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Cartoon Culture

Follow the Bouncing Ball

Never thought I’d be posting about High School Musical 3, but I noticed this ad in yesterday’s paper and just had to comment.

Is that the bouncing ball I see at the top of the ad? Isn’t the “bouncing ball” property (or at least Intellectual Property) of Fleischer Studios or possibly Paramount Pictures? Even if they aren’t actually using the “Famous Bouncing Ball” in the Sing-along HSM3, isn’t it interesting that they use this iconic image – one created by Fleischer Studios – in their advertising?

Just asking.

  • James W.

    does that mean that karaoke is doomed….!

  • Ryan

    Well, it’s not really that interesting. A bouncing ball is a fairly generic thing for sing-along type things. I’ve seen them on karaoke machines and everything. Now, maybe if it was using that bouncing Mickey head that Disney used to put on their Sing-A-Long-Songs video releases, it’d be interesting. Maybe. But at the end of the day, it’s still High School Musical.

  • Ted

    When new, the bouncing ball might have been patentable. That would have expired soon after (the term for a patent was probably 10 years at the time, and isn’t much longer now). It also might have been trademarkable if it was immediately identifiable with Fleischer. But maintaining a trademark requires continued use (and confusion as to source if someone else uses it), and the bouncing ball became generic long ago. I for instance made no connection between Fleischer and the bouncing ball until recent years (tho I think I saw the Popeye bouncing ball as a kid).

  • The Fleischer/Paramount ball has better, more interesting arcs.

  • Nunzio

    Disney legal opted to avoid using the words “Follow the Bouncing Ball” – the graphic allows the reader to make that connection. This theoretically saves the company money just in case. Money that ends up going to expensive staff lawyers is always money well spent. Our current economy is proof of that.

  • I’ve gotten the impression that the “bouncing object sing-along” is a fairly common trope, and it sometimes pops up in weird places with odd choices for the object in question. The most unusual example that I can think of is from the movie “What Would Jesus Buy?” where at one point, they have Reverend Billy’s disembodied head (!) bouncing along the lyrics to one of his anti-consumerist parody carols.

    And the Fleischer studio has an odd position in pop culture, since while animation buffs know about them, most people don’t. I think that unlike the Disney and Warner Bros. cartoon characters, your average non-animation buff person would have no idea which studio initially animated Betty Boop, Popeye, and Superman (and ditto for Famous Studio characters like Casper), and the same with the bits and pieces from Fleischer cartoons that have passed into general knowledge (like many of the aspects of Popeye and Superman that were added in the cartoons).

  • TStevens

    The thing I find interesting is that the vintage ads are much cooler looking than the new one.

    I have heard some pretty good arguments for illustration being cooler and better executed pre 1960. “Run of the mill” type ads like this would tend to back that idea.

  • The bouncing ball has been in the public domain for some time, Jerry.

    Other companies have been using the bouncing ball for sing-alongs for decades.

  • Saturnome

    Distant memory, but I remember bouncing-ball (or bouncing head?) in a Lion King karaoke. Looks like nobody ever cared. Was the very fact of singing along with something screened was pioneered by Fleischer? I could be wrong, simple titles cards projection may have happened before.

  • Don’t forget the Sominex commercial from the late 1950s that invited the viewer to follow the bouncing Sominex tablet over the jingle’s lyrics: “Take Sominex tonight and sleeeep, safe and restful, sleeeep, sleeeeep, sleeeeeeep!” That was an animated spot, as well.

  • autisticanimator

    Wasn’t this gimmic used in a lot of those FHE kids movies (and maybe also the PBS’s KidSongs videos) ?

  • Christopher Cook

    I would rather listen to Brian Eno’s “Music For Airports” than sing along with High School Musical.

  • Pedro Nakama

    You’d have to put a gun to my head to make me see that!

  • Marc Baker

    Same here. The fact that this junk is successful really bothers me. it’s a complete mockery of musicals, and it’s almost like an orwellian propaganda film that denounces individualism, and rewards perfectionism. These days, Di$ney is more about manufacturing tweenage pod people, and less about quality animation.

  • JA

    Well you obviously have never seen the “Follow The Bouncing Ball” cartoons. It is not just the bouncing ball, it is the quality of the cartoons. The stories and graphics are wonderful. I will never forget them. I was looking them up to share with my 6 year old grand child. Cartoons of the day are horrible – Disney is a sad shallow reminder of what it used to be. I am trying to find them. Any ideas??