Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Motzkus, Peter. “Simpsons, Inc. (?!): A Very Short Fascicle on Music’s Dramaturgy and Use in Adult Animation Series.” Kieler Beiträge Zur Filmmusikforschung 15 (December 2020): 65-114.

Adult animation series The Simpsons, South Park, and Family Guy share several common categories of musical usage. Since the earliest animated short films in the 1920s, music has been integral to dramaturgy and storytelling in animation. Later, animated sitcoms like The Flintstones and The Jetsons used music in more limited, but no less important ways. While The Simpsons, South Park, and Family Guy have developed in different directions, they all use music to spoof American culture and society. The Simpsons tends to use current music references and recomposed soundalikes while Family Guy tends to use older music in its original form. South Park uses music less often, but musical pop culture of Generations X and Y is still a core component of the show. The use of songs in adult animation can be categorized as recitativo, songs that underscore or forward the plot, and aria, action stopping musical numbers. An example of recitativo in Family Guy can be seen in a scene where Lois prepares for a boxing match and the camera cuts to Peter singing Eye of the Tiger ringside, parodying the Rocky film franchise. The aria category of song use is exemplified by another Family Guy scene that cuts away to the entire music video for David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s Dancing in the Street, diverting entirely from the plot of the episode. The opening sequences of each show also demonstrate the importance of music in their respective narrative and comedic identities. Each show occasionally parodies other television opening themes, as South Park does in its multi-episode parody of Game of Thrones, transforming Ramin Djawadi’s opening title music into A Chorus of Wieners. Each show has also done music-centric episodes where characters join a band, for instance, or the episode itself is structured like a mini musical. With these three series becoming major influences in their medium, music has once again become the backbone of animation.

Works: Carl W. Stalling: soundtrack to The Skeleton Dance (71-72); Alf Clausen: soundtrack to The Simpsons (80, 83); Ron Jones and Walter Murphy: soundtrack to Family Guy (89-91); Adam Berry, Scott Nickoley, and Jamie Dunlap: soundtrack to South Park (84-85, 98-100).

Sources: Edvard Grieg: Trolltog, Op. 54, No. 3 (71-72); Bernard Herrmann: soundtrack to Cape Fear (80); Hans Zimmer: soundtrack to Inception (83); Erick Wolfgang Korngold: soundtrack to The Sea Hawk (84); Zach Hemsey: Mind Heist (84-85); Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik (85-6); Survivor: Eye of the Tiger (89-90); William Stevenson (songwriter), David Bowie and Mick Jagger (performers): Dancing In The Street (91); Ramin Djawadi: soundtrack to Game of Thrones (98-100).

Index Classifications: 1900s, 2000s, Popular, Film

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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