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Unseen: Jazz in shorts (Part 7: 25-28)

25. Rooty Toot Toot (John Hubley, 1951)

Phil Moore

Made a year after Kurosawa’s Rashomon was released, “Rooty Toot Toot” with its retelling-of-a-murder-through-several-perspectives narrative, must be one of the first creative works to jack the most jacked film of them all and is widely considered one of the most beautiful short animations ever made. Not that Columbia could see the value in any of this, going public in their condemnation of "RTT" as highfallutin (loosely interpreted as 'pretentious wank')

When John Hubley gets name checked as an influence on Hanna-Barbera’s (and eventually Walt Disney with “Sleeping Beauty”) modernist/expressionist style, it’s this one they’re talking about. United Productions of America and Hubley laid out the template for “beat” animation, giving birth to the seemingly incompatible palette of simple, angular drawings and languid, almost feline motion.

I would have said the score by pianist Phil Moore is utilised in a similar fashion to “Rite of Spring” in Fantasia, if the Stravinsky segment didn’t seem so ponderous by comparison. It’s an impressively varied - almost unhinged - score for something of this length: in part ragtime, in part Jump Blues, part avant garde classical and liable to burst into Swiss-timed, big-band frenzy on a comedy gag.

26. Date With Dizzy (John Hubley, 1958)

Dizzy Gillespie, Sahib Shihab, Charlie Persip

These days, corporations and TV studios take themselves far too seriously for me to believe there’s any chance of another “Date With Dizzy” style satire on consumer culture. Real shame: Hubley's live-action anomaly is the Preston Sturges short film Preston Sturges never made!

Of course, Dizzy is box office and early Sahib Shihab (credited here for alto sax..) and Charlie Persip performance footage carries its own appeal, but put all these things aside for a second: Wouldn’t matter if it was The Les Mutch Quintet from down The Plough Inn, this is such a great extended gag that it would still be a winner.

27. Eggs (Faith & John Hubley, 1970)

Quincy Jones & Major Holley

John made twenty-one animated films (he was on McCarthy's blacklist, so he sometimes went uncredited) with his wife Faith. This is their philosophical one. Mother Nature and Death chew the proverbial fat over the dystopian ramifications of overpopulation and the prolonging of human life before God checks in and tells them both to shut the fuck up. I can’t decide whether the Hubley’s are pro or anti wanton breeding.

There is at least one record buyer out there waiting patiently for this one to be dropped. Something to do with the piano-mallet mayhem (3:45) and something to do with Major Holley and Quincy Jones: either Major doing his bass vocalisation thing or Quincy dropping that ‘chick-i-chacka-i-chick-i-chacka’ vocal (it’s in both “In the Heat of the Night” and “In Cold Blood”) would have been enough heat for one short. Both at the same time floored me.


28. Enter Life (Faith Hubley, 1981)

Elizabeth Swados

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