Directed by: Jack Kinney/Clyde Geronimi/Hamilton Luske/Wilfred Jackson
Written by: Winston Hibler/Harry Reeves/Ken Anderson/Erdman Penner/Homer Brightman/Ted Sears/Joe Rinaldi/William Cottrell/Jesse Marsh/Art Scott/Bob Moore/John Walbridge
Just like Fantasia and Make Mine Music before it, Melody Time is a compilation of musical numbers. Just like Make Mine Music, it’s pretty uneven.
The movie starts off with a paintbrush painting some pretty creepy, anthropomorphic “Drama/Comedy” type masks. The less remembered about these, the better. Buddy Clark voices the lead mask and does introductions for each of the shorts.
Once Upon A Winter Time: Boy and girl are out for a Winter date. Boy and girl get angry at each other during a quick skate. Ice cracks. Girl gets drawn down river by the ice floes. Boy tries to save her but fails. Horses that brought them there have to step up and saves lives. Two bunnies join in the fun.
It’s actually a pretty fun little short. The characters are cutely drawn and the bunnies are hilarious.
Bumble Boogie: This one is based around Flight Of The Bumble Bee, which was initially going to be a part of Fantasia. They shelved it, instead, and it ended up being brought back for this film with a jazzier version of the song. The short follows a bumble bee (of course) as he tries to survive a barrage of music-themed insects and flowers. (Piano keys turn into butterflies, the hammers threaten to crush him.) It’s a surreal visit to a smaller land.
The Legend Of Johnny Appleseed: Everybody knows John Chapman (aka, Johnny Appleseed), he who planted apple seeds throughout the frontiers of the US. This is his story, as told by Disney and narrator Dennis Day, a popular Irish comedian of the time.
According to legend, Disney hated the music for this segment. He called it “New Deal music,” whatever that means. Either way, the track stayed and this ended up being everyone’s favorite segment of the film.
Little Toot: The story of a brave little tugboat that pulled a battleship out of a storm. Before that, though, he’s a troublemaker who looks destined to the garbage barge. But he eventually made his dad proud, doing it all to a soundtrack sung by The Andrews Sisters. This was their last “appearance” in a feature film as a trio.
Trees: No, this isn’t a Disney version of the Ayn Randian Rush song. (Although, that would be interesting.) This is the Joyce Kilmer poem set to music. You know the one: “I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree…” This is probably the most extravagantly animated short of the film. Each frosted cell was laminated in lacquer to protect the pastel paint that was used. It’s beautiful and, while not the most entertaining of the shorts, it’s certainly the prettiest.
Blame It On The Samba: Together again! For the last time (in the classic years)! Donald Duck and Jose Carioca!! The two meet up with the Aracuan bird again and he introduces them to the samba! The Dinning Sisters sing and Ethel Smith (who also appears in live-action) plays the organ. As with all Donald/Jose shorts, it’s surreal. It’s weird. It’s charming. It makes the rest of the movie (which is also pretty good) totally worth watching.
Pecos Bill: Back to the American frontier with an old cowboy tale. This time, it’s Roy Rogers (with Trigger, of course), Bob Nolan and the Sons Of The Pioneers telling the story to Bobby Driscoll and Luanna Patten…the same two kids who heard the Just-So Stories from Uncle Remus in Song Of The South and were inspired by Uncle Hiram in So Dear To My Heart. (Bobby would go on to play Jim Hawkins in Disney’s version of Treasure Island – their first fully live-action movie. Unfortunately, he would also go on to a tragic end at the age of 31, dying of a drug overdose, alone in an abandoned building.)
Little Bill falls out of a wagon and is raised by wolves in the middle of Texas. Bill grows up to be the biggest and strongest cowboy in all of the West. He meets his horse, Widowmaker, and the two go on a tear throughout Texas…until Slue Foot Sue comes along and ruins everything. Widowmaker gets jealous and starts Sue on a bouncing journey to the moon. (You see, her bustle is apparently made of rubber. She bounces higher and higher until she finally just flies straight on to the moon. Not even Bill can stop her.)
Now, depending on which version of this movie you find, Pecos Bill smokes like a chimney. In most versions, they’ve cut out all of the cigarettes and sliced out an entire segment involving a twister during which Bill rolls his cigarette and lights it with a lightning bolt. Again, I understand why the cuts were made. But I want the whole thing.
Melody Time is a charming little movie with a lot of fun shorts strung together. The last time it was released was in 2000 on DVD and (gasp) VHS.