ANIMATION SPIN
March 21, 2017 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Disney’s “Grasshopper and The Ants” on Records

In addition to narrating, Disney Legend Sterling Holloway wrote the script to flesh out the classic Silly Symphony by creating new characters and adding wry humor.

GrasshopperAntsDQLP-600

Walt Disney’s Story of The
GRASSHOPPER AND THE ANTS

A Musical Fable Told by Sterling Holloway
With Music by Camarata

Disneyland Records ST-1905 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Stereo / March 24, 1960)
LP Reissue: Disneyland DQ-1279 (October, 1965)

Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer/Arranger/Conductor: Camarata. Writer: Sterling Holloway, based on the Silly Symphony story by Bill Cottrell. Sound Effects: Jimmy Macdonald. Recorded at Sunset Sound, Hollywood. Running Time: 20 minutes.
Voices: Sterling Holloway (Narrator); Jimmy Macdonald (Hop, Andy).
Song: “The World Owes Me a Living” by Leigh Harline, Larry Morey.

grasshopperSTBack-600Sterling Holloway was one of the best character actors and voice actors of the 20th century, having appeared on and off screen in hundreds of roles. He did much the same on stage, even introducing the song standard “I’ll Take Manhattan” in the Rodgers and Hart musical Garrick Gaieties.

Besides Robie Lester, no other performer headlined as many Disney records as Holloway—and he wrote for the label, too. This adaptation of the 1934 Silly Symphony has less to do with the actual cartoon than what he added on his own, including giving the grasshopper the name of “Hop” and naming an incidental cricket seen in the film “Gabriel.”

All the other characters are exclusive to the record. The shell of the story—an irresponsible grasshopper fiddles away the year, ignoring the busy ants storing food, only to beg for their generosity when winter threatens his life. That’s still the basic case in Holloway’s version, but a villain is added– an emotionally disturbed vulture called Bubba, who hates everyone and everything, especially music and Hop.

The phrase “emotionally disturbed” is used because there is a psychological subtext to the story, giving the characters a bit more depth than the average children’s record. The description of Hop is the classic narcissist, unaware of anyone but himself; Bubba is steeped in anger issues, to the point of taking some time for analysis. No kidding! Here is Holloway’s narration: “Bubba’s worried mother sent him to the wise old owl, who asked him questions while he just lay on a couch and slept. And when he was rested, he was off again on his Hop hunt…”

Grasshopper ReadAlongThe real hero of the story is Andy, a hard-working ant who isn’t above stepping outside the line of ants and having fun himself. He’s a good friend of Hop and loves to sing with him. It’s this bond that leads to the high point of the story, in which Hop’s life is near the end.

Andy is singing for the Queen Ant at the winter party, as they enjoy all they’ve gathered, but Andy keeps stopping. He says he hears something, but the Queen doesn’t so he’s ordered to continue. The situation gets tense, not just because the listener knows Hop is freezing, but because Andy is defying the Queen in front of her subjects.

Holloway gets inside the Queen’s head at this point: “The Queen was on her feet, tense, listening, straining. She could hear nothing. Have I outgrown my usefulness? She thought. Is Andy’s antenna better than mine?” Andy stands his ground.

Then he ties it all up nicely: “The Queen drew herself up. It was her finest moment. ‘This,’ she cried, ‘is my last command. To the rescue—King Andy!” That’s a lot of rich, detailed storytelling packed into a 20-minute “kiddie record.”

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Grasshopper and the Ants”

As if the story and narration were not enough (including voices and effects by another Disney Legend, Jimmy Macdonald), Tutti Camarata’s original background score provides memorable themes for the ants, the blizzard, and more. The music was reused on several Disney albums, including The Wizard of Oz and The Tin Woodman of Oz.


Capitol Grasshopper Record Reader

Walt Disney’s THE GRASSHOPPER AND THE ANTS
Told by Don Wilson
Capitol Records DBX-3034 (2 10” 78 RPM Discs with Book / Mono / Also on 45 RPM / 1949)
LP Reissues: Capitol J-3264 (with “Mickey Mouse’s Birthday Party” / 1950);
Wonderland/Capitol/Ziv L-6960 (with “Rusty in Orchestraville” / 1977)
Writer/Producer: Alan W. Livingston. Music: Billy May. Running Time: 11 minutes.
Grasshopper Capitol LP Reissue

Voices: Don Wilson (Narrator); Pinto Colvig (Grasshopper); Sara Berner (Queen Ant).
Song: “The World Owes Me a Living” by Leigh Harline, Larry Morey.

Richly produced and illustrated in the classic Capitol manner, this is the closest baby boomers could get to enjoying this cartoon in the years before its occasional TV broadcast and of course, before cable and video. Pinto Colvig, who reprises his Silly Symphony role, was conveniently available because he was already a Capitol artist as the voice of the original Bozo the Clown.

The recording follows the original cartoon closely, including the rhyming dialogue and the popular song, “The World Owes Me a Living.” An attempt at another hit like “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” this tune didn’t become a standard, but it was heard in later cartoon appearances by Goofy (also Colvig) and was recorded by several artists in the ensuing decades. Here’s adorable little Shirley Temple belting it out in one of her films:

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Grasshopper and the Ants” – A Capitol Record-Reader
Listen for Don Wilson’s careful explanation about why it’s okay for a grasshopper to spit, but we all know that good little children should refrain from doing so.

6 Comments

  • Thanks for the article. I used to have this record for years…I’d forgotten about Holloway’s own writing this..

  • The Shirley Temple scene is from the 1934 film Now and Forever.

  • oh my dear God. This was well worth my turning on my computer for!!! Priceless!!

  • I learned to read from the Don Wilson version on 78 rpm and the 78 rpm Peter and the Wolf with Sterling Holloway.
    “Oh, this is bad. This is very bad. Do want to know how bad it is? Turn to the other side.”

  • “Expectorating is censored, y’know.” – Hopalong Casserole Hop, Skip, and a Chump (1942)

  • I was wondering who was the original voice of the Queen Ant in The Ants and the Grasshopper?

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