Few would argue that one of Walt Disney's greatest achievements was "Fantasia," a sort of concert on celluloid that combined great music with equally great animation.
Despite its critical success, "Fantasia" originally was a financial box-office flop, and it took decades before the film showed a profit.Those folks who like to analyze such things declared that the film's initial failure could be blamed on its content. It was just too "high brow," they said, and didn't connect with mainstream audiences.
Which brings us to "Melody Time," just released on video for the first time. It doesn't get more mainstream than this 1948 Disney production, which includes a variety of music genres from folk and jazz to Latin and Western.
Like all of Disney's recent releases, "Melody Time" has gone through a time-consuming restoration process resulting in a sparkling print. The video version, which runs 75 minutes, is priced at $22.99.
The film's program includes:
- "Once Upon a Wintertime": In a snowy winter wonderland, a young couple (Joe and Jenny) go ice-skating while a pair of lovey-dovey rabbits follow along.
- "Bumble Boogie": A little bee soars through a world of ever-changing images to a jazzy rendition of "The Flight of the Bumble Bee".
- "Johnny Appleseed": One of the film's most popular segments. This tells the story of Johnny Appleseed whose purpose in life was to roam the American frontier planting apple orchards along the way. Supposedly based on a real-life character named John Chapman.
- "Little Toot": The then-popular Andrews Sisters sing the story of the young tugboat who wants to follow in the waves of his dad, a big New York City harbor tugboat. Little Toot's mischievous ways soon get him into trouble.
- "Trees": This is the film's one segment that seems to hark back to the spirit of "Fantasia." It's a beautiful ode to nature as Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians sing the famous poem by Joyce Kilmer.
- "Blame It on the Samba": A combination of live action and animation in which Donald Duck and his pal Joe Carioca are given some samba dance lessons.
- "Pecos Bill": The story of the cowboy who was raised by coyotes who became a larger-than-life figure by lassoing rain clouds, riding cyclones and creating the Rio Grande single-handedly. Then the beautiful Slue Foot Sue came into his life and changed everything. Told and sung by Roy Rogers, then reigning king of the movie cowboys, and the Sons of the Pioneers.
- ALAN LADD'S "GATSBY" RESURFACES: Most movie fans remember Robert Redford as "The Great Gatsby" in the 1973 screen adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. But long before Redford threw those Roaring '20s parties, Alan Ladd took on the role of Jay Gatsby in a 1949 screen version that has been unseen for nearly 50 years.
It finally has resurfaced on video. Joining Ladd in the cast are Betty Field as Daisy Buchanan, Barry Sullivan as Tom Buchanan, Macdonald Carey as Nick Carraway and Shelley Winters as Myrtle.
This version includes a flashback taken from the novel that was not in the Redford film. It concerns Gatsby's mentor, the millionaire Dan Cody, who invited the young man aboard his yacht and taught him that money could buy his dreams.