Cast & Crew
After an offscreen master of ceremonies describes the abundance of entertainment to be found in "Melody Time," the scene changes to a Currier-and-Ives-style winter landscape. A young man and a male bunny escort their girl friends onto an ice skating pond, and after the girls narrowly escape being drowned when the ice breaks, they reward their clumsy beaux with kisses. The emcee then introduces an animated interpretation of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumble Bee," during which a bewildered bee is seen trying to escape "an instrumental nightmare." The bee is chased by flowers, fireflies and other tormentors, as well as musical notes and piano keys. The bee takes his revenge by stomping on the keys. The then emcee sets the tone for the next story by listing some of the great characters in American folklore, including Johnny "Appleseed" Chapman, who lived from 1774 to 1845: In 1806, Johnny tends his farm, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Despite his slight build, Johnny works hard and is grateful for the bounty he receives, especially his beloved apples. When Johnny sees a wagon train going West, he wishes he could go, but knows that he is not strong enough to be a pioneer. Johnny's guardian angel appears and encourages the young man to have faith and courage, and to plant his apples in the West. Armed with his bible, some apple seeds and a tin pan for a hat, Johnny treks through the wilderness alone. As Johnny travels, planting his seeds, he is befriended by wild animals, and the seasons pass as the pioneers grow to love the kindly wanderer. After a long, fruitful life, Johnny again meets his guardian angel, who takes him "up yonder" to plant more trees. The next story concerns a young tugboat named Little Toot, who rarely succeeds in his attempts to behave and not indulge his high spirits. One afternoon, Little Toot is arrested by two police boats after his misguided effort to help his father ends in disaster. Banished to beyond the twelve-mile limit, Little Toot gets caught in a storm and is the only tug to see the distress signal of a foundering oceanliner. Little Toot sends an s.o.s., then helps the liner safely reach the harbor, where his proud father awaits him. The emcee then promises a combined tribute to nature by "poem, picture and melody," and a choral rendition of Joyce Kilmer's poem "Trees" is sung, as the seasonal changes experienced by a tree are depicted through animation. In the next segment, Donald Duck and Joe Carioca are depressed and go to the Café do Samba for some entertainment. There, they meet the eccentric Aracuan Bird, who plays tricks on the pals as they enjoy a lively samba. After Donald, Joe and their new acquaintance disappear, the emcee introduces Pecos Bill, the "rootin'est, tootin'est" cowboy ever to roam the West. The story of Pecos Bill is narrated by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers, who relate Bill's adventures to their little friends, Luana Patten and Bobby Driscoll: As Bill's family travels West, their wagon hits a bump and baby Bill is tossed out into the Texas desert. Ma Coyote takes pity on the orphan and lets him join her brood, and soon Bill becomes the toughest cub of all. One day, Bill spots a colt being attacked by vultures and rescues the lost animal, which he names Widowmaker. As Bill and Widowmaker grow to adulthood, they become the best of friends and gain a fiercesome reputation. Bill's many exploits are described, including how he dug the Rio Grande River. Widowmaker is baffled, however, when Bill falls in love with Slue Foot Sue, a beautiful, wild cowgirl, and begins to ignore his old pal. On the day of Bill and Sue's wedding, Bill fulfills his promises to buy Sue a fancy bustle and to let her ride Widowmaker. The cantakerous horse has other ideas, however, and the combination of his bucking and Sue's bustle propel her high into the sky. Bill is devastated when Widowmaker interferes with his attempt to lasso Sue back to Earth, and she bounces up to the moon. The grief-stricken Bill then returns to the coyotes, who howl their sympathy for Bill when he cries at the full moon.
The Dinning Sisters
Robert O. Cook
Don Da Gradi
Winton C. Hoch
C. O. Slyfield
Harold J. Steck
The working title of this film was Sing About Something. John Chapman (1774-1845), more commonly known as "Johnny Appleseed," is the only historical figure depicted in the picture. According to a December 7, 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item, producer Walt Disney was planning to make a feature-length animated film entitled Currier and Ives, which was to be "based on the famous print collection." The news item announced that in addition to singer Frances Langford, Disney had hired Al Sack, the "maestro on the Maxwell House Coffee program," to compose the music score and direct the orchestra for the proposed production. February 1946 Hollywood Reporter news items reveal that in addition to the proposed Disney treatment of the story of "Johnny Appleseed," Robert Riskin of RKO and George Bricker of Universal were planning to produce films featuring the character. Also, Groucho Marx was reported to be "mulling" a Broadway musical about the "famed orchardist." Only the Disney version was produced, however.
Although a July 30, 1946 New York Times article reported that the "Pecos Bill" segment would be included in a feature-length film entitled All in Fun, along with cartoons based on Kenneth Grahame's book The Wind in the Willows and the story of "Casey Jones," those plans were altered. The Wind in the Willows was instead adapted for the 1949 Disney release The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, while the "Casey Jones" segment was not produced. According to a December 9, 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item, "Disney originally planned to use the tales built around Pecos Bill and [Johnny] Appleseed as separate pictures, but later decided a merging of the two would give Melody Time added box office strength."
In addition to its world premiere in New York, the picture was shown on May 27, 1948 to the national convention of the General Federation of Women's Clubs in Portland, OR. Extensive advertising of the film included numerous record albums of the songs by the featured singers as well as other performers such as Bing Crosby and Sammy Kaye. Dennis Day's recordings of the "Johnny Appleseed" songs were especially popular. Additional advertising was done through the National Apple Institute, according to a April 14, 1948 Hollywood Reporter news item, which noted that the institute expected to prompt three million additional viewers to see the picture. On May 24, 1948, Film Daily reported that "for the first time...film from a modern Walt Disney production" would be presented on television when clips of Melody Time were broadcast on the Small Fry Club show on the DuMont Network. Also scheduled to appear on the show was child actress Luana Patten. According to a modern source, Pinto Colvig provided the voice of the "Aracuan Bird" for the film.
Melody Time was one of a number of "package features" produced by the studio during the 1940s. For more information on the package features, see the entry above for Make Mine Music. As with the other package features, but unlike most Disney animated features, Melody Time was not theatrically re-issued, although its individual segments were released as shorts. Segments released individually in the 1950s included "Pecos Bill," "Legend of Johnny Appleseed," "Little Toot" and "Once Upon a Wintertime." The "Trees" and "Bumble Boogie" segments were combined into one short called "Contrasts in Rhythm." Five of the sequences from Melody Time-"Trees," "Bumble Boogie," "Once Upon a Wintertime," "Blame It on the Samba" and "Pecos Bill"-were paired with four shorts from Make Mine Music and released in November 1955 as a sixty-nine minute feature entitled Music Land. In 1998, when Melody Time was released on home video for the first time, some scenes featuring "Pecos Bill" were altered or deleted to remove the cigarettes that Bill frequently smokes. The character of "Pecos Bill," along with "Paul Bunyan" and "John Henry," was again portrayed by the Disney Studio in the 1995 live-action film Tall Tale: The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill. The picture was directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik and starred Patrick Swayze, Oliver Platt and Roger Aaron Brown.