I recently watched Wifi Ralph. There is a scene where

Disney princesses teach Vanellope a mechanism that allows her to unlock the wonderful, magical power of diegetic music.

Didn't want to read the spoiler? No problem, here goes an explanation. Diegetic music is a part of the soundtrack for audiovisual work that is generated within the world and thus is heard by the characters.

Usually, in Disney works, the power of diegetic singing seems to be ubiquitously present in populations (think of Belle and Moana's introduction songs, in which whole villages harmonize into it). Yet not all characters are able to sing properly (i.e.: Donald Duck, whose bad, tone deaf singing can even be weaponized), suggesting that this ability is a genetic trait rather than a physics paradigm of such worlds.

Characters that can break into song at will and in any place usually have orchestral backing to their singing. This means they have an internal, organic jukebox which can mimic most (if not all) musical instruments, and which is loud enough to be perceived as such. How would this fit into their anatomy? What would the caloric costs involved be?

For the purpose of this question, I am ignoring the fantastical powers of bending light and controlling the elements which usually accompany diegetic songs (no walking through the air because you know the colors of the wind, for example).

For the purpose of this question, I am also assuming that all characters capable of diegetic singing are gifted with absolute pitch.

Part of the Anatomically Correct Series.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Wifi Ralph? He sounds hipper than the guy in the movie I saw. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Oct 15, 2019 at 1:31
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    $\begingroup$ What makes you believe that the instrumental accompaniament is diegetic? I always assumed that the characters sing a capella, and the instrumental parts are added for the viewers' pleasure. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 16, 2019 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP I'm practicing wishful thinking. $\endgroup$ Oct 16, 2019 at 19:38

1 Answer 1


You could use the Lyrebird, arguably the best sound mimicking animal, as a base for an 'organic jukebox'. Birds have a syrinx that can mimic a wide array of sounds. The syrinx, which is pretty much a chamber supported by cartilage slightly (very slightly!) similar to a larynx, is located just under the bird's voicebox, enabling it to make nearly any sound, plus different ones at the same time. So diegetic singers could have multiple or one syrinx in their throats. That's the most anatomically correct jukebox I can think of at the moment, and it shouldn't have many if any adverse affects on the singer, though, like any song, it does take energy. Likely not much more than normal singing, though.

Here's a study on respritory and metabolic affects on birds singing louder, if you like. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0023198

Out of curiosity, why do you assume diegetic singers have absolute pitch? Maybe I'm wrong, but I've never seen people shout "Sing in Am! Now F#!" to the singer.

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    $\begingroup$ I assume absolute pitch because they are so talented and always hit all the notes correctly without getting a reference note first. $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2019 at 11:18
  • $\begingroup$ Okay. Thank you! I'm sorry the question seemed terse. I just reread it and saw that it could have been taken a way I didn't mean it to. $\endgroup$
    – Lenarta
    Oct 24, 2019 at 17:26

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