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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

Week # 14: "Melody Time"

(Originally published on 4/5/22)


Melody Time

Run time: 75 min.

Release Date: May 27, 1948

Where/when I first saw it: First time view

How I watched it today: Blu-ray, Sunday evening

Somewhere between “Make Mine Music” and “Melody Time” is a pretty decent package film from this era of Disney. As it is, though, one film feels redundant of the other, but both have individual highlights that, in the moment anyway, make it seem like they’re worth keeping in your collection. In this case, “Melody Time” brings back the three feathered friends from “The Three Caballeros” for another Latin American celebration of music, color and dance. It’s not enough to justify putting Donald Duck front and center on the poster (he doesn’t speak a single word), but I welcomed the return. I also enjoyed the first two segments, “Once Upon A Wintertime” and “Bumble Boogie.”

The guest stars who showed up for this thing are plentiful, but only Roy Rogers makes a personal appearance on screen, along with a cast of pristinely lit cowboys and cowgirls who hang on his every word. The film was meant to be a collection of pioneer-based tall tales and folktales, but that ambition didn’t pan out, since only “Pecos Bill” and “Johnny Appleseed” survived the concept. There is also even less of a throughline as a narrative or a guide for the audience to latch onto. A cartoon ends and another one begins with a voice-over intro telling us what we’re about to see and who composed the music. Again, it’s not really fair to compare this to “Fantasia” or to even call it “Fantasia”-lite. Obviously, it’s inferior, but it should only be judged against the other mostly forgotten package films of this era and, as such, it falls close to the bottom.

Still, it’s not without charm. It’s just that as I watch it, it’s hard for me to not think about the other animation studios that during this time started to run circles around Walt and his crew with an innovative, hysterical and fast-paced approach to the same artform (Tex Avery, Looney Tunes, etc.), even as they parody Disney’s whimsy and innocence. “Melody Time” is exactly what the studio’s competitors are hoping they don’t make. It’s also clear when watching all of the studio’s output during this time (and in chronological order) that after this, it’s do-or-die time for the studio.


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