Mel Blanc as the “nice Bugs” of the 1970’s and a star-studded Looney Tunes cast celebrate Christmas in stereo for the first and only time on this Peter Pan LP.
CHRISTMAS WITH BUGS BUNNY AND FRIENDS!
Starring Mel Blanc
Peter Pan Records 8207 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / 1979)
Originally Released as “Holly Daze” #8137 (1974).
Executive Producer: Martin Kasen. Story, Music, Lyrics: Herb Davidson, Charlotte Sanders. Running Time: 41 minutes.
Voices: Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Speedy Gonzalez, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Granny, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Tweety, Sylvester, Junior, Santa Claus, Narrator, Radio Announcer).
Stories: “Bugs, The Red-Nosed Bunny,” “Santa-Claustrophobia,” “Holly Daze,” “’Twas a Sight Before Christmas.”
Songs: Christmas Isn’t Christmas Without Santa,” “I Love Snow,” “Do You Believe in Santa Claus?” by Herb Davidson, Charlotte Sanders. “Merrily We Roll Along” by Eddie Cantor, Charlie Tobias, Murray Mencher.
Yes, it’s as sugary as one of the Post cereals or the presweetened Kool-Aid that Bugs and friends used to sell on TV, but “Christmas with Bugs Bunny” is still an important recording because it was one of the later recordings of Mel Blanc as the entire cast.
Bugs does have his moments of being miffed (at Daffy) and deceptive (of Elmer), but it’s always motivated by helping others. It must be noted, however, that Bugs was not that much different in his other ’70s appearances. Like Mickey, Bugs had mellowed quite a bit even in animated specials of the era. Plus, children’s records, like Saturday morning TV, was touting pro-social messages.
Blanc’s voices had a distinctive sound in the’70s, and to those of us who remember those days, it’s kind of nostalgic. This is the only album in which you can hear Mel Blanc’s voices bounding from one channel to the other in stereo. He recorded them in one microphone, but the voices were separated between the right and left speakers, with the music and sound effects in the center.
And speaking of music, this album is a biiiiiiig improvement over Peter Pan’s other two Mel Blanc/Looney Tunes albums, in which his brilliant work was accompanied by a Woolworth-quality table organ. The music on this album, along with the script and songs, is completely original and fully scored by the husband-and-wife team of Herb Davidson and Charlotte Sanders, who defined the “Peter Pan sound” of the early ’70s.
The orchestra is very small, and does not try to sound like Carl Stalling or Billy May, but considering how few children’s records had full scores at the time, it’s nice to have it there.
The background music is a blend of the music tracks of the songs and a set of music cues that were created two years earlier for three Peter Pan “studio cast” versions of The Flintstones, The Hair Bear Bunch and The Funky Phantom (below). And unlike even the Capitol Records, this album actually opens each story with “Merrily We Roll Along”.
So one might approach this album as one would with a big, thick, heavily decorated holiday cookie: “Well, it’s Christmas, so what the heck? It’s Bugs—and it’s Mel.”
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Christmas With Bugs Bunny”
Someone was nice enough to post all four stories on YouTube, so enjoy:
Hanna-Barbera’s THE FUNKY PHANTOM
Peter Pan Records 8101 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)
Executive Producer: Martin Kasen. Story, Music, Lyrics: Herb Davidson, Charlotte Sanders. Cover Art: George Peed. Running Time: 38 minutes.
Voices: Lionel Wilson (Muddsy, Augie, Elmo); Corinne Orr (April, Boo, Aunt Martha, Madame DuBarry); Peter Fernandez (Skip, Uncle George, Announcer); Charlotte Sanders, Herb Davidson.
It might not be ideal for a record company to present a revered Hanna-Barbera cartoon like Yogi Bear or Huckleberry Hound without the actual TV voices. But few were probably rankled when Peter Pan Records selected the Speed Racer cast to perform the vinyl roles on The Funky Phantom LP, based on ABC’s 1972 Saturday morning Scooby-Doo mystery/comedy/adventure cousin. This particular series was the first one that Hanna-Barbera series to Australia’s Air Programs International (API), a studio that also produced several “Kenner Famous Classic Tales” specials and the amusing series Around the World in 80 Days (Passpartout!) for NBC, before H-B purchased the company.
Lionel Wilson impersonates Daws Butler, who used his Snagglepuss/Bert Lahr voice for Jonathan “Muddsy” Muddlemore, the Revolutionary War ghost who helped three teens, a ghost cat and a dog solve crimes in this one-season series (available from Warner Archive). It would have been great to have a record album of any kind with Daws Butler, Micky Dolenz, Tommy Cook and Kristina Holland in the cast, but with the dwindling budgets of children’s records in 1972, such an album didn’t happen.
Instead Peter Pan producers Davidson and Sanders went to three of New York’s best voice actors—performers who have all specialized in multiple voices. Wilson played all the characters on both Tom Terrific and Winky Dink and You. Peter Fernandez and Corinne Orr played dozens of roles on Speed Racer — including Speed, Trixie and Spritle. All of them did similar duty on countless records for Peter Pan, Power, MGM Leo the Lion and other labels. Because of that, the album is interesting in its own way.
Two of the four stories on the album follow the Funky format of the team solving mysterious crimes. The other two stories actually go beyond the restrictions of the series and expand the characters a little. In “April in Paris”, April dreams of a grand Parisian ball in days gone by; “A Revolutionary Cure” is about a man who falls asleep watching a movie about Washington and wakes up thinking he is General George.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Dog-Napper Trap”
This story most suggests the formula of The Funky Phantom TV series, with a crime being committed and the gang solving it. It’s also a good showcase for the Peter Pan studio cast to do several voices, a few recalling the Speed Racer and Tom Terrific days.