Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 17, 2008)
Time for some more "meat and potatoes" animation from Disney! Walt used that phrase to describe the path the studio needed to take in the mid-Forties. After a few lovely and lavish but expensive and financially unsuccessful films in the early part of that decade, Disney decided he couldn't afford to continue to bleed money with these beautiful failures. As such, the studio went with more basic projects for the second half of the decade to get themselves back onto more stable ground.
Financially, it worked. Beginning with the live-action/animated hybrid Saludos Amigos in 1943, relatively cheap and easy projects became the rule. From Saludos through 1949's The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, each and every Disney animated picture was a compilation of different segments. This might mean two fairly long stories - such as in Ichabod and 1947's Fun and Fancy Free - or a slew of short pieces.
Which brings us to the movie at hand: 1946's Make Mine Music. This picture comes across as an attempt to remake 1940's Fantasia with a less highbrow attitude. Instead of that film's classical music, all of the tunes in Music fell firmly within the realm of the period's popular fare.
Ironically, though Disney's "meat and potatoes" pictures did bring the studio back into the black - which let them embark on another series of true animated classics in the Fifties - it's the films from the first part of the Forties that have stood the test of time. Movies like Pinocchio,
Bambi and Fantasia may not have done well financially during their initial releases, but they've made back their costs and plenty more upon subsequent reissues and they've earned the status of beloved classics.
The same can't be said for the cheaper fare like Music. Since its initial appearance, this titles has gone largely unnoticed. Oh, Disney geeks like myself know about it, and I'm sure it's moved a few videotapes because of the Disney name, but it doesn't enjoy much of an audience these days.
I won't say that's appropriate, but I also won't tout this movie as an unfortunately ignored classic, for it's not. Music provides intermittent pleasures but doesn't make for a consistently enjoyable experience.
Granted, it's difficult for any anthology of shorts to keep a viewer stimulated from start to finish, but this program seems less consistent than most. Highlights are few. The most interesting parts of Music come from the very clever and touching "The Whale Who Wanted to Sing At the Met" and also from the wacky "Casey at the Bat". Each of these shorts are very good, though only "Whale" threatens to become a genuine classic.
After that, it's a mixed bag. A few shorts seem pretty good; "Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet" again demonstrates Disney's amazing capacity to make inanimate objects come to life with charm and humor, and "Peter and the Wolf" offers a decent retelling of that tale.
Once we get past those clips, however, I found myself mildly bored. I've read accolades for "All the Cats Join In", which indeed offers a vivid and unusual visual style for Disney, but it lacked any form of narrative and seemed silly. The remainder of the shorts are essentially mood pieces that left me cold.
One other thing I don't like is when studios edit films. Some alterations are very insignificant, such as the hidden nudie pictures in The Rescuers. However, Disney goes too far when they cut small bits of movies in the interest of cleaning up material that may not be "politically correct".
This pattern affected parts of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Saludos Amigos. The former lost some racy footage, while the powers-that-be chopped out some shots of Goofy smoking in the latter. The same anti-Joe Camel motive affects Melody Time, as frames of Pecos Bill puffing on a butt disappear.
I knew about those changes in advance, so I was ready for them and they didn't bother me much. I'd prefer to see the original material, but I could live with the edits. However, I wasn't aware that Make Mine Music included any changes, but it does, and one of them is extremely major.
The smaller one apparently occurs during "All the Cats Join In". We see a young gal hop out of a shower at one point, and as it stands, it's surprisingly racy for Disney. No, you don't see any skin, but there's a quick glimpse of her breasts from the side/rear, and you don't expect to see that in a Disney flick. I've read that a few additional frames of her chest were removed. Unfortunately, I can't confirm that.
However, I can confirm the larger edit. The DVD of Music runs about 67 minutes, whereas the original went for 75. The shorter length occurs because one entire short - "The Martins and the Coys" - has been removed! This is unforgivable. Because I never saw Music, I wasn't aware of this change until I browsed through a Disney book and noticed that I didn't recognize that segment. Fearful I'd blacked out when I watched the DVD, I rechecked it and confirmed that "The Martins and the Coys" is nowhere to be found on it.
This really makes me angry. Disney's politically correct minor alterations are bad enough, especially because of the potential audience for films like Melody Time and Saludos Amigos. Yeah, they'll end up with some kids. However, because of their obscurity and their relatively low overall sales, the percentage of DVDs in the hands of adult Disney collectors like myself will be much higher than for movies like Pinocchio or The Little Mermaid. I don't think the edits are justified in any case, but they make less sense in niche titles like Music.
I could live with the edits of a few frames here or there, but the excision of a complete eight-minute cartoon is inexcusable. The short in question seems to be a "Romeo and Juliet" style story of two lovers caught in between their feuding families. I didn't know that hillbillies were suddenly off-limits, but I guess so. They show too much moonshine and too many guns for our impressionable youngsters!
Gimme a break. Chances are the missing short wouldn't push Make Mine
Music into the realm of really good DVD in any case, but this butchering has to stop. As much as I love Disney animation and want to have a complete collection, if I'd known that Music would be crudely edited, I probably wouldn't have bought it. This insane reworking of their history has got to stop.