REVIEW REWIND: Make Mine Music (1946) & Melody Time (1948)
Updated: Jul 19, 2020
So, I know I am trying to watch all the Disney animated films in a chronological order, but decided to cheat a bit so I could write about both Make Mine Music (1946) and Melody Time (1948) together. Fun and Fancy Free (1947) is the film that divides them. But, since these two films are package films that revolve around music, I thought I'd talk about the two of them together.
These package films made in the forties because much of Walt's staff went off to war. So, they had many projects in the air and these films allowed them to experiment while they were waiting to go back into full production. In the spirit of Fantasia, these two films focused on bringing music to life - sometimes through abstract experimentation while other times with classic narrative. Either way, I love both of these films. Curiously, only Melody Time is on Disney+. Make Mine Music is only available by DVD. It isn't even available by digital download.
Make Mine Music is made up of ten segments, starting with "The Martins and the Coys." It's told through the King's Men, a popular singing group of the time, and told a story based on the Hatfields and the McCoys about two members of feuding families in love. Next was "Blue Bayou" which was originally developed for Fantasia. It is to Claude Debussy's Claire de Lune and follows two egrets through a bayou. The next segment is "All The Cats Join In" by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra and follows a bunch of bachelors and bobbysoxers dancing at the local ice cream shop. "Without You" is an experimental piece sung by Andy Russell. And then there's "Casey at Bat" sung by Jerry Colonna (aka The March Hare) and based on a poem by Ernest Thayer. The piece is about a baseball player who let's things get to his head.
"Two Silhouettes" is sung by Dinah Shore and features the rotoscoped likenesses of famed Russian American ballet dancers David Lichine and Tania Riabouchinskaya. Next up is "Peter and the Wolf" to the piece by Sergei Prokofiev. It follows Peter and his animal friends as he goes to hunt a wolf. Then, we have "After You've Gone," an experimental piece to the song by Benny Goodman and his quartet. Next is "Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet" sung by the Andrews Sisters and is about a fedora that goes in search of his blue bonnet sweetheart. And, finally, we have "The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At The Met" featuring Nelson Eddy. The piece revolved around a whale who dreamed of singing opera.
I absolutely adore Make Mine Music. My favorite pieces are the ones by Benny Goodman - "All The Cats Join In" and "After You've Gone." These playful pieces lent themselves well to animation and swing music. On the more narrative side, I loved "Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet" for its sweetness and design.
Melody Time is divided into seven segments, starting with "Once Upon A Wintertime," featuring the vocals of Frances Langford, and is about a young couple enjoying a winter day. "Bumble Boogie" is an experimental piece featuring a bee to the music of Freddy Martin and his Orchestra's version of Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee. Next is "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed" to the sound of Dennis Day and told the story of the folkhero John Chapman who planted apple trees all over providing nourishment for many pioneers. Then, we have "Little Toot" based on a story by by Hardie Gramatky about a small tugboat wishing to be big and sung to the music of the Andrews Sisters.
"Trees" was another experimental piece featuring the beauty of trees. Based on a poem by Joyce Kilmer, it's told to the music of Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. Next is "Blame It On The Samba" which features the return of José Carioca and the Aracuan Bird from The Three Caballeros. And, finally, we have "Pecos Bill" with Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan, and the Sons of the Pioneers telling the story of the folk hero Pecos Bill to Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten.
Melody Time is equally as delightful as Make Mine Music, except there is less experimental animation in this one in favor of the more narrative stories. My favorites are the two based on American tall tales - "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed" and "Pecos Bill." "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed" is a feast for the eyes as it uses Mary Blair's designs and color stylings quite generously. "Pecos Bill" is just pure fun. I also find "Trees" to be hauntingly beautiful.
While these two films are often forgotten, I love to dust them off periodically as I do think there is some great music and storytelling in both of them. One has to appreciate that some of the musical artists were big during the time, comparable to what Ariana Grande and Harry Styles are today. And, you'll see some of the finest animation you'll see in Disney history. They're a wonderful window into the time period.
So, for the next one, as a reminder, we will step back to review Fun and Fancy Free!