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“Birds are humming (cha-cha-cha-cha-cha)”

with 25 comments

I’ve been spending a lot of time with Disney’s Blame it on the Samba since I recently acquired a nice IB Tech print of it. Watching it on film is seriously the only way to give it justice; the Dailymotion file embeded below mutes the colors something bad. If you have a chance to see Melody Time in a theater, it’s worth the ticket price for this and Pecos Bill alone, which are the only things worth watching the movie for. (I share Milt Kahl’s view of Johnny Appleseed: “What sane man would actually put his money into a piece of shit like that?!”)

It’s a really jovial thing: a great marriage of color, music, and action, featuring the kind of animation that had long been eliminated from Disney cartoons by this point, never mind just the Donald Duck ones. Note how well Hal King, who was the main Duck animator at the studio, holds up against some of the fabled Nine who also animate on it. More proof that there needs to be a serious examination of the other animators who toiled away their whole lives with no recognition.

And dig that trippy live-action/animation hybrid! They never did seem to get it right, as the homosapiens always look like they’re staring into thin air.

I took the animator IDs from J.B. Kaufman’s excellent book, South of the Border With Disney. He’s one of the first authors to utilize the animator drafts to their fullest potential by actually transcribing them in their near entirety. All of J.B.’s books are worth adding to your library, because he always uncovers a ton of stuff that’s never seen print. I hear people often saying things along the lines of, “Do we really need another book on Disney?” Well if J.B. or David Gerstein are pressing ‘em out, I say, absolutely!

Written by Thad

June 9th, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Posted in classic animation

25 Responses to '“Birds are humming (cha-cha-cha-cha-cha)”'

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  1. If only the Silly Symphonies book he put out didn’t cost so much.

    That was a pretty good eye-opener. 4/9 of the Nine Old Men were used. I didn’t expect Kimball to be on there.

    Devon

    10 Jun 10 at 1:27 pm

  2. I love watching stuff like this. I only wish recent productions with Donald could be animated with even a tenth of the personality and creativity of what is seen in this segment. Fat chance, right?

    Mike Russo

    10 Jun 10 at 8:56 pm

  3. I think that Hal King and Les Clark do the nicest work in this piece. You are right that now that the animator drafts are surfacing, the entire history of Disney animation needs to be rewritten.

    Mark Mayerson

    11 Jun 10 at 7:33 pm

  4. Wow, I just watched this for the first time a few hours ago!

    The Spectre

    11 Jun 10 at 8:52 pm

  5. Oh, and I agree that this and “Pecos Bill” are the best (i.e. good) parts of the feature. Also notice the Aracuan’s voice would later become the flamingos in Alice in Wonderland.

    The Spectre

    11 Jun 10 at 8:54 pm

  6. Mark, I agree, but the scene that floors me is the Lounsbery stuff as the song starts at the table – perfection!

    Thad

    11 Jun 10 at 10:33 pm

  7. Wonderful post. I love seeing this kind of Disney. So much fun and energy.

    Eric Noble

    12 Jun 10 at 12:44 am

  8. Wow Thad, thanks for the effort. That’s a great idea. Speaking of re-writing the history, perhaps it would be less daunting if an initiative was started where everyone does a video like Thad has, and they all get categorized on a new site.

    Daniel Caylor

    12 Jun 10 at 11:55 am

  9. I’d add Bumble Boogie to the list of good things about Melody Time myself.

    Mac

    12 Jun 10 at 3:40 pm

  10. I liked the Johnny Appleseed segment, as well as Once Upon a Wintertime and Bumble Boogie.

    We all know about Fred Moore, Norm Ferguson, Art Babbit, Grim Natwick, and Bill Tytla’s contributions before the “Nine Old Men” term was even coined. In addition to Disney animation in general, some rewrites are in order for the Nine Old Men as well. John Canemaker’s 2001 book marginalizes the work of Les Clark and John Lounsberry, both of whom were already long gone by the time the “New Old Men” came aboard. But there’s obviously much more about them just from looking at their body of work.

    Mr. Semaj

    12 Jun 10 at 7:25 pm

  11. This is great! We need more breakdowns on Melody Time. I was expecting Les Clark, but not Harvey Toombs.

    Is it true that Gerry Geronimi made this? Who did the layouts?

    Zartok-35

    12 Jun 10 at 7:48 pm

  12. Wow. The animation in this is very amazing, appealing, and fun to look at, and the music is really awesome too. Great Disney segment.

    Roberto Severino

    14 Jun 10 at 3:03 am

  13. OK, folks… here comes another one…
    I just posted the first pages of feature draft number nine: Prod. 2061 – Melody Time.

    One of the reasons that I have put the effort into posting these drafts (incl. the ca. 80 shorts drafts) is that I find that a LOT of unknown animators do deserve rightful praise, but they are all but forgotten.

    Hal King, Harvey Toombs, John Sibley, Eric Cleworth, Jerry Hathcock, Cliff Nordberg, Don Lusk, Marvin Woodward, Paul Allen, Lee Morehouse, Hal Ambro, Jack Bradbury, Chuck Couch, Phil Duncan, Hugh Fraser, Bob Youngquist… Just to name a few!

    Thad, I trust you can just avert your eyes when Johnny Appleseed comes along…

    Hans Perk

    16 Jun 10 at 6:35 pm

  14. Phil Duncan has to be an excellent animator, I mean he did the animation for Watership Down which is one of my favourite films (very sad though), and we need more info about him!

    Steven Hartley

    18 Jun 10 at 11:54 am

  15. Beautiful animation, but by the time the, what I assume to be an ersatz Carmen Miranda organist, comes into the piece I felt so stultified by the sugary, patronizing Disney-ness of this little number, I had to stop.

    Great smoke from the cigar. What nameless effects animator did that lovely stuff?

    K. Nacht

    19 Jun 10 at 9:41 am

  16. From the draft on my blog you can now see that this “nameless effects animator” was Josh Meador…
    (Joshua L. Meador, 3/12/1911 – 8/24/1965)

    Hans Perk

    24 Jun 10 at 1:46 pm

  17. You know Thad, you should really explain your dissaproval for Johnny Appleseed one of these days. It’s not really good, but I don’t quite see how it’s an insane piece of shit.

    Zartok-35

    25 Jun 10 at 3:14 am

  18. Sorry I didn’t investigate your drafts further, Hans. But bless the lad, for he has a name! And he did some nice work there.

    K. Nacht

    25 Jun 10 at 5:33 pm

  19. Zartok, if it’s not really good, as you yourself admit, then what good IS it? Why should someone have to defend a mediocre effort just because it has Walt’s name on it? Walt’s studio produced some real masterpieces, but even Walt himself would admit that not everything his studio touched turned to gold. (Personally, I can tell you that I think the scenes with the animals in that particular sequence stink out loud.)

    John A

    26 Jun 10 at 5:15 pm

  20. “even Walt himself would admit that not everything his studio touched turned to gold.”

    Appropriate choice of words there…

    The Spectre

    27 Jun 10 at 6:21 am

  21. In the 1950’s, Joshua Meador was “loaned out” to MGM for the special effects on FORBIDDEN PLANET.

    Bobby Bickert

    27 Jun 10 at 7:10 pm

  22. K. Nacht: when you wrote your comment, I had not posted the draft for this segment yet!

    John A.: the animation of the animals isn’t great, and the assistant work is horrible to say the least. But what surprises me is that with all that, the FEELING of this part still gets communicated. You can look at this technically – yes, it is bad. But I am pretty sure it touched the audience of its time. And that would mean it did the job. These films were really not intended to be scrutinized 60 years later: what we mean about it today is basically irrelevant. It’s there. We can just acknowledge that it IS there, while we see it in the perspective of a different time.

    It has often been accented that Walt Disney wasn’t happy with most of the films made between Bambi and Cinderella, but this was clearly mainly because they could not convey a full story – the films were “incomplete” by the sheer nature of being segmented. When you do not get the identification that is possible with a “full” feature, you are left with a shorts show, and you have neither the full participation nor the appreciation of the audience. Which does not help the bottom line either. These films were churned out with hopes for some kind of return. The assistant work is especially below par. As someone who has been in this business for over 30 years I can tell you – this is not an uncommon thing. What is amazing is that, for the audiences of times past, it was still a miracle. Good or bad, we should enjoy that we can still look at it and talk about it.

    Hans Perk

    28 Jun 10 at 5:10 pm

  23. Agreed 100%. This and Pecos Bill are the best part of the whole movie. I never knew that was Lounsbery’s animation until you posted it. Neat stuff. I wonder if some of those backgrounds were inspired by Mary Blair’s work on “The Three Caballeros”?

    I’ll have to check out that book you mentioned. Thanks for the great and insightful post.

    Justin Smith

    11 Jul 10 at 12:44 am

  24. Pecos Bill has to be my favourite segment in ‘Melody Time’, Johnny Appleseed is my least favourite – Appleseed is not a bad storyline and I think the ending is just depressing!!

    Steven Hartley

    15 Aug 10 at 4:46 pm

  25. This part of the movie is so good, even Hayao Miyazaki loves it, saying that the “Power of the art [and] timing [is] perfectly cheerful but it does not lose elegance. It does not play a prank. It’s rhythmical, and it’s made happily thoroughly. I was really surprised.” He even said that “We cannot arrive at the place where [Kimball] arrived at.”

    (source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ma8QU2RmxGI)

    Chase

    16 Mar 11 at 4:52 pm

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