Prod. 2061 - Melody Time (VI) - 2058 - Johnny Appleseed
Animation by Ollie Johnston, Hal Ambro, Les Clark, Milt Kahl, Harvey Toombs, Eric Larson, Don Lusk, Hicks Lokey, Ward Kimball and Marvin Woodward. Effects by Josh Meador, Ed Aardal and George Rowley.
Apart from the very design-y backgrounds, this, too is a very classical piece. Not much is left of Mary Blair's designs in the characters. The only place where her influence is really noticeable is the design of the settlers, some of them even with the blue almond Mary Blair eyes. The the composition of the background layouts are at times quite beautifully two-dimensional, seemingly going against everything that gives a sense of depth in a way that only a painting can convey.
The content is quite another matter. The story is about the unlikely hero's journey of John Chapman, born 9/26/1774 in Leominster, Mass., died 3/18/1845 in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, at the (for the time) respectful age of 70. As such, when you go a bit in depth in the origins of the legend, it is interesting enough, even though we really are just watching the story of "a badly dressed missionary who planted apples throughout three states." He has become an American legend, so let's learn to live with that.
In this Disney version, however, old Johnny Appleseed looking like a baby with a beard stuck on is not the most appealing of designs, and I am reluctant to comment on the way that his Swedenborgian religious views enter into the story. I let it be the basis for someone's thesis. As Thad, who himself detests this segment, pointed out recently, Milt Kahl did not like parts of this film [rephrased after comment]. But let's be honest: this piece too has plenty of merits, even apart from the interesting and at times quite beautiful backgrounds. Take for instance the fun square dance animated by Ward Kimball - it is not a star bit, but it is full of life in a way that few others have been able to match as masterfully. I also like the bit with the skunk a lot, even though I have my doubts about Eric Larson's assistants, as most of these scenes wobble terribly. Great timing, though.
There is, of course, a lot of music in here (what else, in a film called Melody Time!), and the music, though not terribly memorable, is nicely integrated, which we have come to expect from Jaxon the director. One is tempted to remember the story in Jack Kinney's book Walt Disney and Assorted Other Characters, where he writes that Walt told Ken Darby upon hearing music for this segment: "It sounds like New Deal music!" to which Darby replied: "That is just a cross section of one man's opinion." Exit Ken Darby from the Disney opus.
On a personal note: here is another bit of primary source information that has never seen the light of day in its entirety before! I am quite surprised that e.g. the Pecos Bill draft that I posted yesterday until today has drawn only ONE comment! As much as I enjoy the comments of John V., Zartok-35 and Steven Hartley, there MUST be others out there with an opinion, or, even better, additional information! GET TO DA COMMENTIN', PEEPS!