RELEASE DATE: Thursday 27th May 1948
The "package film" era continues with Melody Time, essentially a sequel to Make Mine Music. Once again, the film is made up of a number of contemporary musical numbers. There are no themes holding them together; they all look different, sound different, have different running times and different themes. Once again, the quality of these segments varies from short to short.
Melody Time is the second-last package film. By 1948 Walt Disney was definitely heading back towards the feature length story pictures, but these quick "bitza" movies served to keep the money rolling in while the studio rebuilt itself after World War II and the animation strike.
The film begins with a token introductory song titled "Melody Time," sung by Buddy Clark, a popular singer of the time. We soon realise that his voice is coming from a singing mask and his backup singers. He is the opening narrator of the movie, and he invites us all to join in the fun of Melody Time.
SEGMENT ONE: "Once Upon A Wintertime"
With singing by Frances Langford, the first main segment of Melody Time is a love story between two humans and two rabbits. The boy just wants to impress the girl with a romantic sleigh ride, but things go wrong and it almost ends in tragedy.
SEGMENT TWO: "Bumble Boogie"
Next is something completely different. Bumble Boogie is an abstract piece set against the Flight of the Bumblebee music. In it, a poor little bee is constantly on the run from rampaging music!... Perhaps this is the feeling a pianist gets when trying to play this piece live!
IRVYNE: I think this is quite possibly my favourite segment in the whole movie. It's short, but very sweet. It would have fit right into Make Mine Music. It certainly shares elements with the "After You've Gone" segment. In all honesty, it wouldn't seem that out of place in Fantasia either. The musical style is probably a bit too contemporary for Fantasia, but the abstract imagery is right up that alley.
SEGMENT THREE: "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed"
At 17 minutes long, this part of Melody Time is lengthier and more substantial than either of the previous segments, and it tells a clear and complete story: the American legend of Johnny Appleseed (real name John Chapman) who was responsible for planting many, many apple trees in the early 1800s during the pioneering era. The film is narrated by Dennis Day.
MALEFICENT: I love the bit where there's the funny little old man who kicks up the dust and sings really fast.
Anyway, I like Johnny Appleseed. It's a lovely little self-contained story.
SEGMENT FOUR: "Little Toot"
With music sung by The Andrews Sisters (reprising their narration skills from Make Mine Music) this is the story of an adorable (but naughty) little tug-boat who wants to be a big tug-boat like his father. He always seems to be getting into trouble though.
SEGMENT FIVE: "Trees"
Back in Make Mine Music, every second segment was an abstract, artistic, experimental piece. In Melody Time, "Trees" is probably the only part that could fit into that category. It doesn't have a story, it doesn't have characters, it's just an artistic study of trees accompanied by a poem written by Joyce Kilmer and sung by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians.
MALEFICENT: Artistically, this is beautiful.
SEGMENT SIX: "Blame It On The Samba"
Just because, y'know, people might not have got enough of Saludos Amigos or The Three Caballeros, Jose Carioca and the Arucuan bird return to party with Donald Duck once again. They dance to samba music sung by the Dinning Sisters.
SEGMENT SEVEN: "Pecos Bill"
The final segment of Melody Time is by far the longest. Like Johnny Appleseed, it tells the story of an American legend (although unlike Johnny, it's not based on a real person, but comes from a history of tall-tales.) Pecos Bill was allegedly the greatest cowboy that ever lived, and after being raised by coyotes, he and his horse Widowmaker made a name for themselves all over Texas. All goes well until Bill sees the beautiful Slue-Foot Sue, falls in love and plans to settle down. Some dreams are never meant to come true though...
After an eternity, we cut to some live-action. A couple of kids are listening to the singing cowboys and want to hear a story. And who are these kids? Why, it's Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten, AKA "Johnny" and "Ginny" from Song of the South!
Bobby is horrified when he hears that there's going to be a girl in the story. He's not into all that sissy stuff! To be honest, I think this live-action segment is completely unnecessary. It would have been much more effective if we'd jumped straight into the story of Pecos Bill. This part of the movie, especially coming straight off the Samba part, just slows to a crawl. Fortunately it picks up again once Bill comes on to the scene.
Once again, we have the troublesome female, who always seems to mess things up for the male heroes! In this film it's Slue-Foot Sue, the beauty who makes all the cowboys weak at the knees. She might have met her match in Widowmaker though!