A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Melody Time is a 1948 Disney movie. The artistry and innovation of the Disney hand-drawn animation is on full display in the seven visual feasts that make up Melody Time, but they come with a warning from the streaming app Disney+ itself. It cautions that the 75-minute program "may contain outdated cultural depictions." Those depictions include unprovoked violent mistreatment of Native Americans, referred to as war-paint-covered "Indians" and "redskins" here. For fun, a cowboy enjoys gleefully knocking into buffalo like they're football players on the opposing team. Mindless gun-slinging is applauded. Women are depicted as appearance-obsessed and useless except for tempting men from their duties and pleasures in life. A small boy is disappointed when a woman is even introduced into a story. Christian imagery ends a section on the glory of trees, based on Joyce Kilmer's poem.
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What's the story?
MELODY TIME offers seven short, animated pieces accompanied by orchestration and vocals. One is the tale of John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, sung by Dennis Day, showing the selfless contribution of a man dedicated to planting apple trees across the American frontier, providing food for settlers. An irresponsible tugboat named Little Toot shows that even troublemaking little kids can grow up and do the right thing, especially when accompanied by a song sung by the Andrews Sisters. A bumblebee rumbles to a take on Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee." Movie cowboy Roy Rogers tells a campfire story of Pecos Bill, a tough "buckaroo" who "never had no fear for man nor beast." After being raised by coyotes, he can "out-lope an antelope" and "out-jump a jackrabbit," and goes on to heroically create the Rio Grande river, give Texas its Lone Star symbol, and rope California clouds to rain on drought-ridden Texas. He also shoots up "Indians" and "redskins" and loses his edge when he falls for an attractive woman. A lively woman is shown to be a great horsewoman, but the emphasis is on her powdering her face. She is desperate to wear a bustle designed solely to make her seem more attractive. The bustle bounces her all the way to the moon, where she is exiled forever.
Is it any good?
This is an artifact of a time before "political correctness," a phrase that's now mocked, but this animated feature is the perfect example of why correction of past views was in fact needed. Here women are shallow and unnecessary temptresses who bring evil upon men, like Eve, who got poor Adam thrown out of Paradise. A guy is a great skater, but a woman on skates is inept and just needs rescuing. Angels come and get the old and take them to heaven, which leaves out many other ways of looking at death. A woman who is acknowledged to be good at riding a bucking horse breaks a man's heart and leads to his downfall. The holiness of nature is seen in Christian terms, depicting a tree as a great cross on a hill. Native Americans are portrayed as savages, and gun-slinging is shown to be fun.
Those studying the unparalleled achievements of animation or views once accepted as mainstream have much to gain from watching this, and die-hard Disney buffs may be interested, but Melody Time is unlikely to appeal to anyone else.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the value of looking at the past by understanding what knowledge was available in the past. A hero in Melody Time is shown smoking cigarettes but today we know that smoking cigarettes is unhealthy. Do you think we may learn years from now that things we do today might also be bad for us?
Do you think kids may want to smoke too when they see heroes smoking? What activities seen today do you think kids might want to imitate?
Most of the heroes and leading characters are male. Why do you think more girls and women are depicted as leading characters and heroes today?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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