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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Disneyear: Melody Time (1948)

Ok, we're almost done with the package films! Melody Time is pretty much the same movie as Make Mine Music, only different shorts and more popular songs are featured versus combining classical with popular music. Makes me wonder why Disney didn't just call it Make Mine Music 2? I guess Melody Time is catchier. And thankfully I didn't have as hard a time finding an uncut copy of this movie like MMM. But before I get sidetracked, why don't we examine the third entirely musical Disney flick?

The show begins pretty nicely with Once Upon a Wintertime, sung by Frances Langford. There's a young couple in love that decide to go ice skating together, as do a pair of rabbits. After a brief break up between both couples (and I do mean brief!), the ice starts to crack as both girls fall in the cold water. Our boys save them in the nick of time and ride off together happily and cozy in a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Ordinarily, I'd call this cute and nothing spectacular, but the music and the designs by Mary Blair really help the movie off to a good start.

The second segment is Bumble Boogie, performed by Freddy Martin and his Orchestra. It shows a bee escaping these piano keys trying to kill him. This is a really creative and awesome segment. I just love how much energy there is here and the music, based on Rimsky-Korsakov's famous melody does help out with its frantic pace. At least watch this scene if you decide to skip the first.

The Legend of Johnny Appleseed is one of the more familiar segments to people. Narrated by Dennis Day, who also does all the voices, we get treated to the story of John Chapman, aka Appleseed, as he devotes his whole life to planting apple seeds across America. I first saw this when I was in the second grade and I enjoyed it a lot. Then I saw it again as a teenager and, being a smart ass, I kind of found ways to make fun of it. Now that I'm older, I find myself liking it again. Mary Blair's artwork is just too good to pass up. Especially near the end when the apple trees turn into the clouds in the distance. That is a great scene and to be honest is where I think the movie should have ended. You'll see what I mean later. It may be an acquired taste to some, as Appleseed isn't really the most interesting character out there, but this is still one of my favorites.
Concept art by Mary Blair. God, that's gorgeous!
Fourth up is Little Toot sung by the Andrews Sisters. Little Toot, a tugboat, wants to be just like his father, but can't seem to stay out of trouble either. While it is a cute cartoon and I do like it, it's honestly the weakest short in the film. Nothing special about it, but if you like the cute Disney shorts, you'll like it ok.

Trees, sung by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, is the choir singing the poem by Alfred Joyce Kilmer about what else? Trees. It also slows the pace down a bit and shows trees changing with the seasons. It is a nice segment and I actually find myself comparing it to Fantasia's Nutcracker Suite since they're pretty similar. Nutcracker's stronger, but this still comes pretty damn close.  

Next up is one I've always loved, Blame it on the Samba with Ethel Smith on a Hammond organ and the Andrews Sisters on vocals. Donald Duck and Jose Carioca come back looking blue. That is until the Araquan bird sees them and cheers them up through samba music. This whole segment is kind of like watching a scene from The Three Caballeros. It's a lot of fun with some pretty good live action-animation meshing. I also want to point out the colors used. This one uses a lot of dark colors so that the brighter colors practically jump out of the screen. That's a neat concept. This is easily one of my top three segments in the whole film. Just watch and you'll see why.

We end Melody Time with another American legend, Pecos Bill, narrated by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers. Being from Texas, I heard a lot of Pecos Bill stories as a kid and he's basically the Chuck Norris of cowboys. That's no different from the Disney short. We see Bill grow up after being raised by coyotes, meeting his horse Trigger and the love of his life Slue-Foot Sue. Jealous, Trigger launches her up to the moon after she decides to try and tame Bill's equine friend before they elope. It ends kind of on a sad note as we see Bill cry out to his love in the sky, which according to legend, is why coyotes wail at the moon. While this is easily the funniest and one of the more energetic of the segments, as I'm older I wonder why did the movie end with this segment? Did Disney overlook the Appleseed ending? That was far superior! It had a rather sad ending too but it was optimistic at the same time. Here, it's kind of depressing.... well it's still a good short . Makes a catchy song too!

As a whole, I really enjoy Melody Time, probably more than I do Make Mine Music. I find myself getting a kick out of movies like this, where artists were free to interpret songs into cartoons. It's extremely creative with good atmosphere and I think having more memorable segments than MMM does help it. My only problem, again is the ending, but I mostly addressed that in the last paragraph, so I won't go into further detail. Both are pretty underrated as Disney films go. If you find it in a video store or on, check it out. 


Tim Hollis said...

Actually, that IS Dennis Day as the old-timer angel too. Good ol' Dal McKennon, who was a good friend of mine, didn't arrive in Hollywood to start doing cartoon voices until about 1952.

Justin Smith said...

Oh, really? Could have sworn it was Dallas... Ah well. Thanks for the correction.

You really knew Dallas McKennon? That's awesome!

Tim Hollis said...

Yep, Dal was as much or more of a character than any of the characters he played! Unfortunately, he passed away in a nursing home a few years ago.