Friday, March 20, 2009

Day Fifty-Seven: Melody Time (1948) - Rank 3.5/5


Over the past few decades, Disney has become renowned for bringing classic stories to life through animation. In fact, the studio, in recent years, has become so synonymous with fairy tales and talking animals/things (i.e. "Aladdin," "Beauty and the Beast," "The Little Mermaid," etc.) that any film in its canon that does not fit this mold seems almost like a fluke. "Melody Time" certainly would be an example, for rather than telling a feature-length, linear story, it presents a series of vignettes. Furthermore, each short is presented to the song stylings of a popular artist from the era. Roy Rogers narrates the tale of Pecos Bill in one short, while the throaty Frances Langford belts out "Once Upon a Christmastime" in another.

I'd seen most of the shorts presented in this anthology at one time or another, mixed into various collections of cartoons on the Disney channel. For example, the latter piece mentioned above, which features a pair of New England lovers out for an ice skating date that goes awry, was a quintessential selection in most of the Disney channel's Christmas compilations (back when Disney actually showed Disney cartoons/films instead of pimping talentless, purity ring-bearing tween idols qua alleged musicians...and George Lopez?). However, there were a couple of segments I hadn't seen in their entirety before, one being Freddy Martin's rendition of "Flight of the Bumblebee." The mix of manic, big band swing and the hallucinatory animation (which had to have been animated by the same individuals behind Dumbo's "pink elephants trip") were the perfect combination.

This was the last of Disney's package films where individual segments featured different musical artists. I can't help but wonder what sort of films the studio would have turned out had it continued this type of filmmaking up until today. Any installment from the early seventies would surely be wild, while anything from the late eighties would be appalling, yet dear to my heart for sentimental attachment. M.C. Hammer performing the theme song to "Darkwing Duck" (or worse yet, a combination of "Marsupilami" and Madonna in her "I'm Going Bananas" mode...SHUDDER). It could be worse though - it could be the inevitable 2009 combination of all the popular Disney record artists...the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cirus, Randy Newman and...George 3-D.

I couldn't find a trailer, so just check out the best segment, "Flight of the Bumblebee"

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