Melody Time (1948)

Melody Time = the down home, woodsy and not as good equivalent to Make Mine Music, which, as we all know, was the craphouse pop music version of the much better Fantasia. And just so we’re clear, it being more folksy and woodsy is not why it’s lacking. It just is. So, now that you’re thinking about how awesome it is, we’ll begin.

3 minutes in–Once Upon a Wintertime. Yawn. Winter scenes with people going on sleigh rides and ice skating.

7 minutes in–we started paying attention again to find that the first segment was still going, and still uninteresting.

11 minutes in–Similarly to Make Mine Music, the second segment saves us from the tedium of the first. This time, it’s Freddy Martin and his orchestra performing Bumble Boogie. (This is not to be confused with Jungle Boogie.) It’s a pretty cool jazzy version of Flight of the Bumble Bee (too bad it was only 3 minutes long).

Disney seems to do better with more abstract animation sequences in these films.

15 minutes in–The Legend of Johnny Appleseed. For those who don’t know, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) is kind of a big deal in American folk culture/lore. People know him. Johnny, a “sawed off, scrawny little fella,” was caught up in the excitement of heading west, but thought he didn’t have the wherewithal to go. An angel appears and tells him, “faith, courage and a level head” is all you need to be a pioneer. So he goes with a cooking pot for a hat, a bag full of apple seeds and a Bible.

A Bible-thumpin', tree plantin' pot head.

Johnny was kind of a St. Francis of Assisi. Varmints “didn’t trust no human bein’.” Do you blame them? He was celebrated for coming “without no knife, without no gun.” He was a religious man in sync with nature – an admirable quality. Does this mean he was a vegetarian? Presumably the animals wouldn’t hang around him like that if they were afraid of getting killed.

Yet the cartoon also says that pushing back the forest and filling the “land that’s new” with “plenty of room for you” is also admirable. Of course, there was plenty of room what with all the Native Americans (those that were left) being crammed onto land parcels that nobody wanted. But we digress. Native Americans are shown getting along well with pioneers. Sure, this happened sometimes, but it just kind of makes it seem like it was all happy, happy, happy.

The short follows Johnny into old age, surrounded by his constant entourage of furry woodland critters, as he roams the Midwest. It ends with the angel returning to Johnny to take him to Heaven. When Johnny goes to pick up his bag of seeds, he notices himself still asleep. Seeing Johnny’s alarm, the angel explains that it’s merely his mortal husk. Johnny refuses to go, saying there’s too much left to do here. How many trees do you need to plant, anyway? The angel tempts him with the prospect of planting apple trees in Heaven. Johnny takes the bait, and it’s bye-bye Johnny.

33 minutes in–The Andrews Sisters sing about Little Toot. Little Toot is a tugboat and, as much as we like tugboats, he’s kind of an exasperating little bugger. He messes up trying to help his dad (presumably “Old Fart”), causing a ship to plow into a city.Little Toot is thus shackled around the neck to prevent him being a nuisance to the general public.

He then appears free of chains roaming the high seas. When he comes across a ship in distress, he tows it to safety, almost dying in the process, thereby redeeming himself and showing he’s “grown up.” It ends with the Andrews Sisters saying “yes, you’re a big toot now, Little Toot.” Great. He’s graduated to the level of big toot.

It’s kind of lame.

40 minutes in–Oh, my gosh. What is this? Seriously, what’s happening? Yawn. Apparently it’s a recitative of some famous poem entitled, Trees. So the animation is of trees and one of the trees looks like a cross or that Rio Jesus statue. We like trees, but this is just lame. Ok, it’s not terrible, but it’s just kind of there.

Or is he checking for worms? It's hard to tell.

46 minutes in–Blame It On the Samba, yeah yeah. Blame it on the sun when it don’t shine. Whatev-oh, uh…Blame It On the Samba is sung by Ethel Smith and the Dinning Sisters and features Jose Carioca, Donald and that crazy bird with the lab coat and spiky red hair that kind of reminds us of a mad scientist in a Saludos Amigos-type escapade. It could have been sambaier. It starts with Donald and Jose all blue (literally) and sad and then they come across the mad scientist bird who brightens their lives with dancing and mixed drinks ftw! While they’re dancing, the mad scientist bird bounces Donald’s butt, and well, it’s kind of uncomfortable.

The mad scientist bird ends up mixing a giant drink with Donald and Jose and the organ lady inside. There’s also an awesome organ solo which improves it immensely.

52 minutes in–Roy Rogers and Sons of the Pioneers (like the DAR?) tell about Pecos Bill.

Guy nooses a boy. The boy (Bobby Driscoll, “Johnny” from Song of the South) then tries to noose a little girl (Luana Patten, “Ginny” from Song of the South). It’s a vicious cycle. We could have mistaken friendly lassoing for aggressive noosing, but we think not.

Roy Rogers, with the help of the DAR, or whatever they are, proceeds to tell the kidlets about Pecos Bill and Slue-Foot Sue. As he’s setting up the story, he employs this wonderfully accurate map of the United States:

Rogers then relates some of the yarns about Pecos Bill. His family was traveling by covered wagon, looking for “elbow room,” and when they hit a bump, out popped Bill by the Pecos River. They didn’t notice he was gone. That night, a she coyote found him and ate him. Good story. No. According to the movie, she found him asleep atop a pile of her offspring. She raised Bill along with her own pups; licking him and nursing him.

He was raised on coyote milk.

In the Disney version, Bill finds a young horse emaciated and fighting off vultures. Bill saves him, names him Widow-Maker, and they grow up together. Bill becomes a cowboy. Isn’t there a professional wrestler with that name? Maybe the horse was a wrestler. Maybe it’s the name of a monster truck.

Keeping with the Pecos Bill legends, he shoots all the stars out of the sky, leaving one lone star shining over Texas. He’s also shown using a rattlesnake as a lasso and riding/taming a tornado. This tornado riding scene is one of several times that Bill is shown smoking.

What?

Yes. In the original cut of the movie, Pecos Bill smokes cigarettes. There’s even the line, “he rolled a smoke [with his tongue] and lit it”, but this along with any suggestions of Pecos’ smoking habit were later removed.

We’re just going to put it out there that grabbing a bolt of lightning and lighting anything increases one’s coolness; especially if this is done while riding a tornado.

One day, Pecos came across a “tribe of painted injuns did a war dance, Pecos started shootin’ up their little game. He gave them red skins such a shake up that they jumped out from their make up, that’s the way the way the painted desert got it’s name.” Nothing wrong with that.

Then one day, when Bill was butting heads with Buffalo, who comes along? Slue-Foot Sue, riding her catfish down the river “with all her charms revealed to view.” (aka her underwear is showin’ and her gazongas are burping out of her top.)

Bill and Sue fall in love, but Widow-Maker is not happy with this busting up of their duo. Still, they set a date and Slut-Foot Sue wears a huge bustle on her wedding day. The “bustle sure was classy, put the finishing touch on that sweet gal’s chassis.” Bill had promised Sue a ride on Widow-Maker, which, of course, Widow-Maker would have none of. When Sue tried to ride him, he bucked her off. Because of her bustle, she just kept bouncing higher and higher, until she landed on the moon. Pecos Bill went back to live with the coyotes. On full moons he’d howl out to Sue and the coyotes would join in out of sympathy. And that’s why they howl at the moon.

Now you know.

Ratings:

MLE:
Rating:  8/17
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs down.

Ricktopher:
Rating:  6/24
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs down.

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