Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom is an educational Adventures in Music animated short film produced by Walt Disney Productions, and originally released to theaters by Disney's Buena Vista Distribution on November 10 1953. A sequel to the first Adventures in Music cartoon, the 3-D short Melody, Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom is a stylized presentation of the evolution of four musical instruments over the ages: the horn ("toot"), the flute ("whistle"), the guitar ("plunk"), and the drum ("boom").
The first animated cartoon to be filmed and released in widescreen CinemaScope, Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom won the 1954 Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons). In 1994, it was voted #29 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field.
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.
The owl explains that this system of holes is the basis for every woodwind instrument, including the clarinet and the saxophone.
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.
In 1964, Disney issued a re-recorded and expanded version of the short on LP entitled "A Child's Introduction to Melody and the Instruments of the Orchestra."
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 elementary understanding of how musical instruments work.