Rosie (voiced by King) is a young girl who lives on Brooklyn's Avenue P and dreams of stardom. She decides she wants to make a movie about her life (in particular the "demise" of her brother, Chicken Soup), and demands that her friends (Kathy, Pierre, Alligator, and Johnny, aka The Nutshell Kidsnote ) all perform a "screen test" to get themselves a role. Each of these turns into a Disney Acid Sequence depicting a story from one of Sendak's Nutshell Library books, with Rosie singing.
First up, Johnny performs "One Was Johnny", a counting song in which Johnny finds himself driven to distraction by various intruders in his home, including a rat, a cat, a dog, a turtle, a bird, a tiger, a monkey, and a thief. Eventually he loses his temper and insists that if they don't depart immediately he will eat all of them. The creatures flee, leaving Johnny by himself, which he enjoys. Rosie praises Johnny's performance.
Next, Alligator (an actual alligator) insists on auditioning, by performing "Alligators All Around" an alphabet song based around Added Alliterative Appeal and producing related items from a Bag of Holding. Rosie is less receptive of this performance, stating "Don't call us, we'll call you".
Pierre doesn't want anything to do with Rosie's film, and insists that he doesn't care what happened to Chicken Soup. Rosie tricks him by implying that Chicken Soup was in fact eaten, and Pierre enthusiastically tells his own life story, "Pierre". In it, he is a willful brat who announces "I don't care!" in response to everything and refuses to behave. A lion threatens to eat him, but he still claims not to care. After he is eaten, Pierre's parents find the lion sick in Pierre's bed, with their son's voice still saying "I don't care!" from within. Turning the lion upside down frees Pierre, who decides he cares after all.
A thunderstorm breaks out, and the Nutshell Kids flee indoors, where Rosie finally tells them what happened to Chicken Soup; he prepared a bowl of soup, didn't notice a small bone within, and choked to death. The kids decide to act this out, and Chicken Soup himself enters and wonders why everyone is lying down.
Rosie insists that he audition as well, and the others want to join in. The entire group performs "Chicken Soup With Rice", a song which celebrates the titular dish in a different way for every month of the year. After they finish, Rosie tells her friends that they can all be in her movie, but by now they have lost interest and go their separate ways. Rosie nonetheless decides that her film has been a great success.
The Animated Special Contains The Following Tropes:
- Adaptation Dye-Job: In the original books, both Johnny and "Chicken Soup" looked exactly like Pierre.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: "Alligators All Around" is based on this trope, for every letter of the alphabet. It's even in the title.
- Affably Evil: The lion in "Pierre". It wants to eat the little boy, but warns him first. When eating Pierre makes him ill, he allows the kid to be released, offers him and his parents a ride home on his back, and stays on as a weekend guest in their home.
- Badass Mustache: Johnny dons a false one in order to deliver his threat in "One Was Johnny", presumably to seem more intimidating.
- Bag of Holding: Alligator has his mom toss one down for "Alligators All Around". It contains a multitude of props to use during the song, some of which clearly can't fit inside. It even gets set on fire briefly, but somehow doesn't get burnt.
- Broken Record:There once was a boy named Pierre / Who only would say "I don't care!"...
- Catchphrase: Pierre - "I don't care!"
- Creator Cameo: Maurice Sendak provides a dog's bark.
- Darker and Edgier: The (off-broadwaynote ) stage play includes some frank examples of the main characters being slapped or screamed at by their parents. It also makes clear that this version of Rosie isn't nearly so happy or at peace with herself as the version in the special.
- Deadpan Snarker: All of the nutshell kids to a degree, but especially Alligator with his signs.
- A Dog Named "Dog": Or in this case, an alligator named Alligator.
- Drama Queen: Rosie. She acts very dramatic.
- Dramatic Thunder: Done during the "Ballad of Chicken Soup" song. It also occurs right before she sings it, after ominously asking her friends "Did you hear what happened to Chicken Soup?" lightning flashes and it starts to rain.
- Disney Acid Sequence: All the "screen tests" are this. There are also a number of more normal songs, sung by Rosie in the "real world" that avert this trope.
- Easily Forgiven: The lion in "Pierre". His parents forgive it for eating their son (though he is none the worse for it) and even allow it to stay the weekend. At least it offered them a ride home.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Alligator, who is an alligator. Also, Chicken Soup really likes chicken soup.
- Extreme Omnivore: Johnny claims he will eat all the creatures infesting his home, including a human being, if they don't leave at once. He was probably bluffing, but they take the threat seriously enough.
- Furry Confusion: Alligator is fairly anthropomorphic, possessing hands, wearing clothing, and walking upright. No other animal in the special does so, though some of them can talk. And during "Chicken Soup With Rice", he joins the other kids in riding on a (non-anthropomorphic) crocodile's back.
- Genki Girl: Rosie. She is always full of energy.
- "I Am" Song: Both "Really Rosie" (and its reprise) and "Screaming and Yelling".
- Jerkass: Pierre, who comes off like a prepubescent Mike Warner.
- Kids Are Cruel: The Nutshell Kids clearly don't believe for a second that Chicken Soup is actually dead (they show no surprise when he turns up), but they still find Rosie's story about him choking to death rather amusing and play along enthusiastically.
- Large Ham: Rosie in a Nutshell.
- Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: No one at all finds it unusual in the slightest that one of the kids is an anthropomorphic alligator.
- Morality Ballad: "Pierre", with the Aesop "You should care". At least if a lion wants to eat you.
- The Musical: The Off-Broadway version ran for 274 performances, and remains a staple of children's theater productions.
- Nice Hat: Rosie dons one that would make Mae West envious. Chicken Soup wears a chef's toque.
- Pop-Star Composer: Carole King, at or not long after her artistic and commercial peak, wrote the music to the songs.
- Space Whale Aesop: If you don't care, your parents will leave you at home and you'll be swallowed whole by a lion.
- Swallowed Whole: Pierre in his song. He's perfectly fine once they hold the beast upside down and get it to roar.
- Talking with Signs: Alligator tends to do this, even though he is capable of speech.
- Title Theme Tune:"I'm really Rosie, and I'm Rosie real..."
- Trademark Favorite Food: Take a guess what Chicken Soup likes to eat.hint
- Two Girls to a Team: Rosie and Kathy are the only girls.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Rosie was inspired by a girl Sendak knew in his childhood, who was constantly singing on her balcony.