A Year in Shorts Day 113: "Rooty Toot Toot"
When I think of the heyday of experimental animated shorts, I think of the 1960s. That’s hardly a surprise. What with the drugs and the sexual revolution and the crazy hairstyles, the 1960s were ripe with experimentation. But the 1950s had their fair share of experimental animation too, and the UPA played a big part in that. In one of the very first posts in our Year in Shorts, we discussed 1950’s Gerald McBoing-Boing, which pioneered the use of limited animation in film. Rooty Toot Toot, released a year later and directed by John Hubley, was made in a similar vein, with interesting results, to say the least!
A retelling of the popular song "Frankie and Johnny", Rooty Toot Toot earns points from me right away by being a courtroom story. I love those. It's also a musical dark comedy starring Thurl Ravenscroft of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" fame, so they've got a lot of goodwill coming their way. An in addition to all that, it's just a damn good time. Once again the UPA style results in a short that's a lot of fun to watch. The use of colors is simple but effective, the stylized character designs are a blast, and everything has this weird, offbeat energy that's easy to get swept up in. I can't really find any good images to explain it, so luckily you can just watch the film for yourself!
Rooty Toot Toot is one of those shorts that's a little hard to talk about, if only because it's hard to explain why something like this works; it just does. It's by no means a perfect short (its plotting is a little aimless), but there's a lot to like about it. And you have to give UPA credit for doing something so different; Rooty Toot Toot was nominated alongside Lambert the Sheepish Lion, which is pretty run-of-the-mill, all things considered. Even if this short really isn't your thing, you have to respect its uniqueness. But apparently you don't have to give it the Oscar for it, with Rooty Toot Toot losing to The Two Mouseketeers.
Hey, there are far worse things to happen than losing an Oscar to Tom and Jerry. If you have to lose, why not lose to the best?
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