It’s time for the last music-induced package film of the 1940s. (We won’t see another one until the year 2000.) Only one more package film to go! (And thankfully I like half of that one.)
Melody Time is more or less a sequel to Make Mine Music. It is a package of seven musical shorts set to popular and folk music. I like that Disney didn’t try to tie the stories together. Each short is independent. There’s no cricket, conductor, or magic serape guiding you through. Some of the shorts are narrative while others interpret the music. Several famous voices appear in the film including: Frances Langford, The Andrews Sisters, and Roy Rogers.
Although the film is made up of seven shorts, I’m only going to focus on two of them.
The third short in the film is “The Legend of Johnny Appleseed.” As a former girl scout, I used to sing the Johnny Appleseed song ALL THE FREAKIN TIME. (And it always rained after we did. Strange that.)
Oh the Lord is good to me and so I thank the Lord for giving me the things I need: the sun and the rain and the apple tree. Oh the Lord is good to me….etc. etc.
The song happens to be sung in the Disney short. Who wrote the song? Did John Chapman actually sing it? Is it a random uncredited folk song? Did someone at Disney write it? Can anyone tell me the origin? Wikipedia calls it his traveling song or a Swedenborgian hymn. That doesn’t tell me much. Did he actually sing it? Inquiring minds wish to know!
Anyway. What do they teach you in grade school? John Chapman was some religious guy who went around the US’s wild frontier planting apple seeds with a pot on his head. He earned himself the nickname of Johnny Appleseed. Well, the Disney short doesn’t make much more sense than that.
Johnny is hanging out in his orchard, picking apples and whatnot, when he sees a band of covered wagons trot on by. He wishes he could go but alas he will stay with his apples. BUT HARK! There is a ghost! He tells Johnny to take a sack of apple seeds, put a pot on his head, and head out by himself to the wild west. Johnny listens to the ghost and off he goes. He makes friends with animals and plants a lot of apples. Eventually, he becomes old and dies. His old ghost friend tells him he needs to plant trees in heaven.
Is it just me or does this John fellow sound like a crack pot?
The short leads us to believe that he lived with the animals (who sleep with him even in death – HA. Can you imagine Johnny Appleseed and Snow White in heaven? I wish I had artistic ability.) He had an endless supply of seeds and he planted them….then disappeared to plant more (except when he is being a creeper and spying on apple parties.)
Well, apparently the real John Chapman owned quite a bit of land and in fact planted nurseries of apple trees, not just random trees in the wilderness. He bothered building fences and he came back to take care of them. According to Wikipedia, John never married because he thought he would have two wives waiting for him in heaven. Thankfully Disney had him as a single nomad and didn’t feel the need to throw in a random love story.
What I’m saying is that the story is a little bit out there, but it’s kind of one of those American grade school/scouts essentials. The Disney short told me everything that grade school did. The animation is well done and thankfully not flashy or overdone. It is really more about the story telling. I appreciate the effort of the animators/story tellers. I just wish Johnny made a little bit more sense. Maybe a full length feature instead of a 17 minute short?
The last short featured in Melody Time is the story of Pecos Bill, a cowboy/frontierman who was raised by coyotes. Over all, I felt rather bleh about the story. It didn’t make sense. But it was a tall tale. t isn’t supposed to make sense. It was well done, just not my cup of tea. Let’s pretend for a minute that the short isn’t what I’m supposed to care about.
The short is told by none other than Roy Rogers (with Trigger close by, of course.)
Okay, what? You ask. Why do I care? I care because my grandpa is really into westerns. In fact, they might be the only thing he watches for all I know.
Roy Rogers was the singing cowboy and a very popular and heavily marketed actor. He was in over 100 movies and had his own TV show. His nickname was “King of the Cowboys.” There’s also a restaurant chain named after this guy. What I’m saying is, he’s a big deal.
His horse, Trigger, is probably one of the most famous horse-actors ever. (Can you name others besides Mr. Ed or Silver?) According to wiki, Trigger had 150 trick cues and could walk 50 feet on his hind legs.
After his death, he was taxidermied. That’s a fact my dad or someone in the family has mentioned to me from a very young age. Why? I don’t know.
Oh, back to Disney. Roy and Trigger are hanging out with Roy’s cowboy band along with Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten, Disney’s Sweethart Team. You’ll remember Luana from her scary puppet party in Fun and Fancy Free. She and Bobby starred together in Song of the South and So Dear to My Heart, two popular live action films. Bobby would later be well known around the Disney Company as the voice for Peter Pan as well as his reference model.
I love that Disney reuses their same actors for a million roles (can we talk about how much I love Sterling Holloway). I love that they brought in HUGE names. At the same time, when modern Disney brought in Miley Cyrus and John Travolta (Bolt – 2008), it pissed me off. Oh well.
While I am tired of the package films, I do like Melody Time more than Saludos Amigos or Fun and Fancy Free. As a whole, I enjoy it more than Make Mine Music, but my love for Willie the Whale, makes me steer more towards Make Mine Music if I were to throw one in to watch.
All in all, of the shorts do well on their own. They definitely have my attention for the five to thirty minutes in which they appear individually, but I get tired and bored when watching them in a row.
Next week – The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad – where Sarah gets sad because of Walt Disney World things.