Follow TV Tropes


Western Animation / The Truth About Mother Goose

Go To

The Truth About Mother Goose is an animated short film (14 minutes) from Disney in 1957, directed by Bill Justice and Wolfgang Reitherman.

The short is a one-off cartoon about three common children's songs. After a trio of jesters sing each song, a narrator gives the purported history of their origins. "Little Jack Horner" is said to originate in the story of one Thomas Horner, who stole a deed for a piece of property that was intended to go to King Henry VIII. "Mary Mary, Quite Contrary" is linked to Mary, Queen of Scots and her tragic history. "London Bridge Is Falling Down" is said to originate with the decay of the medieval London Bridge in the 18th century.



  • Artistic License – History: The three explanations given for the origins of the three rhymes are presented as fact when in reality no one knows where they came from. There is no evidence that deeds to property in 16th century England were carried around in pies, and for that matter, the earliest versions of "Jack Horner" associate the story with Christmas pies. Other stories of "Mary Mary, Quite Contrary" associate the rhyme with the Virgin Mary or with Henry VIII's daughter, Queen Mary I. "London Bridge is Falling Down" may be related to the medieval bridge's state of disrepair but has also been linked to an even earlier bridge that is said to have been destroyed by raiding Vikings way back in 1014. The Jack Horner and Mary, Mary rhymes are not attested to until 200 years or more after the 16th-century times of Thomas Horner and Mary of Scotland.
    • Lampshaded in the end. When the man in the moon asks if those are really the true histories, the jesters say "Well, as far as we know."
  • Aside Glance: Mary glances at the camera and says "Oh, dear" after her husband is blown up.
  • Behind a Stick: Jack Horner manages to hide behind a very narrow tree while skulking around with his pie.
  • Car Meets House: A nautical example. In the London Bridge segment, a ship's bowsprit goes through the painter's window and pushes him through the canvas he's working on.
  • Dark Reprise:
    • A paranoid Jack Horner imagines a sinister version of "Little Jack Horner" playing accusingly as he tries to fall asleep.
    • "Mary Mary, Quite Contrary" is played in a lower and more ominous key as Mary is being led to her execution.
  • Greek Chorus: The three jesters who sing the nursery rhymes.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Mary of Scotland is said to have brought "the gay French ways" with her to Scotland from France.
  • Advertisement:
  • Limited Animation: A few scenes use it, such as the building of London Bridge, and the brief appearances of Henry VIII (only his head and arms move) and Elizabeth I (who only glances her eyes at a wayward Mary); the latter is justified by the ornate clothing worn by them, which would be far too difficult to animate.
  • The Man in the Moon: He's just hanging around in the book as part of the audience listening to the three jesters sing the songs.
  • Narrator: After the jesters sing the songs, an unseen narrator gives the history behind each of them.
  • Oh, Crap!: The painter who is painting a scene of London Bridge as it burns doesn't notice until his brush catches fire and he actually brushes fire across the painting, which ignites.
  • Pie in the Face: The courtier who presents the pie to Henry VIII receives this when the king opens the pie up and finds a deed missing.
  • Playground Song: Three famous playground songs and the (supposedly) true stories behind them.
  • Powder Trail: One is shown as Kirk o' Field is blown up in order to murder Lord Darnley. (The cartoon does not mention that Darnley escaped, only to be strangled to death outside.)
  • Recycled Animation:
  • Running Gag: The painter living in London Bridge getting his work ruined by whatever mishap is befalling the Bridge. Assuming the elderly painter near the end is even the same painter, as the narrator stated "centuries passed" before the Bridge fell.
  • Scenery Porn: The original London Bridge, as well as the view of London from the rooftops of the houses on the Bridge.
  • Tempting Fate: A few drunken patrons at a bar in the debilitating Bridge are singing "London Bridge is falling down", and guess what happens a moment later?
  • Thick-Line Animation: Drawn in the thick-line style that became very popular in the 1950s.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: