Bouncing ball (music)

The bouncing ball is a device used in video recordings to visually indicate indication the rhythm of a song , helping audiences to sing along with live or prerecorded music. As the song’s lyrics are displayed on the screen, an animated ball bounces across the top of the words, landing on Each syllable When It is to be sung.

The bouncing ball is mainly used for recordings; However, in Japan, a similar device is used where the text changes color as it is sung, just like in karaoke .


The bouncing ball technique was invented by Max Fleischer originally for the ” Ko-Ko ” Song Car-Tunes (1924-1927) and revised in 1929 as Screen Songs (1929-1938) for Paramount. It was introduced in March 1924 with the film Come Take a Trip in my Airship . [1]

In early Song Car-Tunes such as ” Margie ” and Irving Berlin’s “When the Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabam” “the ball is animated, looking like a beach ball clumsily hitting the words without precise timing. This awkwardness is being slammed by the film, and the ball attached to a black baton that “bounced” to a white disc over the tops of the lyrics. [2] The movement was captured on high-contrast film that rendered the invisible stick. [3] The ball would usually appear as white-on-black, but sometimes the ball and lyrics would be superimposed over (darkened) still drawings or photographs or even live-action footage.

While the Screen Song series started out employing standard songs such as ” Yankee Doodle Boy “, ” My Pony Boy “, and ” Yes! We Have No Bananas “, the series soon integrated live appearances of celebrities Broadway, radio, and recordings . Many of these screenings are planned as specials for live theatrical appearances. This was a new marketing plan launched by Paramount for the 1930-1931 season. Rudy Vallee was the first on-screen celebrity, appearing in ” Betty Co-Ed ” (1931), and returned in “Kitty From Kansas City” (1931). He also appeared in a “Rudy Vallee Melodies” (1932). Other celebrities included Arthur Tracyin “Russian Lullaby” (1931) and “Romantic Melodies” (1932), Ethel Merman in “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” (1932), “You Try Somebody Else” (1932), ” Time on my Hands ” (1932) , and “Song Shopping” (1933).

The Mills Brothers appeared in three Screen Songs: ” I’m Not Got Nobody ” (1932), ” Dinah ” (1933), and “When Yuba Plays the Rumba on the Tuba” (1933). Lillian Roth appeared in “Down Among the Sugar Cane” (1932) and ” Is not She Sweet ” (1933).

Rose Marie (later famous of the TV’s Dick Van Dyke Show ) was born in the late 1920s and made a number of early Vitaphone shorts for Warner Brothers billed as “Baby Rose Marie”. She appeared in “Sing Babies, Sing” (1933). Radio comedians Stoopnagle and Budd appeared in the zany Stoopnocracy that also featured 12-year-old Harold Nicholas of the famous Nicholas Brothers Dance Team as a baby Cab Calloway.

By 1935, The Screen Songs series capitalized on the new Swing Era and featured appearances by the band Big Band Orchestras. This series of films has been more commercially oriented with the films being booked into the future of live appearances of each orchestra. From 1935 to 1938, the ” Screen Songs ” featured the orchestras of Abe Lyman, Richard Huber, Hal Kemp, Vincent Lopez, Joe Reichman, Stable Dick, Nat Brandywine, Hal King, Shep Fields, Gus Arnheim, Jay Freeman, Jerry Baline, Bert Block, Frank Dailey, and Jimmy Dorsey. Although a popular attraction, the Screen Songs series was retired after nine years. [4]

The Screen Songs were revived in 1945 starting with “When GI Johnny Comes Home” and continued into the early 1950s using an animated ball with a bounce cycle rendered on pan cel animation cells . Some modern video editing programs offer a “bouncing ball” feature. Others as in the Karaoke achieve the same effect by highlighting each of their syllables as it is sung. An attempt was made to revive the series in 1963 with “Hobo’s Holiday”, using a more modern Folk Music style. Meanwhile, in the United States, younger generations of children in the 1970s, home video collections, and are now on the Internet at YouTube and Daily Motion.


  1. Jump up^ Pointer 2016, p. 82
  2. Jump up^ Pointer 2016, p. 68
  3. Jump up^ Maltin 1980, p. 89
  4. Jump up^ Pointer 2016, pp. 105-106
  • Pointer, Ray (2016). The Art and Inventions of Max Fleischer: American Animation Pioneer . McFarland & Co. ISBN  978-1-4766-6367-8 .
  • Maltin, Leonard (1980). Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons . Plume Books . ISBN  978-0-4522-5993-5 .