Welcome to Disney Love Meter, a new series premiering today on This Happy Place Blog. While I’m not personally a huge fan of Valentine’s Day (at all), I do recognize it is a celebration of love and I can climb on board with that. This month, I’m featuring some amazing writers from around the community as we debate whether or not certain pairs in our Disney universe are truly compatible.
I am so thrilled to kick off the series with the wonderful Rich from Mouse Troop…
The Disney Universe overflows with great romantic pairings, but there is no tale more heartbreaking, inspiring and sweet than the simple little story of two hats and their enduring promise to each other.
If you’ve never seen Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet, this little seven-minute treasure originated as part of the 1946 feature Make Mine Music.
The first line of the Andrews Sisters song sets up the tale: “Johnnie Fedora met Alice Bluebonnet in the window of a department store…” They fall instantly in love and vow to be true to each other — no matter what fate throws at them.
And fate, at first, is not kind. When Alice is sold off (for $23.94), and Johnnie finds himself purchased by another patron, their lives head in opposite directions, but they never, ever forget or break their vow.
We don’t learn much about Alice’s life after the department store, as the narrative follows Fedora’s path, and — well, let’s just say Johnnie’s life turns into one tragic downhill spiral. Yet, through it all he never forgets Alice and never gives up hoping that maybe, somehow, he will find her.
It’s tough to create heroes out of two pieces of headgear who have very little control over their destinies and never speak a word (their few lines of dialogue are sung by the Andrews Sisters as part of the narration), but the animators work miracles in this short film; the amount of personality and emotion bestowed on these two is a joy to behold. Johnnie’s heroic struggle to simply keep existing and hanging on is very endearing, and a climactic moment in which he tries with every remaining bit of strength to keep from being washed down a storm drain remains a truly heartbreaking little moment.
The film glows with brilliant visual design, particularly in the way that we never see the entire faces of the hats’ owners, for the people in this story act as a force of nature in this tale — a force the hats can neither influence nor communicate with.
In the end, Johnnie’s faithfulness and tenacity pays off as the winds of fate finally reunite the world-weary pair to spend the final years of their lives together. It’s not the “beautiful hatbox for two” they once dreamed of (far from it), but it’s all they need. The film ends with the pair snuggling together at last, exhausted from their travels, but finally happy as the tale’s simple message, “Never Give Up Hope,” hits home.
The title song remains an American pop classic. As much as I enjoy the Andrews Sisters, my favorite performance of the tune is a gentle instrumental piano rendition by David Huntsinger, which is available on iTunes and Amazon.
Maybe it’s because I first saw this film as a child — and I know many viewers might find the tale sappy and overly sentimental — but I absolutely love the sweet, clever, simple story of Johnnie and Alice. I can’t think of a better film to celebrate Valentine’s Day with!