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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the late 1940s and early 1950s Walt Disney began to expand his
studio's work from entertainment to teaching. In this area he is best
recalled for his wonderful short nature films about subjects like
deserts and animals. But he also, occasionally turned to the use of his
cartoons to get his message across. TOOT, WHISTLE, PLUNK, and BOOM was
one of his best examples of this (in fact, it was recognized for it's
unique excellence by copping the best short film - cartoon Oscar in
Disney used this cartoon to trace the development of musical instruments from the dawn of human history to the present (1953). Since the subject is music related all of the dialog is sung or spoke - sung. The setting is a classroom for young animals, and the teacher (who rushes into class late at the start) is an owl. He starts by showing four cavemen figures: one is tooting a metal horn, one is playing with a wind instrument whistle, one is plucking his bow (from his bow and arrow) and one is beating time with his belly as a drum (the boom sound). We then watch each of these instruments grow up so to speak: the horn is brought to the attention of the Pharoah of Egypt who convinces the caveman to change it to a longer trumpet. Eventually the modern trumpet is developed when musicians learn that they can twist the size of the trumpet to be carried . We also get a view of the development of clarinets, harps and string instruments, and drums.
There are some funny moments in the film, such as the birth of social dancing at the court of Pharoah, and the problems of strings for harp and violin players. But for all the changes and developments of the modern musical instruments, the instruments basics are never changed - a point that Disney's artists get across when they keep bringing the four original cavemen into music in other ages up to the present.
If you think that Disney animators were only good at drawing cutesy animals in the 1950's then you need to see this film. The animation style is like nothing you've ever seen in a Disney film. While it does have its share of cute animals (the setting is a classroom full of birds), many of the characters are strange, geometric looking creations. I especially enjoyed the ancient Egyptian characters modeled after ancient Egyptian art. This is an educational short on the origins of music, but also works as a great comedy. The "Plunk" section is the best! It's a one joke bit, but it never gets old.
The best thing about "Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom" is that I actually
learned something from it! Who knew I would learn something from a cartoon
at the age of 22?! I've never been that involved in musical instruments,
but it was very interesting and easy to learn from TWP&B on why horns are
shaped the way they are. The short is also hilarious as we see how the
caveman learned to make music in their primitive ways and how that music
evolved over the ages. It's also fun to see the cavemen collaborate with
the modern-day symphonies. There are just some great gags and jokes
throughout this jam-packed cartoon.
We're also reintroduced to that school of singing birds from the cartoon short, "Melody." They were fun, but I thought they were a little annoying in this short. I was glad when they made the transition to the cavemen, because those cavemen stole the show! I've even seen them make cameos on the recent cartoon series, "Disney's House of Mouse." Hey, maybe we can even see them in the theme parks!!! That would be fun!
There are a lot of memorable and educational moments from this cartoon, and it will always remain a classic. In my opinion, the only thing holding it back a little are those birds. They've done better! Better just let the cavemen get the show going!!
My IMDb Rating: 9/10
This short, Disney's best in some time, won an Oscar and clearly shows an influence from the animation style of the UPA studios that were doing remarkable work in the 1950s. Disney did a number of shorts that were different stylistically and in tone than the work they had produced in the 1930s and 1940s and this is probably the best of those shorts. I's good to see that it's available, even if it's only on a DVD as additional material. Most recommended.
As I said above, I really wanted to hate this film...but I couldn't.
The reason I wanted to give this film a savage review is that it
represents a style of animation that I hate--the very modern and
minimalistic animation that came into vogue in the 1950s and lasted
through the 70s. Up until films like TOOT WHISTLE PLUNK AND BOOK and
films by (uggh) UPA Studios, animation had been very detailed and
higher quality. Gorgeous backgrounds and high frame-rates were the norm
in the 40s and into the 50s with studios like Looney Tunes, MGM and
Disney. But, with the success of very simplistic UPA films like Gerald
McBoing-Boing and Mr. Magoo (beating out traditional films for Oscars
AND costing a fraction to make), Disney decided to experiment with this
splashier but tremendously easy style of animation. So, for the style
of this film and what it represented, I wanted to hate the film.
The problem is that although I disliked the art, I couldn't help but like the film--even though it was quite educational. In fact, now that I finished the film, I am still amazed because I usually watch animation to have fun--not learn things! But, I found that I enjoyed the learning.
The film is about the basic parts of music and how all instruments fall within four broad categories--those that go 'toot', those that whistle, those that are plucked ('plunk') and those that are struck ('boom'). This may seem silly, but it really did make sense and made me understand and appreciate music a lot more. In particular, I learned why horns are all curvy and how a trumpet works--and that's really cool.
Overall, a great film to teach anyone (not just kids) about the fundamentals of music AND it does it in a way that isn't boring. Who would have thought this was possible?!
The other reviewers are correct, this is a great little movie. I remember
watching it on a 16mm projector in jr hi music class. I'm glad to have it
DVD (bonus feature on Fantasia 2000) to share with my kids.
I would make one clarification. This movie is not about music history, but rather the principal characteristics of each family of musical instruments.
Toot = Brass Family / Whistle = Woodwind Family / Plunk = String Family / Boom = Percussion Family
This is a great introduction to musical instruments.
We join Professor Owl as he teaches his avian students
where all the music comes from - in other words, the whole
WHISTLE PLUNK AND BOOM of the matter.
This very engaging cartoon gives a lighthearted look at the origin of musical instruments. Using humor as the best tool to teach - in this instance zany cavemen bang home the lessons - it leaves the viewer with several pertinent facts from the fascinating world of musical history.
TOOT WHISTLE PLUNK AND BOOM was the Disney Studio's first foray into stylized, or limited, animation. The result was very successful & the 1953 Oscar for best cartoon was the reward.
Oh! It's one of them "educational" films. This is a masterful look at the dynamics and science of musical instruments. It gives a rudimentary history of all things instrumental. The four words in the title refer to horns, wood winds, strings, and percussion, the four sections of the orchestra. It is done in a fun and visually interesting way. I recall seeing "Donald Duck in Mathemagic Land," in my math classes, an excellent teaching tool created by the Disney animators. The only part I had trouble with was that chorus of birds singing in the Andrews Sisters style. Many of the Dr. Seuss cartoons used this choral style and it becomes pretty tiresome at times. But it needed narration and this is they way they got it.
Oddly enough I was introduced to Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom as well as Melody through the Disney Sing-a-long-songs series.(that's true of a fair few Disney films and shorts actually) It's been one of my favourites ever since. The animation is done in a very interesting style and looks good. It may look limited to some, but I for one was taken by the colourful abstract look of it, and visuals-wise it does stand out among the rest of the Disney shorts. Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom is also jam-packed with gags, which do brilliantly with teaching us things about music while also entertaining us. The plunk section is and always has been my personal favourite. The simple story has relentless energy, not once did or do I feel bored watching. The music is outstanding, it is catchy and fit perfectly with each gag, the way the harmonies blended was also remarkable and I never tire of the resonant bass voice of Thurl Ravenscroft. The characters are colourful and amusing, and the vocal talents of Bill Thompson are splendidly utilised. Thompson sounds as though he loves what his owl character is teaching and his voice is full of exuberance. All in all, a unique short that is perfect for kids and adults regardless of how knowledgeable they are or not of music. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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