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During the '40s many of the animated films released by the Disney
studios were compilation-style movies. By that, I mean that instead of
telling one story over the course of 80 or so minutes, the films were
made up of a series of short animated stories linked together. The most
successful example of this approach was "Fantasia" (which was linked
together by pieces of classical music), but nowadays many people are
not aware that the studio made several films of this kind. "The Three
Caballeros", "Make Music Mine", "Saludos Amigos", "Fun and Fancy Free"
and "Melody Time" are some of the other examples.
Melody Time is split into seven sections. "Once Upon A Wintertime" deals with a loving couple who go ice-skating on a frozen river; "Bumble Boogie" deals with a bee which is pursued by a variety of living musical instruments to the accompaniment of Rimsky Korsakov's Flight Of The Bumblebee; "Johnny Appleseed" retells an old American legend about a pioneer who struck out west and planted the first apple forests; "Little Toot" deals with a mischievous young tugboat which redeems itself by saving a liner in a storm; "Trees" is a short poetic sequence in which the title tells you all you need to know; "Blame It On The Samba" is a simple dance sequence starring Donald Duck; and "Pecos Bill", which begins with real-life actors (among them Bobby Driscoll) talking around a desert campfire, and proceeds to relate the animated story of the titular Wild West character who was raised by coyotes and got into various wacky adventures.
Generally-speaking, I find the longer sequences the best. The opening sequence, "Wintertime", is excellent, with just the right touch of comedy and excitement. "Little Toot" is excellent too - arguably the best episode in the film in fact. And "Pecos Bill" is thoroughly entertaining and has some laugh-out-loud moments. Of the longer episodes, only "Johnny Appleseed" feels laboured and frankly dull. The shorter episodes are actually rather disappointing. "Bumble Boogie" has terrific musical accompaniment, but is forgettable; "Trees" is pleasant but ordinary; and "Blame It On The Samba" looks like a rejected sequence from The Three Caballeros (1947), and is by far the most irritating sequence in this film, despite the presence of the perennially popular Donald Duck. On the whole, Melody Time might only really appeal to Disney completists; it has amusing and ingenious moments though you have to wade through some dull stretches to find them.
The WWII years were not good to 'ol Walt Disney. First, a crippling
strike occurred just before the war (in which he lost about a third of
his animators) and then the war took a whole bunch more. Plus, apart
from making military training films and a few shorts here and there,
the production of full-length films ground to a complete halt. Up until
this time, Disney had produced some amazingly good cartoons such as
"Snow White", "Pinocchio" and "Bambi" among others. Once the war was
over, the studio was a mess and they were in no shape to try to
replicate their past glorious films. So, the studio worked on a wide
variety of short films--intended as experimental productions and
opportunities for the new animators to hone their craft. To put it
bluntly, it was almost like the minor leagues of Disney--or perhaps the
pre-season! Regardless, by 1946-8, they had A LOT of shorts and decided
to clump them together (sometimes clumsily) and release them as
full-length films, such as "Make Mine Music", "Saludos Amigos" and this
film. Unfortunately, these all were wildly uneven pictures--full of
very good stuff, some poor stuff and some downright awful stuff. For
kids, in particular, they were second or third-rate films--often full
of dull songs and varying wildly in style, content and focus.
Of the collections marketed as full-length films, "Melody Time" might just be the most consistent of them. While it still is uneven and occasionally bad (Once Upon a Winter Time), it also had more good stuff--though nothing exactly great. The best of them were probably "Pecos Bill" and "Little Toot"....though I also liked "Bumble Boogie". The rest of the crop would fall somewhere between these extremes. Enjoyable but probably a film best for die-hard Disney fans or people who adore animation...REALLY adore animation. Otherwise, I anticipate some very disappointed people out there.
All possibly to reflect Walt Disney's dreams and possibly some of his
new ideas, while the world was recovering from the terrifying Second
World War, Disney released "Melody Time", a collection of beautiful,
heartwarming, musical and entertaining shorts. At the beginning, a
speaking mask (who at times is the narrator), explains that there is
something for everyone and there indeed just about is! A lot of
different kind of shorts await you and you are bound to like at least
one a little bit.
In order of when the shorts are shown:
"Once Upon A Wintertime": A different kind of Disney animation, including pristine backgrounds, Disney shows a rather messy winter love story. Not the best short in the bunch, but definitely not the least best, with a good woman singer.
"Bumble Boogie": Good for the eye, this short shows a very angry and upset bee trapped and flustered in a world of musical caterpillars and images. A good short mainly for the older, for the young it may be a bit upsetting, especially as the bee is quite a likable character.
"Johnny Appleseed": One of the few shorts with a proper plot, with some of the best animation in the set, Johnny Appleseed is a heartwarming story, you may even be inclined to believe this beautiful American story is true! Good for all ages.
"Little Toot": Unfortunately, this short is rather tedious babyish and a slight bit depressing, probably the least good of the lot. However, it is likely to entertain the wee ones and maybe some grown-ups would not mind watching it.
"Tree": Is basically a poem, a moving painting and a picture of a tree. Like "Bumble Boogie", it is plot less and another feast for the eyes, hopefully it will become your favourite of the set. Very beautiful for any animation and stunning.
"Blame It On The Samba": Featuring Donald Duck, a parrot friend of his and a rascal of a waiter bird! Showing a naughty bird bullying and entertaining Donald Duck and his friend with the amazement and annoyance of the samba.
"Pecos Bill": The last of the set, Pecos Bill is pretty entertaining - even with a rather tedious beginning and animation that could do with some work. The songs and characters are certainly entertaining. It shows a young boy being bought up by coyotes and becoming a "rooting, tootin' cowboy".
So, enjoy "Melody Time"!
Seven animated musical shorts from Walt Disney (with some live-action interspersed) include themes of young love and the wonders of nature. Highlights are the raucous "Pecos Bill" segment and the story of "Johnny Appleseed". Obviously, "Melody Time" was a holding-pattern release for the studio while they completed their more high-profile pictures. Certainly it is filled with gorgeous color, animated grandeur, and old-fashioned songs, but it's considered to be one of Disney's lesser efforts, and for good reason. The lack of a strong theme, matched with Disney's penchant for cuteness, may cause some non-Disney buffs to start squirming after thirty minutes or so. Pretty much interchangeable with "Make Mine Music", which was released in 1946. **1/2 from ****
Overall, I enjoyed "Melody Time" very much. It isn't as good as
"Fantasia", which I consider a perfect introduction to classical music,
but there are some entertaining parts. Elevated by some lovely
animation, good songs and cute characters it is very pleasant to watch,
even if there are segments that are better than others.
"Once Upon a Wintertime"(9/10)- One of my personal favourite segments from the film. I admit I knew about this one long before seeing "Melody Time" from watching my old Christmas videos. The animation is absolutely gorgeous in this segment, with a nice romantic story and a truly beautiful title song, sublimely sung by Frances Langford.
"Bumble Boogie"(9/10)- When I first heard of this I thought "Rimsky Korsakov jazzed up? How will that turn out?" My verdict is surprisingly entertaining, despite its scant running time and being a tad too rushed, with a cute and endearing title character, nice animation and a clever arrangement of "Flight of the Bumble Bee". I will say I don't know what Rimsky Korsakov would make of it though, he was very particular about how he liked his orchestration.
"Johnny Appleseed"(10/10)- My personal favourite. Very colourful visually, with some lively songs and the perfect melodious voice of Dennis Day elevated it to a greater level. Could've easily been very dull in terms of story, but the above elements made it worth seeing.
"Little Toot"(8/10)- I have one word for this little segment- CUTE! Little Toot himself is adorable. I loved the animation and music here, the Andrews Sisters have wonderful voices that blend beautifully together. A little too slow in places.
"Trees"(8/10)- Plot-less it is, but it is a visual and musical feast, and the poetic narration was lovely. If only it wasn't so short!
"Blame it on the Samba"(7/10)- Sorry, this was my least favourite, despite the presence of the wonderful Donald Duck and his little green parrot buddy. Excellent music and decent animation, but the editing and pacing seemed somewhat rushed, and for some strange reason Ethel Smith left me cold.
"Pecos Bill"(8/10)- This is one rootin' tootin' cartoon. While starting off a little tedious and some of the characters were a bit deflated, there were however some very nice backgrounds, funny moments and a corker of a soundtrack. Not to mention the fabulous Roy Rogers, wow!
Overall, uneven mix but pleasant enough. 7/10 Bethany Cox
One thing children don't have anymore is appreciation for (or even knowledge of) legendary American heroes, whether fictional, exaggerated, or real. Public "schools" have even gotten in the habit of eradicating our Founding Fathers from American History. Here in this wondrous Walt Disney classic the Magic Paintbrush will take us back to the days of Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyon, Pecos Bill and others. I'm writing this from fond memory of having seen it 55 years ago. I remember it well. If me and the wife go to a movie this weekend, one thing is certain: If we successfully choose the very best movie at the multiplex we will have forgotten it by the next day. Hollywood simply does not make quality movies anymore. Cars? It wasn't bad; but who will remember it in 5 weeks let alone 50 years? Melody Time was Walt Disney at his low ebb. He would soon regain his reputation with Cinderella, Peter Pan and Treasure Island. Disney at his low ebb beats the pants off today's Hollywood at their very best.
Following on the heels of 'Fantasia' (which used classical music to
accompany animated shorts) and 'Make Mine Music' (which used popular
songs and recital instead), comes another musical anthology, 'Melody
Time', the weakest of the three.
The Andrews Sisters perform 'Little Toot' to give life to a charming tale about a mischievous tug-boat who eventually redeems himself; while Roy Rogers performs the dullest piece of the film, 'Pecos Bill'. In-between we have a mixed bag - a choral version of the croaky old poem 'Trees'; a hot samba with Ethel Smith and Donald Duck; 'Bumble-Boogie' (which has a bee trying to escape from the musical cacophony which is Freddy Martin's orchestra and The Flight of the Bumble Bee); and the tale of Johnny Appleseed.
OK to pass the time but does not have anything on the scale of 'The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At The Met' or 'The Nutcracker Suite' from the previous films.
'Melody Time' showcases seven classic short stories utilizing the talents of
The Andrews Sisters, Dennis Day, Roy Rogers, Sons of the Pioneers and
Frances Langford. Highlights include "Pecos Bill" and "Johnny Appleseed", as
well as "Little Toot", the tale of a mischievous tugboat. "Bumble Boogie"
and "Blame it on the Samba" are other highlights.
A nice mixture of fun and fantasy with some great music on the soundtrack while the Disney animation dazzles with its highly stylized cartoon art. Although an uneven blend of sketches, it's got plenty of entertainment value. A winter wonderland romance sung by the Andrews Sisters gets it off to a good start. Kids of all ages should love it and adults won't be bored. Highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Arguably, the most obscure of Disney's feature-length films to be
released on VHS and DVD, Melody Time is pretty much a 3rd installment
in the Fantasia series, but if not, than you can definitely count it as
a twin of-or part II to Make Mine Music (1946). It's virtually the
same. But with one exception. Now, almost all 7 segments are longer
than those from Make Mine Music. And this time, the selection of shorts
are much more eclectic in variety. We have 2 American folk tales, a
visual poem with words, a visual story without words, and much more.
Technically, Melody Time is superior to Make Mine Music. But- not where you might expect it to be. For instance, the longer segments are, obviously, "Johnny Appleseed" and "Pecos Bill." Of these two, "Pecos" is definitely better. But, even for Disney, and in the 1940's - this is just too silly to be that entertaining most of the time. You would have to be the least intelligent, most childlike person out there to find this mostly "humorous" segment to be that amusing. But, it has the right look and feel for Western-themed Disney animation. Then, "Johnny" is more serious but... there's something odd about this one, to say the least. I guess it's Disney's complete rejection of actual historical events during a sequence where the pioneers and The Indians (yep, complete with Red-faces and all) dance and eat apple bakings together. It may be "pleasant" if you don't want to see violent history, but it's still stupid. Then, this may not bother anyone else either, but there are a few too many references to God's work, which is too much to think about in a family-oriented cartoon. "Prayin's for church," as they say.
Next, is "Little Toot," which for some reason doesn't strike me as that great a story. I believe it's become a favorite showing on the Disney channel between shows / movies (or, at least that's how it used to be before their new millennium Tw'een programming took over). I don't know why. It may be based entirely on the song. It's a pleasant song, but strictly for fans of old radio / big band / 1940's music.
All the other segments, though, are practically perfect for what they are. The first, "Once Upon a Wintertime," has some of the most magnificent colors I've ever seen in a Disney movie in a long time. For 1948, this is just pure visual delight - the blues and reds are just beyond vibrant. The tale is perhaps a little generic, but then so is most of what Disney puts to film. But that magic is there in full force on this segment. The second, is "Bumble Boogie." It's short and for what it is, it's good. Not very memorable, at all. But, if you don't mind alternate versions (what we today call the "Remix") of popular / famous pieces of music, you might enjoy it (I certainly did).
The fifth segment is "Trees," and this is one of the most beautiful scenes I've ever witnessed in any Disney movie. It is basically the fill-in for the Interpretive segments from Make Mine Music, only the colors are so beautiful - especially the greens, yellows, and oranges. Parts of the poem itself are a little hard to hear, but the singing mixed with these visuals is just a sight to behold. Then, the sixth, "Blame It on the Samba," mostly goes for the cuteness of that trouble making bird from The Three Caballeros, the Araquan. The pitch of his voice / giggle have changed and it's now much squeakier and mousier. The animation is good, but the song is great and it's great to see Donald and his green parrot buddy return. Also returning is a live-action person added to the mix who may be a sister to the Cookie Woman from Caballeros. There's some funny chaos later on in this one.
This is the first of these musical package features from Disney (post Fantasia) to have few weak parts, for which each of those have their positive attributes too. "Johnny Appleseed" may not be told very well, but the colors again are unbelievable in several scenes, that it makes moments of the segment uplifting. And then, "Pecos Bill" has so many songs for one of these segments, that one of them is likely to end up getting a little stuck in your head. My favorite is "Blue Shadows on the Trail."
Fun Disney anthology movie that features seven musical cartoons. Most are very good and all are watchable. My least favorite is probably "Bumble Boogie." Not because it's bad, it's just nothing that memorable. The ones I like the most are "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed," with Dennis Day, "Once Upon a Wintertime" with Frances Langford, the adorable "Little Toot," and "Pecos Bill," a retelling of the folk hero's story introduced by a live action segment that includes Roy Rogers and Bobby Driscoll. This last segment is the one most likely to offend the PC police, both for its depictions of Indians as well as Pecos Bill smoking a cigarette. Stupid, I know, but some think we live in a time where we need others to do our thinking and decide what's best for us. The other two cartoons in this movie are "Trees" (the poem put to music) and a Donald Duck cartoon called "Blame It on the Samba." Both are good. All of these cartoons were released later on their own as theatrical shorts. This is a very enjoyable way to pass the time. It'll put a smile on the face of any fan of old-school Disney movies.
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