ANIMATION SPIN
November 15, 2016 posted by

Hanna-Barbera’s “Heidi’s Song” (1982) on Records

H-B’s last attempt at a Disney-style animated musical resulted in three soundtrack albums reflecting the film’s vocal and musical artistry as well as its sticky sweetness.

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Hanna-Barbera’s
HEIDI’S SONG

Story and Songs from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
K-TEL Records NU-5310 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP/ Stereo)
K-Tel NU-5320 (Picture Disc) K-Tel KS-075 (Book & 7” 33 1/3 RPM Record Set)

Released in 1982. Feature Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera. Feature Director: Robert Taylor. Album Producer: Paul DeKorte. Writers: Joseph Barbera, Jameson Brewer, Robert Taylor. Music Supervisor/Arranger/Conductor: Hoyt S. Curtin. Running Time: 43 minutes.

Voices: Vic Perrin (Narrator); Margery Gray (Heidi, Speaking & Singing); Sandie Hall (Heidi, Singing); Lorne Greene (Grandfather); Sammy Davis, Jr. (Head Ratte); Peter Cullen (Gruffle); Virginia Gregg (Aunt Dete); Roger DeWitt (Peter); Michael Winslow (Mountain); Fritz Feld (Sebastian); Joan Gerber (Frau Rottenmeier); Pamelyn Ferdin (Klara); Janet Waldo (Tinnette); Michael Bell (Willie); Frank Welker (Schnoddle, Hootie); Richard Erdman (Herr Sessmann); Gene Merlino, Loulie Jean Norman, Paul DeKorte, Ida Sue McCune, Bob Tebow, B. J. Baker, Sue Allen, John Richard Bolks, Evangeline Carmichael, Bill Cole, Walter S. Harrah, Ronald Harris, Darlene Lawrence, Douglas Lawrence, Shara Lee Lucas, Marilyn Powell, Paul Sandberg (Chorus).

Songs: “Good At Making Friends,” “A Christmas-y Day,” “An Armful of Sunshine,” “Heidi,” “She’s a Nothing,” “An Un-kind Word,” “Ode to a Rat,” “That’s What Friends Are For” by Burton Lane, Sammy Cahn.

HeidisSongLPBack600Johanna Spyri’s sunshiny story of Heidi has enjoyed decades of success as a children’s classic. One of its most popular adaptations is a fine vehicle for Shirley Temple in 1937. In 1968, NBC aired an adaptation (with music by John Williams) that, unfortunately, cut into a football game in progress.

Heidi’s longevity and familiarity must have made it seem like a natural for a Disney-like animated musical. Hanna and Barbera surely believed that was the case; in a TV special in which the feature was in production, they were listening to Lorne Greene singing one of the songs and thought the film had the makings of a perennial favorite.

That is what happened with their version of Charlotte’s Web, even thought it was not a big hit in its first release. There were several reasons why that happened—some of them were explored here—among them the straightforward, understated way in which Charlotte was presented through its script and songs.

Heidi’s Song was released in a family film market of E.T. and Star Wars, and while the subject matter is hardly comparable, there might have been a way to make it even a little less sentimental and cutesy.

HeidisSongPicDiscFront-600All of that said, there are elements of Heidi’s Song that indicate that there was an attempt to cut the sugar content, particularly the big “Ode to a Rat” production number and the creepy mountain creature sequence (which was actually made into a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float). The musical score has some truly beautiful material and the cast includes some of the best actors in the Hanna-Barbera “stock company” of the ‘60s and ‘70s, including Janet Waldo, Michael Bell, Joan Gerber and Pamelyn Ferdin.

It’s also the only Hanna-Barbera musical feature in which Hoyt Curtin was given the reigns for the score as well as the songs. The songwriters were legendary: Sammy Cahn, who has already worked for H-B on Jack and the Beanstalk, and Burton Lane, the lyricists for Finian’s Rainbow and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. The ingredients were all there.

The soundtrack LP, released by TV mail-order giant K-Tel, was produced by Hanna-Barbera music department head (and vocalist) Paul DeKorte as a story album. The identical recording was released as a picture disc, and an edited version was issued with a read-along book. Clearly there were high expectations for Heidi’s Song.

The decision to go with a story album rather than a song- and music-only soundtrack album made it more marketable, since the story is part of the attraction to kids and parents who have read and enjoyed the book. However, it’s a shame that, because of the limited space on the record, some songs were edited and others were deleted altogether.
Fortunately for fans of Hanna-Barbera music, the entire score can be heard—albeit with some sound effects and dialogue overlaps—on Warner Archive’s DVD-on-demand version. The fact that they took the trouble to restore the stereo sound on the film, when some might not have otherwise noticed or cared, is highly appreciated.

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GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Ode to a Rat”

As he did in H-B’s 1966 Alice in Wonderland TV Special, Sammy Davis, Jr. has the film’s most outstanding song. It’s also the most “Hanna-Barbera-ish” and “Hoyt Curtin-ey” arrangement in the score, screaming with what I like to call “Jetson Jazz” played by some of Hollywood’s best musicians. Love that brass bridge!

15 Comments

  • I remember Heidi’s Song, note that Hanna Barbera tried to have a copy of a “Barefoot Heidi” like in the 1974 anime version of Heidi Girl of the Alps which originally was a tv Series before they turned it into a feature film in 1979 around three years before Heidi’s Song.

    I also remember that during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in that same year Hanna Barbera had a two unit entry for the parade. The first was a group of school kids from a local NYC public school doing a ballet featuring the instrumental Heidi’s Dream from the film followed by Lorne Green as Grandfather singing Heidi while riding a horse carriage.

    • I always assume Heidi being barefoot was also in the oriignal story too, though if Takahata & Co. had thought of it first, I suppose Iearned something today!

  • I suspect “Ode to a Rat” was added after the majority of the film was complete. If you’ll notice, the “Head Ratte” character only appears for the song and then he is gone again. There is also a disconnect between the scenes immediately before and immediately after, where the animation does not blend. The number has all of the earmarks of an insertion. The odd sequence with the trolls and goblins also seems like it might have been added as an afterthought.

    There is some stunning animation throughout the film, although some scenes appear to have been animated in the style of a television show instead of a feature film. The voice work is very good. The record album is for the most part a reliable retelling of the film’s story, although as you have indicated, there are some omissions which are unfortunate.

    One curious lyric in “That’s What Friends are For”…..”when you go down the third time, they’ll admit, that’s what friends are for!” Is the lyricist suggesting that drowning is the ultimate sign of friendship? (On a children’s record?) Maybe they figured nobody would catch that.

    I first learned about this film in a prime time special “The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera” which I don’t believe has ever been repeated or released on video. The special aired quite a few years before the film was released, but there was footage of Lorne Greene recording Grandpa’s voice. I remembering wondering what ever had happened to the film, when it popped up around Thanksgiving of 1982 in the theatres. It’s too bad it didn’t become a big hit–it is a very good film.

    • “Ode to a Rat” as an insertion is pretty jarring given how thematically different it appears (rats being feral before and after it, but rediculously anthropomorphic during the tune).

      The “Go down the third time” also sounds like a sex euphemism to me.

      I first knew of Heidi’s Song, not from the t heaters, but it’s eventual home video release via Worldvision Home Video (which I’m sure is where the muddy mono soundtrack we all knew came from, despite noticing the Dolby Stereo logo popping up at the end).

    • The movie is full of peculiarities, as if pieces from multiple versions were never quite brought into accord.

      The film starts out with naturalistic animals, then we get a young man dancing with his suddenly Scooby-Doo-like horse. And of course the rat number, which shifts from real, non-speaking rats to an anthropomorphized fantasy and back again.

      There’s a romantic waltz where Heidi’s invalid friend fantasizes herself up to puberty to dance with a fantasized beau. Was it held over from another version where the friend character was older? As it stands it’s just a bit queasy somehow.

    • The film starts out with naturalistic animals, then we get a young man dancing with his suddenly Scooby-Doo-like horse. And of course the rat number, which shifts from real, non-speaking rats to an anthropomorphized fantasy and back again.

      They got a bit of that Scooby-Doo-ness with Grandpa’s dog too in a few places, like when he catches the owl and his paws become hands with opposable thumbs (though it hadn’t stopped Disney for having done the same thing in features like The Aristocats whenever anthropomorphism was convenient for a scene)!

      They were pretty loose with the way animals were here, though at times I wonder if “Ode to a Rat” could be seen as another nightmare Heidi’s having in her head as she is confronted by the rats, much like her dream back at Grandpa’s place, that sequence worked better given the way it was meant to show Heidi’s fears as she was trying to sleep her first night in a new place, a child with an imagination such as Heidi’s could view the world in this manner. In the case of “Old to a Rat”, it just comes off so tacked-on and tacky, I thought maybe she passed out from shock or something! I hope the DVD has a standalone chapter break for just that segment, so you can just skip over “Ode to a Rat” and miss nothing (not to take it out on Sammy Davis Jr. for a fine performance, but it wasn’t necessary).

      There’s a romantic waltz where Heidi’s invalid friend fantasizes herself up to puberty to dance with a fantasized beau. Was it held over from another version where the friend character was older? As it stands it’s just a bit queasy somehow.

      Strangely I liked that sequence. I thought it did a good job covering the wish Klara wanted that she thought she could never have (namely the ability to walk). I also thought Klara was in her teens as well, she at least seemed older/taller than Heidi in this film.

  • Heidi’s grandfather here seemed to be copied from the more succesfull Japanesse series of the same title that was produced a few years earlier.

    • It wouldn’t surprise me if someone from H-B had seen that version previously when it came to developing their “Ojisan”.

      One odd Hanna-Barbera connection between Heidi’s Song and the Japanese series might be with voice actors Alan Reed and the recently departed Janet Waldo, who played roles in a compiled movie version of the 1974 TV series when an English dub was produced in the late 70’s.
      https://youtu.be/ItE3dKZ2FVg

    • I remember when I was in Mexico City in June 1980 The anime feature film version of Heidi Girl of the Alps was in the movie theatres. The film was so heavily promoted they aired clips on a Mexican kids show and scenes from Heidi were on packages of “Twinkys” (sic) snack cakes. Nearly 15 years later Heidi Girl of the Alps the series aired on Mexican television.

    • I remember when I was in Mexico City in June 1980 The anime feature film version of Heidi Girl of the Alps was in the movie theatres. The film was so heavily promoted they aired clips on a Mexican kids show and scenes from Heidi were on packages of “Twinkys” (sic) snack cakes. Nearly 15 years later Heidi Girl of the Alps the series aired on Mexican television.

      I’m stunned it took that long for the series to come over at all. Seemed like some countries in Latin America has at least seen the TV series at some point in time or another. Reminded of an LP that was released by an RCA subsidiary down there featuring audio from series as well as Spanish versions of the opening and closing theme songs. This record apparently has a 1978 copyright on it, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the show had already aired on Mexican TV before a movie was released.
      https://www.discogs.com/Heidi-Cuento-Y-Musica-Original-De-La-Serie-De-TV/master/974748
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJmpjqmCVfY

    • The Japanese version of Heidi aired in Argentina around 1978 or 1979 (I don’t remember exactly). The series was repeated after it finished during 1980 when television switched to full color broadcast. The dubbing was handled by a Mexican team headed by Francisco Colmeneros, who also played the grandfather here, that many years later lead the unsuccessful re-dubbings of the Warner cartoons of the 90s.

  • “It’s also the only Hanna-Barbera musical feature in which Hoyt Curtin was given the reigns for the score as well as the songs. The songwriters were legendary: Sammy Cahn, who has already worked for H-B on ‘Jack and the Beanstalk,’ and Burton Lane, the lyricists for ‘Finian’s Rainbow’ and ‘On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.’ The ingredients were all there.”

    I’m a little confused here. Sammy Cahn was a Oscar-winning lyricist. Burton Lane was a terrific Broadway composer. [The lyrics for “Finian’s Rainbow” are by Yip Harburg and the lyrics for “On a Clear Day” are by Alan Jay Lerner; Lane wrote the music for both shows.] Lane and Cahn wrote the songs for HEIDI’S SONG, while the talented Mr, Curtin wrote the underscore and supervised and conducted all of the music. Right?

    • Yes, you are correct. In, the sentence, I might have specified “the reigns for arranging, supervising and conducting” the score and the songs. It is listed that way in the credits at the top of the post.

  • This was Robert Taylor’s second animated film(The first was 9 lives of Fritz the cat). Many staffers involved worked on both films(IMDB says that Don Williams and Marty Taras were involved in this film). This also explains the films darker tone.

    • The only film from Taylor to get successfully released by H-B while “Rock Odyssey” was still stewing around in production hell.

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