Melody Time, 1948
watched October 23, 2011
Little Toot is the most popular segment from Melody Time, which, like Make Mine Music, is another collection of shorts. It's not hard to see why he was popular - an anthropomorphized tugboat with a name that rhymes with cute? Catchy little harmonic song by the Andrews Sisters? Genius.
I actually think this short is very similar to Pinocchio. Little Toot is a well-meaning young tugboat who wants to make his father proud, but instead is always geting into trouble. It's this same theme of wanting to be good and yet messing up over and over again (yup...definitely have no idea what that's like). Just like Pinocchio, Little Toot has a respected father, and yet this father seems to be quite uninvolved in teaching or training his son to be a proper tugboat. I find this quite frustrating. How is he supposed to learn if no one is teaching him? Again, we find absent parents in the story. Even when parents are present they are absent in terms of being active in their child's life.
And again, similar to the end of Pinocchio, Little Toot also proves himself by an act of bravery. In this case, he helps pull in an ocean liner that is stuck out at sea during a big storm. In a moment when the stakes are high, Little Toot comes through and earns the respect from the rest of the community.
I questioned Pinocchio's change of heart at the end, and I think this little story raises similar questions for me. I see the same theme of the protagonist redeeming himself in a situation where he at first is utterly helpless to change or be good. Do these stories communicate to us that we just need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps (or whatever the equivalent is for tugboats... anchors? ropes?) and simply be better, do better - and eventually things will fall into place? This narrative is so ingrained in our society that sometimes we don't even realize we live by it. I believe it is one reason the Gospel of grace has become so distorted in the Western church.
Both Pinocchio and Little Toot are based on children's books. It's an interesting message to be giving kids don't you think?