“Melody Time” on Records – Part 2
He was just a happy harbor tug, but his book is a beloved classic and his segment of Walt’s 1948 package film inspired decades of popular albums and singles.
Walt Disney’s LITTLE TOOT and Other Walt Disney Favorites
Capitol Records DAS-80 (10” 78 RPM / Mono / 1948)
LP Reissues: Capitol Records Children’s Series J-3256; Capitol L-6987 (1977)
Producer/Writer: Alan W. Livingston. Music: Billy May. “Little Toot” by Allie Wrubel. Running Time: 6 minutes.
Voices: Don Wilson (Narrator); June Foray (Little Toot’s vocal effects); The Starlighters.
Stories: “Little Toot,” “Three Orphan Kittens,” “Elmer Elephant,” “Bongo the Circus Bear,” “Little Hiawatha.”
Capitol was among the leaders in the post-WWII children’s record boom along with Columbia, Decca, RCA and indies like Peter Pan and Golden (Disney wouldn’t get into the fray with their in-house record company for a decade after the war).
The baby boom was a time for a great burst of consumerism. Houses were being bought, people were driving their brand-new cars on the recently developed super highway systems and kids were getting lots of cool stuff from their parents, who wanted their kids to have the abundance denied themselves.
Records were a natural extension of radio for kids and in the late ’40s and early ’50s, children’s records were climbing up the charts, along with popular “Hit Parade” novelty songs like Patti Page’s “Doggie in the Window” made profitable crossovers for children’s record who made their own versions.
Little Toot was one of several segments from Disney’s package films of the 1940’s that enjoyed success when released individually. It had the additional advantage of being a children’s book that to this day has never been out of print. All the kids’ record companies and divisions had one or two versions of Little Toot — the story, the song or both—in their catalogs.
It was also significant because its author/illustrator, watercolorist Hardie Gramatky, had been in and out of Disney’s employ several years before his book was published in 1939 (A bit of a “storyboard look” might be suggested in Gramatky’s illustrations.) The film version was a benefit to the studio as well as the author, as each (as well as Allie Wrubel’s song) boosted the other’s awareness.
After Capitol’s initial release of 78 and 45 RPM single records with picture sleeves, the label issued it along with several other Disney stories on LP (Three Orphan Kittens, Little Hiawatha, The Country Cousin, Elmer Elephant and Bongo the Circus Bear). When Ziv International and AA/Wonderland Records reissued it, the LP only included Three Orphan Kittens, with Bozo and the Birds on side two.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Jovial Don Wilson, a very popular personality as the announcer for The Jack Benny Program on radio and TV, narrated the Capitol version in his usual boisterous way (his Capitol stories often opened with his hearty chortle). Capitol’s Starlighters vocal group filled in for The Andrews Sisters, who sang it in the film and were contracted to Decca Records. Don Wilson’s Capitol version was a substantial hit—the first children’s record ever to sell a million copies.
Walt Disney’s LITTLE TOOT
And Other Sailor Songs by Chip ‘n’ Dale
Disneyland Records DQ-1233 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono / 1962)
Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer: Camarata. Running Time: 20 minutes.
Voices: Robie Lester (Narrator, Chip); Jimmy Macdonald (Dale); Thurl Ravenscroft (Admiral Ravenscroft).
Original Songs: “Little Toot” by Allie Wrubel; “A Capital Ship” by Carmen Dragon, Norman Luboff.
Public Domain Songs: “A Life on the Ocean Wave,” “Sailing, Sailing,” “Blow the Man Down,” “Asleep in the Deep,” “Shenandoah,” “Tarpaulin’ Jacket.”
This one of Disneyland Records’ strong sellers for a number of years, thanks to the popularity of the story and the added boost of Chip ‘n’ Dale. The two chipmunks sing two sailor songs, which they actually performed on the 1962 syndicated repackaging of the Mickey Mouse Club. For the TV segments (which look as if they were originally videotaped), walk-around theme park versions of the characters frolicked on the Sailing Ship Columbia at Disneyland Park.
The remainder of the LP is a collection of songs by Disney Legend Thurl Ravenscroft, who also sang the classic “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and played one of the singing busts in the Disney park attraction, The Haunted Mansion, and much more. These songs were also used to fill out Disneyland Records’ Pirates of the Caribbean Storyteller album.
Fast fact: “A Capital Ship” was written by vocal arranger Norman Luboff (whose credites include 1968’s animated Night Before Christmas) and renowned arranger/conductor Carmen Dragon, whose son is Daryl Dragon of the Captain and Tennille.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Story of Little Toot”
Reduced budgets for most ‘60s-era children’s records are reflected in this pleasant version of the story, told and sung by our beloved Robie Lester. The song has a simple musical accompaniment and there is no music at all under the narration.