In animation and film, "Mickey Mousing" (synchronized, mirrored, or parallel scoring) is a film technique that syncs the accompanying music with the actions on screen. The term comes from the early and mid-production Walt Disney films, where the music almost completely works to mimic the animated motions of the characters. Mickey Mousing may use music to "reinforce an action by mimicking its rhythm exactly....Frequently used in the 1930s and 1940s, especially by Max Steiner, it is somewhat discredited today, at least in serious films, because of overuse. However, it can still be effective if used imaginatively".
In the 1940 film Fantasia, the musical piece The Sorcerer's Apprentice, composed in the 1890s, contains a fragment that is used to accompany the actions of Mickey himself. At one point Mickey, as the apprentice, seizes an ax and chops an enchanted broom to pieces so that it will stop carrying water to a pit. The blows (which are not actually heard) are accompanied by crashing chords in the music synchronized exactly to the action.
Note that often it is not the music that is synced to the animated action, but the other way around. This is especially so when the music is a classical or other well-known piece. In such cases, the music for the animation is pre-recorded, and the animator has an exposure sheet with the beats marked on it, frame by frame, and can time his movements accordingly.
"Mickey Mousing" is also used to criticize that a visual action is – without good reason – being duplicated in accompanying music or text, therefore being a weakness of the production rather than a strength. Newlin lists six other functions which music may serve besides this one. Complaints regarding the technique may be found as early as 1946. It was founded by Max Steiner in 1932.
An effective modern example of "mickey mousing" is used to accompany Bill Sikes's beating murder of Nancy in the film Oliver!. In this case, the music is partially used to "cover" her cries as she is being struck.
- Newlin, Dika (1977). "Music for the Flickering Image – American Film Scores", Music Educators Journal, Vol. 64, No. 1. (Sep., 1977), pp. 24–35.pdf
- Chuck Jones, Chuck (1946). "Music and the Animated Cartoon", Hollywood Quarterly Problems of Communication: The Animated Cartoon, Vol. 1, No. 4. (Jul., 1946), pp. 364–370.
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