What is Mickey Mousing in Film Music

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What is Mickey Mousing in Film Music?

In the film industry there are always unique terms that describe various techniques and traditions that’re evolving over many years of film creation. The term “Mickey Mousing” is one in use in a variety of scenarios. To describe a particular technique of synchronizing music with actions on the screen. But exactly what is “Mickey Mousing” in film music?

Explaining the technique requires a bit of a history lesson.

What is Mickey Mousing in Film Music?

The term “Mickey Mousing” describes the relation of music to action on the screen. In which both the music and the actions on the screen are in sync with one another.

The first time we saw such synchronization of music and visual animation on the screen was in a 1928 animated cartoon Steamboat Willie which starred Mickey Mouse.

Hence, the term “Mickey Mousing” has since become a nickname for this technique of using film sound. In coordination with actions taking place on the screen.


In a more robust answer to the question, “What is “Mickey Mousing” in film music?” It’s important to address that “Mickey Mousing” involves the use of synchronized music, mirrored music, or parallel scoring.

Which directly accompanies the actions on the screen. In short, when filmmakers match music to movement it’s possible that the term “Mickey Mousing” will come up in describing their technique.

History of “Mickey Mousing” in Film Music

Historically, the earliest films to synchronize music to activity taking place visually on the screen were cartoons. Particularly, early films starring Mickey Mouse, matched the music to the movement taking place. 

Although this practice dates back to 1928 and was seen first in the film, “Steamboat Willie,” several other early Disney films from the 1930s and 1940s would use this same technique incorporating soundtracks that almost completely pair with the movements and actions taking place on the screen.

So, what is “Mickey Mousing” in film music? It’s a technique which involved the synchronization of film movement and music which originated with Disney films. But which would quickly become a widely used means of incorporating music into a film throughout the mid-1950s.

However widespread use of this technique would quickly result in the term “Mickey Mousing” to become more of a derogatory name that filmmakers aim NOT to have their production referenced to.

A Derogatory Reference?

In answering the question, “What is “Mickey Mousing” in film music? It’s semi-important to touch base on the fact that many filmmakers now see the term “Mickey Mousing” as a derogatory reference. And something they wish their films NOT to be referenced to.

In fact, Mickey Mousing has so popular and “overdone” that filmmakers in the industry today hope that no one ever references their films as having such excess in film score.

Thus, while “Mickey Mousing” was once incredibly interesting and an exciting technique in early filmmaking? Criticism of the technique for it’s being overdone and unnecessary make filmmakers balk at the nickname when used to reference their films in modern times.