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Timmy: "Are we at the circus?"

Cosmo: "Of course not! Circuses have safety regulations! This is a carnival!"

What's more fun than a carnival? It's got rides and games, frequently travels (though some don't, such as those of Coney Island), and is known for sideshows containing smaller acts than a circus (freaks, contortionists, and cabinets of curiosities). However, in some fiction they're cheap, bad ripoffs. The rides break, the games are ripoffs, and the magic acts are dishonest. The workers are creepy "carnies", too. These aren't places to have fun, they're only there to rip you off, not provide decent entertainment.

Related to Souvenir Land, but distinct in that this isn't asking for you to buy their merchandise. This carnival is too crappy to be a pastische of Disneyland. Darker versions are Amusement Park of Doom and Circus of Fear.

Examples of Crappy Carnival include:


  • Marvel Comics' Circus of Crime plays with this trope - it's a decent carnival, other than the "hypnotizing the audience and stealing their money" part.
  • One Sam and Max comic had them visiting an 'amusement' park with rides like the "Cone of Tragedy".



  • In the Young Adult novel Millicent Min: Girl Genius she goes to a traveling fair and thinks it is absolutely disgusting, and being a genius, she figured out that all of the games were ripoffs.
  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events, the low-quality Caligari carnival has people mocking 'freaks' such as contortionists and ambidextrous people, dangerous rides, fake fortune tellers, and of course, Olaf.
  • Depending on who is looking at the parade The Circus of Doctor Lao could be one of these.

Live Action TV

  • Carnivale both plays the trope straight and subverts it. The Carnivale itself is full of people who appear dishonest and certainly do their share of bilking the public (rigging games, overcharging for crappy acts, faking "healings"), but they're essentially the good guys who take pride in their way of earning a living. The very few times a ride is unsafe, it's either an honest, tragic mistake (as when Jonesy is drunk and doesn't notice the broken part on the Ferris Wheel) or part of a larger Xanatos Gambit (as when Ben, Jonesy, and Samson rig the Ferris Wheel to break so it will trap Justin at the top and Ben can drain his powers).
  • The Dinosaurs episode "Variations on a Theme Park" has Wesaysoland, which was created in a single day to take advantage of Pangaea's newly-instituted vacation time "through imagination, ingenuity, and a relaxed attitude towards building codes". Unfortunately, the rides are unfinished, the concessions expensive, and the hotel rooms are decorated in an unflattering cow-themed design (to go along with its corporate mascot, Moola the Cash Cow).


  • The musical Carnival! (based on the film Lili) is set in one of these. It's not creepy, just done on the cheap.


Western Animation

  • In Fairly Oddparents Timmy runs off to become a "carnie" at a horrible carnival that was dangerous with workers that were escaped convicts fairies (Except for the Alligator Man) whose job it is to make kids realize that running away is a bad idea.
  • The carnival from the South Park episode "Cow Days" was so bad that the townspeople called Shenanigans on it at the end.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, Mr. Krabs makes a carnival he calls "Krabby Land" for kids on summer vacation, with the ulterior motive of getting them to buy Krabby Patties. Normally such a thing would be a Souvenir Land, but as he's a huge cheapskate it's made of trash and old stuff found in dumpsters, and the only thing the kids enjoy turns out to be watching Spongebob get himself hurt in the name of amusing them while Mr. Krabs counts his takings.
  • The carnival in The Replacements episode "Carnie Dearest".
  • "Lester's Possum Park" from A Goofy Movie.
  • In the Dennis the Menace UK animated series, Dennis visits a fair where all the rides and attractions have been nerfed because of the havoc Dennis and his cronies wreaked the previous year.
  • The Simpsons episode "Bart Carny" starts with them visiting one of these; eventually they befriend a carny and his son who turn out to be squatters with their eye on the Simpsons' house.
  • Rocko's Modern Life had an early episode with this trope. It ends with Rocko winning one of the carnival games and the toy he gets breaks about ten seconds later.
  • In Garfield and Friends, an amusement park called Wonderful World is found to have fallen into disrepair, and is run by Recurring Character Mr. Swindler. The roller coaster has part of the track missing, for instance, and the game where you throw the ball at the bottles? Well, the bottles are only knocked down after being hit by a roller coaster... and even then, they just kind of... fall over. The founder of the park is found under the fun house, and once brought above, is appalled at the state that he's allowed it to get into.

Real Life

  • Lapland New Forest, which opened briefly in the United Kingdom in December 2008. Visitors to their website were promised a spectacular Christmas experience, only to find a bare field with a handful of overpriced rides and concessions, a broken ice rink, and entertainers in unconvincing snowman and elf outfits - all after paying theme park prices for tickets. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in numerous credit card chargebacks and a fraud conviction for the park's owners, not to mention Santa and his helpers being beaten up by angry guests. The director is also becoming an example of Never My Fault, blaming the park's failure on crowd manipulation and slanderous media.
  • According to LSD researcher Stanislav Grof, it's quite normal while tripping to have a feeling that all of Real Life is this.
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