First off, I have to apologize for the delay in posts. We both got distracted by The Hunger Games and they’ve consumed almost all of our spare time lately. (Sidenote: If you haven’t read them, I highly recommend!) To make up for our absence, the next three posts are coming in pretty quick succession. So, keep your eyes peeled.
Now, on to Melody Time. Right to the point, I don’t have a whole lot to say about this one. If you’ve seen Fantasia, or Make Mine Music, you’ll know what to expect. It’s more of Walt’s tried and true music-set-to-animated-shorts magic. While fun (and this outing has some gems), those of us who grew up during the so-called Disney Renaissance just have a hard time seeing that classic Disney spark in these films. I will admit that more of this film kept more of my attention than Make Mine Music did. But I do wonder if a little of that had to do with how close we (and this blog) are to leaving Disney’s ’40s behind forever.
The shorts in this film do seem like the animators were actually enjoying their work once again. Each short is introduced by a paint brush setting the scene as the cheery music ushers in stories of a little tugboat trying to be all grown up or a jazzy update to “Flight of the Bumblebee.” Once Upon a Wintertime is a short I can recall from my childhood — it was part of a Disney holiday compilation film we used to watch every year. It was also very reminiscent of another holiday short I loved to watch as a kid called On Ice.
The highlight of the film is, of course, The Legend of Johnny Appleseed. The short explores a classic American fable. Legend has it that Johnny became a sort of Paul Revere character in Ohio during the War of 1812. He was much beloved, a wanderer who was welcome where ever he went, and he always had a pocket full of appleseeds that he generously planted throughout his travels. It’s no small wonder why Walt would have wanted this short included. It features many of the qualities Walt valued most, including American pride, Christianity and folklore. From his Second World War propaganda efforts to shorts like Johnny Appleseed, and later to Main Street U.S.A. in his theme parks, Walt’s values have always been clear.
While The New York Times review described the film as “a gaudy grab-bag show in which a couple of items are delightful and the rest are just adequate,” the shorts do betray a sense of pride in the work accomplished. As a viewer, you can’t help but sense that a bit of the magic has returned to Walt Disney Studios after almost a decade of neglect.