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Western Animation / Rooty Toot Toot

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Rooty Toot Toot is a 1951 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 Frankie, 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.

Tropes Associated With "Rooty Toot Toot" include:

  • Adaptational Sympathy: In the original song, Johnny was sleeping with Nelly Bly, which is why Frankie shot him. In the short, Johnny was simply rehearsing a music performance with Nelly Bly and was Mistaken for Cheating by Frankie.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The original song depicts Frankie as a typically good-natured woman who simply turned to violence because of Frankie's infidelity, with the closing lines openly sympathizing with her. In the short, Frankie is a short-tempered woman who's quick to jump to assumptions and, according to the bartender and Nelly Bly's testimonies, instantly assumed that Johnny was cheating on her when she heard that he was alone with Nelly Bly. The short even ends with her killing Honest John after making the same mistake in judgement.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The original song ends with Frankie being arrested by the police after shooting Johnny. The short, meanwhile, focuses on Frankie's trial (which is only briefly mentioned in the song) and depicts the main story through a Rashomon Plot, ultimately depicting Frankie accidentally proving her guilt by publicly shooting Honest John for dancing with Nelly Bly.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Someone had apparently forgot to make sure the gun, which was brought in as evidence, wasn't still loaded.
  • Black Comedy: The cartoon takes a murder trial and sets it to a swinging jazz number for the sake of amusement.
  • Color Wash: The short makes use of vivid color tinting to convey the mood of a scene. For instance, the bar is awash in a seedy dark green, Honest John's version of events features white backgrounds to highlight his testimony about Frankie's purity, and the courtroom makes use of strong yellow tones to convey the threat of conviction. When Frankie kills Honest John, the scene additionally shifts from the red of passionate victory to a blue-gray color as the court realizes that she is indeed a short-fused killer.
  • Dance Party Ending: The whole courtroom breaks into dance when the verdict is read. It comes to a crashing halt when Frankie shoots Honest John.
  • Death by Woman Scorned: Johnny, allegedly. And Honest John, definitely.
  • Downer Ending: Frankie goes to the Big House for shooting Honest John.
  • Dies Wide Open: Honest John after he's shot.
  • Gratuitous Latin: Honest John is inclined to spouting Latin legalese.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Frankie is described as having one in the opening song number. It's what leads to her defeat after she sees Honest John flirting with Nellie Bly and shoots him.
  • Lady in Red: Frankie, as she is portrayed as a Woman Scorned.
  • Meaningful Name: Frankie's lawyer, though he's nicknamed "Honest John McCrook," is actually named "Jonathan Bailey" — likely in a reference to "the Old Bailey," London's famous central criminal court.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: The Bartender states that Frankie believed that Johnny was cheating on her with Nelly Bly, who in turn clarifies that she was just meeting up with him to rehearse a musical number.
  • Notably Quick Deliberation: The jury rushes into the deliberation room and spend all of half a second before rushing back out to deliver the verdict.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Barkeeping: The bartender even takes his rag to the courtroom, and compulsively wipes the witness stand with it.
  • 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.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Frankie and Nelly Bly, the only two female characters in the short, are direct opposites, and not just in terms of what color dress they wear. Frankie, the woman in red, is notorious for her violent temperament, which incriminates her as Johnny's killer and fuels her killing of Honest John at the end. Nelly Bly, the woman in blue, is calm and sedate, and when Frankie interrupts her testimony to call her a liar, the worst that Nelly does is shoot a stern look and get her dress and hair ruffled up. The two's differences are also highlighted in their animation — Frankie's motions are quick and snappy, Nelly Bly's are slow and smooth.
  • 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.
  • Rubber-Hose Limbs: Nelly Bly is able to twist her arms and legs like pretzels. She is animated by Grim Natwick, who started his career in the Rubber Hose era of animation.
  • Title Drop: Rooty Toot Toot, the onomatopoeia for the gunshots that laid Johnny low, is repeated as a chorus throughout the short.
  • Unmoving Plaid: Frankie's hair during Honest John's story.
  • Verbal Backspace: As Honest John says, "You have asked for the truth, without compunction; I have performed that fiction — eh, uh — function."
  • Villain in a White Suit: Frankie's defense lawyer, Honest John McCrook, is clad in a white suit. His animation makes it nearly impossible not to see him as a stand-in for the Devil.
  • Virgin in a White Dress: How Frankie is depicted in Honest John's account of events, a care-free innocent skipping and picking flowers in a white flowing dress.
  • White Is Pure: Honest John's account of Johnny's killing claims that Frankie is too pure-hearted to possibly shoot anyone. This is highlighted by the entire scene featuring white backdrops instead of using the vivid color tinting seen in the bartender and Nelly Bly's accounts.
  • Woman Scorned: According to the bartender's testimony, Frankie shot Johnny because she thought he was cheating on her with Nelly Bly. At the end of the short, when Frankie sees Honest John celebrating her victory by dancing with Nelly Bly, she grabs the gun from the stand and shoots him dead in retaliation.