Saturday, December 25, 2010

DAF #41 - Make Mine Music (1946)

Title: Make Mine Music
Year: 1946
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 7 minutes 

Plot: A group of ten animated musical segments.
Based on: Original stories; The legend of the Hatfields and the McCoys; "Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Thayer; "Peter and the Wolf" by Sergei Prokofiev.
Settings: Appalachia; A bayou in Louisiana; A town in the 40's; Sad room?; Turn of the century baseball field; Ballet place?; Russia; Musical-land?; Turn of the century New York; The ocean.

Tagline: Happy comedy musical!

First Viewing: Spring, 2006 on Netflix.

Not many of my friends know this, but when I was a senior in high school, I took a class on the history of Disney Animated Features. It was an independent study course that I created to prepare myself for my upcoming semester at Evergreen State College, an alternative school that specializes "making your own major". My guidance counselor thought it would be a good idea for me to make my own class and so I chose DAF's out of all subjects for it to center around.

Now before you go thinking "how awesome!", I really didn't do anything. I was supposed watch all of the DAF's in chronological order over the course of nine weeks and at the end of each week, turn in a report on one of the films from that particular era (i.e. The 50's or the Early Disney Renaissance). For the Package Films, I chose Make Mine Music.

I felt it was the most "complete" example of a package film. Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros had that weird Latin twist that was specifically created in the spirit WWII propaganda. Make Mine Music was first to truly and honestly be made from the scraps left on Disney's floor. Fun and Fancy Free and Melody Time simply followed suit. And The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad...well, you'll just have to wait for that post!

MMM is the poor man's Fantasia...literally. You remember that Disney was strapped for cash. They figured "why not take that concept that nobody cared for and make it fun with modern music and artists?" Let's take a look at how well that turned out...

"The Martins and the Coys" (A Rustic Ballad) sung by The King's Men – In the hills of Appalachia, two families fuss and fight when old Grandpa Coy, drunk off of "mountain dew", steals eggs from the Martins. The skies rain bullets and everyone is killed save for Grace Martin and Henry Coy. Naturally, they fall in love, much to the chagrin of their now dead relatives. However, they continue the war despite being married.

Quite controversially, this WHOLE ENTIRE SEGMENT was cut from the 2000 DVD and VHS release for "comic gunplay". Yes, there is a shit ton of lead farming, unflattering portrayals of hillbillies, and even some good ol' domestic abuse, but does that mean it should be cut? I don't think so. This is even more bullshit than the censoring of tobacco use. After all, MMM shows the deadly ramifications of guns. None the less, you can still find "The Martins and the Coys" on youtube. That's how I saw it.

"Blue Bayou" (A Tone Poem) sung by Ken Darby Singers – Thanks to the shitty editing job, for those of us with the 2000 release, MMM starts with this drowsy, meandering piece that floats around a bayou. A blue bayou. Oh, and a couple storks fly. It's not bad, just boring and the worst way to start this flick.

"All the Cats Join In" (A Jazz Interlude) performed by by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra. –  This one's fun. Although the music is not my bag, baby, it fits perfectly as a teenage boy calls up his favorite gal and invites her to the Choklit Shoppe to jitterbug and share a malt with two straws. It feels very Archie comics to me. (The dude even drives a Jalopy!) The simple characters and backgrounds are drawn before our very eyes which adds to the urgency.

"Without You" (A Ballad in Blue) sung by Andy Russell – Oh boy. Never has the depression of losing one's love seemed so damn drab. Not that depression is ever exciting...but come on, there are better ways to film it. (There's a possibility...) Seriously, the camera pans over some drab backgrounds as this drab song plays. Easily the worst segment.

"Casey at the Bat" (A Musical Recitation) performed by Jerry Colonna – Technically, there isn't much music to made yours with this one. It's a recitation of that classic poem where a cocky, womanizing baseball player strikes out when everyone on his team is counting on him. A great concept for a Disney short, so I'm glad they shoved this one in even though it doesn't really fit right.

"Two Silhouettes" (Ballade Ballet) sung by Dinah Shore РI'm noticing a pattern here: lively segment, slow segment, lively segment, mind numbingly slow segment, lively segment...which leads us to "Two Silhouettes" in which a pair of Rotoscoped ballet dancers relevé to this slow ballad. The effects looks really shitty.

"Peter and the Wolf" (A Fairy Tale With Music) narrated by Sterling Holloway – Folks really like this one. It's based on the "children's symphony" of the same name written by Sergei Prokofiev in the 30's. Each character is represented by an instrument; Peter by the string quartet, the wolf by the French horn, etc. Anyway, Peter longs to go the distance so he sets out with his cat, duck, and bird friends to hunt the evil wolf. Hilarity ensues...or more like Peter's ass is saved by some hunters and the wolf is captured.

"After You've Gone" performed by Benny Goodman - Musical instruments dance around. This one is surreal. Not to the degree of anything in The Three Caballeros but still just as pointless.

"Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet" (A Love Story) sung by The Andrews Sisters – I love love LOVE this one! My absolute favorite segment in any package film...EVER. Okay, I'll calm down, but it's just so damn cute! Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet are two hats who meet and fall in love in a department store. But alas! Alice is sold and the two are separated. Johnnie is eventually purchased too and goes on a great odyssey. And, just as all hope seems lost, fate steps in and they are forever reunited. Ahhh...I just love it so much. Definitely one of my favorite external conflict romances. (Yes, I'm serious).

"The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met" (Opera Pathetique) sung by Nelson Eddy – To conclude our musical adventure, we are given the story of Willie the operatic whale who longs for fame and fortune with the Metropolitan Opera. Professor Tetti Tatti mistakes Willie's talents for three opera singers swallowed by Willie so our hero is HARPOONED and sent to heaven where he can sing forever. It isn't portrayed that depressingly, but Jesus, it's not what I would pick to end this mood swing of a movie.

Along with the critically acclaimed "Peter and the Wolf" and "Willie the Whale" segments, Make Mine Music's only other claim to fame is its proud distinction as the very last DAF to be released on home video. Back in 2000, Disney started releasing the Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection, which was a random mish-mash of DAF's (Alice in Wonderland, Hercules and more) live action/animation hybrids (Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks), Pixar movies (Toy Story and A Bug's Life) and other such randomness (Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World and A Goofy Movie). This was done to ease collectors into a scary new technology known as the Digital Video Disc or "DVD" without using up "the good movies".

Starring your favorite characters Willie and the Floppy Gold Oboe!
To me and other such obsessive-compulsive Disney-philes, the best thing about the Gold Collection was the release of Saludos Amigos and Make Mine Music. How else were we supposed to learn the delicate difference between American cowboys and Argentinean gauchos? How were we to know that hats could fall in love or that sperm whales love shortnin' bread? And how, I ask, HOW could we live those two naked spots on our shelves begging, aching to be filled with two VHS's that might not ever come? Yes, they were brave souls back before 2000.

I get why Saludos Amigos, with its docu-shortness, wasn't released until then. But Make Mine Music is just as good as Melody Time. In fact, that movie, along with Fun and Fancy Free, and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad were all first liberated from the Disney Vault in the days of the Masterpiece Collection. And as you know, The Three Caballeros was one of the first made available for home viewing back in 1982.

Perhaps we'll never know what gives. Back before the Classic Caballeros Collection (conveniently pictured above), I hoped they would release a new box set of the six package films, but now that seems very unlikely, especially with Blu-Ray on the rise. In fact, that's why I'm so slow to crossover to Blu-Ray; I'm afraid those precious package films will forever be held in technological upgrade limbo leaving SIX! GAPING! HOLES! on my Disney Blu-Ray shelf. And that just cannot happen.

Wow, I spent most of this post talking about home video release. But it's a big factor in the Mythos of the Package Film. I can't help but wonder if one day they'll be stricken from the canon, sent into the darkest bowels of the Disney Vault to keep Song of the South and One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing (look it up) company. I truly hope not. They are a piece of Disney history; sometimes non-entertaining history, but so is everything that happened in America between the War of 1812 and The Alamo (look it up). Does that make it any less important? No. These films were safe havens in the storm, and eventually great ports leading into Disney's second golden era.

“Make Mine Music" - Chorus
"The Martins and the Coys" - The King's Men
"Blue Bayou" - The Ken Darby Singers
"All the Cats Join In" - Benny Goodman
"Without You" - Andy Russell
"Casey at the Bat" - Jerry Colonna
"Two Silhouettes" - Dinah Shore
"Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet" - The Andrews Sisters

Favorite Song - "Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet" - The Andrews Sisters
Favorite Segment - "Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet" - The Andrews Sisters
Favorite Character(s) - Oh, I dunno...could it be...Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet? Yes.

Next Film - Fantasia (1940)

1 comment:

Andrew said...

As someone who is making the Disney Blu-ray crossover, I can appreciate the concerns you've brought up, as far as what Disney will do with the package films. So far, I've mashed all of my Disney DVDs and Blu-rays onto the same shelf, knowing that I will someday own the entire canon, whether it's on Blu-ray or DVD (though I won't deny that it looks a good deal less impressive than your wall o' VHS).

I figure they'll eventually release everything onto Blu-ray, once they have sufficiently milked all of The Good Ones have; by the time they're done with that, the technology to HD-ify movies will probably be a lot cheaper to do, and hopefully I won't have to wait six bloody months between Blu-ray releases; there are at least four scheduled to be released in 2011, so I'm hopeful.

Sometimes I wonder, though, if Disney will even bother; less-popular titles like The Rescuers Down Under and Atlantis are readily available to purchase on iTunes, causing me to wonder if they'll ever make the effort to re-release films that, for all intents and purposes, only Disney-philes will care to collect.

But on the other hand, if there's money to be made on a home video release, Disney will try to make it. I'm not giving up!