the chain in order to control the Infinity Stone.
  • Spider-Man: Peter learning to wall-crawl has this.
  • The Amazing Spiderman 2: During the final standoff between Spidey and Electro, the latter converts himself into his energy form and starts jumping between the coils of the power plant while punching Spidey in between. Every time he switches from one coil to another, he makes them emit a tone, creating a Tesla-coil rendition of "Itsy-Bitsy Spider". Spidey himself isn't particularly thrilled.
    Spider-Man: I hate this song!
  • The absurdly famous "Knife" cue from Psycho is kind of a funny aversion, compounded with Beam Me Up, Scotty!. If you watch the scene carefully, the music is NOT Mickey Mousing. However when people mimic the scene by making a stabbing motion and singing "Reent! Reent! Reent! Reent!" they will synchronize it.
  • The Great Dictator: Charlie Chaplin shaves a customer in perfect synchronisation with the 5th Hungarian Dance. See here. Impressively, he also did it in one take.
  • Shanghai Knights features this during the market fight scene. This is an homage to Singin' in the Rain, one of the films that inspired Jackie Chan's style of filmmaking.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey used this for several extended scenes, including spacecraft in flight. The music wasn't actually written for the film, so they simply chose the most accurate piece to use for the individual sequence.
    • The score as we know it was originally just used by Kubrick as makeshift editing music, so he'd have something to work with. It turned out he liked it so much he threw the entire original score, which had already been written and recorded, out of the window. (And this may have been his plan all along: Also Sprach Zarathustra, in particular, is suspiciously thematically appropriate.)
    • When auto-docking with a space station in the game Elite, it plays "On the Beautiful Blue Danube", in reference to 2001. (Not all of editions of Elite do this, though.)
  • Still with Kubrick, in A Clockwork Orange the overture to "La Gazza Ladra" is used in two places, and apart from heralding bouts of the old ultraviolence, in at least one of them (the fight of Alex and his droogs against a rival gang in an abandoned theatre) the music goes together with the tremendously violent action in the screen.
  • The Blues Brothers:
    • Used during the "SCMODS" sequence. During the chase, when their car crashes into a music store and then rolls out again, the sound of a drum falling over is synchronized with the music.
    • Used when the eponymous duo are trying to sneak into the performance, with the band playing "Minnie the Moocher" as the music (although being heavily musically inclined, the two are doing it on purpose).
  • King Kong: It's most noticeable during the famous "taking off the dress scene", when Jack is climbing on rocks, and when the tribal chief walks (or rather, marches along to the soundtrack) down to greet the film crew.
  • The Cat in the Hat: While attempting to get back the pet dog, Nevins, Conrad and Sally attempt to sneak in, all the while the sound of their footsteps punctuated by the Cat playing on his whiskers. They look at him, and he replies "I thought the moment needed something."
  • The main Jurassic Park theme does this a few times. When it is first played, there is a prominent cymbal crash that lines up perfectly with a rather spectacular crashing of waves against a large rock pillar, just off the coast of the main island. When it is reprised during the climactic battle between the T-Rex and the Velociraptors, the repeat of the main riff begins at the exact moment the one surviving Raptor decides to take on the Rex all by herself, and the riff comes to its crescendo just as the Rex howls in agony from the Raptor's bite. Not to mention that the song's dramatic beginning is timed perfectly to coincide with the sudden appearance of the Rex.
  • Stardust: A swordfight between Captain Shakespeare's pirates and Septimus's soldiers is set to the Can-Can — as is Captain Shakespeare dancing around in drag.
  • Every Edgar Wright film has at least one scene where everything is timed to the music.
    • Shaun of the Dead: The pub jukebox left on Random. The protagonists beat up a zombie with pool cues in time with Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now".
    • The World's End: During the Four Muskeeters' stop at The Good Companions, the group walks in time to the Doors' version of "Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)" as they try to give the appearance that all is normal on their way to the next whiskey ba—er. Then they sit down at the bar, drink their beers in sync, and finish in time to the conclusion of the bridge.
      Steven: Drinking...
      Oliver: [exhales] Ahhh!
      Steven: ...Beer!
      Andy: Pubs.
      Peter: *BELCH*
      Gary: Shall we?
    • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: Lucas Lee's neck cracks are timed to the Universal theme drum beats.
      • Happens a lot in trailers for films with lots of action sequences, normally with bits from lots of different scenes. For example, a Scott Pilgrim trailer has cuts from a few of the "boss battles" to the beat of "Invaders Must Die" by The Prodigy.
    • Baby Driver: The credits have graffiti glide by the screen matching the lyrics. Then everything in the proper movie is timed to the music, from counting money, to firing bullets, to windshield wipers and police sirens. Even gestures made during a conversation will line up with the beat. It gets to the point where the key to tell things are about to go bad is that something isn't on beat with the song (i.e. during Baby's botched robbery with Eddie, JD and Bats).
      • All of the action, sound effects and music are carefully synchronized.
  • In the climax of That Darn Cat!, Patti kicks Iggy in the shins repeatedly, and her kicks are timed with the orchestra hits of the soundtrack - followed by a cut to Agent Kelso, who delivers several punches to Dan that are also timed with the orchestra hits.
  • Black Narcissus was infamous for this, especially with its climactic scene on two nuns fighting on a cliff.
  • The Court Jester: The final swordfighting scene when Danny Kaye's character gains incredible fencing skills.
  • The "garden tool fight" in Hobgoblins, as pointed out by Crow:
    Crow T. Robot: Their garden tools make little Casio sounds.
  • Pretty much anything with Jerry Lewis incorporates this at some point or another. Justified, since he always played a piece of dummy music whenever he was doing scenes on a set, so that he could use the tempo as a structure for his act, and then replace it with another song with a similar tempo in post-production. He said in a behind-the-scenes video of The Day the Clown Cried that he learned this from Charlie Chaplin, who said he never went on set without a violin or another instrument providing music to structure his own act.
  • Serious examples do exist - one appears ten minutes into the 1932 film "The Most Dangerous Game" (based on the short story of the same name).
  • The Princess Bride: Seen (heard?) during the famous "you killed my father" scene.
    • And also during the chatty swordfight duel. The music stops every time a stroke is parried. The music and the dueling both stop to allow the characters to perform acrobatic feats and talk to one another.
    • Also used the next time Cary Elwes got to go Flynning. During the climactic sword-fight in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, much of the action is synched with the music, including "parry, parry, thrust, thrust, *CLANG* Good!" Not so much the shadow-puppet bit though...
  • Rocky III: "Eye of the Tiger" was written for precisely this reason — the famous training scene had been filmed with "Another One Bites the Dust" in mind, but when they couldn't get Queen to let them use the song, they asked Survivor to write a song with a riff to match Rocky's punches.
  • Featured in Psycho Cop Returns, in a scene where a few notes of music accompany an each bill handed to a night watchman.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
  • Harry Potter:
  • In Orson Welles's preview cut of The Lady from Shanghai, he filled in the spots where music would later go with stock themes from the studio's library, which he thought worked quite well. However, the studio took the picture out of his hands and had an original score composed designed to punctuate the action. This enraged Welles, who dismissed it "a Looney Tunes score".
  • The Last House on the Left: A character is stabbed to death with a jarring electronic chord playing with each stab.
  • TRON:
    • TRON: When Mega-Sark is walking outside the MCP's core, the four electronic beats are from Wendy Carlos' score.
    • Legacy: The Armory Sirens' movements and footsteps are synchronized to the beat of the BGM "Armory".
  • Used briefly in Dr. No, when Bond is crushing the tarantula. The music emphasizes his strikes.
  • The Fifth Element: The music comes from an in-universe opera and emphasizes Leeloo's strikes against the aliens. Seen here.
  • Jim Henson's Oscar nominated experimental short Time Piece was about eight and a half minutes of this trope, where everything was done to a rhythm or musical beat.
  • Johnny English Reborn: During the end credits, English cooks a meal to the strains of "In the Hall of the Mountain King".
  • Hudson Hawk: Two scenes feature two thieves robbing places while...singing and dancing. For them, it's a way to synchronise their actions and time the heist.
  • Done to an almost ludicrous degree in Down with Love, which was an homage and period piece for movies from the sixties. Even a character blinking merits musical stings.
  • Briefly during the climax of The Lone Ranger, there was a section where the gunfire taking out the glass of a window was done matching the "William Tell Overture".
    • Used heavily in the last half of the third trailer with many gunshots.
  • A rare (and rather brilliant) in-universe example occurs in the climax of the Danish caper Olsen Banden Ser Rødt where the gang breaks into a theatre unnoticed by smashing, drilling and demolishing walls in perfect sync with the music the orcastra in the theatre is playing.
  • In 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.
  • Done to unintentionally comic effect in 1960's B Utterfield 8, in the dialogue-free scene in which Elizabeth Taylor wanders around her boyfriend's hotel room (The performance won her an Oscar).
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service: The corrupt leaders of the world and Valentine's henchmen have their heads explode to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance.
  • The Avengers: The action in the scene where Loki crashes a formal ball matches the music being played by the chamber orchestra surprisingly well.
  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout: The trailer pairs up scenes with a version of "Friction" by Imagine Dragons and the MI theme to wonderful effect.
  • Modern Problems: Max's mouth motions, Darcy's pleasured moans and the music all sync up perfectly.
  • Suicide Squad and their famous "Bohemian Rhapsody"-tuned trailer.
  • Much of the opening chase sequence (amongst other parts) in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is scored this way.
  • This happens in the chase scene of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. According to legend, John Williams tried to conduct the orchestra to a cut of the film but it didn't mesh properly. Steven Spielberg later told Williams to conduct as he felt appropriate and Spielberg edited the scene to fit the music.
  • John Wick: Chapter 2 opens on the sound of a high performance car engine growling over a Buster Keaton silent comedy projected onto a building. When the comedian goes crashing through a window there's a simultaneous loud impact sound despite it being a silent movie. The camera then pans down to reveal a motorcyclist has crashed while being chased by John Wick driving his Chevelle SS Aurelio.
  • A New Hope showed a sentry, with the rebel fighters zooming off in the distant background, departing for the final battle with the Death Star. The soundtrack was precisely timed and pitched to each squad's departure. The Special Edition used the same soundtrack to show, directly, the fighters taking off, with less success.
  • The Spirit of '76: As Adam-11 parks his dune buggy, the background music slows and then stops.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: The entire scene with Robotnik conducting experiments on Sonic's dropped quill (and discovering its potentially unlimited power) is interspersed with him busting out various energetic dance moves along to The Poppy Family's "Where Evil Grows". Even the actual experimentation is timed perfectly to the music.
  • Superdome has a reverse example. The opening theme is synced to the printing press shown in the opening sequence.
  • Metallica: Through the Never: When the line of riot police are first shown, they are beating their shields to the rhythm of "Wherever I May Roam."

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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. For Batman, it provided a nice complement to all the POWs!, BIFFs!, BAMs! and ZOTs! whenever the Caped Crusader would lay a righteous smackdown on the bad guys.
  • Parodied in The Avengers episode "The Winged Avenger", which does the same thing in the climactic battle with Hit Flash comic panels, on a Musical Pastiche of Batman's theme.
  • Subverted in the trailer for Cowboy Bebop (2021). Jet puts down the Bebop's window screens in time with the beats of "3, 2, 1, let's jam", but the last one gets stuck and he has to manually fix it.
  • Firefly: In "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 finally drives him to destroy the keyboard in a fit of rage. His flustered attempt to explain himself leads to the page quote.
  • 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 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.
  • Mister 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 on 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 Stompy 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.
  • The opening titles of 30 Rock use this, with character's movements and gestures (especially Frank's) matching the theme tune.
  • Played with in Agent Carter, which has a Running Gag involving a melodramatic Captain America radio show. In episode 2, Carter starts fighting with a man who was listening to the show, and we keep cutting to the radio actors doing foley sound effects as Carter does the punching and furniture breaking for real.
  • The Benny Hill Show: An early episode features a family fixing and eating breakfast in sync to music playing on the radio.
  • I Love Lucy: One episode has Lucy and Ricky falling into rhythm when Little Ricky drums while Lucy fixes, and Ricky eats, breakfast.
  • Legends of Tomorrow. In the episode of that name, Damien Darhk uses his telekinetic powers to casually massacre Time Agents in sync to "Return of the Mack".

  • 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:
    • "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, etc.
    • Arguably, the 1812 Overture Mickey Mouses the story of the 1812 war with France.
  • The album Suspended Animation by Fantômas 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. Taken to its logical conclusion, naturally, by this Flash animation set to it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 ...
  • Big bands of the 1930s-40s who played in the "sweet" style (like Guy Lombardo, Paul Whiteman, Sammy Kaye and so on) were sometimes derisively called "Mickey Mouse bands" due to their arrangements being seemingly tailor-made for Mickey Mousing.

    Music Videos 
  • 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 looking inhuman 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.
  • Michel Gondry's music video for The Chemical Brothers' Star Guitar is a simple but very effective version of this: footage from seven trips on the same train was spliced together and meticulously edited so that every passing building appears on beat, the sun rises and sets with the synth swells, and the train slows down and speeds up with the intensity of the song.
    • His earlier video for Daft Punk's "Around the World" uses a similar technique, with five groups of dancers performing a synchronised routine to the music, with each group of characters symbolising a different instrument in the song. The robots walk rigidly in a circle, representing the repetitive, vocoded vocal. The athletes running up and down the stairs represent the ascending and descending bassline. The disco girls represent the keyboard line that rises and falls in tandem with the bass. The skeletons and mummies dance in time with the guitar and drums, respectively.
  • The music video for Autechre's "Gantz Graf", which syncs a metallic transforming object to the complex structure of the song, creating a very bizarre experience.

  • During the attract mode, The Addams Family will occasionally flip the lower flippers in tune to the finger-snapping of the Addams' Family theme.
  • Mousin' Around!: At the very start of a game, before the ball hits anything, the player's score flashes in time with the beat of the background music.


  • The Rite of Spring used this in its original production.
  • 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).

    Video Games 
  • Two minor examples from Persona 5:
    • One of Morgana's victory animations has him bumping his head right against the screen right as the victory fanfare kicks in.
    • Several major cutscenes in the Velvet Room begin with the protagonist falling asleep, drifting to said room, and waking up on the prison bed inside it (in this game, the Velvet Room resembles a prison). When his eyes open, they open perfectly in sync with the final note of the Velvet Room theme's first measure.
  • In the original Chibi-Robo!, almost every one of the titular robot's actions was accompanied by musical notes. Most notably, his footsteps would each play a random note, with the instrument depending on what surface he was walking on (pizzicato strings for wooden surfaces, glockenspiel for tile surfaces, accordion for carpet, etc.). The sequels after Park Patrol don't use this, however.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • 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 Hyrule Warriors, attacking enemies' weak points causes a musical sting, with a single larger music note hit when you perform the massive attack at the end.
  • 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.
  • The music played during cutscenes in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards occasionally employs this.
  • In the Touhou Project 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.
    • Hina's first appearance in Touhou Fuujinroku ~ 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 Touhou Fuumaroku ~ the 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 the New Super Mario Bros. series: The Goombas and Koopa Troopas, among other enemies, as well as the powerups, interact with the music. Whenever there is a "bah-bah", all of the enemies will stop and do a half-step, hop, or spin in place, depending on the enemy.
  • 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 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 and Winnie the Pooh's Rumbly Tumbly Adventure, essentially making his areas of the games Metal Gear Solid with Mickey Mousing.
  • Inverted 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 Halo: Combat Evolved 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 Athens Station explodes in Halo 2, with another scare chord used when the Chief rides the bomb out of the Cairo. In Halo 3, the Ethereal Choir scale during the Citadel cutscene on "The Covenant" corresponds to the holograms of the seven Halo rings that the camera passes through. During the final Escape Sequence in said game, the music segues to the final phrase exactly when you make the jump to the ship.
  • The boss fights of NieR: Automata often sync phases to the music; the most notable example being the entire first phase of the fight against Beauvoir, with her attacks being on time with the music down to church bells sounding out when she shoots bullets.
  • The entire game in Hi-Fi RUSH. Characters, attacks, and even the cutscenes will move in time with the currently-playing song.
  • 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.
  • Appropriately enough for a series that contains the Trope Namer, Kingdom Hearts opening FMVs tend to time the actions of the cutscenes to Simple and Clean or Sanctuary's tune. Re:Chain of Memories and Re:coded get special mention for pulling off this trope with pre-existing footage out of cutscenes that didn't use this trope.
  • An extremely noticeable 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.
  • In Mortal Kombat X, Guest Fighter Jason Voorhees has Scare Chords play in his Fatalities when he hacks his opponent in two/grabs them by the leg and slams them into the ground.
  • 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. A comedic example of this has the music actually rewind if you take a wrong path.
  • 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 Conker's 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 Nintendo 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.
  • Pokémon:
    • In Pokémon X and Y, The members of the Elite Four will send out their first Pokémon in time with the music.
    • In Pokémon 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 & Luigi: Superstar 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 minor example in DoDonPachi Daifukkatsu Black Label where the midboss of Stage 4 is timed to show up just as the vocals for the background music kick in (and as the video shows, a stream of continuous fire can result in said midboss going down just as the vocal section ends.)
  • Ori and the Blind Forest has this in one segment of the Misty Woods, where an ascending piano scale plays as Ori climbs a set of Temporary Platforms.
  • In Super Mario Galaxy, in the Rolling Green Galaxy, the player stands on top of a ball, rolling it with their feet. The music in the game speeds up and slows down depending on the rolling speed of the ball.
  • In Devil May Cry 5, the Style Rank gauge visibly pulses in time with the background music's drumbeat, providing visual aid to the Variable Mix gameplay.
  • A small but amusing one in Papers, Please: On the opening screen, the title slowly rises into view in sync with the slow, marching brass of the main theme, and then bobs up and down to the same rhythm above the main menu.
  • Played beautifully straight in the penultimate mission of Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown; BGM track Daredevil hits a new level of Orchestral Bombing and One-Woman Wail at 3:14 — the same moment the boss's Hard Light Deflector Shields drop, rendering it vulnerable. (According to YouTube comments, that was in fact the order of operations: composer Keiki Kobayashi turned in the track, and the mission was hastily reprogrammed to synchronize with it.)
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns sometimes does this with the Rocket Barrel levels. For example, in Peaceful Pier, the music becomes more frantic as the pirates fire more and more cannonballs at you. The Truck Driver's Gear Change happens when the pirates decide to bust out their biggest cannon. However, this trope only applies if you don't respawn at a checkpoint, otherwise the music won't match the action.
  • In Mirror's Edge's Time Trial mode, the Start, Checkpoint, and Goal sound effects complement the ambient music track.
  • Axiom Verge synchronizes its Critical Annoyance beep with the background music.
  • BPM: Bullets Per Minute plays with this trope, with the gameplay being firing, dashing, movement, and the attack of enemies being encountered being on sync with the OST being played in the background.
  • In No Straight Roads, all the enemy attack patterns follow the beat of the background music. As such, keeping the beat of the music will help you properly anticipate their attacks.
  • Friday Night Funkin': Everything that moves bounces to the beat, from the characters to the life bar; the bobbing pace is even adjusted for songs with a quicker tempo. In particular, "Bopeebo" has musical stings and sound effects after each of The Boyfriend's verses, which are all timed to him doing a V-Sign. Later on, during the song "Stress", Pico guns down Tankman's various grunts to the beat of the music.
  • Untitled Goose Game uses a piano very similarly to Mister Rogers, reacting to how frantic the action gets.
  • Geometry Dash: The levels are usually designed so that the times you have to click to avoid getting killed match with the background music.
  • In Street Fighter 6, certain characters will move and/or sing to the beat of their own songs as seen with Ryu and Jamie.

    Web Animation 
  • A fun Flash animation example: Shoo Fly from Newgrounds follows a woman named Nelly, who is trying to catch a fly. Her movements are set to a One Piece orchestra track, "Ichijya Tetai" ("One Hour Evacuation"), which makes for quite a fun scene as she attempts to rid of the insect.
  • 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 perfectly, and are even sound coded.
  • 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".
  • "The Imitator" Collab is a Stick Figure Animation hosted by Shuriken255 and animated by him and several others. It follows the eponymous "Imitator" fighting as a mirror against other stick fighters of diverse sorts, synced to "Velocity Shift" by Rob Overseer.
  • Slamacow's character Bart the Enderman does this in Slam's 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.
  • The characters in Daria Cohens The Vampair Series do this a lot while they're singing.
  • This occasionally happens in Video Game Championship Wrestling within the fights proper, or the character intros. Yelling out "SYNC" in chat has become customary for such occurrences.
  • This fan animation of Kirby Star Allies, where Kirby and 3 of his allies run, jump, and move along to the tune of an 8-bit rendition of "Pop Star" from Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards.

  • 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?)

    Web Videos 

  • This fanmade music video for Autechre's "plyPhon", which syncs a path of screws and bolts to the tapping rhythm of the song. Much like the official music videos, it's very bizarre.
  • For the Dream SMP, the opening montage of Quackity's April 12th stream was set to Strauss's "Voices of Spring Waltz", as he travels to Pandora's Vault every day over the course of a month, regardless of the weather, to torture Dream. This sequence is stated in a behind-the-scenes stream to be inspired by A Clockwork Orange (see above in the Live-Action Films section), where all the most violent scenes were similarly set to classical music.
  • Inverted with the YouTube channel Finn M-K, with the formula of backing a video clip (usually popular memes like Steamed Hams) with an original piano and/or bass piece that emphasizes the tone of the dialogue or movements.
  • Kitten vs. a Scary Thing. Never has a tennis ball been so terrifying.
  • Life SMP: Discussed in Season 3, Double Life. During the memorial held for the Relation-Ship on Day 5, the attendees play the music disc "otherside" (which is a light and upbeat march) while watching the structure burn, and make a joke about the burning remains of the Relation-Ship exploding the moment the beat drops in the music.
  • There are numerous fan-made Line Rider maps that synchronize the sled rider with musical pieces. One of the most notable is a map that synced the rider to the hour long album of This Will Destroy You.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Carl Stalling's work for Warner Bros. (which included many of the classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies 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.
    • Inverted in a number of musical cartoons including "Rabbit of Seville" and "What's Opera, Doc?", where the music was predetermined and the characters' actions were matched to it.
  • Scott Bradley's work for Tom and Jerry and other vintage MGM cartoons.
  • Every episode of most cartoons with any sort of budget. For example, Animaniacs, Freakazoid!, House of Mouse, you name it.
  • Hanna-Barbera typically averted this until The '90s when their budgets increased, most notably on Scooby-Doo in Arabian Nights, to the point where the music sounds like something out of a typical Animaniacs episode.
  • Common in The Fairly OddParents!, so much so that in the episode "Pipe Down!", 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.
  • Family Guy: Subverted/parodied several times.
    • 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", Peter 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.
  • 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 Hamill forgot they were supposed to be recording lines during playback and spent a few seconds wondering why the vocal track wasn't working.
  • In the later episodes of Blaze and the Monster Machines, whenever Blaze is honking his melodic horn, the background music plays a piece that syncs up with the honking, even matching its tune perfectly.
  • 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.
  • There were two episodes of Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes which had Tom and Bugs Bunny, respectively, playing Liszt's Second Hungarian Rhapsody. The two are suspiciously similar, right down to Bugs having to contend with an annoying mouse living in his piano. Oh, and there's a Looney Tunes episode based on the Barber of Seville overture. Let's just say that WB and MGM's animation departments did a lot of it in general. The Woody Woodpecker cartoon "Convict Concerto" also made use of the Second Hungarian Rhapsody.
  • The "Hungarian Dances" are some of the most popular pieces used, especially in Looney Tunes: "Pigs in a Polka"
  • 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 Shnookums & 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.
  • Aaahh!!! Real Monsters frequently did this too, in a rare case for a Klasky Csupo series.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: In the episode "Daydream Believer", Jenny's dream chip malfunctions and renders the world around as a pseudo-Disney fantasy land with, appropriately enough, all animation timed to the jaunty background music.
  • Many of Norman Mc Laren's films, such as "Le Merle" and "Boogie Doodle", are planned directly around a soundtrack. Some of his drawn on film experiments, such as "Boogie Doodle", "Pen Point Percussion" or "Synchrony" even went as far as having the soundtrack itself be the animation!
  • Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell used a variety of musical motifs in their scores for Thomas & Friends and TUGS, particularly in comic scenes. Examples include suspenseful drumrolls, ominous bassoons, fluttering woodwinds, siren whistles, Mocking Sing-Song, and Losing Horns.
  • Star Wars Rebels. At the start of "The Siege of Lothal, Part Two", Ezra and Kanan find themselves fighting Lord Vader for the first time. As Vader effortlessly blocks their attacks and tosses them around with the Force, his actions seem to mimic the music being played, hinting at how he's Just Toying with Them. Things get more serious after the title card.
  • The Simpsons: The episode "Deep Space Homer" has a gag in which Homer crunches potato chips in time to the Blue Danube Waltz.
  • South Park: In "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics", at the end of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", Kyle climbs down the ladder to the tune of the song.
  • Molly of Denali: Tooey invokes this trope in "A Sound Idea" when he moves his neck to the sound of a wrench.

Alternative Title(s): Soundtrack Synchronization, Music Punctuates Action


Music while he does stuff

An in-universe example. Otto's pianist nephew stays at the ranch while his immigration papers are being sorted out. To kill time, he messes with Francis.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / MickeyMousing

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