Because of the controversy about Cowboys Smoking, the "Pecos Bill" segment was heavily edited for release to DVD. In the original film Bill is seen smoking a cigarette in several sequences. The cigarette was edited out in each case, resulting in the removal of almost the entire tornado sequence and some odd hand and mouth movements for Bill throughout. This makes Melody Time (1948) the only Disney film where Smoking is Featured is edited it out in some releases.
During the making of this movie, when composer Ken Darby presented the music for the "Johnny Appleseed" segment to Walt Disney, Walt scorned the music, as sounding "like New Deal music," to which an enraged Darby shouted back, "THAT is just a cross-section of one man's opinion!" Darby would not be at the studio much longer after that.
The segment "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed" is one of the rare Disney animated works based on a historical figure. Johnny Appleseed is the historic nickname of John Chapman (1774-1845), a frontiersman credited with introducing the apple tree to the areas of modern Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
The segment "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed" is one of the rare Disney animated works to feature religious content. The mentor of Johnny Appleseed is featured as an angel. When Johnny dies, the angel is there to receive his soul and lead him to the afterlife.
A few of Disney's package films of the 1940s are considered anthology films, featuring multiple stories. "Melody Time" was the last of them to do so. The subsequent package film "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad" (1949) featured only two stories.
This was the last film which involved the singing group the Andrews Sisters. The Sisters were one of the most successful music acts of the 1940s and lend their voices to several films. Their musical careers continued to the early 1970s but their film careers ended early.
The music used in the section "Bumble Boogie" is a swing-jazz version of the "Flight of the Bumblebee" (1900) by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908). Walt Disney originally had the idea to feature this musical piece in a segment of "Fantasia" (1940) but it was one of several ones that did not make the final cut. Some of the discarded ideas for "Fantasia" were later reused and this was one of them.
One element of the Johnny Appleseed story missing from the film was that the man was also a missionary of The New Church, in other words Swedenborgianism. Originally an 18th-century religious movement based on the ideas of Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), the ideas of the movement spread to the United States in the 19th century. Johnny Appleseed is credited to converting several people during his wanderings.
Unlike several other Disney adaptations of written works, the story of Little Toot was not based on a public domain work. The adaptation was released only 9 years following the publication of the original work and author Hardie Gramatky (1907-1979) was still alive.
The segment "Trees" is largely a recitation of the poem "Trees" (1913) by Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918). It is the author's most popular poem, a lyric poem about the beauty of trees. Kilmer was considered a major poet of his era but died young, killed while serving in World War I. His literary output was consequently rather small. Much of his other work has been forgotten and his style of poetry largely fell out of a fashion by the 1920s.
While popular and widely known "Trees" (1913) is considered somewhat controversial. It personifies the tree depicted, attributes to it anthropomorphic features (a mouth, arms, hair, and a bosom), and refers to it as a feminine figure. It is otherwise very simple in verse and message, that human creations can not match the beauty of nature. Those who view the poem favorably find it both charming and meaningful. Its detractors consider it overly simple, sentimental, and very dated in style. The poem has had musical adaptations, inspired other poems, and is often a subject of parody.
The character who introduces Donald Duck and José Carioca to the pleasures of the samba is the Aracuan Bird. He is a minor but memorable Disney character. He was introduced as a rare bird in the film "The Three Caballeros" (1944), and co-stared with Donald Duck in the "Clown of the Jungle" (1948). While he appeared only 3 times in classic Disney films, he has received more prominent treatment in comic books and has been in some more recent Disney productions.
The character of Pecos Bill is supposed to be a figure of traditional folklore and tall tales. However this status is in dispute and scholars suspect he is actually a figure of fakelore. Fakelore or pseudo-folklore consists of recently invented creations, often by a single author, who are presented as age-old folklore or traditional works. In the case of Pecos Bill, his first appearance in print was in a 1917 short story by Edward O'Reilly. O'Reilly claimed he based this story on a traditional tall tale and went on to publish several others. Soon other writers started using the character, most notably James Cloyd Bowman who won an award for his Pecos Bill novel. However there is no evidence that Pecos Bill is actually older than the 1910s and he is considered a likely creation of Edward O'Reilly himself.
While the character of Pecos Bill was likely a recent creation, his name has an older, historical basis. "Pecos Bill" was the nickname of William Rufus Shafter (1835-1906), a career military officer who served in the American Civil War, the American Indian Wars, and the Spanish-American War. He was highly decorated for valor and had quite a reputation in his time.
A feature of Pecos Bill's background prominently featured in the Disney adaptation is that he was raised by coyotes. This makes him an example of the feral child figure which has been prominently used in mythology and fiction since antiquity. Among the most prominent examples are Enkidu, Atalanta, Romulus and Remus, Mowgli, and Tarzan.
Pecos Bill is one of three prominent Disney characters abandoned in the wilderness and raised by animals. The others are Mowgli from The Jungle Book (1967) and Tarzan from Tarzan (1999). In all three cases this story element was part of the original story and later adapted by Disney.
While relatively well received at the time of its release, one main criticism against this film is that not all its segments are of equal quality and impact. The segments about Johnny Appleseed and Pecos Bill received the most praise since they are sagas which follow their protagonists from the beginning to the end of their careers. Animation historians Jerry Beck and Steven Watts praised some aspects and segments of the film as highly creative and memorable, and dismissed the rest as forgettable filler.
The Little Toot section of the film received a comics adaptation in 1948. It was drawn by Harvey Eisenberg. Little Toot went on to star in a few original Disney comic book stories in the 1970s, though he was never a major star in the medium.
Of the on-screen credited cast, only Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan, The Sons of the Pioneers, Bobby Driscoll, Luana Patten and Ethel Smith appear on screen, the rest of the credited cast perform off screen as musical performers, singing voices, speaking voices.