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Western Animation / Madame Tutli-Putli

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Madame Tutli-Putli is a 2007 animated short film (17 minutes) by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski. It was produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

The clothing, and especially Madame Tutli-Putli's dress and hat, indicate a 1920s time setting. Madame Tutli-Putli is a slender young woman who at the start of the film is boarding a train, while taking along a staggeringly huge pile of luggage. She boards the train, and is accompanied in her compartment by two guys playing chess (they seem to be living inside two suitcases on top of Madame's gigantic tower of luggage), an older Asian man, an Asian boy sitting next to the man, and a pro tennis player—the tennis player is a creep who stares at Madame's legs and makes a crude sexual gesture.

This may sound like whimsical comedy but actually the mood is ominous and foreboding. The train chugs on into the night, into a forest. Stranger and stranger things start to happen. The bottom of the train is lit by an eerie blue light. There are flames on the tracks. Eventually the train stops somewhere in the wilderness. Madame Tutli-Putli sees three scary, filthy workmen (they are literally covered with tar) enter the train. They hook up a hose to the ventilation, and pump the train full of an eerie green gas...



  • Abandoned Area: The ending has Madame Tutli-Putli waking, apparently from a dream, and finding the entire train empty, the other passengers gone, even her luggage is gone. The only thing left on the train is a moth, which she follows.
  • Afterlife Express: It's quite difficult to figure out what is actually going on, but this seems like the best guess. The eerie blue lights under the train, the way everyone and everything disappears at the ending, the Go into the Light finale, all are suggestive of an Afterlife Express, with Madame Tutli-Putli shedding earthly concerns before entering the spirit world.
  • Bilingual Bonus: It turns out that "tutli putli" are Hindu words for, respectively, a puppet and a delicate woman.
  • Deadly Gas: Or Knockout Gas. It is entirely ambiguous just what is the green gas that the three creepy workmen are pumping into the train.
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  • Foreshadowing: The stop-motion puppets have skin that is covered with chips and pits, like worn stucco—or like rotting flesh. If one assumes the train is an Afterlife Express the appearance of the puppets foreshadows the ending.
  • Gainax Ending: The ending is quite obscure. Madame wakes up on a now entirely empty train, and wanders through it until she finds a single moth. She follows the moth, which appears to get stuck in a light fixture. The shadow of the moth and the shadow of Madame then (somehow) merge into the shadow of a winged angel. Then there's a shot of the forest in the dark of night. Roll credits. It's probably an Afterlife Express but other interpretations are possible.
  • Go into the Light: The film ends with the moth getting into a light. The shadow of the moth is seen against the bright light. Then the shadow of Madame Tutli-Putli merges with that of the moth to form the shadow of a winged angel.
  • Lots of Luggage: Madame has a gigantic pile of luggage that includes just about all the detritus one could imagine from a human life, including furniture and lamps. All of it disappears along with the other passengers at the end, possibly suggesting that she is dead and she is shedding earthly concerns.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The euphonious rhyming name "Madame Tutli-Putli" suggests a cartoon full of wacky hijinx. The actual cartoon is a spooky horror film.
  • Ominous Fog: The mood of the cartoon is established immediately, showing the train station enveloped by fog as Madame waits for her train.
  • Organ Theft: Madame Tutli-Putli seems to awaken from a dream of the three creepy men pumping gas into the train...but the train is empty. She looks down and sees a ventilation grill, and remembers again the green gas. Then she remembers the three creepy men entering the cabin, opening up the tennis player's shirt, slicing his belly open, and removing a kidney. Then one of them looks at her, puts his finger to his lips, and says "Shhhh." Whether or not this is supposed to be something that actually happened, or is actually part of a dream, or is maybe symbolic of organ donation after death (if one takes the train to be an Afterlife Express) is up to the viewer.
  • Silence Is Golden: The whole story plays out without any dialogue.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Subverted. The two men atop the pile of luggage are staring intently at a chess board—but they've only moved one pawn each. Then, every time the train hits a bump, the chess pieces fly in the air and are rearranged, but the two men don't even notice.
  • Stop Motion: Stop-motion puppetry, with human eyes CGI'd in (see Synchro-Vox below).
  • Synchro-Vox: An unusual twist on what is usually a Dead Unicorn Trope associated with the absolute cheapest Limited Animation. In this cartoon it's not the character's mouths that are live-action, it's their eyes. All the puppets have actual live-action human eyes. An actress named Laurie Maher provided the wide, expressive eyes of Madame Tutli-Putli. The effect is quite startling and eerie.
  • Thriller on the Express: A woman takes an eerie, frightening train ride that may be an Afterlife Express.
  • Winged Soul Flies Off at Death: The final shot of the moth stuck in the light changes to a shot of Madame Tutli-Putli's shadow merging with that of the moth, making an angel with wings, suggesting that her soul is finally taking flight.

Example of: