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Music / The Cancan Song

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Officially, it's the "Infernal Galop" from Act II, Scene 2 of Jacques Offenbach's 1858 operetta Orpheus in the Underworld.

To the rest of the world, it's simply "the cancan song." And it's usually (although not always) a cue for high-kicking Chorus Girls to hit the stage. To that end, it's a quintessential part of the Public Domain Soundtrack and Standard Snippet tropes.

Because of its high-energy, feel-good nature, its use as a trope falls under one of the following conditions:

  • Type A: Accompanying a performance of the cancan dance itself.
  • Type B: To underscore a comedic/slapstick action sequence.

Remember: not all performances of the cancan (dance) are set to the Cancan Song, and not all appearances of the song signal a performance of the dance.


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Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • The Shop Rite supermarket chain's long-running annual (and more recently, semi-annual) Can Can sale of canned goods. Type A, but with custom lyrics ("Now, Shop Rite does the cancan/Selling lots of brands of/Everything in/Cans cans!")
  • Also Type A: Scottish brewer Irn-Bru set a world record in 2009 by getting 10,000 people to kick up their heels as part of their "Can Clan" campaign. Real cancan dancers were recruited to help out.
  • At one point K-Mart used a variant of the "Infernal Galop" to advertise its then-new(ish) Super Kmart hypercenters.

    Anime 

    Film 
  • French Cancan: Type A, and rightly so.
  • Averted in both the 1952 and 2001 Moulin Rouge films, although Fatboy Slim's thumping version from the latter has become an alternate soundtrack for many dance troupes, and the pitch scene is performed to the same music.
  • Also averted in the Frank Sinatra/Shirley MacLaine film of Cole Porter's Can-Can.
  • Stardust has a Type B usage of the song: the (literally) closeted Captain Shakespeare minces about in his wardrobe while his men on deck engage in an epic sword battle with Septimus's soldiers in time to the beat.
  • Looney Tunes: Back in Action: Averted in the live-action saloon scenes, but played straight as a Type A when Elmer Fudd is chasing Bugs and Daffy through the Louvre and they wind up in one of Toulouse-Lautrec's paintings.
  • Peter's Friends begins with six college friends performing the Can-Can based "The Underground Song" at a school function before graduation. At the end of the movie, they sing the song together at a reunion, cementing their True Companions status.
  • George of the Jungle: Type B, when George beats some mooks.
  • Midnight in Paris: Type A, when Gil and Adriana watch a nightclub performance of the cancan.
  • Easy Virtue has Type A. Larita and Hilda perform a can-can routine for a local pageant. Hilarity Ensues when Hilda mistakenly thinks she should be Going Commando to perform the dance.
    "Is it my imagination, or is your daughter dancing without her scanties?"
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): Type B (the scene where the Royal Chef is chasing Sebastian the Crab, and comic mayhem ensues).
    • Alan Menken had initially wanted to write a completely original piece of music for the chase, but ultimately decided that the "Infernal Galop" just fit it perfectly. Of course, he tried different variations on it before finally deciding, "I'm trying to reinvent the wheel, here; let's just go with the wheel."
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    Live Action TV 
  • The Benny Hill Show had at least two Type A occurences — but in these cases, they were "normal" women (e.g. policewomen, hospital nurses) inspired to kick it up when the song commenced. (Ironically, the one time the show included REAL cancan dancers, they performed to Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance.")
  • A scene in Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: True Ending has this playing when Poppy is getting in the way of Hiiro taking a picture of his supposed daughter winning a footrace.
  • The Muppet Show: One episode has Kermit auditioning new acts, including a group of female rats dancing "The Garbage Cancan" to this song.

    Music 

    Radio 
  • Frequently used as the tune for "One Song to the Tune of Another" on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. Naturally enough, the song chosen will invariably be a tonally inappropriate one — perhaps the best-remembered is Graeme Garden's rendition of "Killing Me Softly With His Song", but other songs used have included "Ain't No Sunshine" (sung by Tim Brooke-Taylor), "Without You" (Tony Hawks) and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (Andy Hamilton) and "Feelings" (Sandi Toksvig).

     Theme Parks 

     Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • Both in As Told by Ginger. In an episode where Carl and Hoodsey enter Brandon's monkey into a pet talent show, Ginger arrives home to find the monkey wearing a skirt and dancing the can-can.
  • The Animaniacs song "Be Careful What You Eat" is sung by Yakko, Wakko, and Dot to the tune of this song about the ingredients in ice cream.
  • In Lautrec, an animated short tribute to the works of Toulouse-Lautrec, the Infernal Gallop is naturally used to accompany the animations of Lautrec's iconic drawings of can-can dancers.
  • In the Pinky and the Brain episode "The Really Great Dictator" when Brain teaches Pinky about what it takes to be a good dictator he sings it to the tune of this song, when Pinky hears it he puts on a dress and does the cancan dance.
  • Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers uses the Infernal Galop as the melody for the song "All for One and One for All".
    • Another example involving the Classic Disney Shorts characters: Ludwig Von Drake performed a spoof of the Can-Can called "Your Library" on the album "Silly Classical Songs", with the lyrics being about the wonderful things libraries provide. It also appeared on the soundtrack to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse despite not being sung on the show itself.
    • And on the Classic Disney Short "Mickey's Circus", it's used during the climax as Mickey and Donald are on the high wire.
  • The Warner Bros. cartoons "Goofy Groceries" and "Lights Fantastic" features scenes of anthropomorphic cans doing the Cancan. "Stage Door Cartoon" has Bugs Bunny hiding from Elmer Fudd on a theater stage among a bevy of Cancan dancers.
  • An episode of Yogi's Treasure Hunt has the crew in Paris where a clue to a treasure leads them to "a place in France where the people wear no pants." It takes them to a dance hall where they and even Dick Dastardly are dressed in attire doing the Cancan.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Nasty Patty," Mr. Krabs and SpongeBob briefly break into a celebratory can-can (complete with skirts and a musical accompaniment) when it looks like they're all set to pass the Krusty Krab's health inspection.

    Real Life 
  • The number of amateur and professional dance troupes worldwide who perform the cancan to the Infernal Gallop is literally in the hundreds, if not thousands.


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