Movie Review: Melody Time

Melody Time Trailer

Melody Time Summary

According to Disney, the film’s plot is as follows: “In the grand tradition of Disney’s greatest musical classics, such as FANTASIA, MELODY TIME features seven classic stories, each enhanced with high-spirited music and unforgettale characters…[A] feast for the eyes and ears [full of] wit and charm…a delightful Disney classic with something for everyone”. Rose Pelswick, in a 1948 review for The News-Sentinel, described the film as an ‘adventure into the intriguing make-believe world peopled by Walt Disney’s Cartoon characters”. It also explains that “with the off-screen voice of Buddy Clark doing the introductions, the…episodes include fantasy, folklore, South American rhythms, poetry, and slapstick”. A 1948 review by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described it as a “mixture of fantasy, abstraction, parable, music, color, and movement”.

The seven “mini-musical” stories outlined:

Once Upon a Wintertime

This “Mansley” segment features Frances Langford singing the title song about two romantic young lovers on a winter day in December, during the late 19th century. The lovers are named Jenny and Joe (unlike most Disney cartoons, Jenny and Joe do not have spoken dialogue in this cartoon). Joe shows off on the ice for his lover, Jenny, and near-tragedy and a timely rescue ensues. This is intertwined with a similar rabbit couple. Like several other segments of these package films, Once Upon a Wintertime was later released theatrically as an individual short, in this case on September 17, 1954. Clips from the beginning and end of this short showing a horse-drawn sleigh (along with the Carfaces and their blue horses) are featured in Disney’s Very Merry Christmas Songs, which is part of Disney’s Sing Along Songs, as a background movie for the song “Jingle Bells” (also belonged to the Carfaces and their blue horses).

Bumble Boogie

This segment presents a surrealistic battle for a solitary bumble bee as he tries to ward off a visual and musical frenzy. The music is courtesy of Freddy Martin and His Orchestra (with Jack Fina playing the piano) and is a swing-jazz variation of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee, which was one of the many pieces considered for inclusion in Fantasia.

The Legend of Johnny Appleseed

This segment is a retelling of the story of John Chapman, who spent most of his life roaming the Midwestern United States (mainly Ohio and Indiana) in the pioneer days, and planting apple trees, thus earning his famous nickname. He also spread Christianity. Dennis Day narrates (as an “old settler who knew Johnny well”) and provides the voices of both Johnny and his guardian angel. This segment was released independently on December 25, 1955 as Johnny Appleseed. The piece has a running time of “17 minutes [making it] the film’s second-longest piece”. Before being adapted as a segment in Melody Time, the story of Johnny Appleseed was “first immortalized around campfires”, then later turned into “storybook form”.

Little Toot[edit]

This segment is based on the story of Little Toot by Hardie Gramatky, in which the title protagonist, a small tugboat in New York City, wanted to be just like his father Big Toot, but could not seem to stay out of trouble. The Andrews Sisters provide the vocals. A clip from Little Toot features briefly in the “Friendship” song on Disney Sing Along Songs volume Friend Like Me. It was also featured in Sing Me a Story with Belle.

Trees

This segment featured a recitation of the 1913 poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer and music by Oscar Rasbach performed by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians with the lyrical setting accompanying animation of bucolic scenes seen through the changing of the seasons.

To preserve the look of the original story sketches, layout artist Ken O’Connor came up with the idea of using frosted cels and rendering the pastel images right onto the cel. Before being photographed each cel was laminated in clear lacquer to protect the pastel. The result was a look that had never been seen in animation before.

Blame It on the Samba

This segment has Donald Duck and José Carioca meeting the Aracuan Bird, who introduces them to the pleasures of the samba. The accompanying music is the 1914 polka Apanhei-te, Cavaquinho by Ernesto Nazareth, fitted with English lyrics. The Dinning Sisters provide the vocals while organist Ethel Smith appears in a live-action role.

Pecos Bill

The film’s final segment is about Texas’ famous hero Pecos Bill. He was raised by coyotes and later became the biggest and best cowboy that ever lived. It also features his horse Widowmaker, and recounts the ill-fated romance between Bill and a beautiful cowgirl named Slue Foot Sue, whom he falls in love with at first sight. This retelling of the story features Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan, Trigger, and the Sons of the Pioneers telling the story to Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten in a live-action frame story. This segment was later edited on the film’s NTSC video release (except the PAL release) to remove all parts with Bill smoking a cigarette and almost the entire tornado scene with Bill rolling his cigarette and lighting it with a lightning bolt. Both the cigarette and the tornado scene were restored when the film was released on Disney+. With a total running time of “22 minutes, [it] is the lengthiest piece”.

Melody Time Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Disney during this time was really into creating anthropology films including this one, which is a collection of stories. Each one holds on its own and doesn’t connect. They are cute and musical and perfect for the whole family.

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