Rooty Toot Toot

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"Rooty Toot Toot" is a 1953 UPA animated short (distributed through Columbia Pictures as part of the Jolly Frolics series), directed by John Hubley. The short depicts the trial resulting from the old Murder Ballad "Frankie and Johnny," with prosecution and defense depicting their rival reconstructions of the crime to a hot jazz version of the tune. Despite the fact that The Bartender and her rival, chanteuse Nelly Bly, testify against her, she is, through her shyster lawyer's machinations, brought in "Not Guilty" -- until she proves to the jury very thoroughly that their estimate of her deadliness is mistaken, by means of solvitur ambulando.

The animation is, as was customary at UPA, extremely stylized, making use of Limited Animation techniques to pare the story down to its essence.

The short has been voted number 41 of The 50 Greatest Cartoons. Watch it here.

Tropes used in Rooty Toot Toot include:
  • Altum Videtur: Honest John is inclined to spouting Latin lawyerese.
  • Downer Ending: Frankie goes to the Big House, for shooting Honest John.
  • Lady in Red: Frankie, though she becomes the Woman in White in Honest John's revisualization of the crime.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: As Honest John says, "You have asked for the truth, without compunction; I have performed that fiction -- eh, uh -- function."
  • Man in White: Frankie's defense lawyer, Honest John McCrook. His animation makes it nearly impossible not to see him as a stand-in for the Devil.
  • Rashomon Plot: The murder is told in three different versions: the bartender's, Nelly's and Honest John's. The latter is particularly outlandish, with Johnny firing the shots himself and the bullets ricocheting all over and chasing him across town, but it nevertheless gets Frankie acquitted.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: As when the bartender says Frankie shot Johnny, "with a Rooty Toot Toot, right in the snoot" -- despite the fact that he is actually shot in the torso.
  • Title Drop: Rooty Toot Toot, the onomatopoeia for the gunshots that laid Johnny low, is repeated as a chorus throughout the short.
  • Unmoving Pattern: Frankie's hair during Honest John's story.