Space Jam, Daffy Duck, and Brass Rings
The trailer for the newest Space Jam film was released. While the movie is filled with fun cameos, I will be watching it for classic cartoon characters, especially my favorite of Looney Tunes, Daffy Duck.
After watching the trailer, I decided to watch some Daffy and while doing so I was re-infected with this earworm.
That song is called, The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down, and I have always loved Daffy’s version. As a kid, I wrote down the lyrics he sings in this particular cartoon, Daffy Duck & Egghead (1938). I thought I was the bee’s knees when I brought that particular song to the playground at school. I was not.
While it didn’t work out as I dreamed, the song stuck with me, but I actually didn’t know anything about it.
The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down
The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down was written in 1937 by Cliff Friend & Dave Franklin and was quickly adopted as the theme music to Looney Tunes. While it has had many incarnations as theme music, it will be familiar to anyone who has enjoyed these cartoons.
The song did get used in other cartoons, TV shows, and films. Outside of Looney Tunes, it is probably most well-known to film watchers for its use in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? It is sung twice in the film. Once by Roger and then in a grand turn by Eddie, whose version of the song kills.
Merry-Go-Round, Carousel, or Roundabout
The term merry-go-round can be used interchangeably with carousel or roundabout. Whatever name you use, you are referring to an amusement ride that consists of a circular platform that rotates and has seats for riders. Usually, those seats are in the form of horses or more fantastic animals that can be ridden.
The Origin of Carousels
Carousel originates from the Spanish/Italian word Carosella which means “little battle.” It referred to a cavalry exercise where balls were thrown back and forth while riding in a circle. This practice would evolve and would co-opt elements of jousting. Eventually, what had been an activity for knights, would become popular among “commoners” and would begin springing up at fairgrounds. Once they started making wooden horses for children to ride, the direction of evolution of the use of the word carousel was set in motion.
Grabbing the brass ring
An event that knights on horseback engaged in back in ye olden days was called Tilting-at-the-Ring. Instead of trying to knock each other off horses, knights would try and get their lance into a ring while charging on their horse.
While no connection seems to have been established, hundreds of years later the ring would show up on carousels. Why?
In order to add some interactivity to a carousel ride or perhaps to encourage people to ride the outermost horses, rings would be hung on the outer edge of the carousel. Grab the brass ring and you could win a prize, usually another ride on the carousel.
Carousels were so popular in the late 19th century that the phrase “grabbing the brass ring” entered into our cultural lexicon. If you are not familiar, it means to put in whatever effort is necessary to reach your goal or win the prize. Despite the constantly dwindling number of rides that have rings, the term still persists.
Today, only 14 brass ring carousels are still in operation in the United States. These are fragile machines, so if you are a carousel fanatic and want to experience them all, you better get moving.