According to Disney, the film’s plot is as follows: “In the grand tradition of Disney’s greatest musical classics, such as FANTASIA, MELODY TIME features seven classic stories, each enhanced with high-spirited music and unforgettale characters… feast for the eyes and ears wit and charm…a delightful Disney classic with something for everyone”. Rose Pelswick, in a 1948 review for The News-Sentinel, described the film as an ‘adventure into the intriguing make-believe world people by Walk Disney’s Cartoon characters”. It also explains that “with the off-screen voice of Buddy Clark doing the introductions, the…episodes include fantasy, folklore, South American rhythms, poetry, and slapstick”. A 1948 review by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described it as a “mixture of fantasy, abstraction, parable, music, color, and movement”.
The seven “mini-musical” stories are outlined below:
Once Upon a Wintertime This segment features Frances Langford singing the title song about two romantic young lovers in December. It was named Jenny and Joe (unlike in most films, Jenny and Joe do not have spoken dialogue in this cartoon). Joe shows off on the ice for his lover, Jenny, and near-tragedy and a timely rescue ensues. Like several other segments of these package films, Once Upon a Wintertime was later released theatrically as an individual short, in this case on September 17, 1954. This short is also featured in Very Merry Christmas Songs, which is part of Disney Sing Along Songs, as a background movie for the song Jingle Bells.
Bumble Boogie This segment presents a surrealistic battle for a solitary bumble bee as he tries to ward off a visual and musical frenzy. The music is courtesy of Freddy Martin And His Orchestra (with Jack Fina playing the piano) and is a swing-jazz variation of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee, which was one of the many pieces considered for inclusion in Fantasia.
The Legend of Johnny Appleseed This segment is a retelling of the story of John Chapman, who spent most of his life roaming Mid-Western America (mainly Illinois and Indiana) in the pioneer days, and planting apple trees, thus earning his famous nickname. Dennis Day narrates and provides all the voices. This segment was released independently on December 25, 1955 as Johnny Appleseed. The piece has a running time of “17 minutes the film’s second-longest piece”. Before being adapted as a segment in Melody Time, the story of Johnny Appleseed was “first immortalied around campfires”, then later turned into “storybook form”.
Little Toot This segment is based on the story of “Little Toot” by Hardie Gramatky, in which the title protagonist, a small tugboat, wanted to be just like his father Big Toot, but couldn’t seem to stay out of trouble. The Andrews Sisters provide the vocals. A clip from ‘Little Toot’ features briefly in the ‘Friendship’ song on Disney Sing Along Songs volume ‘Friend Like Me’. It was also featured in Sing Me a Story with Belle.
Trees This segment featured the a recitation of the 1913 poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer poem performed by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians with the lyrical setting accompanying animation of bucolic scenes seen through the changing of the seasons.
Blame It on the Samba This segment has Donald Duck and Jose Carioca meeting the Aracuan Bird, who introduces them to the pleasures of the samba. The accompanying music is the 1914 polka Apanhei-te, Cavaquinho by Ernesto Nazareth, fitted with English lyrics. The Dinning Sisters provide the vocals while organist Ethel Smith plays the organ.
Donald Duck, Jose Carioca, and the Aracuan bird reprise their roles from The Three Caballeros. The animated short includes some live-action footage.
Pecos Bill The film’s final segment is about Texas’ famous hero Pecos Bill. He was raised by coyotes (similar to how Mowgli was raised by wolves in The Jungle Book) the biggest and best cowboy that ever lived. It also features his horse Widowmaker, and recounts how Pecos was finally tamed by a beautiful woman named Slue Foot Sue, whom he falls in love with at first sight. This retelling of the story features Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan, and the Sons of the Pioneers to Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten. This segment was later edited on the film’s NTSC video release (but not the PAL release) to remove all parts with Bill smoking a cigarette and the entire tornado part with Bill rolling his cigarette and lighting it with a lightning bolt. With a total running time of “22 minutes, is the lengthiest piece”.