Make Mine Music
It's rather suitable that the previous Disney movie I watched was Fantasia, for in many ways Make Mine Music was Disney's attempt to revisit the idea of creating animated shorts based on music. Unlike Fantasia, with its rich colors, lavish budget and classical music, Make Mine Music took contemporary music and a budget severely diminished by WWII and created a package film roughly half the length of Disney's 1940 folly.
Like Fantasia, the viewer is an audience in a concert hall, supposedly listening to a series of performances. We know this because the opening credits show us entering a theater, and each segment is introduced by a page in a program. This is the only framing device tying the various shorts to each other.
Of all the Disney movies I've watched, I believe Make Mine Music has aged the least gracefully, although if you wanted to argue that either Melody Time and Fun and Fancy Free were worse I would not disagree. This trio of music-themed package films are terribly dated, and (as I've mentioned before) I just can't find it in me to enjoy the popular music of the 1940s. I'm so glad that I'll never have to watch any of these again.
But first, let's get through the
“A Rustic Ballad” performed by The King's Men - The Martins and the Coys
The King's Men is a band that my mom likes, so unlike the majority of the performers in this movie I've actually heard of them. Unfortunately, if you watch Make Mine Music on its DVD release or through a streaming service, The Martins and the Coys is not there. For reasons unknown, the short was cut. Considering the basic plot revolves around two rival hillbilly families who end up killing each other in a hail of bullets, cartoon violence could have been the decisive factor. Whatever led to the decision was relatively recent – I remember seeing this short on broadcast TV when I was a child in the late 1980s/early 1990s. I re-watched the segment on Youtube, and it's entertaining. It isn't great, but it's about the standard I'd expect from one of Disney's quickie cartoons, and far from the worst in this lot.
“A Musical Fantasy” performed by The Ken Darby Chorus - Blue Bayou
A bright full moon shines down on a beautiful natural scene. Interesting fact: this segment was originally created for inclusion in Fantasia, so the animation quality is of a much higher, painterly quality compared to the other shorts. The musical accompaniment was to be Clair de Lune, but when Make Mine Music became a contemporary feature it was replaced by “Blue Bayou”. Personally, I think this is a sleepy and boring segment. Sure, it looks pretty, and I'd love to have some of those background paintings hanging in a frame on my wall, but good grief it's BORING to watch and even worse to listen to. Even nature documentaries know that if you dedicate several minutes to watching a beautiful white bird walk delicately across the surface of a lake, an alligator had better leap up out of the water and grab the bird in its jaws, spraying feathers everywhere, or the audience will be unsatisfied.
“A Jazz Interlude” performed by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra - All the Cats Join In
An animation sketchbook pops open and a pencil draws in time with the music, animating a lonely boy with a jukebox who calls his friends to join him and they all hang out together, at a soda shop. The flat character and spacial design mimics the style of newspaper comic strips from the time. It's a cute little story overall, and a little risque for Disney – a teenage girl leaps into the shower, and you can see the outline of her naked body behind the glass door. When she leaps out of the shower moments later, the tower only just barely covers her curves. Like I said, the pencil is drawing in time with the music, and sometimes it falls behind – like when a car drives off before the pencil has time to draw the back tires on, or a boy falls on his butt because the pencil hasn't drawn a stool for him to sit on. Like the other segments, this is squarely a product of the 1940s, but it has enough energy and narrative that at least it's an entertaining look at how the 1940s viewed itself.
“A Ballad in Blue” performed by Andy Russell - Without You
A tall window with pouring rain outside. A dark room with a letter sitting on a table. Outside, a weeping willow. YOU'RE KILLING ME WITH THE CLICHES HERE. Add a drippy, dippy ballad and this is just saccharine stupid.
“A Musical Recitation” performed by Jerry Colonna - Casey at the Bat
Wait, so now poetry recitation is considered contemporary music? Sure, why not?
Two baseball teams are duking it out, but the away team beware: mighty Casey, hometown hero, has just stepped up to bat. This is one of the best known shorts of the era, and I wonder if it was considered a success at the time? A sequel appeared in the 1950s entitled “Casey Bats Again” - look it up on Youtube if you've never seen it. The animation is so-so, but definitely more stretchy than traditional Disney film – think more along the lines of Looney Tunes. Baseball fans can probably identify with the tragedy inherent on losing a game, but while this is one of the better shorts in the film I don't think it's all that special.
“Ballade Ballet” performed by Dinah Shore (and two ballet dancers) - Two Silhouettes
Dinah Shore? Ugh. My love of ballet won't salvage this; over the course of watching these Disney films I've come to cringe whenever Ms. Shore starts to sing. I find her music unbearable. Luckily, I can describe this pretty easily. Two ballet dancers are traced as they dance, and color and special effects are added. It's an early bit of rotoscoping animation, but again, unless you're a fan of Dinah Shore watching this segment is nearly impossible.
“A Fairy Tale with Music” by Serge Prokofieff, performed by Sterling Holloway - Peter and the Wolf
When his grandfather falls asleep, little Peter goes off to hunt a wolf with his popgun. Considering he's the voice of Winnie the Pooh, I should be fond of Sterling Holloway, but I actually find his voice quite grating. With some improved character design – or am I the only one who finds that disappointing here? - and without the narration, this would have been a satisfying addition to Fantasia. Instead, it feels like yet another runner-up to me. But at this point, I'm already bored, and there's still several pieces to go.
(No Cute Intro) performed by the Goodman Quartet - After You've Gone
One of those random, drug-induced abstract pieces that Disney has gotten so good at. In this one, the four instruments of the quartet bounce around for several minutes. YAWN. We've seen this before.
“A Love Story” performed by the Andrews Sisters - Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet
Oh, just shoot me. This is even worse than the Dinah Shore number.
In this charming love story, two hats fall in love and are cruelly separated when they are purchased by different owners. I'm not sure what horrifies me the most – the anthropomorphic hats, or the Andrews Sisters' warbling – but either way, what an awful cartoon.
Thank goodness we're getting to the last one...
“Opera Pathetique” performed by Nelson Eddy - The Whale Who Wanted To Sing at the Met
The title actually tells you everything you need to know. A whale wants to sing at the Met Opera in NYC. The visuals of a whale singing songs like “Mammy Little Baby Loves Short'ning” is hard to shake once its gotten into your mind, and the surprise tragic ending is...well, unanticipated. The really impressive thing isn't the story or the animation – one is too weird and the other simply undistinguished – but the fact that Nelson Eddy did ALL the voices in the short. Watch it and you'll see what it means – at one point he's singing all three roles in a trio and it's pretty cool.
Ugh. I'm so glad that's over. I really think this is one of the worst collections that Disney put together, and one of the worst movies in the animated classics line-up. It looks cheap, it sounds dated, and it's just so forgettable. This is one of the few Disney movies that, after watching, I truly feel like I've just wasted my time so utterly.
Oh, and in case anyone wondered – I didn't find any illustrations for the individual shorts because I just didn't want to spend another minute thinking about the movie. Sorry!