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Encyclopedia > Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom
Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom
Directed by Ward Kimball
Charles A. Nichols
Produced by Walt Disney
Written by Dick Huemer
Starring Bill Thompson (voice)
Music by Joseph Dubin
Oliver Wallace
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date(s) 1953
Running time Short: 10 min.
Country U.S.A.
Language English
IMDb profile

Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom was an educational animated short film released by the Walt Disney Company in 1953. It was re-released in 1963 as a companion featurette to that year's theatrical re-release of Fantasia. It was again re-released nearly 40 years later as a DVD supplement of Fantasia 2000. At the time of its original release, it won an Academy Award for best animated short film. In 1994 it was voted #29 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. It was illustrated in full colour, and features a vibrant array of tones and hues throughout. Firehouse Five Plus Two LP album cover. ... Charles August Nichols (September 1910 - August 1992) was an American animator and film director. ... For the company founded by Disney, see The Walt Disney Company. ... Bill Thompson (July 8, 1913 – July 15, 1971) was an American radio actor and voice actor whose career stretched from the 1930s until his death. ... The classic logo of RKO Radio Pictures. ... See also: 1952 in film 1953 1954 in film 1950s in film years in film film Events September 16 - The Robe debuts as the first anamorphic, widescreen CinemaScope film. ... For other uses, see United States (disambiguation) and US (disambiguation). ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... Animation is the rapid display of a sequence of images of 2-D artwork or model positions in order to create an illusion of movement. ... Alternate meanings: Disney (disambiguation) The Walt Disney Company (also known as Disney Enterprises, Inc. ... 1953 (MCMLIII) was a common year starting on Thursday. ... 1963 (MCMLXIII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (the link is to a full 1963 calendar). ... Fantasia is a 1940 motion picture produced by Walt Disney. ... Fantasia 2000 is an animated feature produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures. ... Although he never won an Oscar for any of his movie performances, the comedian Bob Hope received two honorary Oscars for his contributions to cinema. ... This class was known as Short Subjects, cartoons from 1932 until 1970, and as Short Subjects, animated films from 1971 to 1973. ... The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals was a 1994 book by animation historian Jerry Beck that compiled a list of the 50 greatest animated cartoons of all-time as voted upon by those in the animation industry. ...



Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

The credits roll over a stylised music shop. The names of cast and crew and title of the feature are superimposed over the various instruments and instrument cases. The scene then cuts to an owl, who rushes to a schoolhouse full of bird children as a drumroll is played on a snare.

A brief musical section introduces us to "the subject for today": the study of musical instruments. The owl explains to the class (and the viewer) that all music originates from four core sounds: toot (brass), whistle (woodwinds), plunk (strings) and boom (percussion).


The film then jumps to a group of cavemen, each of whom have discovered the nuclear form of one of the above sounds. We begin with a portly caveman who has discovered that blowing through a cow's horn produces a pleasing "toot". We advance to ancient Egypt in 2000 BC, where the caveman discovers that metal horns produce even better sounds. He celebrates by breaking into a two-note jazz solo as Egyptian characters painted on the walls boogie down.

We return to the owl, who explains that making a trumpet longer made its tone lower. We then visit a Roman trumpeter who crashes into a column and bends his horn into a grotesque shape... however, he soon discovers that despite this change in form, the trumpet does not sound any different: it is possible to change the horn's shape without changing the pitch.

However, as the owl explains, this horn can only produce certain notes; in order to get all of the notes required for even a simple tune, you would need four horns of different lengths. But if we create a horn with valves, we can effectively have four horns in one, and this fact is celebrated with another jazz solo.


We return to the cavemen, where the next one is trying to impress his "cavegirl" by blowing on a blade of grass; he further discovers that adding holes to the tube allows him to modify the sound in interesting ways.

The owl explains that this system of holes is the basis for every woodwind instrument, including the clarinet and the saxophone.


The next caveman has discovered that plucking on his bow produces a pleasant sound. An offscreen choir explains (as the animation shows) how to create a simple harp by adding a resonator, some extra strings and tuning pegs, and rearranging it all.

The owl mentions that you can either pluck the harp, or play it with a bow. We then briefly visit several periods in history, where we see several string instruments being played in similar fashion, and finish with a string quartet.


The final caveman beats on his chest to produce a "boom", and hits other parts of his body for other sounds. The owl escorts us through history and explains how a variety of instruments emerged from this basic theory, ranging from rattles to complex drum kits and even the bass drums of marching bands.


The chorus recaps that all music, from the banjo to Latin percussion to "music oriental" to a grand symphony, emerges from the four nuclear sounds.

Spoilers end here.

Educational Usage

While the film was originally released into theatres as a part of a broader collection of shorts, it continues to be used today in music classrooms to provide an elemental understanding of how musical instruments work. While the film is not entirely historically accurate, the information about sound remains timeless and useful even in a contemporary classroom setting.

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Disney's Best: The Fabulous '50s (489 words)
This volume features four such one-shots, three of which were nominated for Academy Awards, and the fourth ("Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom") having outright won a gold statuette.
"Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom" - Another stylized short, this educational short was the second in a series titled Adventures in Music, which was the brainchild of the late, great Ward Kimball.
The first cartoon produced in Cinemascope, this film scored an Academy Award and was even more in the UPA style than "Pigs is Pigs", and a true reflection of Kimball's personality.
  More results at FactBites »



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