Disney By The Numbers: Melody Time (1948)

One Man, One Woman, Eight Decades of Disney Animated Features watched in order, and the overly complex system they invented to grade them. These are our thoughts, rants, and observations.

This is Disney By The Numbers.

melodytime


Disney is one of the largest entertainment companies in the world. They can swallow up companies whole and exploit IP’s to the point they become money factories. They’ve influenced U.S. Copyright law, they basically run an area of Florida the size of Manhattan as their own principality complete with their own fire department, ambulances, and security.

But it’s hard to believe they ever got to that point after watching films like Melody Time. In fact, it’s hard to believe they ever made another film after Melody Time! Because Melody Time commits the most heinous sin a movie can make. It’s not bad, it’s not good… it just is. And that’s bad.

Look, it’s complicated, let’s use the numbers to explain it a bit.

Storytelling

  • Theme 0
  • Tightness of Script 1
  • Dialogue 1
  • Use of Comedy 1
  • Use of Drama 0

Disney describes Melody Time this way: “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!

There are several problems with this description, the first is that this movie takes much more from Make Mine Music than it does Fantasia, the second is that the blurb there lies to you because this movie is far from a classic and not especially memorable.

Meldoy Time’s format is essentially the same as Make Mine Music in that it’s comprised of several short features with virtually no framing device. The closest there is to that is a paint brush that draws the title of each segment before it begins.

melodytimedonaldpaint
Like this, but boring.

From there, we have the actual segments and… well they happen. What we have here is essentially Make Mine Music’s leftovers, which was largely Fantasia’s leftovers. So it’s basically like eating a stale casserole made from a turkey sandwich leftover from Thanksgiving. Also it has a segment that’s a holdover from The Three Caballeros, so at least the casserole has some habaneros laced with LSD to offer.

The longest short is the story of Pecos Bill, and I suppose it’s the most entertaining, but even stacked up against Make Mine Music, it doesn’t feel like much. That movie at least had an Opera Whale.

Total: 3/15

Music

  • Lyrics 1
  • Score 2
  • Number of Songs 2
  • Notoriety of Songs 1

Like Make Mine Music before it, Melody Time also narrows its focus to music; it’s impossible for it to score a zero in this category. Unfortunately, most the songs are fairly forgettable. They pretty much sound like music contemporary to post-war America.

The notable exceptions here being Bumble Boogie and Pecos Bill. Bumble Boogie is a spin on “Flight of the Bumble Bee” while the Pecos Bill song is one of those ear worms that you could catch yourself humming at any time between 1948 and now. It feels like a quintessential cowboy song, which makes sense as it was sung by Roy Rogers so it’s hard to get more classic cowboy than that.

Total: 6/15

Animation

  • Quality of Animation 1.5
  • Use Of Color 3
  • House Style 1
  • Character Design 2
  • Breaks New Ground 0

We really are in the Wasteland here people. It’s not really even worth it to go on about the glory days of Disney’s past animations.  I’ve already tread that ground, and speaking of the path frequently taken, I can’t even compliment the attempts at surrealist animation that can be found in such segments as Bumble Boogie or Blame it on the Samba. It’s stuff Disney had already done before, and better in other features. Even by the low standards of these package films there isn’t much to the animation here.

melodytimeboo

Total: 7.5/15

Love Story

  • Character Interaction 1
  • Importance To Overall Plot 0.5
  • Complexity 0
  • Pulls At Heartstrings 0
  • Overcomes Obstacles 0

I’m sorry to keep talking about Make Mine Music but I just have to so I can illustrate the problems here in Melodoy Time. The main love story here is in Once Upon a Wintertime between Jenny and Joe, a couple of ice skaters.

cutting
Like this, but boring

 

The problem is that there just really isn’t anything to them so the entire short falls flat. And this is where Make Mine Music comes in. I cared more about whether a couple of hats were going to wind up together than I did about a couple of humans. That’s the sign that you might as well close up shop.

Beyond that, there’s a bit of a romance between Pecos Bill and Slue Foot Sue but it’s every bit as shallow. We could also consider the best friends dynamic between Pecos Bill and Widowmaker, but considering Widowmaker acts more like a jealous ex than a horse… it also wouldn’t rank very high in the love category.

Total: 1.5/15

Hero

  • Sidekick 1
  • Charm 0.5
  • Goodness 0.5
  • Emotional Transformation 0
  • Comedy 1

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Disney Princesses are boring or one note. Even the  first three, who are widely considered to be the most plain, are more interesting than virtually any character that shows up in Melody Time.

Joe is a block of wood, Johnny Appleseed is… present.  He’s really the only one here that gives this movie any hero points for “goodness”.  Pecos Bill is mildly entertaining but veers closer to annoying, and Little Toot is… like any Little Engine That Could type character. Even Donald Duck doesn’t contribute much here…

Total: 3/10

Villain

  • Evilness 0
  • Comedy 0
  • Sophistication 0
  • Henchmen 0
  • Poses A Threat 0

… He can’t even be counted as a villain like he was in The Three Caballeros. Yes, he interacts with a live action woman again, but he’s content to just dance while she plays the organ. There’s just nothing here.

Total: 0/10

Supporting Characters

  • Comedy 1
  • Inventiveness 0
  • Clear Help Or Hindrance 1
  • Strength of Relationship with Main Character 0

It’s a familiar song and dance now, but none of the supporting characters really contribute all that much. Jenny and Joe have a couple of rabbits that skate around with them, Little Toot has a dad that he wants to impress and the Bumble Bee… is just a bumble bee.

Even Jose Carioca and the Aracuan Bird don’t help matters. Just like Donald, Jose spends most the short he’s in dancing and not doing much else. The Aracuan Bird offers a few visual gags but there’s not much there.

Finally we have Pecos Bill, Widowmaker is his main supporting character but he comes off as unlikable once Bill falls in love. The gag here is supposed to be that Widowmaker sees Bill falling in love like  a 5 year old might at seeing a best friend suddenly showing interest in a girl but the problem is that… Slue Foot Sue is the most interesting and likeable character in the entire movie.

melodytimesluefootsuecatfish
When you enter the movie riding a catfish, it’s hard not to leave a good first impression.

Bill is instantly smitten, which causes Widowmaker’s jealousy. The problem here is that typically, in these types of stories, the woman is shown to be something of a shrew, or out for money, or anything that would justify the hurt party’s feelings. But that’s just it, Sue is pretty much awesome. She rides a catfish, she seems to be able to keep up with Bill, and she can even handle Widowmaker. So when she eventually gets bounced off (get it!?) you wind up not feeling any sympathy for Bill or Widowmaker.

Total: 2/10

Disney Magic and Legacy

  • Theme Park Presence 1
  • Timelessness 1
  • Impact On Culture 1
  • Scope of Audience 1
  • Disney Feels (Or Did It Make us Cry?) 0

Pecos Bill wound up helping this feature a lot in this category. In spite of most the shorts in this film being disposable and forgettable, Pecos Bill still remains one of the few places that preserves this character in the public consciousness. Like Paul Bunyon or John Henry, most people know about these characters even if they’re not really hearing stories about them.

And even with megahits like Frozen, or newer ip’s like Marvel and Star Wars, Pecos Bill still manages to have a tiny little piece of theme park presence. His song can be heard in instrumental form in Frontierland and at the opening gate. Slue-Foot Sue even used to have a show at the Golden Horseshoe Saloon! And that’s because…

melodytimesluefootsue
Sue is amaaaaaaazing……

Total: 4/10


Grand Total: 27/100

But the problem is that, Slue Foot Sue isn’t actually amazing. She’s just a slightly more interesting feature in what is a fairly featureless feature. Melody Time’s big sin isn’t that it’s bad. When Disney is bad, more often than not it’s a trainwreck, it’s the Titanic snapping in half and (spoiler) killing Jack, it’s the Hindeberg going up in flames! It may be awful, but you can’t look away from it.

The Three Caballeros isn’t really a great movie, it infuriated me with how crazy it was. And that’s what I want out of a Disney movie if it’s not going to give me a dose of Disney Magic. If it’s  not going to inspire me, give me Donald, Jose, and Pancho dancing with live action human legs, give me Pink Elephants dancing up and down the screen, give me Sandy Duncan shrunken down so she can dance with the dolls in “It’s a Small World!”

melodytimesandyduncan
Even the dolls think it’s weird…

And that’s the problem with Melody Time. That’s its big sin. It’s not bad. It’s safe, it’s bland, and it’s boring. Previous Disney movies have had their issues, but Melody Time is made up of the things that were deemed not good enough to be in those movies. ‘Blame It On The Samba’ wasn’t good enough to be in the movie where Donald Duck tried to french kiss a flower and got dynamite shoved up his butt!

I just… these package films have just been rough. They’ve frankly been all over the place, from bizarre surrealism of The Three Caballeros, to the fun of Mickey and the Beanstalk. But it’s just disheartening to see where these movies have been to them becoming so… so… blah. Just because they’re short features doesn’t mean they can’t have something good in them! I just hope that our next movie, which thankfully is the last package film, can give us something… anything exciting to see…

headlesshorseman
That’ll work.

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