Film Music 101: Mickey Mousing

In the world of film and animation music, “Mickey Mousing” is the affectionate (and occasionally derogatory) nickname given to a technique whereby the music and the action on the screen are completely in sync with each other. The reason this technique is called “Mickey Mousing” is because it first appeared in the 1928 cartoon Steamboat Willie starring Mickey Mouse!

Incidentally, Mickey was originally voiced by Walt Disney himself!
The reason “Mickey Mousing” occurred at all is because, after film studios learned the trick of making sound film, they all wanted to show off the fact that their films had sound. To that end, the soundtracks of many, MANY films, were overly synchronized with the actin on the screen, and this happened a lot in the early Disney cartoons as well.
For instance, the 1929 cartoon Skeleton Dance is a 5 1/2 minute example of “Mickey Mousing.” Take a few minutes to watch it and I believe you’ll see what I mean.

Skeleton Dance (1929)

My favorite moment in “Skeleton Dance” comes when the one skeleton is sneaking around, taking first three long strides and then quick stepping (and how the music matches his movement, it’s a trick seen more than once in cartoons).

While “Mickey Mousing” has decreased greatly over the years, it is still being used. A more recent example can be found in the first Spider-Man movie in 2002. In the scene where Peter (Tobey Maguire) discovers he has the ability to climb walls, listen to what the music does when his hand first touches the brick wall and then begins to climb up, it’s mimicking his actions! Pretty cool right? Have a look here below:

Spider-Man wall-climbing scene (2002)

Hope you enjoyed another look at the world of film music, have a great day!

For more Film Music 101: see here

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