Follow TV Tropes


Mime and Music-Only Cartoon

Go To

A lot of animated short films, especially in the classic theatrical shorts era, were made devoid of dialogue. In these cartoons, only music and basic sound effects are used along with the action on screen to convey the concepts and feelings of the show. Sometimes, when more complex things have to be conveyed, it is done via Talking with Signs. The reason for this is that lip sync is tedious, and the jokes used were often adapted from old musical comedy sketches in vaudeville.

This trope is also used in media. Whenever a TV character is watching a cartoon, chances are they'll be watching one of these. Often we never even see the cartoon, just the glow-illumined face of the viewer, and sometimes the side and back of the TV set. If we do get to see the cartoon, it invariably appears to have no plot beyond various characters running back and forth assaulting each other.

For the gaming spins on this, see Pac Man Fever and Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000. Also compare The Public Domain Channel and No-Dialogue Episode.


    open/close all folders 

  • Daft Punk's Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem is an hour-long anime. The animation is synchronized entirely to the songs in their Discovery album, which sets the scene and mood and even provides some of the sound effects.
  • The shorts that comprise the anthology movie Robot Carnival are all silent, with the exceptions of "Presence" and "A Tale of Two Robots".
  • Daicon III & IV:
    • III only features music and sound effects, with what little dialogue there is being delivered through subtitles.
    • IV forgoes any dialogue or sound effects, with the animation being accompanied solely by music. The closest thing to speech comes from the opening scene's soundtrack: the spoken-word song "Prologue" by Electric Light Orchestra.
  • Shashinkan has the story with without any dialogue or even sound effects in some shots, only what the characters are doing and the music.

    Asian Animation 

    Comic Books 
  • Owly is basically the comic book version of this trope. The series generally has minimal amounts of dialogue, if any.
  • Game Over, the Kid Paddle spin-off featuring the barbarian video game avatar seen in many games that Kid Paddle plays, has no spoken lines aside from the occasional "Blork" and the princess yelping. note 

    Eastern Animation 
Many, if not most, Eastern Block series were made like this, to be easily exported within the block and outside it.

  • The Polish series Dziwne Przygody Koziolka Matolka. Nobody speaks intelligibly; speech is, at best, represented by hollow metal noises.
  • A lot of older Polish animated series, such as Bolek i Lolek or Pomysłowy Dobromir.
  • The Czech series Staflik a Spagetka. There's the crowing crow, but that's all.
  • Nu, Pogodi! is a series of Soviet and Russian cartoons which feature almost no spoken dialogue other than the catchphrase that provides the title.
  • The Hungarian series The Rabbit with the Checkered Ears features no spoken dialogue (except the odd unintelligble whisper).
  • In the Romanian series Miaunel and Balanel, "speech" is always rendered with either the title characters' Leitmotif or a synthetic oscillating figure (often with heavier echo than the music), with very occasional exceptions (in one short, both title characters answer their ringing phone with "Alo?"note  only to find no-one at the other end).
  • The characters in The Little Mole only speak in an unintelligible gibberish, apart from a single word or two.
  • The Hungarian animated short Rabbit and Deer has no dialogue at all, although the characters do make a lot of sound.
  • Similarly, the Latvian cartoon Fantadroms lacks dialogue of any kind, but the show's characters do make sounds such as gasps, laughs, etc. Justified, as the show was made to be understandable to everyone around the world without dubbing the show into other languages being a problem.
  • The Polish short The Nut (1967) has no dialogue, which is understandable since it is about a walnut rolling around avoiding all kinds of obstacles.
  • The Hungarian series Gustavus used sound effects or random unintelligible mumbling in place of dialogue depending on the episode, though very rarely characters would say a word or two.
  • The Czech Pat and Mat series.
  • Aside from grunting noises from the characters, Booba has no dialogue whatsoever.

    Films — Animation 

  • Literary pseudo-example: the surreal children's book Tuesday. It's completely devoid of text other than times, yet nevertheless manages to convey a story about frogs suddenly being able to fly for one night.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Recently, whenever there's been a television showing something besides the news on CSI, they've used clips from Aqua Teen Hunger Force with the basic array of cartoon sound effects instead of the usual music and dialog. Showed up in an episode of The Sopranos, where AJ is seen slacking and watching the show.
  • Shows up in the MST3K episode "Time Chasers," when Crow visits a young version of Mike at a cheese factory's break room where one worker is watching just such a cartoon. As a bonus, the cartoon's dinky music plays over the show's credits at the end.
  • When Dee is visiting her boyfriend in an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, they spend the time together watching one of these cartoons with him being exceedingly amused. This is somewhat justified given the episode's name is "Sweet Dee is Dating a Retarded Person."

    Video Games 
  • In one chapter of Heavy Rain, the protagonists' child watches the same short nonsensical mime and music for hours.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl: The Subspace Emissary plays out like this, with the only spoken dialogue outside of a comment from Solid Snake addressed as much to the player as to other characters coming from Calling Your Attacks.
  • Botanicula is told entirely in gibberish and images.
  • Chuchel doesn't use any word but still manages to be very expressive.
  • From 2005 to 2012, this is how the LEGO Adaptation Games tackled story cutscenes. This would sometimes come into conflict with story beats, requiring creative solutions such as Vader showing Luke a photo of him with Padme rather than the usual. 2012's LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes averted this for the first time by using an original story with full voice acting. 2012's LEGO The Lord of the Rings averted this for direct adaptations by using voice clips from the films, a practice retained to this day and phasing out the trope entirely.
  • Kaze and the Wild Masks contains no dialogue at all; its story is told exclusively through cutscenes and images unlocked by collecting the "KAZE" letters in each level.

    Web Animation 
  • There she is!! is an entire series of web animations done like this with K-pop.
  • In Porkchop 'n Flatscreen!, the number of spoken lines can be counted on a person's hands.
  • Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story
  • Mystery Skulls Animated as expected from a music video, the animated version of Mystery Skulls' features this, with everything that happens syncing up to the beat, but even when characters are just sitting still, they're still bobbing their heads to the music. The only bit of "dialogue" that the videos have is in "Ghost" when Lewis points to Arthur right when the song declares "Fuck, it's you I hate the most".
  • Disney's As Told By Emoji series is a rare modern example of this trope. Although written text frequently appears, the characters "communicate" through facial expressions, physical actions, and emojis, without spoken dialogue.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan video "Let's switch bodies" is animated in the style of a show episode, but with no spoken lines whatsoever.
  • Used throughout Sonic Mania Adventures, with the music being composed by Tee Lopes of Sonic Mania with more Sonic music references than you can shake a gold Ring at.
  • Dinosauria features non anthropomorphic dinosaurs roaming about nature, with no dialogue or voiceover to accompany them.
  • In a Heartbeat mostly fits this trope because the only vocalisations are gasps and muffled squeaks with the occasional sound effect.
  • AstroLOLogy: There's no dialogue outside of some occasional Speaking Simlish. The Japanese dub, however, adds voiceovers with proper Japanese speech to the characters and the messages at the end of every episode, while the Bulgarian sub just adds narration to the opening and end.
  • Most of Pedro Araujo's animations are this. Dialogue is rare, and the only sounds that are heard are sound effects like Pok√©mon cries.

    Web Comics 
  • Most of Homestuck's non-interactive Flash updates qualify. [S] Descend is really the only exception, what with its Squiddles scene.

    Western Animation 
  • The entire silent age had cartoons like this. Music was provided by piano players in the theater.
  • The "Chibi Tiny Tales" shorts for Disney Channel are this.
  • About 75% of the Big City Greens episode "Quiet Please" becomes this, thanks to a warning by the Scary Librarian to not make any sound, not even talking or whispering. The Greens' dialogue becomes a mostly Inner Monologue Conversation thanks to Tilly suggesting they use sign language whenever they need to speak, and there is very little onscreen speaking until they leave the library in the end.
  • One Froggy Evening is just such a musical, no-dialog cartoon. Of course, it does have singing, which might be considered "dialogue" of a sort.
  • Chuck Jones was particularly fond of these; other dialogue-free cartoons of his include the Road Runner/Coyote series (unless you count "beep, beep!" as dialogue), the Bugs Bunny entry Baton Bunny, Much Ado About Nutting, Now Hear This and High Note.
    • Jones often staged 'dialog' scenes where we couldn't hear the speech (often behind glass) but still knew what was going on - see For Scent-imental Reasons, Two Scent's Worth, Beanstalk Bunny.
  • Speaking of bunnies, there's also Untalkative Bunny.
  • Disney did a number of these in the 1930s. "The Old Mill" is particularly noteworthy for its melodramatic depiction of a dark and stormy night.
    • They returned to them in 2012 with the beautiful theatrical short Paperman, and later, several shorts from the Short Circuit program.
  • Tom and Jerry cartoons for a very long time had no dialogue, either.
    "Don't you believe it!"
    • In an episode of Tom and Jerry Tales we actually see the media version of this trope; Tom is sitting lazily on the couch eating popcorn and watching a generic cat vs mouse cartoon.
  • As an extension, The Simpsons' Show Within a Show Itchy & Scratchy (which is based heavily on Tom and Jerrynote ) also seldom have dialog.
  • All but a few of the Pink Panther theatrical shorts from the 1960s and early 1970s were produced in this manner.
  • A modern example is Oggy and the Cockroaches.
  • Most of the Pixar Shorts. Only "Boundin'" with its rhyming narration, "Lava" with its sung dialogue and narration, and the shorts spun off the features, have any dialogue.
  • The Hungarian cartoon Leo and Fred.
  • The short film The Snowman only has the spoken introduction and the lyrics to "Walking in the Air".
  • Shaun the Sheep. Most of the "dialogue" consists of animal noises, and even the human characters only mumble incoherent gibberish. This continues in The Movie, aside from a handful of songs.
  • Go to any video sharing site. Search for "short cartoon". You'll find thousands of these.
  • Although The Adventures of Figaro Pho uses some vocal sounds, like laughing or screaming, there are no actual lines of dialogue.
  • Though they had their share of interstitials filling these requirements in the early to late 1970s, Hanna-Barbera had only one such regular entry: Wile E. Coyote knockoff Blast-Off Buzzard.
  • The 1933 Wizard of Oz animated short virtually has no dialog, save for Dorothy shouting Toto's name at the beginning.
  • Primal (2019) is completely devoid of any dialogue. There's only one prominent human character amongst the slew of prehistoric animals, and since he's a caveman, all of his vocalizations are animalistic yells and grunts. Subverted in the last episode of season 1 when he meets a Cro-Magnon woman who can speak, albeit in Arabic (which he doesn't understand).
  • In the history of the Hanna-Barbera stable, Blast-Off Buzzard was the only entry to fit this trope (though Daws Butler did do the vocal effects for him and Crazylegs the snake). Then again, the segment was based off Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner.
  • Animaniacs had several shorts using this trope: "Babblin' Bijou", the second half of "Potty Emergency" (from the point where Wakko finds the toilet in his bag), "Toy Store Terror" and "White Gloves". All of them, however, have dialogue from the characters at the end.
  • The Christmas Episode of Harvey Beaks was this, aside from the opening and ending, to mimic the feel of Fantasia.
  • Teletoon has commissioned several series of shorts in this style over the years, aired as interstitials.
    • Fly Tales: This adaptation of a French comic series had all of its characters speaking entirely in gibberish rather than any verbal dialogue.
    • Doodlez: The most that Dood and any of the other characters ever make are things like laughs, sneezes, and grunts.
    • W.: While music and sound effects are prominent in every one of the series' 30-second shorts, none ever featured true spoken dialogue.
    • Futz!: Verbal dialogue is wholly eschewed in this series of 3-minue shorts.
    • Chop Chop Ninja Challenge: None of the four ninjas ever speak as they attempt to accomplish the various challenges their sensei puts out for them in these 90-second shorts.
    • Cracked (2016): The closest thing featured to dialogue in this series of 60-second shorts are the occasional squawks, squeaks, screeches, and screams that Ed makes.
  • In Central Park, Season 2 "The Shadow, the last five minutes of the episode are a silent montage of Birdie's life busking in the park when he's not narrating about Bitsy or the Tillermans, backed only by his violin.