May 27, 1948 – The 10th Animated Feature, Melody Time, is Released to Theaters
“Yes, it’s Melody Time, time to hitch your wagon to a song. Cause a song’s the one and only thing that will take you over the rainbow to the land where music is king.”
On May 27, 1948, the tenth animated feature and sixth package film, Melody Time, was released to theaters. It was directed by Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Jack Kinney, and Wilfred Jackson. The stories were written by Winston Hibler, Erdman Penner, Harry Reeves, Homer Brightman, Ken Anderson, Ted Sears, Joe Rinaldi, Bill Cottrell, Art Scott, Jesse Marsh, Bob Moore, and John Walbridge, with “Little Toot” by Hardie Gramatky, and Carl Carmer as the Folklore Consultant. Many famous performers contributed to the film, including Roy Rogers and Trigger, Dennis Day, the Andrews Sisters, Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians, Freddy Martin, Ethel Smith, Frances Langford, and Buddy Clark as the Master of Ceremonies.
The first segment is Once Upon a Wintertime, sung by Frances Langford. Two couples – one human, one rabbits – share an adventure on a beautiful winter day. The human couple takes a sleigh ride, and the rabbits hitch on to the cart for a ride. The couples stop near the pond to go ice skating, and both males end up upsetting their mates more than once throughout their trip. When both females end up on a dangerous patch of thin ice near a waterfall, they are saved with the help of the horses from the sleigh and a pair of squirrels, and all is well once again for the couples.
The next segment is a new take on the piece “The Flight of the Bumblebee,” known as Bumble Boogie, by Freddie Martin and his Orchestra. A frightened bumblebee is in a nightmare that involves all sorts of musical instruments, and he tries to escape as best he can while being pursued by harmonies and all sorts of strange musical creations.
This is followed by Dennis Day performing the tale of Johnny Appleseed, a story from “the pages of American Folklore.” Day was the narrator, Johnny, and Johnny’s Angel. This segment opens with Johnny picking apples from his apple trees, when he suddenly sees a wagon trail. Johnny feels the urge to head west, but believes himself to not be enough of a pioneer. His Angel appears, and convinces him to head west if that’s what he wants to do. Johnny decides to go west and plant his apple trees. No matter what dangers he faced, he was able to persevere, and was able to begin planting his trees wherever he found fertile soil. The settlers would honor him well for his gift of apple trees, which provided them with much needed food. Johnny continued planting for forty years, until one day, his Angel appeared to take him to Heaven, needing him to plant apple trees there.
Following that segment is Little Toot, as performed by The Andrews Sisters. Little Toot is a small tugboat who is very enthusiastic about joining the family business – unfortunately, Little Toot always finds himself in trouble, unable to behave, though he tries to be good. After nearly getting caught by a police officer, Little Toot decides to be helpful, but ends up accidentally causing trouble by turning the rudder on the boat his father is tugging and the boat crashes into the city. The police take Little Toot way out to sea as punishment, and his father is now only allowed to tow garbage. Fortunately, Little Toot is able to redeem himself by saving a ship that is in distress in a storm. Proclaimed a hero, Little Toot is able to return home.
Next is Trees, performed by Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians, and based on the poem by Joyce Kilmer. The short is a simple homage to a tree, with a different style of animation than the rest of the film, looking like a more realistic Bambi than a regular-style Disney cartoon.
Trees is followed by the more upbeat Blame it on the Samba, performed by Ethel Smith and the Dinning Sisters, and stars Donald Duck, Jose Carioca, and the Arucuan Bird. Donald and Jose are walking in a depressing blue scene, when they stop by the Arucan Bird’s restaurant “Café de Samba.” Once the samba begins to play, the two are able to snap out of their funk and begin to dance. The short also combines live action again, where Donald and Jose dance while Ethel Smith plays the organ, and then plays the congas before breaking into her own dance to the samba. She returns to the organ by the end of the short, with everyone dancing happily.
The last segment is hosted by Roy Rogers and Trigger, and also features child stars Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten, telling one of the stories of Pecos Bill. After Bobby asks who Pecos Bill is, Roy begins to tell the story about how the bravest man of the west came to be and why the coyotes howl the way they do. Once, a wagon containing sixteen children and their parents was coming across a mean river in Texas, when a toddler popped out of the back and landed in the river. A coyote was traveling at night, and discovered the child in her den, and took to him, so Pecos Bill grew up with coyotes. One day, a pony was wandering through the desert and was saved by Bill, and this would become Bill’s best friend – Widow-Maker. Bill became the roughest, toughest cowboy in the west, with Widow-Maker by his side. Their partnership is threatened by a woman named Slue-Foot Sue, and the rest of the short tells how Widow-Maker ends their relationship, and why coyotes howl.