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A Second Look: Melody Time
In 1948, Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, and Wilfred Jackson released Disney’s Melody Time, the 10th animated feature in the Disney Animated Canon. Starring Roy Rogers, Trigger, Dennis Day, The Andrews Sisters, Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, Freddy Martin, Ethel Smith, Frances Langford, Buddy Clark, Bob Nolan, the Sons of the Pioneers, The Dinning Sisters, Bobby Driscoll, Luana Patten, Mel Blanc, Thurl Ravenscroft and Bill lee, the film has an unknown box office gross. The film didn’t receive a theatrical rerelease nor a videocassette release until 1998, but several of its segments were released individually as part of other Disney releases.
Another anthology package film in the vein of Fantasia and Make Mine Music, the film has seven segments. “Once Upon a Wintertime,” features the story of two young lovers in December, “Bumble Boogie” presents a battle between a bumblebee and visualized music, “The Legend of Johnny Appleseed” details the life of the titular folk hero, “Little Toot,” tells of a small tugboat who wants to be like his father, “Trees” is a recitation of the 1913 poem of the same name set to animation, “Blame it on the Samba,” see Donald, Jose Carioca and the Aracuan Bird introduced to the dance, and “Pecos Bill” features Roy Rogers narrating the life of Pecos Bill.”
Though fun to watch, Melody Time is more or less a pretty average film that lacks what made Make Mine Music so enjoyable. Namely that a majority of the segments are only moderately decent, with a few being all that memorable. But it seems the most memorable is “The Legend of Johnny Appleseed,” which was actually the film’s second longest piece. Everything about it, from seeing the animals realize that he’s not a hunter and befriending him to the really catchy song that’s sung throughout the segment, works really well in its favor. The whole thing is wonderfully heartwarming, seeing that his work planting apples brings people from all walks of life together. And there’s the aforementioned animals, seeing predators like a bear and a mountain lion rush him just to be petted is quite cute.
“Little Toot,” while not as good is just as memorable, mainly due to the vocals provided by The Andrews Sisters. It’s interesting seeing such a normal idea, a kid wanting to be like his dad but instead just causes trouble, transferred over to the notion being played out by tugboats. And he gets into all sorts of mischief, just as a little kid would and turns into a fascinating metaphor of sorts and Little Toot’s exile from the harbor can be seen as a kid who wants to emulate his father, but continually makes things worse, being sent to his room and has to learn that if he really does want to grow up, he has to give up being so foolish.
The final segment that’s not so forgettable is “Pecos Bill,” and that’s because Roy Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers give it such life and heart that all the antics Bill gets up to, like reclining on a cactus or digging the Rio Grande, are made really fun and enjoyable.
But apart from those three, the segments just really exist, though they are enjoyable in the moment. Like “Trees.” It’s entertaining to see visuals of changing seasons go along with Joyce Kilmer’s poem, but it really doesn’t stand out.
And “Blame it on the Samba.” Having Donald, Jose and the Aracuan Bird return for some mayhem, being introduced to a dance seems like it would make for an unforgettable segment, especially how it really all takes place in a wine glass and once again makes them interact with live action footage. However, it’s such an odd scene that it’s difficult to take everything in at once, which doesn’t help make it very memorable.
At least the film starts out with a pretty decent segment, “Once Upon a Wintertime,” where a romance and the activities of the lovers is seen without dialogue. It has a range of emotions, such as the enjoyment of seeing Joe show off and then the suspense of Jenny’s mishap with the ice. But decent is all it really is, failing to really stand out like those featuring Johnny Appleseed, Little Toot and Pecos Bill.
Maybe it’s because they’re given such enjoyable characterization.
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