BOOTLEG FILES 291: “Tooter Turtle” (a 1960 39-episode series of cartoons).
LAST SEEN: Clips are available on numerous web sites.
AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: A few cartoons are included on two “Underdog” DVDs.
REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: When you see the cartoons, you will know why.
CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely in the near future.
I just received a copy of Mark Arnold’s new book “Created and Produced by Total Television Productions,” and through its pages I enjoyed a reunion with many of the cartoon characters that delighted my childhood: Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo and Chumley, Klondike Kat, Commander McBragg, and the Go-Go Gophers. But there was one cartoon character from the Total Television Productions canon that I was unfamiliar with: Tooter Turtle. This was the first time I ever heard of the character, and I was curious to find out more.
Well, I found out – and I have to say that I was somewhat underwhelmed.
“Tooter Turtle” was an early offering from Total Television Productions, and not unlike many forerunner creations it lacked the snap and polish of studios that are in the process of creating their own style. This is not to say the “Tooter Turtle” cartoons were awful. However, not having a knowledge of “Tooter Turtle” won’t exactly kill you.
Tooter Turtle is a bipedal boy terrapin who wears a straw boater hat, suspenders, and an old-fashioned collar and narrow tie. He speaks in a somewhat dim-witted voice reminiscent of Mortimer Snerd, the celebrated dum-dum dummy created by Edgar Bergen. Tooter’s best friend is Wizard the Lizard, whom he calls Mr. Wizard. This mystical fellow dresses like Merlin and speaks in a German-Yiddish accent. Allen Swift was the voice of Tooter, and Sandy Becker played Mr. Wizard.
Each cartoon in this series revolves around Tooter’s desire to try a daring career. Despite lacking the intellect and the muscles to handle the rigors of his desired fields, Mr. Wizard waves his magic wand, which sends Tooter into a circular spin that places him in his dream job. Sometimes the job takes him into the past – the Old West, Alaska in the Gold Rush, Chicago of the Roaring Twenties – but mostly he finds himself in rugged, macho contemporary work – firefighter, baseball player, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, etc. Mr. Wizard would narrate Tooter’s new adventures in the wild working world (among humans, oddly – Tooter and Mr. Wizard are the only animals in the cartoons).
However, Tooter seemed to have the Midas touch in reverse – everything he put his hands on turned to excrement. Inevitably, Tooter would wind up in a predicament that could easily turn fatal. He would call to Mr. Wizard for rescue, and the wise old lizard would then chant, “Drizzle, drazzle, drozzle, drome – time for this one to come home.” After gently scolding Tooter, Mr. Wizard would close each cartoon with his aphoristic reminder, “Be what you is and not what you is not! Folks that is what they is, is the happiest lot!”
So what’s the problem? For starters, none of the 39 “Tooter Turtle” episodes were funny. In fact, I never cracked a smile watching any of the cartoons that are currently online in unauthorized postings. The dialogue is weak to the point of feebleness (an Old West military leader is “General Custard,” Tooter orders a glass of lemonade in a Gold Rush saloon, etc.).
Furthermore, the painfully limited animation makes the slapstick unbearable – the cartoons were so cheaply made that most of the pandemonium happens off-camera, with a slight pan to reveal the various wreckage and ruin that would have required time and effort to produce. And a few of the gags are just plain awful, most egregiously when firefighter Tooter gets locked in a closet of a burning building and is accidentally abandoned by his fellow firefighters.
Also, Tooter is a fairly unlikeable character. There are plenty of dumb but endearing cartoon characters – and plenty of living people who fit that mold, too! – but Tooter’s obtuse personality and stubborn inability to recognize his congenital incompetence is irritating. (Think of George W. Bush defending the occupation of Iraq, circa 2006.) Mr. Wizard is the only other consistent character, but he has little to do on screen – his narration of Tooter’s mishaps is too fey to have impact.
“Tooter Turtle” never existed as a standalone TV series. It was part of the line-up of the Total Television Productions series “King Leonardo and His Short Subjects” that debuted in 1960. The marketing and merchandising for the series focused on King Leonardo, with Tooter only occasionally showing up in fleeting images as part of the King Leonardo comic books. The cartoons were included in a syndicated repackaging of the NBC series, renamed “The King and Odie” (Odie was a sidekick skunk to the leonine monarch), and were later incorporated into the syndicated version of “Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales.”
A few “Tooter Turtle” cartoons turned up on DVDs featuring another Total Television Production character, Underdog. However, the bulk of the 39 episodes were never released on DVD. Bootleg videos, including one that records an 8mm projection of the cartoon from a home move screen, can easily be found on YouTube. One devoted Tooter Turtle fan created an avant-garde reimaging of the cartoon with an original creation called “Gay Turtles in Space” – and that has to be seen to be believed!
However, those who are unfamiliar with “Tooter Turtle” really shouldn’t bother seeking him out. This is one turtle who should remain firmly in his shell.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: The unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material, either for crass commercial purposes or profit-free shits and giggles, is not something that the entertainment industry appreciates. On occasion, law enforcement personnel boost their arrest quotas by collaring cheery cinephiles engaged in such activities. So if you are going to copy and distribute bootleg videos and DVDs, a word to the wise: don’t get caught. Oddly, the purchase and ownership of bootleg videos is perfectly legal. Go figure!
Posted on July 10, 2009 in Bootleg Files, Features by Phil Hall
If you liked this article then you may also like the following Film Threat articles:
- THE BOOTLEG FILES: THE BEAGLES
- MARK ARNOLD AND THE TTV FUN FACTORY
- THE BOOTLEG FILES: “BUGS BUNNY BOND RALLY”
- THE BOOTLEG FILES: “TENNESSEE TUXEDO AND HIS TALES”
- THE BOOTLEG FILES: THE ABBOTT AND COSTELLO CARTOON SHOW
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