Release Date: May 27th, 1948
Budget: $1.5 million
Domestic Gross: $1.81 million
Worldwide Gross: $2.56 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
IMDB Score: 6.4/10
Storyline (per IMDB): Segments: “Once Upon a Wintertime,” two lovers rescued from an icy river by friendly animals; “Bumble Boogie,” bee beset by musical instruments and symbols come to life; “Johnny Appleseed,” story of the legendary pioneer tree-planter; “Trees,” mood piece set to musical treatment of Joyce Kilmer’s poem; “Little Toot,” story of a heroic little tugboat who saves an ocean liner; “Blame it on the Samba,” Donald Duck and Jose Carioca have the blues blown away at a Latin cafe; “Pecos Bill,” story of the legendary cowpoke, his trusty mount Widowmaker and his sweetheart Slue Foot Sue.
Pre-Watching Thoughts: We continue to trek our way towards the end of the 1940s with the fifth straight package film released during this time. It’s been no secret in doing these reviews that the package films have not held up that well which isn’t to say they’ve been bad which they aren’t, but compared to what I have watched prior to them I have seen a downturn in quality. Fortunately, we only have two more to go and hopefully this film ends up slightly better than what Make Mine Music was, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.
Voice Cast: Much like Make Mine Music, we have some big names for the time brought in to serve as either the narrators or singers for the segments though some of them also provide voices for the characters in a few of the segments. We first have Buddy Clark who sings the title song and provides the buffers between segments which he does a fine job at, and then for the Winter Wonderland segment we have Francis Langford performing in what would be one of her final performances on the big screen. Next we have composer and musician Freddy Martin who leads the orchestra in playing “Flight of the Bumblebee” and then for the story of Johnny Appleseed, we have radio personality Dennis Day who narrates while also voicing Johnny and his guardian angel. We then have a returning group as the Andrews Sisters tell the story of Little Toot and following that, we have bandleader Fred Waring along with his group the Pennsylvanians as they perform the music for the poem about trees. For “Blame it on the Samba”, the Dinning Sisters perform the song while organist Ethel Smith performs the organ and makes a live action cameo playing the organ while Donald and Jose dance for her. Finally for the segment on Pecos Bill, we have a few more live action cameos as legendary actor Roy Rogers narrates the story of child actors Luana Patten and Bobby Driscoll while Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers sing the story of Pecos Bill. Those involved did well in their jobs and they were pretty big names for the time, and for some of them this would be the peak of their careers while for others it was just another step in their careers.
Other Characters: So again much like Fantasia and Make Mine Music, we don’t have any main characters as we just have characters that are specific to their own segments and we don’t see them intertwine. For the first segment, we have the couple that is known as Joe and Jenny though they do not speak at all, and we also have the animals that accompany them as well as help Joe save Jenny in the end. We then have the bumblebee who goes through a wild ride in “Bumble Boogie”, and then in our first major segment we have Johnny Appleseed and his guardian angel along with the pioneers and animals featured as well. Next we have Little Toot along with the other tugboats who shun him when he causes chaos before accepting him when he saves a ship during a storm, and then we have the return of Donald Duck, Jose Carioca, and the Aracuan bird who join Ethel Smith in dancing the samba. Finally, we have Roy Rogers, Luana Patten, Bobby Driscoll, and the cowboys who sing the story of Pecos Bill, and in the actual segment we have Pecos Bill, his love Slue Foot Sue, and the cowboys of the town they live in. This was fine as again these characters worked well for the segments that they were featured in and really besides Donald and Jose, they wouldn’t work well within the other segments especially since nothing connects them together.
Songs: Once again much like Fantasia and Make Mine Music, we have a film where each segment is basically either a song animated or a segment that is mainly sung by someone so those will not be included here even though they were considered. However, we do have one song that is included in here and that is the title track for the film entitled “Melody Time”, and it is pretty similar to Make Mine Music in that it was written so that the film could have a title track. It was a fine song to start things off for the film and works well for the film, but much like the other title tracks of the package films it doesn’t stand up to the other major Disney songs.
Plot: Not to sound like a broken record, but we once again have a film that is pretty much in the same vein as Fantasia and Make Mine Music in that there is no overarching story in the film, instead it is a series of segments set to music that may feature some dialogue or narration. Each segment was completely different from the other ones so there was no real flow between segments, and the only buffer to each segment was a magic paintbrush that would showcase who was up next while we heard the narrator hype the segment. It was fine for what it was since it was pretty much just a bunch of animations around the music aside from telling the stories of Johnny Appleseed and Pecos Bill, and it worked well for a film like this as again it was the same style of Fantasia and Make Mine Music.
Random Watching Thoughts: I didn’t think Radio RKO Pictures was still around even at this point; Trigger: The Smartest Horse in the Movies; Once again, we have a title song made specifically to intro the film of the same name; It is kind of interesting how they make it seem like you are watching a variety show given how many segments there are; Kind of funny that we have a segment about a winter wonderland given that the film was released in May; I don’t know why, but this animation just feels very un-Disney like; They had to find numerous ways to make a variety of hearts to put over the romance in this segment; How did they go from being on a pond to being in a river so quickly, and where did that waterfall come from?; It is interesting knowing that since this was before TV, their guest stars were mostly stars on the radio; Fun fact: the segment about the flight of the bumblebee was originally considered for Fantasia; That poor bee went through so much with the instruments blowing him around and stalking him; I feel like Johnny Appleseed is not talked about much in the modern day for how legendary a pioneer he was; I wonder if Johnny ever at any point in his life grew tired of apples and wanted to grow something else; It’s always funny that the pioneers were so excited to travel out west completely unaware of the dangers they were going to face; They really made apples seem like nature’s greatest gift; You have to be so dedicated to your craft if you pay no heed to any animals that are ready to attack you; When has a skunk ever been referred to as a black and white cat?; You want to know how to tame animals when they are prepared to attack them, just pet them softly and they will fall in love with you. Typical Disney logic; There is no jubilee quite like an apple jubilee; That chipmunk on Johnny’s shoulder again looks suspiciously like Dale, but where’s Chip?; You must be very happy with your life if you spend 40 years just planting apple seeds before falling asleep under a tree and dying peacefully; Even in death, Johnny feels like he can continue planting the frontier until the angel tells him he can plant in heaven; Little Toot was basically acting like a disobedient toddler even though he wanted to be a help; How strong was Little Toot that he could push that big ship around with such ease to cause it to crash into the city?; I get that Little Toot had to be punished for what he did, but forcing him out into the ocean by himself seems a bit harsh; Even the buoys and lighthouse had no sympathy for Little Toot; Is it a coincidence that there just happened to be a ship in need of help so that Little Toot could redeem himself?; I feel like by this point they were scraping the bottom of the barrel by doing an animated segment about a poem to a tree; This “Trees” segment seems like it could’ve fit better in Bambi; Good to see Donald, Jose Carioca, and the Aracuan bird one more time, almost like they were the poster children for these package films since they have been in a bunch of them; I like how Donald and Jose were figuratively and literally blue until the samba brought the color back to them; Also, is it coincidental that there is always a live action female whenever Donald and Jose are around?; I wonder if you ask someone what they know about Roy Rogers, they might mention the chain of fast food restaurants that are named for him; I know Texas is the biggest state in the continental US, but talk about your exaggerations when they showed the size of Texas compared to the other states, plus we apparently have the Gulf of Texas which replaced the Gulf of Mexico; So Pecos Bill was raised by coyotes similar to how Mowgli was raised by wolves in “The Jungle Book”; Fitting that the welcoming committee for the desert is a flock of vultures; Fun fact: the scene with the tornado was edited out of the video release originally due to Bill smoking a cigarette yet somehow the scene with Bill chasing the Native Americans was kept in; Nothing comes between a cowboy and his horse expect for a beautiful woman; Western weddings were very complex, especially back in the old days; That bustle must be strong as hell to keep Sue bouncing repeatedly until she was able to bounce to the moon, and how did she survive in space?
Overall Thoughts: Overall, this film was just slightly better than Make Mine Music but it is still not that great of a film which is unfortunate. Again, I want to make it clear that these films are not bad per se and they are fine for what they were, but when you are comparing them to the other films in the Disney canon they do not hold up that well. These package films were already kind of maligned to begin with and I was hoping that perhaps they were more underrated and underappreciated, but sadly that has not been the case. We only have one more film left in the package era before we begin the new decade and jump right back into the major films, and hopefully the last package film can end this era on a good note. As for Melody Time, it is a perfectly acceptable film for what it was though it definitely ranks near the bottom of the ranks of the Disney film canon.
Final Grade: 3.5/10