My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.
The Plot: An anthology of animated shorts, set to popular 40's music.
The Segments: "Once Upon A Wintertime," "Bumble Boogie," "The Legend Of Johnny Appleseed," "Little Toot," "Trees," "Blame It On The Samba," "Pecos Bill"
A Little History: The fifth Disney "package" film released during the 1940s. As before, most segments were released separately to theaters, of which "Little Toot" was the most popular. Performed by Freddy Martin and His Orchestra (with Jack Fina on piano), "Bumble Boogie" is a jazz variation on Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight Of The Bumblebee, a piece originally considered for Fantasia. Melody Time later sparked some controversy when "Pecos Bill" was edited for video, which digitally removed the cigarette from its lead character's mouth (a similar sequence with Gaucho Goofy was also cut from Saludos Amigos' DVD release).
How It Broke New Ground: Nothing significant, though – like all of Disney's previous "package" films – its success at the box office helped fund future animated projects.
How It Holds Up Today: I don't know about you, but I'm a little tired of writing a variation on the same old thing – "not a movie," "glorified collection of short subjects," all that. So how about some quick observations on each Melody segment instead? (They play better separately anyway – and I know I've written that before.) I like the soft, simplistic color pallette of "Once Upon A Wonderland," and the bustling energy of "Bumble Boogie," but the folksy, talky "Johnny Appleseed" feels strangely out of place (the Paul Bunyan-esque "Pecos Bill," too, leans heavier on dialogue than actual songs). If there's one thing I learn from "Little Toot," it's that boats don't really hold up as anthropomorphic characters (the plot, too, is a virtual copy of that Pedro the Plane episode from Saludos Amigos). "Trees" underwhelms as a musical recitation of Alfred Joyce Kilmer's famous poem (set to forest imagery straight out of Bambi), and while it's nice to have Donald Duck, José Carioca and the Aracuan Bird back for "Blame It On The Samba," the segment plays like a holdover from Three Caballeros, complete with live-action señorita and psychedelic background animation. And speaking of live-action, it's a little disheartening to see Disney rely on so much of it for "Pecos Bill" - I like the country-western, gather-round-the-campfire idea, but Roy Rogers and his posse spend too much time setting us up for the main story. Always good to visit with Trigger, though.