Melody Time – Review

Melody Time is one of the last ‘package films’ that came out of Disney Animation Studios during the 40’s, its the first I’m reviewing, and one of the best, short of Fantasia. (Yeah, that means we’ve got the bad ones ahead of us… Woo Hoo!) The film is broken up in to eight different segments. I’m going to review each of them and the final rating will be an average of all the ratings. Films like this don’t have much to go on with very little acting and story etc. but I’ll do the best I can to give you a good idea of this film.

Melody Time

An opening segment that features masks being painted that establishes the bookend theme. It’s simple and effective. Hardly enough to actually review but worth mentioning.

Once Upon a Wintertime

A story about two young lovers in December who skate on a frozen lake and throw snow at each other. The woman gets angry at the man, storms off and almost falls off a waterfall. She is saved by the couples’ horses and the two are reunited. Their story is mirrored by two rabbits. The music in the segment, performed by Frances Langford is a forgettable slow Christmas tune. The animation is pretty crude when it comes to complexities of the character’s faces.

Rating: Well Below Average

Bumble Boogie

A Jazz interpretation of ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ gives the backing for an animated battle between a solitary bee and a possessed piano. The animation isn’t as tied to the music as in Fantasia segments and so didn’t do that much for me.

Rating: Well Below Average

The Legend of Johnny Appleseed

One of the longer segments in the film, The Legend of Johnny Appleseed is pretty much what it says on the tin. The story of John Chapman, an American Folk Tale about a man that went around the country planting apple trees. The segment is performed mostly by Dennis Day he narrates, voices the characters and sings the two songs. It’s a pretty decent encapsulated story. The animation in this segment is true to Disney’s style for that time. Traditional human characters looking the way they do as well as the anthropomorphised animals.

The original plan for Melody Time was to feature entirely American Folk Tales and if this was an example of what it could have been, it might have ended up better than what we actually got.

Rating: Average

Little Toot

A segment based on ‘Little Toot’ by Hardie Gramatky, a story about a troublemaking tug boat that eventually tugs a ship out of danger. The animation in this segment features some pretty cool water effects but what really raises this segment on my list is the song by The Andrews Sisters.

Rating: Average

Trees

Trees is a sung version of a poem of the same name by Joyce Kilmer. The segment isn’t overly exciting but it does bring nice frosted cell animation to the film. The segment is closest in style to Fantasia with the animation closely matching the music.

Rating: Below Average

Blame It on the Samba

The segment sees a return from Donald Duck and José Carioca, two of The Three Caballeros as they are returned to good spirits by Samba music. They are then tormented by the Aracuan Bird, a mischievous bird who traps them on some weird Samba infused acid-trip. Blame It on the Samba features a blend of animation and live action as the organist, Ethel Smith interacts with Donald and José. The blend and the animation style in the segment is very nicely done and its good to see characters that we know and love however, the story is lacking.

Rating: Below Average

Pecos Bill

Another Disney re-telling of an American Folk Tale about a famous Texan hero named Pecos Bill. It tells a highlight story of the life of Bill in song form. They cover many of the legends about the character, his horse, Widowmaker and the love of his life, Slue Foot Sue.

While it is the longest segment in Melody Time it has been edited and censored to remove all parts with Bill smoking a cigarette and almost an entire scene that included Bill rolling his cigarette with only his tongue and lighting it with a lightning bolt.

Pecos Bill also included a live-action segment to set up the telling of the story. The animation wasn’t too bad again, similar to the classic style of Disney with a little less care and detail.

Rating: Below Average

Melody Time featured introductions by Buddy Clark who provided simple set ups to the segments, the ideas behind it and introduced the artists involved. In total, the film clocks in just over 70 minutes. It’s an alright film when viewed as a whole. Almost all the segments were subsequently released as a stand-alone short sometimes many years later.

Rating: Below Average

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