Saturday, June 12, 2010

"You see, Willie's singing was a miracle, and people aren't used to miracles."

Film: "Make Mine Music"

Release Date: 15 August 1946

Director: Bob Comack, Clyde Geronimi, Joe Grant, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, Josh Meador

History: The first of the package films not related to the South American trip taken by Disney and a team of animators, "Make Mine Music" would hearken back more closely to "Fantasia," only with a bit more zing to it. Putting front and center popular singers of the day, including The Andrew Sister, Benny Goodman, Dinah Shore and The King's Men, "Make Mine Music" is very much a time capsule of sorts for entertainment of the 1940's.

Comprised of 10 segments, "Make Mine Music" would present a plethora of different styled shorts. The first one was called The Martins and Coys, and was a sort of southern/mountain folk spin on the old "Romeo and Juliet" story sung and narrated by The King's Men. Sadly, for Politically Correct reasons, the US DVD and VHS do not include this short, as it has been removed entirely. Some other countries however were given this film on DVD fully intact. The next segment used animation from a short that was originally intended for "Fantasia," but did not make it into that film, called Blue Bayou. Originally, it was to be Clair de Lune, and the surviving animation featured a slightly more dramatic narrative filled with lush blues and images of live around a beautiful bayou at night, sung by the Ken Darby singers. It is more serious and less "cartoony" then other shorts.

Following the first two shorts are the much livelier Benny Goodman piece, All The Cats Join In, followed by Without You, another more dramatic short sung by Andy Russell, and the first of the more popular shorts to come out of this film, Casey at the Bat. Casey at the Bat features a retelling of the famous poem of the same name by Ernest Thayer, and is narrated by Jerry Colonna. After that is the more dramatic Dinah Shore piece, Two Silhouettes, followed by the next of the popular shorts from this film, Peter and the Wolf. The story of a young Russian boy named Peter who goes off to hunt a dangerous wolf with his animal friends, Peter and the Wolf is based on the 1936 musical composition by Sergei Prokofiev, with narration by long time Disney voice actor veteran, Sterling Holloway (Dumbo, Jungle Book, Winnie-the-Pooh). Next is the return of Benny Goodman with the lively short, After You've Gone, about musical interments come to life, and then rounding off the picture is the last two shorts, each also in the popular category, Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet, sung by the Andrews Sisters, and The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At the Met, sung and narrated by Nelson Eddy.

Disney, who was hurting from a loss of the European markets thanks to World War II, now had the further difficulties of having many of his staff drafted off to war, and the ones not off to war busy making training and propaganda video for the US Government, who had taken over the studio after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Disney simply wanted to keep afloat during the war years, and turned to making these "package films" in favor of his traditional, single story films he started off making originally. While over the years the ten segments have done well by themselves, some more then others, originally when put together to form this film, it was a critical mess, with many film critics claiming Disney has gone commercial. But Disney was just trying to keep his comapany from going backrupt, and in the case of this film, it payed off as it did well at the box office, with many of the shorts on their own in latter years becoming rather well used by the Walt Disney Company on film, tv, and home entertainment outlets.

My Reaction: Individually, I'm really a big fan of some of the shorts found in this film. My top favorites list would be Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet, Casey at the Bat, Peter and the Wolf, The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At the Met, and The Martins and Coys. I've very sad that The Martins and Coys have been removed from the US release of this film on VHS and DVD. I understand why it many may see it as offensive, but I seem to judge cartoons from this era not as harshly as more modern cartoons. That and frankly most of the Looney Tunes shorts made over at Warner Bros. have been more violent and degrading towards hillbillies then this cartoon is. But such is life.

I've always enjoy
Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet especially. It's a great tale of two souls (who happen to be hats) that are intertwined and made for each other. Outside of these gems by themselves, as a full-length film placed with many of the remaining shorts, it was not one of Walt's best films. That said, it very much is a great time-capsule of sorts for 1940's entertainment.

My Wife's Reaction: She liked it.

My Final Grade: (C+) Not one of Walt's best, but a number of these shorts on their own would easily get "B" grades, if not better.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

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