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Director: ?
Release Date: May 27, 1948
Rating: ★★

Trees © Walt Disney‘Trees’, the fifth segment from ‘Melody Time‘, is a mood piece, like ‘Night‘ (1930) and ‘The Old Mill’ (1937).

However, this religious poem about trees is easily the least interesting example of its kind, despite its rather beautiful images of trees and wildlife. Neither the music nor the poem (with its moral “only God can create a tree”) is remotely interesting, rendering this short sequence dull and forgettable.

Watch ‘Trees’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: ?
Release Date: May 27, 1948
Rating: ★★

Little Toot © Walt DisneyThe fourth segment of ‘Melody Time‘ is based on a children’s book by former Disney animator Hardie Gramatky

In ‘Little Toot’ the Andrews Sisters sing the story of the humanized tugboat Little Toot who’s expelled first, but who becomes a hero by saving an ocean liner from a terrible storm. This storm, which contains some very spectacular animation of water, is the most interesting part of this otherwise dull and sugary story.

‘Little Toot’ is very similar to ‘Pedro the airplane’ sequence from ‘Saludos Amigos‘ (1942), but much less successful.

Watch ‘Little Toot’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: ?
Release Date: May 27, 1948
Rating: ★

The Legend of Johnny Appleseed © Walt DisneyThe third segment of ‘Melody Time‘ tells about American folk legendary hero John Chapman (1774-1845), a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed.

In the legendary version he’s a apple tree planting youth, who’s visited by a guardian angel, who resembles a mustached pioneer and who tells him to go west. Somewhere in the west Johnny finds a spot where he plants his apple trees, befriends the local animals and facilitates the coming of more pioneers. At the end of the cartoon we watch an aged Johnny Appleseed die and following his guardian angel once more to plant apple trees in heaven.

However appealing this cartoon may be to Americans, its slow and annoyingly religious story probably fails to impress the rest of the world. Johnny Appleseed is one of the most boring characters Disney ever put to screen. His animator Milt Kahl, quoted in John Canemaker’s book ‘Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men & the Art of Animation’, sums up the character’s flaws perfectly:

“There’s nothing harder to do in animation than nothing. Appleseed was such a mild character. He never got mad. He was never elated about anything. Everything was kind of in the middle. He was a weak character. Insipid.”

The only interesting features of this feature sequence are its extraordinarily beautiful backgrounds, which are based on designs by Mary Blair, who used bright and unusual colors and designs.

Watch ‘The Legend of Johnny Appleseed’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: ?
Release Date: May 27, 1948
Rating: ★★★★

Bumble Boogie © Walt DisneyFreddy Martin and his orchestra play their jazzy variation of Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ in this second segment from ‘Melody Time‘.

This music is accompanied by images of a little bumblebee fleeing from all kinds of things, in their designs loosely based on piano keys and music notes. The setting is semi-abstract and resembles the ‘After You’ve Gone’-sequence of ‘Make Mine Music’ (1946) a lot.

‘Bumble Boogie’ is far more colorful, however, with bright colors sometimes changing within semi-seconds. At one point, the little bumblebee is even rendered only in lines, anticipating the graphic style of the fifties, and of UPA in particular.

Watch ‘Bumble Boogie’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: ?
Release Date: May 27, 1948
Rating: ★★★★★

Once Upon a Wintertime © Walt DisneyOnce Upon a Winter Time’ is the first and easily the best sequence from ‘Melody Time‘.

In this film, sung by Frances Langford, we follow a young romantic couple on a sleigh ride. They go skating and are joined by an equally romantic couple of rabbits. After a short break-up the two females are caught in drifting ice and heading for a waterfall. Surprisingly, they are rescued by the couple’s two horses, who get help from a pair of birds and a pair of squirrels. They return the ladies in distress to their male counterparts, restoring love.

This sweet story is particularly interesting for its highly stylized backgrounds based on designs by Mary Blair and featuring unnatural colors, like a yellow sky. The story looks back to ‘On Ice‘ (1935) and even ‘The Ugly Duckling‘ (1931), which both feature a rescue from a waterfall, too.

Watch ‘Once upon a Wintertime’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske
Release Date: May 27, 1948
Stars: Donald Duck, Joe Carioca, The Aracuan Bird
Rating: ★★

Melody Time © Walt DisneyMelody Time’ is a compilation film in the same vein as ‘Make Mine Music’ (1946).

It consists of seven unrelated episodes, connected by a voice over and an animated brush. The songs of these sequences are sung by popular artists, who, except for the Andrews Sisters and Roy Rogers, are all but forgotten today. Even more obviously than in ‘Make Mine Music’, these songs are clearly designed for the cartoons, instead of the other way round, like in ‘Fantasia’ (1940). In any sense ‘Melody Time’ is a far cry from that latter film, and the most interesting feature of this film is not the animation, but the film’s beautifully stylized backgrounds, especially in ‘Once upon a Wintertime‘ and ‘The Legend of Johnny Appleseed‘.

The sequences themselves are mediocre, often slow and only moderately funny at best. Luckily, Disney would soon return to real features, for ‘Melody Time’ shows that the studio’s compilation features had outstayed their welcome.

Melody Time consists of the following episodes, which I will discuss in more detail, elsewhere:

  1. Once upon a Winter Time
  2. Bumble Boogie
  3. The Legend of Johnny Appleseed
  4. Little Toot
  5. Trees
  6. Blame it on the Samba
  7. Pecos Bill

Director: Chuck Jones
Release Date: April 10, 1948
Stars: Bugs Bunny, The Crusher
Rating: ★★★½

Rabbit Punch © Warner BrothersWhen Bugs jeers at the champion of a boxing game, he’s suddenly ‘invited’ to be in it.

The boxing game soon changes into a wrestling match with blackout gags, in which we only see round 37, 49, 73, 98 and 110. These blackout gags foreshadow the complete Road Runner series. In the last one the champ uses a train in order to ride over Bugs, but then the film abruptly breaks, a revival of a gag Jones used in ‘My Favorite Duck‘ (1942).

‘Rabbit Punch’ is one of the earliest cartoons in what we can call Chuck Jones’ mature style, which consolidated in 1949. Like in his earlier Bugs Bunny cartoons ‘Case of the Missing Hare‘ (1942) and ‘Hare Conditioned‘ (1945), Jones uses his sense of grace and deftness to portray a particularly large, human opponent to Bugs. And like in those cartoons he does that with stunning ‘camera angles’ and a cinematic approach. Bugs is pretty suave in this cartoon, acting out complete terror in the final scene, only to appear in full control, after all.

Watch ‘Rabbit Punch’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 48
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: A Feather in his Hare
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Buccaneer Bunny

Director:Friz Freleng
Release Date: June 12, 1948
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕

Bugs Bunny rides again © Warner BrothersBugs Bunny dares to resist Yosemite Sam in this Western entry, which is both delightfully classic and totally absurd.

For example, when Yosemite Sam exclaims that ‘The town is not big enough for the two of us’, Bugs responds by building an enormous block of skyscrapers in a few seconds! Its finale, too, is hilarious. When Bugs tries to board an unwilling Sam on a train leaving town, they discover this train’s going to Miami and is full of dames in bathing suits. Then they both want to board it! Needless to say our hero wins the day.

‘Bugs Bunny Rides Again’ is a brilliantly hilarious cartoon full of great and flexible animation, and undoubtedly one of Bugs Bunny’s finest entries. The short reuses some footage of a dancing Bugs from ‘Stage Door Cartoon‘ (1944).

Watch ‘Bugs Bunny Rides Again’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 50
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Buccaneer Bunny
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Haredevil Hare

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: April 30, 1948
Stars: Pluto
Rating: ★

Bone Bandit © Walt DisneyWhile looking for some bones he has buried, Pluto encounters a gopher who makes him sneeze, using mimosa ,all through this boring picture.

‘Bone Bandit’ is one of Pluto’s most forgettable entries, even though Pluto does not become friends with a little animal for once.

Pluto would encounter another gopher in ‘Pluto and the Gopher‘ (1950), which is only marginally better. Gophers apparently just aren’t funny, a fact also proven by ‘Donald’s Garden‘ (1942) and the Woody Woodpecker cartoon ‘Wicket Wacky‘ (1951).

Watch ‘Bone Bandit’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 24
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Blue Note
To the next Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Purchase

Director: Clyde Geronimi
Release Date: February 6, 1948
Stars: Goofy
Rating: ★★

The Big Wash © Walt DisneyIn ‘The Big Wash’ Goofy tries to wash his unwilling circus elephant Dolores (or Dolorious as he calls her).

‘The Big Wash’ was Clyde Geronimi’s last cartoon and his only one in the Goofy series. In the years to follow he would concentrate his directing skills on feature films, with the exception of two short specials, ‘Susie, the Little Blue Coupe’ (1952) and ‘The Story of Anyburg, U.S.A.’ (1957).

‘The Big Wash’ is not really a highlight in Geronimi’s career. Like ‘Foul Hunting‘ from the previous year, it uses the original Goofy character and Pinto Colvig’s voice, and, like in the former cartoon, this results in a slow, boring and remarkably old-fashioned film. The short is cute, but terribly unfunny, especially when compared to most other Goofy cartoons or contemporary entries from other studios.

‘The Big Wash’ was the last cartoon to feature the Goofy character as it was developed in the thirties. In his next cartoon, ‘Tennis Racquet‘, Goofy was not only once again voiceless, he was also redesigned, making him more fitting to the post-war era.

Watch ‘The Big Wash’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Goofy cartoon No. 22
To the previous Goofy cartoon: They’re Off
To the next Goofy cartoon: Tennis Racquet

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date:
 January 23, 1948

They're Off © Walt DisneyThey’re Off’ was the last of four Goofy cartoons directed by Jack Hannah, and the most Jack Kinney-like of them all.

In this cartoon we follow two Goofy characters who both bet on a horse race. One of them is a typical Hannah-style underdog, and decidedly a gay stereotype. The gay Goofy’s favorite, Old Moe, wins from the other Goofy’s favorite, star horse Snapshot, because the latter just can’t resist the camera.

In one frantic scene ‘They’re off’ uses footage from ‘How to Ride a Horse’ (1941), ‘Fantasia’ (the unicorns from the Pastoral Symphony sequence) and ‘Hockey Homicide‘ (1945).

Watch ‘They’re Off’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Goofy cartoon No. 21
To the previous Goofy cartoon: Foul Hunting
To the next Goofy cartoon: The Big Wash

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: 
August 13, 1948
 Pluto, Figaro

Cat Nap Pluto © Walt DisneyIn ‘Cat Nap Pluto’ Pluto’s returning home in the morning from a very rough night, but he’s kept out of sleep by a very rise-and-shiny Figaro.

‘Cat Nap Pluto’ is an entertaining short. The funniest gags in this cartoon involve a very, very sleepy miniature Pluto sandman, who puts Pluto to sleep several times. Nevertheless, the cartoon pales when compared to the Tom & Jerry short ‘Sleepy Time Tom‘ (1951), which covers similar grounds.

‘Cat Nap Pluto’ is the second of three cartoons co-starring Pluto and Figaro, the other ones being ‘First Aiders’ from 1944 and ‘Pluto’s Sweater‘ from the next year.

Watch ‘Cat Nap Pluto’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 26
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Purchase
To the next Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Fledgling

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: 
March 27, 1948
 Elmer Fudd, Sylvester

Back Alley Oproar © Warner BrothersIn ‘Back Alley Oproar’ a sleepy Elmer Fudd is kept awake by Sylvester’s singing in his back alley.

Sylvester turns out to be a rather talented alley cat. His performance is quite infectious, and includes the famous Largo al factotum aria from Gioachino Rossini’s ‘Il barbiero di Seviglia’, Liszt’s second Hungarian Rhapsody (which he performs by stamping with heavy boots on the staircase), “You Never Know Where You’re Goin’ Till You Get There” and “Moonlight Bay”.

At last, Elmer tries to blow Sylvester to smithereens, but they are both killed, and on his way to heaven, Elmer is disturbed by Sylvester’s nine lives singing the Sextet from Gaetano Donizetti’s ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’.

‘Back Alley Oproar’ is one of director Friz Freleng’s cartoons in which he spreads his own love for music. He does so in a very entertaining way.

The cartoon was the first of only four Elmer Fudd-Sylvester pairings. Only Freleng coupled these two characters, although they did co-star in Chuck Jones’ ensemble film ‘The Scarlet Pumpernickel‘ (1950).

Watch an excerpt from ‘Back Alley Oproar’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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