As 1948 wears on, we come to the Disney animated release of that year, Melody Time. It was the 10th animated feature film from the Disney Studio, and reflects a trend that had been building for quite some time It was the package features taken to a new extreme. This was the 6th package feature released by Disney, and it would be 1950 before Disney released another full length feature story.
The package features began with Fantasia in 1940, which was not created for the same reasons as the others. Fantasia was meant to be an exploration of music and the visual representations of the stories that music inspired or told. It was a bold experiment in vision from Disney, although it did not inspire movie goers of the time.
However, the package films that followed were not the same thing. Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros were Disney’s attempt to take the cultural information that they had gotten from their South American tour and transforming that from a shorts program into features. It was a way for the studio to make feature films during World War II that they otherwise would not have been able to release.
It’s worth remembering how devastating World War II and the animator’s strike of 1941 were on the studio. The closure of foreign markets killed their box office overseas, and the strike dramatically cut production. It took years for them to recover, and the profits stashed overseas led the studio to invest in live action films that were somewhat cheaper to produce, such as So Dear To My Heart, which will come later in 1948.
So the features that came after the South American films were one of two things – either a combination of stories that could not support a feature film (Fun and Fancy Free & The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr Toad) or an attempt to graft popular music of the day onto the formula of Fantasia, which is where Melody Time comes in, following in the shoes of Make Mine Music.
Melody Time is a collection of disparate shorts, pulled together almost from the scrap heap of Disney’s development of the time. You have a discarded short from the South American features (Blame It on the Samba), a longer piece that at one point was considered for a feature (Pecos Bill), a collection of pieces that tell a story (The Legend of Johnny Appleseed, Little Toot) and more music based pieces (Once Upon a Wintertime, Trees & Bumble Boogie). If it sounds strange, it is. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the film and how it works.