Hello and welcome to In Too Deep into Disney, where I over-analyse every Disney animated film over a year.
And this week we’re taking a look at Melody Time, otherwise known as ‘â€¦ what?’. Yet another one of those Disney films that has completely and utterly disappeared from the public consciousness. It is quite an unremarkable film that leads very little to be said about it. But perhaps the purpose of this film is to show how far Disney has come as a company whilst reflecting what it’ll be doing in its near future.
Once Upon A Wintertime: A couple go on an ice-skating date where the guy completely ruins his chance of getting laid that night by being a bit of a dick. However when the ice breaks it’s up to this young man to save his lovely lady from going over a deadly waterfall.
(Although I have to ask: Could a river or a lake really freeze if it’s next to a waterfall? I don’t live near the cold so I don’t know if this can happen, but can frozen ice form near waterfalls?).
Anyway what’s to note about this short? Well firstly lets look at the two leads. The male lead is probably the first proper romantic male lead who actually does a lot. Prince Snow White’s Husband is a non-entity of a character, the upcoming Prince Charming doesn’t do all that much and it’s only when Prince Phillip appears do the princes start to do something. But of course whilst our unnamed dude does stuff, he’s still ultimately useless because he ends up getting knocked out in the snow and having birds save his lovely lady. But this could be seen as a template for more action-oriented ‘princes’ to take stage when the Disney Renaissance rolled round.
So how about the lady lead. Once again she has a foot in the past, foot in the future. Interdependent and not immediately submissive, she’s also ultimately unproductive in saving her own skin. Whereas Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty were very non-proactive in terms of the situations they found themselves in, future Disney Princesses reversed that. So this does seem to be the first time the female protagonist has appeared a bit more independent and not entirely a doormat of sorts.
Finally there is a third element to this short, the two little bunny rabbits that follow the exact same plot as the two protagonists, but the key thing to note here is that it may be a nod to the likes of Bambi and Dumbo. Having animal protagonists act out a story is a common trope of Disney movies, it’s no different here. But the other key thing to note is animals interacting with human protagonists with human-like intelligence. Brought up in Snow White, copied in Cinderella, once again this shows how both the past and the future of Disney is reflected here.
Bumble Boogie: Speaking of reflecting the past, here’s a short that was considered being part of Fantasia. It does sort of make sense, reflecting the musical themes of Fantasia. If anything this film is the unofficial third movie in the trilogy of Fantasia, Make Music Mine and Melody Time. Ironically enough whilst Fantasia failed to take off due to war and lack of viewer interest (I theorise that because people weren’t use to the concept of animated movies they didn’t know what to make of it, ergo it didn’t take off as much as it should) the concept of Fantasia kept going on anyway in terms of the aforementioned movies. Nothing more in-depth to say about this short, so lets move on.
The Legend Of Johnny Appleseed: First off, raise your hand if you think that Applejack from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic was inspired by the story of John Chapman. I mean it seems a bit more than coincidental. But then again since this is a story very much grounded in American folklore rather then any other country, so no international viewer is gonna get the reference to the story. Anyway, back to the short.
First off I must say, I like how the angel is portrayed in this short. I’m not a religious guy (far from it in fact), but I do like the idea of an angel appearing in a form the person can best relate to rather than the standard ‘robed and haloed winged figure’. Clever little idea that could be expanded upon in a future blog (the old ‘what angel with X fictional character have’).
Anyway, back onto topic. How does this short reflect Disney’s past? Well this is one of the first Disney shorts amongst the films, hell one of the first Disney films in general, that actually has a strong male protagonist. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the other male protagonists were bad. But Pinocchio was just a child, likewise was Dumbo; and Bambi didn’t become an adult into very late into the film. Even Donald doesn’t do that good of a job. So how does Disney’s first male human protagonist go? Well he goes pretty well, setting the bar for future protagonist. He’s determined, but likeable. He’s confident, but humble. He’s got a noble goal and enough human qualities to make us relate to him (unlike some other mouse I could mention and did in great length). He reminds us a lot of future prince-lead Disney films like Aladdin or Hercules or Robin Hood. A lot of those characters can have their roots in this short film. Plus it’s also a pretty good short film.
Little Toot: All about a mischievous little tugboat that proves he can stand with the big dogs and not be a nuisance. Very much a character modelled in the style of Dumbo, except a bit more mischievous and not so innocent. He makes mistakes and pays dearly for them, unlike Dumbo, who passive has things happen to him till the end of the film. But the biggest influence in this short is Perdo from Sauldos Amigos. Once again an inanimate object based around a child has to rise to a challenge. Likewise this theme gets echoed in later films like Oliver and Company and Chicken Little etc.
Trees: A short visual poem is the best way to describe this short. In fact that’s the best I can do with this. We’ve had narrated shorts before and from memory this film is the last one that uses narration to such a degree. And, umm… Yeah I got nothing. Don’t think I can say all that much more really.
Blame It on the Samba: And with this we have Donald Duck’s second to last appearance in Disney feature films. His fourth in five film appearances. That means Donald Duck has been in about 10% of all Disney films. For the record Mickey Mouse, their star character, has only been in two (and no, Fantasia 2000 doesn’t count, that’s just a repeat). So how does this reflect the past? Well first off we have the return of Jose and the most annoying parrot thing ever. We have live-action for the last time in a Disney film. In all honestly it feels like a tacked-on extra that was meant to be in the other films but was never fully made. But it does heavily reference its past.
Pecos Bill: Fun fact: The restaurant named after this is the third busiest fast food restaurant in the world. Second is in Tomorrowland, the Cosmic Rays CafÃ©, beaten only by a McDonalds in either Russia or China. Just a fun bit of trivia for you. Anyway onto the short.
Well its opening (a boy raised by coyotes) is very much the classic Jungle Book story told all over again. He grows up to be the best cowboy that ever lived, before falling in love with a lovely lady. However due to bad circumstance she ends up going to the moon (long story, best watch the short). So what significance does this short have (besides naming a restaurant)?
Well I don’t think I’ll be causing any riots when I say that Bill is a terrible Mary Sue of a character. I mean he can do anything without fail. Well, except survive censorship because he was smoking; and we can’t show kids smoking lest they get the wrong idea. But Pecos Bill, like good old Johnny Appleseed, does lay the ground for future male protagonists. The problem is he has all the negative traits about the characters. Too powerful, too perfect, too over-the-top. No doubt I’ll be complaining about it in future. But still, it is a good short.
So there you have it. Melody Time. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad, Or How Faithful Should Adaptations Be?