Melody Time is an animated musical anthology film by Walt Disney Productions. In traditional Disney style it features a blend of humour and poignancy.
Walt Disney Productions (now known as Walt Disney Animation Studios) is a pioneering animation studio. It first synchronised sound with animation in the Mickey Mouse cartoon Steamboat Willie in 1928, and first created animations to accompany music in the 'Silly Symphonies' cartoons (1929-1939). In 1940 Fantasia was released in cinemas - it features animations inspired by pieces of classical music, plus scenes combining animation and live action. Although it failed to make a profit when it first appeared in cinemas, Fantasia has become known as the third Disney Classic.
Melody Time, the tenth Disney Classic, again features animations inspired by pieces of music. Released in cinemas in 1948, it could be considered to be seven Silly Symphonies stuck together. Cheaper to make than Fantasia, but not as cheap as its predecessor Make Mine Music had been, it failed to make a profit on first release. No further compilation films of this type were made for 50 years - until the release of Fantasia 2000.
A variety of different types of music and styles of animation were used, creating an eclectic mix of scenes in the film. Some are funny while some are sad and others are more artistic.
'Once Upon a Wintertime', sung by Frances Langford, is a romantic tale of a pair of Thumper1-esque rabbits and a human couple. They all enjoy ice skating, but then there is a falling out, a scary moment, and a reconciliation.
'Bumble Boogie', performed by Freddy Martin and his Orchestra, features a jazz version of Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Flight of the Bumblebee'. In the animation, a bee is chased by flowers and insects that turn into musical instruments.
'The Legend of Johnny Appleseed', performed by Dennis Day, tells the tale of frontiersman John Chapman, who was known as 'Johnny Appleseed' because of his mission to plant apple orchards all across America. The animation includes cute animals that Disney is known for, such as chipmunks and a skunk.
'Little Toot', sung by the Andrews Sisters, is the tale of a tugboat who tries to be good, but causes mischief instead. A storm teaches him a lesson, then he succeeds in rescuing a ship and making his father proud of him.
'Trees', performed by Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians, is a recitation of US poet Alfred Joyce Kilmer's most famous work. Written in 1913, it is a simple poem celebrating the loveliness of trees. The animation complements the words, as it features trees, plus the birds and other animals that live in them, as the seasons change.
'Blame it on the Samba', sung by the Dinning Sisters with organ by Ethel Smith, features a blend of animation with live action. Donald Duck and José Carioca are blue2 until the Aracuan Bird3 introduces them to the Samba rhythm. They meet Ethel and dance on the organ while she plays.
'Pecos Bill', sung by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers, again mixes animation with live action. Animated birds and animals gather near a campfire while actor and musician Roy Rogers relates the tale of Pecos Bill to two children and his horse Trigger. The animation depicts Bill as a baby, when he fell into the Pecos river and was rescued by coyotes, then as a young man, when he found a horse in the desert and rescued it from vultures. He becomes a cowboy and is credited for putting 'the gold in them thar hills' amongst other wild achievements.
His life is changed when he meets Slue-Foot Sue. It is love at first sight and she teaches him what to do, such as how to put his arms around her to give her a hug. The horse (Widow-maker) becomes jealous and throws Sue off when she tries to ride him. Amusingly yet tragically, she bounced when she fell and, in spite of Bill's attempts to lasso her, she bounced right up to the moon and was never seen again. Distraught at losing the love of his life, Bill returns to his coyote family and howls at the moon each night - thus he taught the coyotes to howl at the moon and they have continued ever since.
Melody Time was released on DVD in 2014 with three short cartoon special features. The first is Casey Bats Again (1954), the sequel to 'Casey at the Bat', which was a segment from Make Mine Music4, featuring an overconfident baseball player. In this animation, the next generation of Caseys takes to the field5. The second short is Donald Applecore (1952) - in contrast to 'Johnny Appleseed', Donald fights the chipmunks (Chip 'n' Dale6) to protect his crop, using weapons like insecticide and even an 'atomic pill'. Lastly, there is Lambert the Sheepish Lion (1952) - in contrast to 'Pecos Bill', a lion is raised by a sheep. At first the other sheep mock him for being different but, when a wolf threatens the flock, Lambert saves the day.