Adventures in the Public Domain: Funeral March of a Marionette

29 04 2010

Older readers will likely remember the song “Funeral March of a Marionette” with memories of Alfred Hitchcock’s television shows. Younger readers will recognize it’s use in a plethora of animated cartoons, from Ren & Stimpy to Animaniacs. “Funeral of a Marionette” has been given a second life as musical shorthand for “WARNING: WEIRDNESS AHEAD.” It’s a tune that perfectly encapsulates playful eeriness, saying “This is going to be a little spooky, but you probably don’t have to put the kids to bed.” In cartoons, this song will generally be accompanied by monsters and/or mad science.

Except for it’s status as a pop culture icon, “Funeral March of a Marionette” would be considered one of Charles Gounod‘s more insignificant compositions. And, compared to “Ave Maria,” I guess it is, probably. But “Funeral March of a Marionette” is so useful from a storytelling perspective. The name itself is very apt, at once innocent, solemn and silly. It does bring to mind a procession of marionettes bouncily-but-glumly plodding along. And whoever decided to use it in multiple episodes of Ren & Stimpy was a genius. It perfectly reflects the good-natured grotesquery of the work of John K.




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