Disney’s Winnie the Pooh on Records
The second featurette in the Pooh series made its debut on vinyl before the film’s release with several cast changes and a different musical approach, featuring Sterling Holloway as Pooh and the narrator.
WALT DISNEY Presents
WINNIE THE POOH AND THE BLUSTERY DAY
Disneyland Records – Storyteller Series STER-3953 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP with Book)
Released in 1967. Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer/Arranger/Conductor: Camarata. Running Time: 23 minutes.
Voices: Sterling Holloway (Narrator, Pooh); Robie Lester (Piglet, Kanga, Roo); Sam Edwards (Tigger, Owl); Dal McKennon (Gopher); Thurl Ravenscroft (Eeyore); Jon Walmsley (Christopher Robin); Barbara Luddy (Kanga); The Jack Halloran Singers.
Songs: “Winnie the Pooh”, “A Rather Blustery Day”, “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers”, “The Rain Rain Rain Came Down Down Down”, “Hip Hip Pooh Ray” by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.
The Disneyland Records version of Disney’s second Pooh featurette—an Oscar-winner—is not the soundtrack. But what it might lack in that department it gains in other respects. (There would be no Pooh film soundtrack material until a few songs were released as a medley on Ovation Records’ The Magical Music of Walt Disney LP set; and later in some CD compilations. Most of today’s Pooh recorded songs are very accurate studio re-creations of the soundtracks).
Back in the day, an innovative arranger/conductor like Tutti Camarata might have felt that it was part of his role to make the non-soundtrack songs different in tone—but not in spirit—to the film versions. In the case of the Pooh films, the songs were short and did not always have a structure that lent themselves to tracks on an album. Pooh LP’s, singles and read-alongs were strong, steady sellers for Disneyland Records, so songs that “traveled well” for any number of uses made lots of sense in a business as well as creative way.
Three original cast members came to the Sunset Sound studio microphones to make this album: the wonderful Barbara Luddy (who also voiced Lady and Merryweather); Jon Walmsley (who was only a few years from playing Jason on the long-running TV series, The Waltons); and Sterling Holloway, who narrates the story plays Pooh. Holloway does not narrate in Pooh’s character (it was common on Disneyland Records for the narrator to be in character), and perhaps that would not be suitable for gentle, befuddled Pooh.
The other actors are part of what truly was a stock company for the Disneyland label: Robie Lester, Dal McKennon, Sam Edwards and Thurl Ravenscroft (who sounds as if he was recorded separately from the others).
Sam Edwards brings a certain gruffness to Tigger, while doing a voice somewhat like Paul Winchell did in the films. For many Disney fans of the late 1960’s, though, Edwards’ Tigger was the one they knew most, as the Pooh films would not be shown widely until well into the ’70s. With the coming of home video and the transition from vinyl in the ’80s, Edwards’ version of Tigger faded into the past. The only strange thing about Edwards’ performance occurs when he, as Tigger, introduces himself to Pooh and spells his name as “I-I-double T-I, double-GEAR” instead of “T-I-double-GUH-ERRR.”
The high level of musical and sound quality of the Disneyland products of this period is very much in evidence on this album, the only stereophonic Pooh LP based on a film. The arrangements are bright and cheerful, with an aural presence that fills a room or a set of headphones. Camarata’s sense of acoustics was renowned in the music world.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers”
This is the first version of the song on vinyl records available (most of which are pictured in this video) for at least two decades before the soundtrack version was released on CD. It was the first to include the second verse (until The Tigger Movie) and the first in stereo. Sam Edwards was a member of the Disneyland Records “stock company” and appeared on camera and off in dozens of films, TV shows, cartoons and recordings.
WINNIE THE POOH STORIES
Told by James Stewart
RCA Victor Records AYL-4447(e); RCA Camden CAS-1008(e) (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Enhanced Mono / Side Two Only; Side One: “The Little Engine That Could” / 39 minutes)
Originally Released on 45 and 78 RPM Little Nipper Records in 1951 with illustrations by Mel Crawford; Reissued on LP in 1960.
Producer: Composer/Conductor: Norman Leyden. Adaptation: Steven R. Carlin.
Voices: James Stewart (Narrator); Cecil Roy (Pooh); Arnold Stang (Rabbit), Madeleine Pierce (Piglet); Frank Milano (Owl); Sandy Fussell (Christopher Robin); Merrill Joels (Eeyore); Betty Jean Tyler (Kanga).
Stories: “Winnie the Pooh and The Heffalump”; “Kanga and Baby Roo”; “Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore”; “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger”.
RCA’s recorded stories of A.A. Milne’s beloved stories are among the earliest on disc. They sold for many, many years, first on 78 and 45 RPM records. Two stories were included with a book that flipped over for one story or the other. The books went away when the recordings were reissued (with more “artsy” cover illustrations), and when the LP album combined all the stories with “The Little Engine That Could” told by Paul Wing.
It’s odd that RCA didn’t cash in on the popularity of the Disney films by repackaging the same album that emphasized Pooh, but by the mid-’60s, RCA was probably selling more records by The Monkees to kids than traditional children’s records, even if they were recorded by the likes of Jimmy Stewart.
As a children’s record narrator, Stewart’s genial warmth trademark way of speaking makes him, total perfection. The Pooh scripts even allow him to interact with the characters. One can only speculate how many more records—and cartoon voices—he might have done, though for some reason, he did not. Yet Stewart loved doing radio comedy and drama, so there did not shy away from working in audio. Imagine how great it would have been if he narrated a Rankin/Bass special!
Norman Leyden, who composed and conducted music for dozens of RCA children’s records, has a signature style with repeated musical passages that he uses to punctuate story points or to underline specific characters.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
All four of the RCA Pooh records are included here. The similarities and differences between the RCA and Disney versions are interesting, particularly in the casting of Arnold Stang (Top Cat, Famous Studios’ Herman the Mouse) and Cecil Roy (Famous Studios’ Little Lulu). He makes an excellent Rabbit, and remarkably similar to Junius Matthews’ Disney interpretation, but with a different edge.