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Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: March 3, 1950
Rating: ★★

The Brave Engineer © Walt DisneyAfter the Walt Disney studios quit its package features, it started to release ‘specials’ again, one-shot cartoons featuring no recurring character.

These specials were essentially the successors of the Silly Symphonies, and a few were made during World War II. However, most of them were made in the fifties, if not necessarily to advance animation, then certainly to keep animators busy between feature films. Unfortunately, almost none of these shorts match the inventiveness of the Silly Symphonies or were really successful (the Academy Award winning ‘Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom’ (1953) is the prime exception).

For example, ‘The Brave engineer’, the first special from the fifties, looks like it has been a left-over from the compilation feature ‘Melody Time‘ (1948). Like this feature’s sequences ‘The Legend of Johnny Appleseed‘ and ‘Pecos Bill‘, it’s a half sung and half narrated tall-tale based on a poem about a legendary American hero from the 19th century.

This time comedian Jerry Colonna sings and tells the story of Casey Jones, a train engineer, a character who really existed. In the cartoon Casey desperately tries to deliver the western mail on time. On the way he encounters all the cliches featured in westerns involving trains: a damsel on the rails, train robbers and a villain who blows up a bridge. The ride ends in a clash with another train. Unlike the real Casey Jones, who died in the crash, the cartoon Casey survives and delivers the mail on time, almost…

Despite the relatively fast pace and many corny gags, the story never really takes off. The viewer somehow never gets involved in the story and remains uninterested to the end.

Watch ‘The Brave Engineer’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Brave Engineer’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities’

Director: ?
Release Date: May 27, 1948
Rating: ★★★½

Pecos Bill © Walt DisneyThe last sequence of ‘Melody Time‘ is framed by the sentimental ballad ‘Blue Shadows’, sung by country & western singer Roy Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers.

After a while, we see them sitting in a cartoon-style prairie, accompanied by two children. The boy asks Rogers why the coyotes howl at the moon, which prompts him into telling the tall tale of Pecos Bill, his horse Widowmaker and his love interest Slue Foot Sue.

Although it only becomes funny after several minutes, the story itself is quite good, the highlight being the part where the cowboys sing of the mighty deeds of Pecos Bill, who singlehanded creates the Gulf of Mexico, the Rio Grande, the gold in the hills and the painted desert.

Unfortunately the cartoon is rather slow-paced and accompanied by mostly dull country & western music, preventing it of becoming a real classic. Disney would tell other tall tales from American folklore, in ‘Paul Bunyan‘ (1958) and ‘The Saga of Windwagon Smith‘ (1961).

Watch ‘Pecos Bill’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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