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Melody Time

Melody Time(1948)

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The working title of this film was Sing About Something. John Chapman (1774-1845), more commonly known as "Johnny Appleseed," is the only historical figure depicted in the picture. According to a December 7, 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item, producer Walt Disney was planning to make a feature-length animated film entitled Currier and Ives, which was to be "based on the famous print collection." The news item announced that in addition to singer Frances Langford, Disney had hired Al Sack, the "maestro on the Maxwell House Coffee program," to compose the music score and direct the orchestra for the proposed production. February 1946 Hollywood Reporter news items reveal that in addition to the proposed Disney treatment of the story of "Johnny Appleseed," Robert Riskin of RKO and George Bricker of Universal were planning to produce films featuring the character. Also, Groucho Marx was reported to be "mulling" a Broadway musical about the "famed orchardist." Only the Disney version was produced, however.
       Although a July 30, 1946 New York Times article reported that the "Pecos Bill" segment would be included in a feature-length film entitled All in Fun, along with cartoons based on Kenneth Grahame's book The Wind in the Willows and the story of "Casey Jones," those plans were altered. The Wind in the Willows was instead adapted for the 1949 Disney release The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, while the "Casey Jones" segment was not produced. According to a December 9, 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item, "Disney originally planned to use the tales built around Pecos Bill and [Johnny] Appleseed as separate pictures, but later decided a merging of the two would give Melody Time added box office strength."
       In addition to its world premiere in New York, the picture was shown on May 27, 1948 to the national convention of the General Federation of Women's Clubs in Portland, OR. Extensive advertising of the film included numerous record albums of the songs by the featured singers as well as other performers such as Bing Crosby and Sammy Kaye. Dennis Day's recordings of the "Johnny Appleseed" songs were especially popular. Additional advertising was done through the National Apple Institute, according to a April 14, 1948 Hollywood Reporter news item, which noted that the institute expected to prompt three million additional viewers to see the picture. On May 24, 1948, Film Daily reported that "for the first time...film from a modern Walt Disney production" would be presented on television when clips of Melody Time were broadcast on the Small Fry Club show on the DuMont Network. Also scheduled to appear on the show was child actress Luana Patten. According to a modern source, Pinto Colvig provided the voice of the "Aracuan Bird" for the film.
       Melody Time was one of a number of "package features" produced by the studio during the 1940s. For more information on the package features, see the entry above for Make Mine Music. As with the other package features, but unlike most Disney animated features, Melody Time was not theatrically re-issued, although its individual segments were released as shorts. Segments released individually in the 1950s included "Pecos Bill," "Legend of Johnny Appleseed," "Little Toot" and "Once Upon a Wintertime." The "Trees" and "Bumble Boogie" segments were combined into one short called "Contrasts in Rhythm." Five of the sequences from Melody Time-"Trees," "Bumble Boogie," "Once Upon a Wintertime," "Blame It on the Samba" and "Pecos Bill"-were paired with four shorts from Make Mine Music and released in November 1955 as a sixty-nine minute feature entitled Music Land. In 1998, when Melody Time was released on home video for the first time, some scenes featuring "Pecos Bill" were altered or deleted to remove the cigarettes that Bill frequently smokes. The character of "Pecos Bill," along with "Paul Bunyan" and "John Henry," was again portrayed by the Disney Studio in the 1995 live-action film Tall Tale: The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill. The picture was directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik and starred Patrick Swayze, Oliver Platt and Roger Aaron Brown.