ANIMATION SPIN
April 19, 2016 posted by

Disney’s Huey, Louie, Dewey & Ranger Woodlore on Records

An Earth Day visit with Donald’s nephews and a rare appearance of the patient but persnickety ranger and a Wonderful World of Color TV soundtrack on vinyl.

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Walt Disney Presents
A NATURE GUIDE WITH RANGER WOODLORE
About Birds, Bees, Beavers and Bears
Disneyland Records DQ-1300 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP)

Released in December, 1966. Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer: Camarata. Running Time: 36 minutes.
Voices: Bill Thompson (Ranger Woodlore); Dick Beals, Gloria Wood, Robie Lester (Huey, Louie, Dewey).

Songs: “Little Ranger Nature Camp,” “The Honey Bee,” “The Seeds,” “Bird Watching,” “Bedtime” by Mel Leven.

True-Life Adventures Music by Paul J. Smith:
From Secrets of Life: Honey Bees: “On a Sunny Day,” “Flight of the Queen,” “The Workers,” “The Swarm and a New Home”; Industrious Ants: “Parade of the Leaf Cutters,” “The Ants and a Grasshopper,” “Ants on the March.”
From Beaver Valley: “Beaver Valley Theme,” “Baby Ducks,” “Beaver Romance,” “Salmon Run,” “Otters.”
From Bear Country: “Black Bear,” “Scratching,” “Winter Fun.”

There are precious few Disney park guests who seek out Ranger J. Audubon Woodlore’s autograph (though his occasionaly co-star Humphrey the bear does have lots of fans and has inspired some merchandise). Woodlore is more of a functional foil and disseminator of information, but he’s certainly a precursor of Ranger Smith.

InTheBagPosterBill Thompson, on the other hand, is a giant among voice actors of the classic radio and animation period and should be given more acclaim. He’s not usually among the names most cartoon voice acting fans name when naming the greats, but he should be. The voice of Droopy, the White Rabbit, Smee (and other pirates on Hook’s ship), the Dodo, Jock, King Hubert, Touché Turtle and more, Thompson also played the Droopy-like Wallace Wimple as well as the Old Timer on the long-running radio hit Fibber McGee and Molly.

Except for the Peter Pan soundtrack albums, Thompson’s voice was not heard often on the Disneyland Records. In fact, very few Disneyland Records offered material direct from Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color either. True, there were recordings made of songs like Von Drake’s “Spectrum Song” and The Wellingtons’ version of the Sherman Brothers’ theme to the show, but except for Annette’s “Bella Bella Florence” from the made-for-TV film, Escapade in Florence, Ranger Woodlore’s A Nature Guide may be the only record to feature genuine soundtrack material from the ’60s incarnation of Walt Disney’s anthology series.

The five cartoon soundtrack tunes that open the album all come from the November 13, 1966 episode called “A Ranger’s Guide to Nature,” directed by Ham Luske and written by Ted Berman with music by Franklin Marks. The hourlong program combined segments from True-Life Adventure films with wraparound animation created for the episode.

These songs were among the last ones Mel Leven had written for the studio. Another seldom-heralded talent, Leven wrote songs for George Pal and UPA, but his best-known songs were the three in 101 Dalmatians: “Kanine Krunchies Kommercial,” “Dalmatian Plantation” and most successful of all, Cruella DeVil. Jérémie Noyer provides an interesting interview with Leven’s son William here.

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Since there are only five short Woodlore/Huey/Dewey/Louie/Leven songs on the album, the bulk of the LP is taken up by music from two previous Disneyland soundtrack albums: Secrets of Life and Music from Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventures, all composed by Paul J. Smith. Smith’s masterful compositions for these films are richly evocative of his great range of Disney film music from the period, including his scores for of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Parent Trap.

On the album cover, the track titles are accompanied by brief descriptions of the scenes they underscore. The liner notes suggest: “As you listen to the music, you can easily imagine you are looking in on the natural adventures of wild life.” By combining the Woodlore music with the True-Life selections, the album performed the same function as the weekly TV series did–cleverly repurposing earlier material in a fresh context. There is a good chance, though, that most kids who had this album played side one more often than side two because it had more of the “cartoony” stuff.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Little Nature Ranger Camp”
In his book, The Wonderful World of Disney Television, author Bill Cotter notes that “Huey, Dewey and Louie have children’s voices rather than the Donald Duck-like voices used in the theatrical cartoons.” We’ve featured all three voice actors in previous Spins: Dick Beals (Jack and the Beanstalk); Gloria Wood (A Christmas Adventure in Disneyland and Robie Lester (Santa Claus in Comin’ to Town).

15 Comments

  • Did Woodlore’s vocal from “In the Bag” — “Put It in the Bag, Bump Bump” — make it to a record? Or for that matter, the “Litterbug” song?

    A bit odd that Smokey is one the poster shown here. He’s a fleeting surprise gag (were they spoofing TV spots with the mouth-only animation?), and I’m guessing there may have been legal issues to using him in the ad.

    • Smokey Bear also did a cameo in a Woody Woodpecker cartoon in a parody of Little Red Riding Hood featuring Woody’s niece and nephew Knothead and Splinter.

  • Robie Lester did a cover of “The Litterbug Song” that Ludwig Von Drake sang. “The Humphrey Hop” was recorded in the ’50s by a studio chorus for Mickey Mouse Club records, but the lyrics were different, making it a dance tune. However, decades later it was recorded by Corey Burton as Woodlore for “House of Mouse” and it appears on this CD:
    https://www.amazon.com/House-Mouse-Various/dp/B0030INZRE/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1461075822&sr=8-3&keywords=house+of+mouse+cd

  • I suppose the reason Thompson doesn’t get more credit than he has is because while he could do more voices than simply his Wallace Wimple/Droopy one, none of the animation studios that employed him ever hit on a starring character that used one of those other voices.

    The voices Thompson did for Disney were just minor variations on what he had been doing on radio or for Tex Avery (Ranger Woodlore’s pretty much “Happy Droopy” in his tone), and the only other voice that really got a workout with a regular character was the Irish one Thompson used for Spike in “Droopy’s Double Trouble” and then carried over to Butch in Michael Lah’s CinemaScope Droopys. (Jack Mercer sort of had the same problem on the East Coast — he did far more voices than Popeye, but the Fleischers and Famous never came up with another starring character for his voices except Popeye).

    • Jack Mercer sort of had the same problem on the East Coast — he did far more voices than Popeye, but the Fleischers and Famous never came up with another starring character for his voices except Popeye.

      He’s not from Famous or Fleischers, but what about Felix the Cat?

    • The voices Mercer did for Felix (including the Professor and Poindexter) are probably his next most well-known efforts with continuing characters. But they still pale in comparison to the output of the West Coast voice actors of the same time period, even if they had to gain recognition for multiple voices at multiple studios, as with June Foray or Paul Frees.

  • I remember that Dick Beals also did the voice of a Prairie Dog in one of the True Like Adventures films.
    It’s kind of odd having Dick Beals (Davey Hansen from Davey and Goliath), Gloria Woods and Robie Lester (Miss Jessica the Schoolmarm from Santa Claus is coming to town) replacing Clarence Nash (the original VO actor who did the voices of Huey,Dewey and Louie) for both the Wonderful World of Disney and the record.

  • Yes, and Bill Thompson also was the voice of Droopy’s nemesis, Spike. That character from “FIBBER MCGEE AND MOLLY” took many shapes, but he used it often. Great post, and I wish there were more of “THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR” actually available on DVD sets.

    • I agree — it would be great to see more classic Disney TV available. This particular episode was, for what it’s worth, released on VHS.

  • Tim Hollis pointed out that there was at least one Disney 45 rpm record with Dal McKennon as Ranger Woodlore. Sorry for the error! The text will be fixed — and thank you, Tim.

  • I count at least 5 cartoon shorts featuring the Ranger. He also appeared on television in “The Ranger of Brownstone” and “Nature’s Better Built Homes.” The same character appeared, minus his Ranger gear, but still voiced by Bill Thompson in “Duck for Hire” as an employment agent. There was also some new Ranger footage added for “Duck Flies Coop.”

    I have read elsewhere that Ranger Woodlore and Humphrey the Bear would likely have gone on to become major Disney stars if they hadn’t come along just as the Studio was phasing out its short subject department.

    However, there must have been quite a market in the late 50’s and early 60’s for befuddled rangers and crafty bears, because Hanna-Barbera capitalized on the concept shortly after Disney more or less abandoned it. (Hey, hey, hey!)

    There is one line on the album that I don’t get–when the Ranger says “Constant blur could not occur…there’s no such bird.” Huey (or Dewey or Louie) is referring to a blur, not a bird, and the Ranger thinks it’s a kind of bird? Also, don’t hummingbirds flap their wings in a more or less “constant” blur? So I just don’t see where the gag lies in that line.

  • Bill Thompson was also the voice of Uncle Waldo the goose in Disney’s The Aristocats.

  • Secrets of Life is available on iTunes. I wish the other two were available.

  • Didn’t Thompson also do the voice of Inspector Willoughby for Walter Lantz ?

    • No, that was Dallas McKennon, imitating Thompson.

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