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

Norman Ferguson (1944)

The Three Caballeros is a 1944 live-action animated musical produced by Walt Disney and released by RKO Radio Pictures. It was the 7th Walt Disney animated feature film, and it marks the 10th anniversary of Donald Duck and plots an adventure through parts of Latin America. It is notable for being one of the first feature-length films to incorporate traditional animation with live-action actors.

The film is a series of self-contained segments, strung together by Donald Duck opening birthday gifts from his Latin American friends. Several Latin American stars appear, including singers Aurora Miranda and Dora Luz, as well as singer and dancer Carmen Molina.

The film was produced as part of the studio’s goodwill message for Latin America. The film stars Donald Duck, who in the course of the film is joined by old friend JosĂ© Carioca, the cigar-smoking parrot from Saludos Amigos, who represents Brazil, and later becomes friends with a pistol-packing rooster named Panchito Pistoles, who represents Mexico.

This film was directed by animation great Norman Ferguson, who was a central contributor to the studio’s artistic development in the 1930s into the 40s. He created Pluto, Peg-Leg Pete, the Big Bad Wolf, and was the primary animator for the witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Sequence directors for the film included Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, and Harold Young.

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.

James Algar & Jack Kinney (1949)

The Wind in the Willows is the first segment of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, narrated by Basil Rathbone. The other half of the animated feature was based on the unrelated short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It was reissued as a stand-alone short in the 1950s.

The Wind in the Willows is based on the children’s book by the British novelist Kenneth Grahame, first published in 1908. Alternating between slow- and fast-paced, it focuses on four anthropomorphic animals: Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger. They live in a pastoral version of Edwardian England.

Norman Ferguson, Jack Kinney, John Elliotte, Wilfred Jackson, Bill Roberts, Ben Sharpsteen, Samuel Armstrong (1941)

Meet Dumbo, Mrs. Jumbo’s sweet little “Baby Mine” who charms all who see him, until it’s discovered that he has huge floppy ears! With the support of his very best friend, Timothy the mouse, Dumbo soon learns that his spectacular ears make him unique and special, allowing him to soar to fame as the world’s only flying elephant.

In 1941, in order to compensate for the relative poor box office of Pinocchio and Fantasia, Disney produced a low-budget feature film, Dumbo. Dumbo was a major hit and today is one of the most critically acclaimed animated movies ever made. Just a few days after rough animation was complete on Dumbo, the Disney animators’ strike broke out. This was caused by the Screen Cartoonists’ Guild, who severed many ties between Walt Disney and his staff, while encouraging many members of the Disney studio to leave and seek greener pastures. Later that year, Dumbo became a big success, the first time since Snow White. The critically acclaimed film brought in much-needed revenue and kept the studio afloat.

Dumbo is a 1941 American animated film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by RKO Radio Pictures. The fourth Disney animated feature film, it is based upon the storyline written by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl illustrated by Helen Durney for the prototype of a novelty toy. The main character is Jumbo Jr., a semi-anthropomorphic elephant who is cruelly nicknamed “Dumbo”, as in “dumb”. He is ridiculed for his big ears, but in fact he is capable of flying by using his ears as wings. Throughout most of the film, his only true friend, aside from his mother, is the mouse, Timothy – a relationship parodying the stereotypical animosity between mice and elephants.

Dumbo was released on October 23, 1941; made to recoup the financial losses of Fantasia, it was a deliberate pursuit of simplicity and economy for the Disney studio. At 64 minutes, it is one of Disney’s shortest animated features. Sound was recorded conventionally using the RCA System. One voice was synthesized using the Sonovox system, but it, too, was recorded using the RCA System.

In 2017, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

A live-action adaptation of the film directed by Tim Burton is scheduled to be released on March 29, 2019.

Written by Otto Englander, Bill Peet, Joe Grant, Joe Rinaldi, Aurelius Battaglia, Harold Pearl, Helen Aberson, Webb Smith, Vernon Stallings, and Dick Huemer.

Starring Edward Brophy, Billy Bletcher, Malcolm Hutton, John McLeish, Verna Felton, Eddie Holden, The King’s Men, James Baskett, Jim Carmichael, Harold Manley, Noreen Gammill, Hall Johnson Choir, Sterling Holloway, Cliff Edwards, Verna Felton, and Herman Bing.