ANIMATION SPIN
June 14, 2016 posted by

Disney’s “The Reluctant Dragon” – on Records

Disney Legend Thurl Ravenscroft took to the microphone in the persona of the scaly scamp in an album loosely connected to the 1941 studio pseudo-docu-comedy.

AllAboutDragonsLPFront600

Walt Disney Presents
ALL ABOUT DRAGONS

Disneyland Records DQ-1301 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)

Released in 1966. Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer: Camarata. Running Time: 25 minutes.
Voices: Thurl Ravenscroft (Narrator/Dragon); Karl Swenson (Merlin); Ricky Sorenson (Wart); Martha Wentworth (Mim); Junius Matthews (Archimedes); Bill Lee, Sally Sweetland (Vocalists).

Songs: “The Reluctant Dragon” by Ed Penner, Charles Wolcott, T. Hee; “Puff, the Magic Dragon” by Peter Yarrow, Leonard Lipton; “Mad Madam Mim” by Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman; “The Loch Ness Monster” by Tutti Camarata, Jimmy Johnson.

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The Reluctant Dragon (1941) was Walt Disney’s first live-action feature – sort of (there are a lot of animated sequences). It combines live-action and animation – sort of (there is no actual blending of the two elements, as there would be in The Three Caballeros – or previously in the Alice Comedies). A cute but entertaining film – highly recommended as an early walk-through of the Buena Vista Street studios when the paint was practically still drying — that might fall into the category of a “package” feature of the 1940’s; a collection of bits and pieces, but is neither fish nor fowl (at least The Reluctant Dragon had a coherent story thread tying the whole thing together, unlike the package films that followed it – and thus defying even that categorization).

The 1966 Disneyland Records LP, All About Dragons is also a group of story elements, songs and continuity. It’s tied together by narration by the great Thurl Ravenscroft (The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Chuck Jones’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Snoopy, Come Home and countless others).

Ravenscroft narrates in an effected British accent suggesting Barnett Parker’s vocal performance as the Reluctant Dragon in the 1941 feature’s animated sequence, but even that is a tricky issue. When he introduces “The Reluctant Dragon” song (a lengthier version than the one in the film, yet different than the rendition by Mitch Miller’s Sandpipers on Golden Records), he refers to this dragon in the third person, as if that isn’t him. Later, on side two, he explains how to create your own “do-it-yourself” dragon and suggests using “his” image from the on the album cover, which is the dragon from the film.

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In the manner of many Jimmy Johnson-penned album narrations of the mid- to late ’60s such as Blackbeard’s Ghost and The Love Bug, the dragon’s narration starts as a verbose monologue and then thins out in favor of the dialogue, songs or other material. On side one of All About Dragons, Ravenscroft character speaks for a few minutes about his legendary origins, including his prehistoric ancestry. He also, as mentioned above, introduces the Penner/Wolcott/Hee tune from the movie. Some of the lyrics are printed on the back cover of the album, which also includes a drawing of Sir Giles as well as the movie dragon.

DragonsDinos75LPSide two offers more variety than side one. The dragon explains how to make a “do-it-yourself” homemade dragon, introduces the hit song, “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” and a sequence from the Disneyland story album of The Sword in the Stone. This is the “wizard’s duel” sequence, superbly re-created for records with the original voice cast. For many years, this was the only way listeners could enjoy any of the vinyl story version of The Sword in the Stone. For some odd reason, the song album (a very short LP) was reissued but the story album was not. That alone made All About Dragons worth having.

Ravenscroft finishes off the disc with a Johnson/Camarata original about the Loch Ness Monster; a ditty that suggests the creature is actually a dragon taking a bath.

All About Dragons sold in stores well into the early ’80s and was available briefly in the mid-‘70s as a Storyteller series album retitled Dragons and Dinosaurs. The record was exactly the same, but a new cover was combined with a storybook featuring some nicely stylized illustrations that, however, lessened any relation between the recording and 1941’s Reluctant Dragon other than the presence of the song.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“All About Dragons”

Note Thurl Ravenscroft’s ability to deftly shade the two dragons—his narrator and the one in the song—as well as his versatility as a speaker and singer throughout the LP.

10 Comments

  • POOR Little Upside Down Cake!

  • This album is certainly atypical for the Disneyland Records–a narrative album that isn’t focused on a single story but rather on a single theme that is developed in more of a lecture format punctuated with occasional songs and dialogue. It’s also different for Thurl Ravenscroft, as it’s a departure from his usual narrative style. His voice is even varied from his customary tone. He seems to be having a “jolly good time” with this assignment and certainly seems to have made the most of it.

    I agree that the Sword in the Stone piece is a true highlight of this album and makes it a definite keeper. However, Ravenscroft’s delivery of the character is the main ingredient that makes the album work.

  • I had this album years ago in the 1960s…”i’m the relucatant, What ho, quite so, a very reluctant dragon, veddy veddy don’t knwo..!”-Thurl “Dragon” Mouth(TM :)) Ravenscroft.

  • I had this album years ago in the 1960s…”i’m the relucatant, What ho, quite so, a very reluctant dragon, veddy veddy don’t you know”!

  • HA! I had this record! I remember making the “Do-It-Yourself Dragon” as a kid.

  • I’ve been reading old movie trade periodicals online. Although the above illustration has June 6th as the release date the Disney strike which started on May 28th, 1941 may have pushed the release date to June 27th. In the issue of Film Bulletin for June 14 1941: “With the Disney strike in its second week and no signs of a settlement in the very near future, pressure is being put on RKO to withdraw the cartoonist’s product from release or suffer theatre picketing.”

    Film Bulletin:
    https://archive.org/stream/filmbulletin194108film#page/n279/mode/2up

    The date was unceremoniously revised on the artwork:

    https://archive.org/stream/filmbulletin194108film#page/n245/mode/2up

  • I’ve also read that Laarry Morey (whose other Disney hit songs included “Lavender Blue” from “So Dear to my Heart”,1948, also cowrote “Reluctant Dragon”. It’s odd, the dragon narrating seems not to be the reluctant dragon and THurl does a lighter, different voice, and uses this in knight Sir Giles’s person, for the verse then in the song drops to the familiar “Thurl Ravenscroft voicer” for the chorus as the dragon (all of this as done in other versions)” and on side 2 the narrating dragon then claims the dragon on the cover is him (most of this being mentioned by Greg above). Then we hear Thurl’s trademark voice again for the Loch Ness Monster at the end…and this on the film’s 25th anniversary.

  • I never could understand all the lyrics to the “Loch Ness Monster” song when I was a kid, and I just listened to the song a couple or more times, and I still can’t pick up on all of them or find a link for them. Does anyone here know all the words? Thanks.

    • Have you heard of a Loch Ness monster that swims in a Scottish lake?
      The tales they tell about him really take the cake:
      They say in length he’s forty feet, his eyes all fierce and yellow,
      With horns and scales he comes complete – a very ugly fellow!
      There is a secret that I know about this apparition…
      I’ll tell it to you if you wish: a dragon’s his condition!
      No monster he, a dragon, yet and most enjoys just being
      You can’t blame him, don’t even laugh if in Loch Ness he takes his bath.
      A dragons bath is old Loch Ness, nor was it ever any less –
      For dragons must be very clean, if by the kids they are…to….be…seen….

  • This was the first record I ever owned. My parents gifted it for my Christmas. I’m not even sure how old I was but I was very young, possibly 4 or under?. Would have been the early 70’s and it was the first Christmas I can remember.
    Thanks for showing. I remember the cover quite clearly and even the ‘make your own dragon’ instructions, though I don’t recall if I ever tried to make one.

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