Saturday, March 10, 2012

1948 - Melody Time

Look, it’s basically Make Mine Music 2: Lame 40s Songs Boogaloo. I truly do wish I had some new bit of trivia to lead you in with, but I don’t. It’s just another anthology of shorts set to music more to the tastes of people who didn’t think Fantasia was fun enough. Or fancy-free enough, I suppose. So heat up some leftovers, and I guess we have to talk about Melody Time.

ONCE UPON A WINTERTIME - This one was actually pretty good. Two couples, human and rabbit, go ice skating in various adorable ways. There is a spat, and the girls storm off, accidentally wandering onto thin ice. I was initially annoyed as they seemed to be going in the direction of “Heroic males save distressed damsels,” but to my delight, the men’s attempt at heroism leaves them unconscious, and the women are saved by the carriage horses, squirrels, and birds that were hanging around the background for the entire film. Very clever. But I doubt they can keep it up.

All right, bee. It's MELODY TIME. #RejectedActionMovieCatchphrases
BUMBLE BOOGIE - This one was actually fantastic. A bee flies around a garden to “Flight of the Bumblebee” as the landscape grows increasingly hostile, with first the flowers then the music itself trying to kill it. Great visuals and an awesome song. I’m starting to feel better about this.

THE LEGEND OF JOHNNY APPLESEED - Holy heck, this one was also good! The story of Johnny Appleseed, as fold by the kind of folksy narrator who says things like “Well, sir,” and “a’tall”. The story was, of course, condensed and somewhat sanitized, but I liked that they kept in his religious fervor without becoming preachy, and that they showed him actually planting  nurseries for settlers instead of throwing seeds all willy-nilly like most Johnny Appleseed cartoons. And for once the ‘friends with all the animals’ isn’t just a Disney thing. Johnny once put out his campfire because he felt bad that it was killing mosquitos. Okay, maybe that’s folklore, but at least it’s genuine folklore. But we’ll get to that.

This here, despite appearances, is technically the first ever onscreen death of a Disney character.

LITTLE TOOT - This was about a tugboat who fools around and knocks over some buildings. But not, oddly enough, in a comedy way. He’s chained up between two police gunboats and cast out to the middle of the ocean as his father is attached to a trash barge as punishment. Then he’s struck by lightning. I was hoping it would end there, a chilling portrait of the dystopian world of sentient small watercraft. But of course, he saves a Navy ship and straightens up and gets a job and everyone’s happy. There is no dissent on Waterstrip One. We have always been at war with Sea-stasia. This one wasn’t good, but at least it’s weird.

TREES - Ehhhhhhh. The animation is nice, with the animators playing with a lot of fun techniques, but it’s set to an incredibly dull musical version of “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer, the most boring person ever to have a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop named after them.

This is the weirdest production of Phantom of the Opera I've ever seen.

BLAME IT ON THE SAMBA - My spirits perked up when I saw Donald and Joe Carioca, but the short does not live up to either of their previous outings. It pretty much feels like deleted footage from the crazy dream sequence from the end of The Three Caballeros, with a live-action lady playing the organ, and a white, white chorus singing fake samba music. And the wacky instigator of the whole thing is that annoying Aracuan bird. Would it have killed them to throw Panchito in there?

PECOS BILL - I try to avoid cursing on this blog, since children might read it. But sometimes the spirit really moves me, so when I say that this segment is bullroar, I trust you know what I mean. It’s the story of Pecos Bill, the classic tall tales from Texas. Oh, did I say classic? I meant MADE UP. Pecos Bill is not authentic American folklore, but rather something called fakelore. As the name implies, it’s stories fabricated in order to seem like authentic folktales. Some Texan got jealous of all the actual folklore and made some up for his state. It’s typical Texan bombast, braggadocio, and insecurity, and I‘m tired of seeing it presented as legend. But apart from my issues with the source, this short is still horrible.

Oh, please do put me out of my misery.

For one thing, it’s less of a short than a long. These have been moving briskly along at 5-12 minutes each, but this one’s over 20. There’s a completely unneeded framing device where once again, middle aged men are hanging out with Luana Patten and telling her stories. This time, it’s Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers, all dressed in hilarious versions of what 1940s film producers thought cowboys wore, Luana is accompanied by Disney contract player and future cautionary tale about the dangers of beatnikism Bobby Driscoll, who plays an annoying little snot, as was his tendency.

The cartoon is just plain obnoxious. It’s just a string of one or two sentence summaries of the various fake legends. There’s no flow to it at all. It’s just one thing after another, sung by annoying people. It’s also blatantly racist, like when Pecos sees some “Injuns” and just starts shooting at them for no reason. Sexist, too. Pecos’s girlfriend, who was actually kind of cool in the stories, is reduced to a primping female stereotype, and unlike in the older telling, he doesn’t save her from her bouncing, but basically leaves her to die in the vacuum of space. Oh, it makes sense in context.

Maybe it seems like I'm being to picky or too harsh, but frankly, I was uncomfortable watching this. I've noted several instances in these films where 40s culture contrasts unfavorably with the modern world, but this one was different. The whole thing seems designed to confront me with how casually racist, sexist, and egotistical this country used to be. And how full of bad, cheap animation and crappy cowboy singers it was, too. And how much Texas annoys me.

Dangit, Texas. You really do have serious issues.


* I’m pretty inoculated by this point against things being called “gay”. As I said, they use it so often that even my immature 2012 brain doesn’t really register it anymore. But I did giggle when the narrator called Johnny Appleseed “mighty queersome”.

* Pecos’s cigarettes have not been deleted on the DVD release. Which is good, because I want him to get lun[EXCESSIVELY DARK JOKE REDACTED. SORRY. I’M JUST CRABBY. IT’S MY PROBLEM, I’LL DEAL WITH IT]

* Rather than the quite amusing title cards and categories of Make Mine Music, this one had each segment hosted by a freaky disembodied theatre mask with a bland voice. I wasn't a fan.
You know what I want to see.


  1. Huh. Well, I guess it's been longer than i thought since I've seen this because I really don't remember Pecos Bill being quite as stomach churning as that. Ah, well. I was probably too busy coloring while it was on the TV when i was a kid. I do remember Bumble Boogie being awesome, though.

  2. Bumble Boogie was indeed fantastic. And Pecos Bill was... it was just damned stupid. I didn't even get into his unpleasant character design, his constant and irritating habit of firing his guns into the air nonstop, or how truly annoying Rogers and his sidekicks were.

    I actually feel a bit guilty for spending 3 paragraphs on the one I hated and glossing over the ones I liked. Because I did like this movie as a whole, and I'm sure I'll watch most of it again.