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The working title of this film was Swing Street. The film's opening title card reads: "Walt Disney Presents The Talents of Nelson Eddy, Dinah Shore, Benny Goodman, Andrews Sisters, Jerry Colonna, Andy Russell, Sterling Holloway, Riabouchinska and Lichine, Pied Pipers, King's Men, Ken Darby Chorus in Make Mine Music." All of the artists listed above are also listed in intertitles with other artists. After the opening credits, which appear on the outside of an animated theater building, the door of the theater opens to the auditorium inside. The curtains of the stage then open, revealing a program for "Make Mine Music, a musical fantasy in ten parts."
Included in the segment "The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met," is a brief rendition of "Shortnin' Bread" as sung by Nelson Eddy, as well as excerpts from the following operas: "Largo al factotum" from Il barbiere di Siviglia, sextette from Lucia di Lammermoor, Tristan und Isolde, Faust and "May Heaven Grant You Pardon" from Martha, oder Der Markt von Richmond. In a March 23, 1946 Hollywood Citizen-News article, producer Walt Disney is quoted as saying that because the studio could not obtain the rights to use music from I pagliacci for the segment, Eddy "wrote a phoney one himself. Complete with sobs." Many modern sources include I pagliacci when listing songs in the film, even though Disney's comments are confirmed by a careful viewing of the film.
According to a April 1, 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item, Disney had begun preparations on a follow-up to his 1940 animated feature Fantasia, which consisted of eight animated segments accompanying classical music. The 1942 proposed feature was to include Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune," Sergei Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf," John Alden Carpenter's "Adventures in a Perambulator" and Carl Maria von Weber's "Invitation to the Waltz." The "Clair de Lune" sequence, which had been recorded by The Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Leopold Stokowski, was originally created for Fantasia but was not included in that feature. Plans for the follow-up film were put on hold, however, partially due to the Disney Studio's work for the U.S. government and military during World War II.
In late May 1944, a Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Disney had resumed production on the musical feature, tentatively titled Swing Street, and described it as "a saga of music from modern classic to boogie woogie." The news item noted that the studio was still planning to include the "Clair de Lune" sequence; Disney eventually decided to use the song "Blue Bayou," sung by the Ken Darby Chorus, to accompany the sequence.
Studio publicity often referred to the actors and singers supplying the narration and songs for the film as "ghost stars." As noted in the Hollywood Reporter review, the studio developed a "new sound recording process" for the climactic sequence, "The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met." According to Hollywood Reporter, the sound system "allowed Nelson Eddy to sing the complete score and, by changing the register of his voice at will, to be in turn a soprano, tenor, baritone and bass-then all four at once." A modern source credits Pinto Colvig with supplying animal noises for the film.
According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the studio was required to cut two shots of the teenage girl dressing for her date during the "All the Cats Join In" sequence because of her obvious nudity. The PCA file also reveals that the film encountered difficulties in England, where censors demanded that depictions of "Sonia the duck" and "Willie the whale" as angels be cut, in addition to the shot of the Pearly Gates with a "sold out" sign at the end of the segment featuring Willie. Eventually, the officials agreed to allow the film to be exhibited if the shots of Willie as an angel and the "sold out" sign were removed, although the shot of Sonia was left in.
The picture, which received mostly positive reviews and was exhibited at the first Cannes Film Festival in September-October 1946, was often compared by critics to Fantasia. Make Mine Music was the first of what is often referred to by modern sources as Disney's "package features." Although the studio had previously experimented with combining distinctly separate animated segments in the earlier features Fantasia, Saludos Amigos and Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music was the first of a series of films, released after the war, which were specifically made to ease the studio's severe financial problems. As noted by various contemporary and modern sources, the studio's work for the U.S. government and military, intermittent labor problems and the inaccessiblity of the European market had seriously affected the studio's feature output and box office receipts during the early to mid-1940s. In order to produce feature animated films quickly, Disney decided to piece together a number of short subjects, ranging from the ten in Make Mine Music to the seven in Melody Time and two each in Fun and Fancy Free and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Modern sources also note that the shorter subjects enabled the artists to experiment with a variety of animation styles. At the same time that he was producing the package features, Disney began to work more extensively in live-action pictures, which were also less expensive to produce than feature-length animated films.
Unlike the majority of other Disney animated features, the package features were not theatrically re-issued in their original formats. Instead the segments were released as individual shorts for television and theaters and in 16mm for schools. Re-releases of segments from Make Mine Music included "Peter and the Wolf," which was issued in 1955, as well as "The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met," which was re-titled "Willie the Operatic Whale" and re-released in 1954. The two segments featuring Benny Goodman were combined into another short entitled "Two for the Record." In 1955, "Johnny Fedora and Alice Blueblonnet," "After You've Gone," "All the Cats Join In" and "Casey at the Bat" were combined with five segments from Melody Time into a sixty-nine minute feature entitled Music Land, released in November 1955.