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.
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.
Johanna 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.
All 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.
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!