Long before home video, “sequels” of sorts to Disney animated films were commonplace in books, comics and records that often featured new works by Disney artists and songwriters. Today we look at two fascinating releases.
From the Walt Disney Studio
MORE JUNGLE BOOK
Further Adventures of Baloo and Mowgli
Disneyland Records Storyteller Series ST-3960 (Mono) STER-3960 (Stereo) (12” LP with book)
Released in 1969. Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer: Tutti Camarata. Story: Jimmy Johnson, Larry Clemmons, Phil Harris. Recorded at Sunset Sound, Hollywood. Running Time: 35 minutes.
Voices: Phil Harris (Baloo); Louis Prima (King Louie); Dal McKennon (Bagheera, Villagers); Ginny Tyler (Mowgli); Sam Edwards (Villager); Sam Butera and The Witnesses.
Songs: “Baloo’s Blues,” “It’s a Kick” by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman; “Jungle Fever” by Floyd Huddleston and Camarata; “If You Wanna See Some Strange Behavior (Take a Look at Man)” by Mel Leven; “The Bare Necessities (Finale)” by Terry Gilkyson.
Instrumental: “Adventureland Suite” by Camarata (from Disneyland Record WDL-4004, Walt Disney Takes You To Disneyland).
Recorded sequels to Disney films or original stories featuring the characters were nothing new when Disneyland records began producing them in the 1960’s, what set them apart was the use of new songs and the occasional participation of members from the films’ creative team.
Perhaps more than any of these vinyl sequels, More Jungle Book benefitted from direct participation of such a team. The 1969 album was conceived to follow up the huge success of the two LP releases based on the 1967 film, a Disneyland Storyteller album and a soundtrack LP on the Buena Vista label).
As Johnson recalls in his soon-to-finally-be-released 1975 autobiography, Inside the Whimsy-Works:
Although there wasn’t and probably won’t be a sequel on film to The Jungle Book, we did do a Storyteller record sequel, “imaginatively” called More Jungle Book. I asked Larry Clemmons, the chief storyman on the film, to write the sequel. We started the project out with a luncheon attended by Phil, Larry, Tutti Camarata and myself.
Phil was very excited about the project and began setting the storyline as he saw it. He reasoned, very rightly, that one of the strengths of The Jungle Book had been the close and warm relationship between Baloo and Mowgli, the man-cub. Now Mowgli had gone back to the Man Village and Baloo missed him sorely. He wanted him back in the jungle. With the help of Bagheera the Panther and King Louis of the Apes, he gets Mowgli back for a few more adventures.
Phil is a delight to work with, easygoing, full of fun, with an endless stock of stories which he tells with great zest. His sense of what is right for him – and what won’t play – is very keen. He was a big help with the story of the sequel record album.
Expecting this sequel record to live up to the tone and quality of the original when the circumstances are so different is asking a lot, though there are a few things about More Jungle Book that could have been a little better. I adore Ginny Tyler, but even as a kid I never believed for a second that the Mowgli of this album was played by anything but an adult woman (there are many instances of this on children’s records and cartoons of this era). I know the logistics that probably brought on the decision, but still, they could have brought in Jon Walmsley, who had played Christopher Robin on records at the time.
But it’s neat to hear Harris reprise Baloo and Louis Prima play Louie again. (I’m betting Prima and his band were recorded between sets in Las Vegas.) Dal McKennon does an excellent impression of Sebastian Cabot, so effective that it matched up very well with Cabot’s real dialogue on the soundtrack album. Here he does the same fine job, right up to that trademark exhale that Cabot often did before speaking.
Two of the songs on More Jungle Book were written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman (see below). Of the other two songs, the one most likely to have been intended for Jungle Book (or some earlier Disney project) is Mel Leven’s song for Louie, “If You Want to See Some Strange Behavior (Take a Look at Man)” is reminiscent of Prima’s hit “Civilization.”
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Excerpt from “It’s a Kick”
The two of the songs by the Sherman brothers this one and “Baloo’s Blues,” are likely to have been written just for the album. The duo frequently created songs for the Disney record labels when needed. Plus, “It’s a Kick” is about Mowgli’s return and “Baloo’s Blues” is about wanting Mowgli to come back. Both of the Sherman More Jungle Book songs were released on CD and can be downloaded from iTunes. “It’s a Kick” reminds me a little of the Sherman song, “Travelin’ Music,” which was sung in The Magic of Lassie by Mickey Rooney (who would now want to remind you that he was once “the number one star in the WORLD!”)
Walt Disney Presents
THUMPER’S GREAT RACE
Disneyland Records DQ-1295 (12” LP / Mono / 1966)
Disneyland Read-Along LLP-343 (7” 33 rpm with Book / Mono /1970)
Executive Producer / Writer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer / Musical Director: Tutti Camarata. Recorded at Sunset Sound, Hollywood. Running Time: 24 minutes.
LP Voices: Robie Lester (Bambi, Thumper); Junius Matthews (Wise Old Owl); Dal McKennon (Gopher); Thurl Ravenscroft, Bill Lee, Sally Sweetland (Vocalists).
Read-Along Voice: Lois Lane (Disneyland Story Reader).
Songs: “If You Can’t Say Something Nice (Say Nothing),” “It’s So Nice on the Ice,” by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman; “Hip-pit-y Hop” by Jimmy Johnson and Camarata; “Thumper’s Song” by Helen Bliss, Robert Sour and Henry Manners.
Instrumental: “Let’s Sing a Gay Little Spring Song” by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey (from Disneyland Record WDL-4009, Camarata Conducts The Music of Cinderella and Bambi).
This album hit store shelves when Walt Disney’s Bambi was reissued to theaters in 1966, so assembling the original voice cast would have been difficult, even if the budget allowed it. Instead, members of the unofficial Disneyland Records stock company stepped into Sunset Sound to do the voices and sing the songs in various sessions.
Like Ginny Tyler’s “boy voices,” our beloved Robie Lester does what she can as Bambi, but her narration and dialogue sound more like Bambi’s mom. I prefer to approach this album (and others like it) as if Robie were reading, as a parent or caregiver would, to a child—doing the voices as well as reading the text. And it just so happens that Uncle Junius and Grampa Dal were over for dinner and joined in the story reading.
It’s particularly cool to hear golden age radio veteran Junius Matthews, who voiced Archimedes in The Sword in the Stone and Rabbit in the first three Pooh featurettes, in one of his handful of vinyl appearances. He is ideal as “Wise Old Owl” (called “Friend Owl” in the film).
Like More Jungle Book, “Thumper’s Great Race” features two songs by the Shermans that were surely written expressly for it. However, “Thumper’s Song,” was published in 1942 (perhaps created as a hit parade tie-in for Bambi rather than a contender for the score). It was also recorded by Golden Records more than a decade earlier. “Hip-pit-y Hop” appeared three years earlier on Disneyland’s Peter Cottontail album, which was narrated by Lucille Bliss. One of the credited songwriters is Helen Bliss, perhaps a relative.
Never for a moment does Thumper’s Great Race attempt to measure up to the movie, or be anything more than a lighthearted tale for young kids—much like Lucky Puppy or a dozen other Little Golden Books. The record offers a twist on The Tortoise and the Hare that emphasizes friendship and fair play. To quote Monty Python, “Hello…This is a very nice record…That’s why I like it…Because it’s very nice.”
Released a few years later, the 7” read along version of Thumper’s Great Race enjoyed a much longer retail shelf life than it’s 12” sister record, which is one of the most obscure of Disneyland albums. The read-along is among those with narration recorded in London’s Abbey Road Studios by “Lois Lane” (yes, she gave herself that stage name on purpose), a popular singer and frequent guest star on British variety shows of the late ’60s.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Excerpts from “It’s So Nice on the Ice” and “If You Can’t Say Something Nice”
In the sort of “Peter, Paul and Mary” style they also employed on Disneyland’s All About Dragons LP, Bill Lee, Sally Sweetland and Thurl Ravenscroft sing the two Sherman songs for Thumper’s Big Race. Sally and her husband Lee were very busy studio singers in Hollywood (also heard on Golden Records), Bill Lee was the “male Marni Nixon,” doing the singing for Christopher Plummer in The Sound of Music, John Kerr in South Pacific and Yogi Bear in Hey There’s It’s Yogi Bear. Thurl Ravenscroft should need no introduction, but I can offer one if requested.