The 1950’s saw great changes in the music industry–changes for which the industry was not really prepared. And there were changes in the cartoon industry, too–and that industry was not necessarily prepared, either.
At Walt Disney’s studio, the one-reel short cartoon was providing less and less of the revenue, and so was of less and less importance. Even more notable was the fact that the theatrical feature-length cartoon was also meaning less and less to the Studio. Live-action films were providing more of Disney’s revenue than the animated features. And, on top of that, there was television.
The winter of 1954-55 saw the veracity of these observations.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea was a big-budget feature, with big-name stars (including Kirk Douglas and James Mason), plus “breath-taking CinemaScope”: and “glorious Technicolor” (if not the “Stereophonic Sound” that Cole Porter would speak of in a song of a couple of years later). Following Disney’s usual practice, there had to be a song. “A Whale of a Tale” was given to Kirk Douglas, who was not known as a singer. At least he could carry a tune.
Kirk recorded this song for Decca.
And it was covered by “Tex” Ritter (of all people!) on Capitol. Interestingly enough, both versions had vocal backing by the Mello-Men–who got credit on both labels.
Within a couple of months of the December, 1954 release of these discs, there was an event that enriched Disney’s coffers to a considerable degree–and became a national earache for much of 1955.
Disneyland (the TV show) had premiered on ABC in the fall of 1954, and was carving out a significant part of the Wednesday-night audience for the American Broadcasting Company. And when the first episode of a “Dave Crockett’ mini-series premiered–well that set the cat among the chickens for sure!
“The Ballad of Dave Crockett” emerged in February,1955–and, within two months, eight or nine different records were on he market, covering the cantata of the coonskin cap.
Below, the same song by The MelloMen, Fess Parker, Bill Hayes and Tennessee Ernie Ford.
The die was cast. . . and cartoons would seldom contribute hit singles to the charts in the years to come.