Melody Time

Melody Time

DVD - 2000?
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Seven classic cartoons originally released in 1948.
Publisher: Burbank, CA : Walt Disney Home Video : Distributed by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, [2000?]
Edition: Full screen presentation
ISBN: 9780788821431
Branch Call Number: DVD Children MELODY
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (ca. 75 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in


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Jul 19, 2018

I can imagine Melody Time enchanting contemporaneous audiences, even if overall I have to admit the package film format makes it feel slight and less well-developed than the earliest Disney classics. But those early movies were largely in the same vein - fairy tales and funny animals stories (generall at the same time) animated beautifully, but traditionally. Taking cues from Fantasia but with less of a budget, Melody Time is at times downright experimental.

Its first sequence, about two lovers in winter, is nothing to write home about. Its leads are boring and it tries to compensate with animal gags but that doesn't work either. "Pecos Bill," which ends the collection, also isn't terribly great - its over-narrated and over-long. As far as these traditionally narrative pieces go, "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed" is the strongest, with a host of catchy songs styled to various folk styles carrying the narrative along. It's uncommonly specific for a Disney animation (Johnny is explicitly Christian) and also uncommonly accepting for the time - it brushes over history a bit too much, but native Americans and whites are seen dancing along at the end, unremarked upon. (Pecos Bill has the traditional problems of the time with portrayal of indigenous peoples.)

The ones that follow a less traditional route are the most fun here. The one to the Flight of the Bumblebee isn't anything unexpected, but it's a gorgeous burst of flowers, keyboard keys, and colors. "Blame it on the Samba!" is a beautiful fever dream that unexpectedly blurs animation, live-action, and song-and-dance-routines into something that would almost fit better in an obscure YouTube video. And the most daring entry here is "Trees," a meditation on the power of nature and faith recounted in poetry accompanied by gorgeous and varied imagery of the titular object. It's not the sort of thing you expect to see in a major studio animation, and presumably we never will again.

"Little Toot," about a tugboat, is perfectly serviceable and cute. Overall, it's clear that most of Melody Time's existence owes to Disney's financial and talent strains during the time period, but it still put up an impressive effort with what it had, including one or two segments that seem almost too unique and bold to have ever been a major Disney theatrical release.

There's a lot to like here, but also a lot to dislike. Though it feels appropriate here, I must sin the re-release of Johnny Appleseed, especially after it only being ten years later. The Donald Duck feature feels like cutting room droppings from The Three Caballeros that probably should've stayed in the trash bin. The Pecos Bill feature is fun at points, but has some.... objectionable content.


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