Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Make Mine Music and Melody Time

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.” (This article was originally published on the Disqus site.)

Title: Make Mine Music and Melody Time
Year: (Make Mine Music) 1946 ; (Melody Time) 1948
Budget: (Make Mine Music)$1.35 million; (Melody Time) $1.5 million
Gross: (Make Mine Music) $2.25 million; (Melody Time) $1,850,000

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We’re going to go a little out of order here, since these two package films are very similar

Background: As we have stated before, Disney was doing “package films” that were less expensive because the War and wiped out foreign markets. The money these movies generated would help the studio return to feature animation, and a lot of these pieces later showed up on the Disneyland TV show

This particular film has ten such segments.

The Martins and the Coys

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The King’s Men singing the story of a Hatfield-McCoy feud in the mountains broken up when two sole surviving young people from each side fell in love. The DVD I rented cut this segment out. I felt it had the style of the Looney Tunes, combined with Al Capp’s Li’l Abner

Blue Bayou
This featured two egrets flying through the Everglades on a moonlit night. Blue Bayou was performed by the Ken Darby Singers.

All the Cats Join In

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Pencil and brush create teens dancing to Benny Goodman. This segment is a lot of fun

Without You 
A ballad of lost love, sung by Andy Russell.

Casey at the Bat

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Jerry Colonna, reciting the poem “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer, about the arrogant ballplayer whose cockiness was his undoing. It’s reminiscent of the Goofy sports movie.

Two Silhouettes
Dinah Shore sings and married dancers David Lichine and Tania Riabouchinskaya are rotoscoped in silhouette.

Peter and the Wolf 
Narrated by Sterling Holloway, a Russian boy named Peter sets off into the forest to hunt the wolf with his animal friends: Each character is represented with a specific musical accompaniment.

After You’ve Gone
Benny Goodman and The Goodman Quartet as anthropomorphized instruments

Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet

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The Andrews Sisters sing about two hats who fell in love in a department store window. When Alice was sold, Johnnie devoted himself to finding her again. They eventually, by pure chance, meet up again and live happily ever after together, side by side.

The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met 
A bittersweet story about a Sperm Whale (named Willie) with incredible musical talent and his dreams of singing Grand Opera. A Nelson Eddy narrated and performed all the voices in this segment.

Once Upon a Wintertime

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Frances Langford sings the title song about two romantic young lovers in December. Stylized like a Currier and Ives print, Joe shows off on the ice for his lover, Jenny, and near-tragedy and a timely rescue ensues.

Bumble Boogie

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Freddy Martin And His Orchestra perform a swing-jazz variation of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee. A bee tries to keep up.

The Legend of Johnny Appleseed

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John Chapman, who spent most of his life roaming Mid-Western America in the pioneer days, planting apple trees, and earning his famous nickname. Dennis Day narrates and provides the voices of both Johnny and his angel.

Little Toot 

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Based on the story of “Little Toot” by Hardie Gramatky, in which the title protagonist, a small tugboat, wanted to be just like his father Big Toot, but couldn’t seem to stay out of trouble. The Andrews Sisters provide the vocals.

Trees 

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A recitation of the 1913 poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer poem performed by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. Layout artist Ken O’Connor came up with the idea of using frosted cels and render the pastel images right onto the cel. Before being photographed each cel was laminated in clear lacquer to protect the pastel.

Blame It on the Samba

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Donald Duck and José Carioca meet the Aracuan Bird, who introduces them to the pleasures of the samba. The Dinning Sisters provide the vocals while organist Ethel Smith plays the organ.

Pecos Bill

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Texas’ famous hero Pecos Bill was raised by coyotes and later became the biggest and best cowboy that ever lived. It also features his horse Widowmaker, and recounts how Pecos was finally tamed by a beautiful woman named Slue Foot Sue, whom he falls in love with at first sight. This retelling of the story features Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan, and the Sons of the Pioneers to Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten, all live-acted.

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Critical Reception: At the time of its release, the film received “generally unfavorable reviews”. However, Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom notes that an article in Time Magazine around that time “celebrated the global scope of the Disney product”, and a 1948 review for The News-Sentinel said the “charm and skill” that one had to expect from Disney is “delightful entertainment” for all children. A 1948 review of the film for the Los Angeles Times said the “acts” Johnny Appleseed and Pecos Bill, which the “new variety show from Walt Disney [gave] special attention to” are “‘human’ sagas” and as a result “more endearing” than the rest of the segments.

Legacy : A few restaurants are named after the pieces. Disneyland has The Blue Bayou, a table-service restaurant located inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The Magic Kingdom has Pecos Bill’s Tall Tales Inn, a counter-service restaurant that serves hamburgers and southwestern food.

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Also at Magic Kingdom is Casey’s Corner, another counter-service restaurant that serves hot dogs and fries

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NextFun and Fancy Free and The Adventues of Ichabod and Mr. Toad