Great Moments in Bouncing Balls

 
Max Fleischer Studios was famous for Betty Boop, Bimbo, and Koko the Clown, as well as Popeye cartoons, but it was also responsible for movie singalongs, the precursor to today’s dread karaoke. In between motion pictures, the house organist would play a popular song of the day and the audience would be encouraged to raise their voices high. If they didn’t know the words, they would be projected onscreen from slides. But sometime between 1924 and 1925, Fleischer Studios put the words on film (see below). To further aid the audience, a ball bounced over the words and with that, the “Song Car-Tune” was born and Americans began to “follow the bouncing ball.”

In the 1960s Mitch Miller became a household name with his television show Sing Along with Mitch. As with the Car-Tune, Miller commanded his audience to “sing along–just follow the bouncing ball.” The TV show, however, was sponsored by Ballantine beer and, sometimes the three-circle Ballantine logo did the bouncing.

Here are some sing-a-long facts: In the documentary of Woodstock, there are lyrics with a bouncing ball to Feel Like I’m Fixin To Die Rag: “And it’s 1-2-3, what are we fightin’ for? Don’t ask me, I don’t give me a damn, next stop is Viet Nam!” And in a Ren and Stimpy episode, where the two sang the anthem of the Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen, the ball bounced over these lyrics: “Our country reeks of trees / Our yaks are really large / And they smell like rotting beef carcasses.”
 
Can you cite any great moments in bouncing balls?
 

 

 


About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes a weekly column for The Atlantic online and is the "Visuals" Columnist for the New York Times Book Review. He is also the author of over 160 books on design and visual culture. And he is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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  1. The Music Box Theatre (built in 1929) in Chicago hosts an annual double feature of White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life, with pre-show and intermission holiday sing-alongs including old-time frames and the bouncing ball. Good times. 26 years in the running — very much recommended even if and maybe especially if you’re the Grinch type. The bouncing ball WILL make you smile.

  2. The Music Box Theatre (built in 1929) in Chicago hosts an annual double feature of White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life, with pre-show and intermission holiday sing-alongs including old-time frames and the bouncing ball. Good times. 26 years in the running — very much recommended even if and maybe especially if you’re the Grinch type. The bouncing ball WILL make you smile.

  3. The Music Box Theatre (built in 1929) in Chicago hosts an annual double feature of White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life, with pre-show and intermission holiday sing-alongs including old-time frames and the bouncing ball. Good times. 26 years in the running — very much recommended even if and maybe especially if you’re the Grinch type. The bouncing ball WILL make you smile.