Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske & Jack Kinney (1948)

Melody Time is a 1948 American live-action/animated musical film produced by Walt Disney. The tenth Disney animated feature film, it was released to theatres by RKO Radio Pictures on May 27, 1948. Made up of seven segments set to popular music and folk music, the film is, like Make Mine Music before it, the popular music version of Fantasia. Melody Time, while not meeting the artistic accomplishments of Fantasia, was mildly successful. It is the fifth Disney package film following Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music, and Fun and Fancy Free.

“In the grand tradition of Disney’s greatest musical classics, such as Fantasia, Melody Time features seven classic stories, each enhanced with high-spirited music and unforgettable characters. A feast for the eyes and ears full of wit and charm. A delightful Disney classic with something for everyone”.

Walt Disney

Melody Time is considered to be the last anthology feature made by the Walt Disney Animation Studios. These package features were little-known short-film compilations that Disney produced and released as feature films during World War II. They were financially and artistically lightweight productions meant to bring in profits to allow the studio to return to fairy tale single-narrative feature form, an endeavour which they successfully completed two years later with Cinderella. While the shorts contrast in length, form, and style, a common thread throughout is that each is accompanied by songs from musicians and vocalists of the ’40s. This sets it apart from the similarly structured Fantasia, whose segments were set to classical music instead. As opposed to Fun and Fancy Free, whose story was bound to the tales of Bongo and Jack and the Beanstalk, in this film Walt Disney has let his animators and his color magicians have free rein.

Rose Pelswick, in a 1948 review for The News-Sentinel, described the film as an ‘adventure into the intriguing make-believe world peopled by Walt Disney’s Cartoon characters”. It also explains that “with the off-screen voice of Buddy Clark doing the introductions, the episodes include fantasy, folklore, South American rhythms, poetry, and slapstick”. A 1948 review by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described it as a “mixture of fantasy, abstraction, parable, music, color, and movement”.

Once Upon a Wintertime

This segment features Frances Langford singing the title song about two romantic young lovers on a winter day in December, during the late 19th century. The couple are Jenny and Joe (unlike most Disney cartoons, Jenny and Joe lack spoken dialogue). Joe shows off on the ice for Jenny, and near-tragedy and a timely rescue ensues. This is intertwined with a similar rabbit couple.

Bumble Boogie

This segment presents a surrealistic battle for a solitary bumblebee as he tries to ward off a visual and musical frenzy. The music, courtesy of Freddy Martin and His Orchestra (with Jack Fina playing the piano), is a swing-jazz variation of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee, which was one of the many pieces considered for inclusion in Fantasia.

The Legend of Johnny Appleseed

A retelling of the story of John Chapman, who spent most of his life roaming the Midwestern United States (mainly Ohio and Indiana) in the pioneer days, and planting apple trees, thus earning his famous nickname. He also spread Christianity. Dennis Day narrates (as an “old settler who knew Johnny well”) and provides the voices of both Johnny and his guardian angel.

Little Toot

The story of Little Toot by Hardie Gramatky, in which the title protagonist, a small tugboat in New York City, wanted to be just like his father Big Toot, but could not seem to stay out of trouble. The Andrews Sisters provide vocals.

Trees

A recitation of the 1913 poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer, featuring music by Oscar Rasbach and performed by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. The lyrical setting accompanies animation of bucolic scenes seen through the changing of the seasons. To preserve the look of the original story sketches, layout artist Ken O’Connor came up with the idea of using frosted cels and rendering the pastel images right onto the cel. Before being photographed each cel was laminated in clear lacquer to protect the pastel. The result was a look that had never been seen in animation before.

Blame it on the Samba

Donald Duck and José Carioca meet the Aracuan Bird, who introduces them to the pleasures of the samba. The accompanying music is the 1914 polka Apanhei-te, Cavaquinho by Ernesto Nazareth, fitted with English lyrics. The Dinning Sisters provide vocals while organist Ethel Smith appears in a live-action role.

Pecos Bill

The finale follows about Texas’ famous hero Pecos Bill. Raised by coyotes, he became the biggest and best cowboy that ever lived. He out hissed the Rattlesnake. And learned about all of the animals. It also features his horse Widowmaker, who’s been saved by the vultures that try to eat him. He brought the rain from California to save Texas from the drought. But when he woke up from the river, he heard a cow mooing. There was the band of evil rustlers stealing the herd of cattle. But they didn’t know the herd they stole was Bill’s. So he lassoed them and knocked out all of their teeth one by one. The Rustlers were now finally reformed and started to sing, “Yippee-I-Yay!” Then, Bill and Widowmaker traveled through the desert. He got a stick and then he dug the rio grande. And it recounts the ill-fated romance between Bill and a beautiful cowgirl named Slue Foot Sue, with whom he fell in love at first sight until a jealous Widowmaker made Sue to get literally stranded at the Moon at their wedding day. This retelling features Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan, the former’s horse Trigger, and the Sons of the Pioneers telling the story to Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten in a live-action frame story.

Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, William Morgan, & Bill Roberts (1947)

Fun and Fancy Free is a 1947 animated musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney and released on September 27, 1947 by RKO Radio Pictures. It is the ninth Disney animated feature film and the fourth of the package films that the studio produced in the 1940s to save money during World War II. The Disney package films of the late 1940s helped finance Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan.

This film is a compilation of two stories: Bongo, narrated by Dinah Shore which is loosely based on the short story Little Bear Bongo by Sinclair Lewis, and Mickey and the Beanstalk, narrated by Edgar Bergen which is based on the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale. Though the film is primarily animated, it also uses live-action segments to join its two stories. Mickey and the Beanstalk marked the last time that Walt Disney voiced Mickey Mouse, as he was too busy on other projects to continue voicing the character. Disney replaced himself with sound-effects artist Jimmy MacDonald.

Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, Joshua Meador & Robert Cormack (1946)

Casey at the Bat
Peter and the Wolf
The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met

Make Mine Music is a 1946 animated musical anthology film produced by Walt Disney and released by RKO Radio Pictures. It is the 8th Disney feature animated film, released on April 20, 1946.

During World War II, much of Walt Disney’s staff was drafted into the army, and those that remained were called upon by the U.S. government to make training and propaganda films. As a result, the studio was littered with unfinished story ideas. In order to keep the feature film division alive during this difficult time, the studio released six package films including this one, made up of various unrelated segments set to music. This is the third package film, following Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. The film was entered into the 1946 Cannes Film Festival.

The musical short stories included in the Make Mine Music anthology include The Martins and the Coys, Blue Bayou, All the Cats Join In, Without You, Casey at the Bat, Two Silhouettes, Peter and the Wolf, Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet, and The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met.

“The animation, color and music, the swing versus symph, and the imagination, execution and delineation—that this Disney feature (two years in the making) may command widest attention yet. The blend of cartoon with human action has been evidenced before; here Disney has retained all his characters in their basic art form, but endowed them with human qualities, voices and treatments, which is another step forward in the field where cartoons graduate into the field of the classics.”

Abel Green of Variety

“More entertaining than others, but all are good, and each has something to please movie-goers of all tastes and ages. It is a delightful blend of comedy, music, pathos, animation, and color, given a most imaginative treatment.”

Harrison’s Reports

“A brilliant abstraction wherein fanciful musical instruments dance gayly on sliding color disks, sets of romping fingers race blithely down tapes of piano keys and musical notes fly wildly through the multi-hued atmosphere—all to the tingling accompaniment of Benny Goodman’s quartet playing the ancient and melodious torch song, ‘After You’re Gone’. Color, form and music blend dynamically in this bit, and a rich stimulant of sensuous rhythm is excitingly achieved.”

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times

“A picture of much inventiveness and imagination. The lighter the picture is, the more is its excellence demonstrated, it might be noted. And while music is the keynote of the production, it ranges well into comedy, and plentifully into swing.”

Edwin Schallert of the Los Angeles Times

Walt Disney (1942)

Disney animators tour South America and present four animated shorts inspired by their trip.

Saludos Amigos is a 1942 American live-action animated anthology film produced by Walt Disney and released by RKO Radio Pictures. It is the 6th Disney animated feature film. Set in Latin America, it is made up of four different segments; Donald Duck stars in two of them and Goofy stars in one. It also features the first appearance of JosĂ© Carioca, the Brazilian cigar-smoking parrot. Saludos Amigos premiered in Rio de Janeiro on August 24, 1942. It was released in the United States on February 6, 1943. Saludos Amigos was popular enough that Walt Disney decided to make another film about Latin America, The Three Caballeros, to be produced two years later. At 42 minutes, it is Disney’s shortest animated feature to date.

Directed by Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, Norman Ferguson, and Bill Roberts.

Story written by Homer Brightman, William Cottrell, Richard Huemer, Joe Grant, Harold Reeves, Ted Sears, Webb Smith, Roy Williams, and Ralph Wright.

In early 1941, before U.S. entry into World War II, the United States Department of State commissioned a Disney goodwill tour of South America, intended to lead to a movie to be shown in the US, Central, and South America as part of the Good Neighbor Policy. This was being done because several Latin American governments had close ties with Nazi Germany, and the US government wanted to counteract those ties. Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters were popular in Latin America, and Walt Disney acted as ambassador. The tour, facilitated by Nelson Rockefeller, who had recently been appointed as Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA), took Disney and a group of roughly twenty composers, artists, technicians, etc. from his studio to South America, mainly to Brazil and Argentina, but also to Chile and Peru.

The film itself was given federal loan guarantees, because the Disney studio had over-expanded just before European markets were closed to them by the war, and because Disney was struggling with labor unrest at the time (including a strike that was underway at the time the goodwill journey began).

The film included live-action documentary sequences featuring footage of modern Latin American cities with skyscrapers and fashionably dressed residents. This surprised many contemporary US viewers, who associated such images only with US and European cities, and contributed to a changing impression of Latin America. Film historian Alfred Charles Richard Jr. has commented that Saludos Amigos “did more to cement a community of interest between peoples of the Americas in a few months than the State Department had in fifty years”.

The film also inspired Chilean cartoonist RenĂ© RĂ­os Boettiger to create Condorito, one of Latin America’s most ubiquitous cartoon characters. RĂ­os perceived that the character Pedro, a small, incapable airplane, was a slight to Chileans and created a comic that could supposedly rival Disney’s comic characters.

Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske (1951)

Alice in Wonderland is a 1951 American animated musical fantasy comedy film produced by Walt Disney Productions and based on the Alice books by Lewis Carroll. The thirteenth release of Disney’s animated features, the film premiered in London on July 26, 1951, and in New York City on July 28, 1951. The film features the voices of Kathryn Beaumont as Alice, Sterling Holloway as the Cheshire Cat, Verna Felton as the Queen of Hearts, and Ed Wynn as the Mad Hatter. Walt Disney first tried to adapt Alice into a feature-length animated film in the 1930s and revived the idea in the 1940s. The film was originally intended to be a live-action/animated film; however, Disney decided to make it a fully animated film in 1946.

The film was considered a disappointment on its initial release, therefore was shown on television as one of the first episodes of Disneyland. Its 1974 re-release in theaters proved to be much more successful, leading to subsequent re-releases, merchandising and home video releases. Although the film received generally negative critical reviews on its initial release, it has been more positively reviewed over the years.

In fall 1945, shortly after the war ended, Disney revived Alice in Wonderland and hired British author Aldous Huxley to re-write the script. Huxley devised a story in which Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell (the inspiration for Alice) were misunderstood and persecuted following the book’s publication. In Huxley’s story, stage actress Ellen Terry was sympathetic to both Carroll and Liddell, and Queen Victoria served as the deus ex machina, validating Carroll due to her appreciation for the book. Disney considered child actress Margaret O’Brien for the title role. However, he felt that Huxley’s version was too literal an adaptation of Carroll’s book. Background artist Mary Blair submitted some concept drawings for Alice in Wonderland. Blair’s paintings moved away from Tenniel’s detailed illustrations by taking a modernist stance, using bold and unreal colors. Walt liked Blair’s designs, and the script was re-written to focus on comedy, music, and the whimsical side of Carroll’s books.

Around this time, Disney considered making a live-action-and-animated version of Alice in Wonderland (similar to his short Alice Comedies) that would star Ginger Rogers and would utilize the recently developed sodium vapor process. Lisa Davis (who later voiced Anita Radcliffe in One Hundred and One Dalmatians) and Luana Patten were also considered for the role of Alice. However, Disney soon realized that he could only do justice to the book by making an all-animated feature and, in 1946, work began on Alice in Wonderland. With the film tentatively scheduled for release in 1950, animation crews on Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella effectively competed against each other to see which film would finish first. By early 1948, Cinderella had progressed further than Alice in Wonderland.

A legal dispute with Dallas Bower’s 1949 film version was also under way. Disney sued to prevent release of the British version in the U.S., and the case was extensively covered in Time magazine. The company that released the British version accused Disney of trying to exploit their film by releasing its version at virtually the same time.

Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske (1950)

Have faith in your dreams.

Cinderella is an American animated musical fantasy film from 1950 by Walt Disney and RKO Radio Pictures. It’s based on the fairytale of the same name by Charles Perrault and is the 12th Disney animated feature film. The film was directed by Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, and Wilfred Jackson. Mack David, Jerry Livingston, and Al Hoffman wrote the songs, which include Cinderella, A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes, Sing Sweet Nightingale, The Work Song, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo, and So This is Love. It features the voices of Ilene Woods, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Rhoda Williams, James MacDonald, Luis van Rooten, Don Barclay, Mike Douglas, William Phipps, and Lucille Bliss.

After Fantasia, Pinocchio, and Bambi all bombed in the box office, Cinderella was the greatest success since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Dumbo and helped the studio through their financial burdens.

In 1948, actors were filmed on large sound stages mouthing to a playback of the dialogue soundtrack. Disney had previously used live-action reference on Snow White and the Seven DwarfsPinocchio, and Fantasia, but as part of an effort to keep the production cost down, the footage was used to check the plot, timing, and movement of the characters before animating it. The footage was then edited frame-by-frame onto large Photostat sheets to duplicate, in which the animators found too restrictive as they were not allowed to imagine anything that the live actors did not present since that kind of experimentation might necessitate changes and cost more money. Additionally, the animators were instructed to draw from a certain directorial perspective to avoid difficult shots and angles. Frank Thomas explained, “Anytime you’d think of another way of staging the scene, they’d say: ‘We can’t get the camera up there’! Well, you could get the animation camera up there! So you had to go with what worked well in live action.”

Walt Disney hired actress Helene Stanley to perform the live-action reference for Cinderella. Animators modeled Prince Charming on actor Jeffrey Stone, who also provided some additional voices for the film. Mary Alice O’Connor served as the live-action reference for the Fairy Godmother.

From Rags to Riches: The Making of Cinderella

By 1950, the Animation Board had settled down to nine supervising animators. Although they were still in their thirties, they were jokingly referred by Walt Disney as the “Nine Old Men” after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s denigration of the Supreme Court. Including Norman Ferguson, the principal animators included Les Clark, Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, John Lounsbery, Frank Thomas, and Wolfgang Reitherman.

Larson was the first to animate the title character whom he envisioned as a sixteen-year-old with braids and a pug nose. Marc Davis later animated Cinderella, in which Larson observed as “more the exotic dame” with a long swanlike neck. Because the final character design was not set, assistant animators were responsible for minimizing the differences. When Disney was asked what was his favorite piece of animation was, he answered, “I guess it would have to be where Cinderella gets her ballroom gown”, which was animated by Davis.

Milt Kahl was the directing animator of the Fairy Godmother, the King, and the Grand Duke. Originally, Disney intended for the Fairy Godmother to be a tall, regal character as he viewed fairies as tall, motherly figures, but Milt Kahl disagreed with this characterization. Following the casting of Verna Felton, Kahl managed to convince Disney on his undignified concept of the Fairy Godmother.

Unlike the human characters, the animal characters were animated without live-action reference. During production, none of Kimball’s designs for Lucifer had pleased Disney. After visiting Kimball’s steam train at his home, Disney saw his calico cat and remarked, “Hey—there’s your model for Lucifer”. Reitherman animated the sequence in which Jaq and Gus laboriously drag the key up the flight of stairs to Cinderella.