Thursday, November 24, 2011

1948 - Melody Time

Melody Time (1948)

Going back to the earliest of the Silly Symphonies, Walt Disney had experimented with combining top notch animation and a variety of musical styles. Of course the most famous example, with it's powerful combination of classical music and brilliant animated sequences, is 1940's Fantasia. While Fantasia lasts as a legitimate animated classic, it was a financial failure on it's initial release, forcing Disney to re-evaluate where he wanted to go with his ideas on musical animation, if he was going to make the genre a success.

The obvious route and one that would prove financially anyway, more successful was to use modern music and more straightforward narrations, while still providing top notch animation.No doubt the formula worked, as seen in the films The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music and the film we are looking at today, 1948's Melody Time.

Overseen by the great Jack Kinney, with sequences directed by Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson and Kinney himself, Melody Time uses a variety of animation styles and musical forms to create a funny, energetic and colorful explosion of animated goodness for the entire family to enjoy.

Melody Time is a hodgepodge combination of American folk tales, left over bits from earlier pictures and a couple of shorts all strung together into a messy but enjoyable whole.

The first section if the Legend of Johnny Appleseed, with singer and Jack Benny sidekick, Dennis Day providing the voices and the melodies as he tells the highly Disneyfied story of the real John Chapman and his effort to spread apple orchards across the newly settled "West".

Next up comes Little Toot, a fairly conventional Disney children's carton livened up by colorful animation and fantastic vocals by the always under appreciated Andrews Sisters.

Tree's, based on the poem by the Joyce Kilmer is the slow point of the film for me anyway, but I still admite it's attempt at something different and more serious, and there is no argument that the animation is top notch.

For the final two pieces, Melody Time brings on the team of Donald Duck, his pal, Jose Caricoa and their new found friend the Aracuan Bird in the colorful and surreal Blame It On The Samba.

Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers narrate the films high point, the slapstick tall tale of Pecos Bill.

The toughest cowboy in the history of the West comes to life with style, humor and eve a little pathos, making for one of the best short works of the entire Disney pantheon.

In modern releases Pecos Bill undergo's some minor editing taking out his smoking, but other then that, Melody Time is available on DVD in its entirety, and is a film that the kids can enjoy, but so can mom and dad.

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