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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Prod. 2061 - Melody Time (VI)  - 2058 - Johnny Appleseed

Directed by Wilfred Jackson, assistant director Mike Holoboff, layout by MacLaren Stewart. This FINAL draft is from 2/9/48.

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!

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Anonymous Paul Reiter says...

Well to be honest Hans, I can't fairly comment on this sequence because I haven't seen it before due to the fact I don't have a copy of "Melody Time" (I refuse to buy one unless Disney undoes its censorship of it).

The only thing can I say is this; while Thad is correct that Kahl didn't like working on this sequence, Kahl's quote may not have been about "Johnny Appleseed". I have John Canemaker's "Nine Old Men" right next to me and Canemaker says that the quote (or at least a very similar variant) was about the "Bumble Boogie" sequence. I'm really not sure who's right, or if both are correct but if there is anyway of clearing it up, that could be helpful.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 9:32:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Hans Perk says...

Hello Paul, I noticed that someone uploaded this sequence to YouTube, and although I do not endorse illegal copying (to just show the film, which I do not regard as the same as I did with the four shorts with beats added, to make them useful as objects for study), it may be usable as a tide-over...

Funny: I was looking in Canemaker's book just yesterday, and it did not occur to me to look this up in it. I am inclined to think that I myself confuse the fact that Milt did not like Melody Time as such with Thad disliking Johnny Appleseed... But more info is indeed welcome!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 10:02:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Zartok-35 says...

A nice piece of work, not as good Pecos Bill(What’s this I hear about just ONE COMMENT?!? To quote this draft and Johnny’s angle: “Gum it boy, I’m ashamed of you!), but nice in a couple ways. Pretty good Jaxon direction, but we all MUST agree on one thing: Something is certainly NOT right when WILFRED JAXON is RESORTING TO ANIMATION REUSE. It’s so wrong! I’m really starting to hate “The Martins and the Coys”, just because of how many reuses it has spawned.

My only real complaint with this segment is how caricatured and silly the ``Indians and Settlers forget their differences and have a party`` scene is(And it`s not that way because Ward Kimball animated it!). It seems particularly half baked and slapshod, to the extent of where it feels like an intentional insult to good race relations. And the reuse is really grating for me to watch! I can see why it would piss off Milt Kahl and Thad K alike. But that`s just my opinion. I can`t imagine how Kahl would hate Melody Time as a whole, though. One would think he would be proud of his relatively cartoony scenes in Pecos Bill!

To be honest, I really like most of the animation Ward Kimball does here; that square dance caller is particularly great. It`s good to see Ward away from Clyde Geronimi for once. Hicks Lokey’s involvement here is the PINNACLE of strangeness. Didn`t know he worked at Disney then!

Notice that all the credited "Directing Animators" are here, except for John Lounsbery.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 1:46:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Steven Hartley says...

No pleasure Hans about the comments, anytime!

However, I know very little about Johnny Appleseed, but the character sort of reminds me of Ichabod Crane (skinny).

Mary Blair's visual style is there!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 9:10:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Steven Hartley says...

Also, Hicks Lokey is a suprise!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 9:11:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous John V. says...

Steven: Yeah, kind of like Ichabod without the humor. mentions Thor Putnam and Don DaGradi as additional layout artists -- which accounts for all those listed in the opening credits. I wonder why the draft only mentions Mac Stewart?

Friday, June 25, 2010 at 1:47:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous John V. says...

My (Region 2) DVD of Melody Time seems to be uncut. However, my Region 1 DVD of Make Mine Music does not include The Martins And The Coys!

Friday, June 25, 2010 at 12:32:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Steven Hartley says...

I dislike the Disney storytelling of Johnny Appleseed, I mean; all his life he planted appleseeds, and I feel sorry for him in the character.

I also don't think the ending works well!!

Friday, August 13, 2010 at 6:49:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Thad says...

Hey Hans,
I just looked this up from the Kahl interview...

"...They had this thing called Bumble Boogie with Freddy Martin. I thought it was just terrible, you know. Following this, we were having a story meeting on Johnny Appleseed. We went in and Walt was already there. And, jeez, it just rankled me. So he said, "What's the matter with you?" And I said, "How could any sane man put his money in a piece of shit like that? I just can't understand it." So Walt said, "You're the son-of-a-bitch who said 'stick to shorts!'"

So, maybe, for the sake of argument, he was referring to both as shit. :-D

Friday, August 27, 2010 at 11:02:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Hans Perk says...

OR he really ONLY referred to Bumble Boogie, extending into the entire Melody Time! One can read it like that, as well, I think...

Friday, August 27, 2010 at 11:40:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous rosscompose says...

Where might I find more info on Ken Darby at Disney? BTW I LOVE Bumble Boogie!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 5:52:00 PM PDT  

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