ANIMATION SPIN
April 14, 2015 posted by

A Spin Special: Stan Freberg Records

The late Stan Freberg’s performance as Disney’s “Mickey Mouse” and his work for George Pal are celebrated today in this special “Animation Spin” tribute – to a man who’s unique voice and wide range of talents will be sorely missed.

MMBirthdaycapitol78

Walt Disney’s
MICKEY MOUSE’S BIRTHDAY PARTY

Capitol Records – Record Reader Series DBX-3365 (Two 10” 78 RPM Discs / Mono / 1954)
Vinyl Reissue – Capitol/Wonderland Records L-8109 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono / Side 2 wit “Mickey and the Beanstalk” on Side 1)

Producer/Writer: Alan W. Livingston. Original Music: Dave Cavanaugh. Running Time: 14 minutes.
Voices: Stan Freberg (Mickey Mouse, Doc, Bashful, Happy, Sneezy, Dumbo, Brer Fox, Jose Carioca, Crocodile, White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, March Hare); Pinto Colvig (Practical Pig, Goofy, Pluto, Grumpy, Cleo); Clarence Nash (Donald Duck); June Foray (Snow White, Thumper, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Alice); Nicodemus Stewart (Brer Bear); Johnny Lee (Brer Rabbit); Jimmy Macdonald (Jaq, Gus).
Songs include: “How D’ye Do and Shake Hands” by Bob Hilliard, Sammy Fain; “Happy Birthday” by Mildred & Patty Hill.

All Stan Freberg records — as well as his classic radio show — can be considered animation related, as he always worked with a who’s who of golden age voice artists on comedy records as well as those for children. For those of us who either grew up with his artistry or discovered it more recently, the creative gifts of Mr. Freberg touched our lives in a countless ways. But for the purposes of this post, we’ll just look at a fraction of his contributions to cartoon and kids’ recorded material.

Vinyl Reissue – Capitol/Wonderland Records

Vinyl Reissue – Capitol/Wonderland Records

The 78 RPM release Mickey Mouse’s Birthday Party proclaims that it features the “original voices”, and indeed we can hear Pinto Colvig, Clarence Nash, Johnny Lee, Nick Stewart and Jimmy Macdonald, but the other classic Disney characters are not the actual film voices.

Never was that a more wonderful thing, though! Because the likes of Freberg and Foray offer their takes on over a dozen characters to the utter joy of cartoon voice actor buffs.

It’s fascinating to hear how their interpretations compare in tone and attitude. Freberg’s Mickey, in particular, is a customary falsetto but with a firm tinge of authority, perhaps the way some of us might imagine Mickey’s “comic book adventurer” persona might sound.

The album follows the standard format of Alan Livingston’s vintage Capitol children’s records. The situation is quickly established, the main character meets a succession of personalities and some of them sing songs or engage in comedy gags. At one point the format breaks when Brer Fox, Bear and Rabbit have a mini-adventure. On the “Record Reader” pages, this sequence is presented in several frames, while the other pages are essentially poses of the characters as they appear on the record.

The short, jingle-like songs are also pure Capitol/Livingston, with no Disney songs except one: “How D’ye Do and Shake Hands” from Alice in Wonderland. On the whole, this is a tour de force for Stan Freberg, offering the legendary artist a golden opportunity to play the Mouse as well as a showcase for his vocal versatility.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Mickey Mouse’s Birthday Party”
Billy May’s music, always top-notch, is perhaps even better than usual, ranging from big band to Latin dance on this amazing recording that combines Disney characters long before they paraded down the street in Theme Parks. The breakneck pace of Capitol/Livingston records is very much in evidence, working especially well in this instance.


tomthumb600

MGM Presents A George Pal Production
Tom Thumb

Music, Songs & Story Recorded Directly from the Sound Track of the Musical Adventure
Lion (MGM) Records L-70084 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono / 1958)
LP Reissue: MCA Records MCAC-2500 (1986)

Narrator: Dean Jones. Supervising Producer/Editor: Jesse Kaye. Screenplay: Ladislas Fodor. Musical Direction: Muir Matheson. Running Time: 40 minutes.
Performers: Russ Tamblyn (Tom); Alan Young (Woody); Peter Sellers (Tony), Terry-Thomas (Ivan), Jessie Matthews (Anna); Bernard Miles (Jonathan); June Thorburn (The Forest Queen); Ian Wallace (Shoemaker); and the Voices of Stan Freberg (The Yawning Man); Dal McKennon (Con-Fu-Shon) and Norma Zimmer (Anna’s Singing Voice).
Songs: “Tom Thumb’s Tune” by Peggy Lee; “After All These Years”, “Talented Shoes” by Fred Spielman, Janice Torre; “The Yawning Song” by Fred Spielman and Kermit Goell.

George Pal’s remarkable filmmaking career is often cited with his science-fiction movies, but two warmhearted storybook fantasies are worth appreciating, too. The first was Tom Thumb, based on the Grimm fairy tale.

There is an old-world feel to Tom Thumb, reflecting Pal’s European background (in contrast to Walt Disney’s Midwestern U.S. influences) and the added texture of being produced in England with actors from both sides of the Atlantic. While Peter Sellers would become an international superstar a few years afterward, actors like Jessie Matthews and Bernard Miles were renowned in the U.K. for many years.

But to kids and animation buffs, the biggest stars are the Puppetoons. While the film as a whole is knee-deep in the ‘50s, and elements of the Puppetoon sequences are quaint musically and especially politically (alas, Con-Fu-Shun), the Yawning Man is a gem of design, animation and voice—a still-amusing Freberg vocal creation with a song that makes good use of actor and music much like Sterling Holloway and “Trust in Me” are matchless combinations.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Yawning Man”
The record album, narrated by “bright young Hollywood favorite” Dean Jones (who was under contract to MGM Records), is simply the finished sound track edited for the album. There is no difference between the film and record (though the record doesn’t have particularly powerful fidelity). For this reason, here is the Yawning Man sequence from the film itself:


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MGM Presents A George Pal Production
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM

The Voices from the Original Sound Track
MGM Records S-1E3 (Stereo) 1E3 (Mono) (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Boxed with Hardcover Souvenir Book / 1962)
LP Reissue: MCA Records MCA-39091 (1986)

Narrator: Charles Ruggles. Producer/Editor: Jesse Kaye. Music Adaptation: Gus Levene. Story Adaptation: David P. Harmon. Running Time: 41 minutes.
Performers: Laurence Harvey (Wilhelm Grimm, The Cobbler); Karl Boehm (Jacob Grimm); Russ Tamblyn (The Woodsman, Tom Thumb); Yvette Mimieux (The Dancing Princess); Beulah Bondi (Gypsy); Jim Backus (King); Clinton Sundberg (Prime Minister); Walter Brooke (Mayor); Sandra Gale Bettin (Ballerina); Robert Foulk (Hunter); Terry-Thomas (Sir Ludwig); Buddy Hackett (Hans); Otto Kruger (King); Martita Hunt (Story Teller); Arnold Stang (Rumpelstiltskin); Peter Whitney (Giant); True Ellison (Snow White); Pamela Beaird (Cinderella); Stanley Fafara (Hansel); Diana Driscoll (Gretel); Ruthie Robinson (Little Red Riding Hood; and the Voices of Stan Freberg and Dal McKennon (Elves).

Songs/Instrumentals: “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm”, “The Dancing Princess,” “Above the Stars”, “Ah-oom”, “Gypsy Fire”.

Big, splashy movies combining short tales within an overall storyline are a challenge to pull off successfully, so this film—which was the very first Cinerama movie to tell a narrative story—wasn’t as cherished as a theatrical release as it is now on TCM, VHS and rare screenings. The inflexibility of the Cinerama process when converted for wide theatrical release and TV airings limited it further. So for many years, it was not easy to find The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm on TV or in kiddie matinees (Tom Thumb, a standard format film with a singular story, was more accessible).

However, the tide has turned on Wonderful World to the point that it has become a Holy Grail of possible DVD and Blu-ray releases (that’s a story in itself). Its relative success in its day has become irrelevant. Its earliest fans enjoy it on TCM — and only a few months back, at its first LA Cinerama Dome screening since 1962. The score has grown in stature to the point that, 48 years after its release, the soundtrack album was made available (see below).

In 1962, however, there was no musical soundtrack. The fine Bob Merrill songs found their way on to various easy listening albums, but the Leigh Harline music stayed locked in the film. MGM Records, instead of a traditional soundtrack album, released a very attractive boxed set (similar to the soundtrack MGM Records released for King of Kings) with a hardcover book placed impressively inside the package.

Only the dialogue comes from the movie itself, with narration by The Wonderful Voice of Charlie Ruggles (that alone makes it worth a listen), the same year that he voiced Aesop in those delightful Jay Ward cartoons on the Rocky and Bullwinkle shows. There is no soundtrack music, but rather re-orchestrated music created for the album. It’s very elaborately orchestrated music—this was not a cheap album—but the songs are either very short or dispatched in brief instrumentals.

And of course, the album has the voice of Stan Freberg as the Head Elf, getting the shoes done overnight for the Cobbler. This album has most of the elf dialogue, but again, their song, “Ah-Oom”, has a different accompaniment and is edited, although the vocals come from the film tracks.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Ah-oom”
Stan Freberg is definitely the grey/orange head elf and the others sound as he and Dal McKennon are voicing them, though Pinto Colvig and Mel Blanc have elsewhere been credited as well. The song is nice, beautifully arranged, and basically a twist on “Heigh-Ho”. Rather than present the re-recorded music version from the MGM story album, here instead is the scene from the movie (note that Laurence Harvey’s yawn is dubbed):


Brothers+Grimm+CD

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM
Music from the Original Sound Track
Film Score Monthly FSMCD Vol. 13 No. 4 (Two Compact Discs / 2010)

This is an album I have literally dreamed about. The rich stereo soundtrack music of Leigh Harline, the pleasant songs of Bob Merrill from the soundtrack, plus bonus tracks including the entire (mono) LP story album all make this a must-have that, at this writing is discontinued. The elf vocals are likely not by Freberg and McKennon but a studio ensemble (including Bill Lee). Whether you have the discs or not, Film Score Monthly still has all the great additional liner notes about this outstanding and overlooked score from a largely overlooked film on their site.

Here is a “soundtrack suite” culled from the album:

16 Comments

  • Mickey’s Birthday Party record seems like a toned-down version of the GAC/IAD parties!

  • The Brothers Grimm record was an early gift from my parents–however, when I first saw “Wonderful World” I assumed it had to do with “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” and so when I realized it was not a Disney recording I was a bit disappointed. But over the years the record grew to be a real treasure.

    The Mickey Mouse Birthday Party album is another treasure…outstanding voice work, plus it’s a treat when the Disney characters of the shorts mingle with the feature film characters (as was later done in “House of Mouse.”) I never heard this album until recent years, but at any age it’s delightful.

    It’s a little perplexing to see it referred to as an “original TV soundtrack” recording when as far as I know this was produced entirely as a children’s record and does not have a corresponding animated TV special.

    • It’s not an original TV soundtrack. Thanks for catching that!

  • The Original Soundtrack to The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm is currently available on iTunes for download .
    Stan Freberg also did the narration and singing in the classic Warner Bros. Cartoon The Three Little Bops a jazzy, rocking take off on The Three Little Pigs with the fantastic score by Shorty Rogers (who also did the fantastic arrangement on the Herb Albert Christmas Album.
    Stan Freberg will be sorely missed.

    • I LOVE Three Little Bops!

      Bigg, is there a link for the soundtrack on iTunes? I must be doing something incorrectly, because I can’t find it on iTunes or amazon. There are several compilations with a few tracks, but that’s it apparently.

    • To Greg Ehrbar (and anyone else interested) The Three Little Bops is available on iTunes. You can get either the cartoon or the music only.

  • The artwork in the video for Mickey Mouse’s Birthday Party looks to be the work of Paul Murry.

  • Great column as always. Wonderful detail and wonderful writing. I always look forward to your work.

    Is there a complete listing of Freberg’s massive voice work anywhere? Did even he keep track?

    When it comes to Disney, besides doing Mickey on this album (and in an interview I did with him, Stan claimed he did it because “Walt wasn’t available” and I didn’t point out that Jimmy MacDonald was doing Mickey’s voice at the time), Freberg was also the narrator for the 1985 Disney television series The Wuzzles and did Lambert the Sheepish Lion’s only word in the 1952 short of the same name. He cried “Mama”. Freberg also did some additional uncredited voices in the 1952 short Susie, the Little Blue Coupe. (Sterling Holloway was the narrator and did some other voices).

    In addition, Freberg was the beaver in Lady and the Tramp, recorded a track for the abandoned Jabberwock sequence in Alice in Wonderland and that voice track for Ward Kimball’s cancelled Bingo the Dog featurette I mentioned in Animation Anecdotes.

    I feel that Freberg may have done other voice work for Disney as well that I am forgetting.

    • Thanks very much, Jim!

      It would not be a stretch to imagine that Stan Freberg himself may not have had a comprehensive list, as so many odd jobs come up along with the spectacular ones. Every once in a while, s surprise bit of voiceover pops up. I found a Here’s Lucy in which Mel Blanc was looping an actor and speaking over the radio (it was the episode about the Military Academy).

      Stan Freberg also did wonderful work for the Twilight Zone Radio Drama series, including a fascinating episode adapted from an unproduced script about a power driven man who goes back in time to build a fortune knowing what technology was coming. For Radio Spirits, he hosted a series called “When Radio Was” for many years. He introduced classic radio shows.

  • @Greg Ehrbar:
    I found six versions of the theme of The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm on iTunes,
    The original version by Lehigh Harline
    One by David Rose
    Another by Les Baxter
    Another by Al Caiola
    Yet another by Lawrence Welk
    And a surprising fun version by Henry Mancini (under the name of “La Bandada Mancini”) .
    Sadly the entire soundtrack is no longer available on iTunes nor is the movie.

  • Terrific column, Greg! “Mickey Mouse’s Birthday Party” is a real treat. I never expected to hear Stan Freberg do Mickey’s voice. I remember being pleasantly surprised to hear Alan Young handling Mickey’s vocals (singing and speaking) on the original ‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol” record.

    You mentioned two things in your reply to Jim that stood out to me: First, the odd jobs that actors take, especially voice actors, throughout their careers. Some of an actor’s most fascinating voice work seems to be performed on children’s records. It seems as if they seize an opportunity to really stretch themselves and take chances on these records. Your column from last summer about Casey Kasem’s voice work on records springs immediately to mind.

    Second, I’m glad you mentioned the hosting work Stan Freberg did on “When Radio Was.” This was where I first discovered him (at least by name). I was a teenager in the late 90s when I discovered Old Time Radio one day by accident as I was surfing the radio dial and stumbled upon WRW as hosted by Freberg. Previously, I had been limited to a few cassette tapes of “Abbott & Costello” and “The Shadow,” but every day at 4 p.m., Stan Freberg would introduce me to a new drama and a new comedy. Much as my love of music grew out of hearing Casey Kasem’s countdowns, my love for radio grew out of hearing Stan Freberg every day. I eventually began to wonder who this Freberg guy was, and finding the answer to that question introduced me to all of his records and albums and commercials and the world of satire.

    It’s an understatement to say that Stan Freberg enriched my life in a multitude of ways and opened up worlds of knowledge to me. I hope his rest is most peaceful.

    • Beautiful comments, Pete.

      SInce you used to listen to “When Radio Was”, you probably remember the uniquely Frebergian way he would say “Bob BAY-ley!”when referring to the star of “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar”, Bob Bailey. When I met Mr. Freberg, he seemed amused when I told him that. He brought smiles to a weary world. Even Kings and Presidents can’t make that claim.

  • The “Three Little Bops” soundtrack is available on 2 collections: “That’s All Folks!” (http://www.amazon.com/Thats-Cartoon-Merrie-Melodies-Looney/dp/B00005N836/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1429124689&sr=1-1&keywords=that%27s+all+folks) and Shorty Rogers’ “Tarzan” TV soundtrack CD (http://www.amazon.com/You-Shorty-Tarzan-Rogers-Giants/dp/B0032BVEIG/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1429124853&sr=1-2&keywords=shorty+rogers+tarzan). RIP Stan 🙁

  • Surprised nobody corrected this yet … There are THREE Disney songs on the Capitol album. The others are “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo” and “Never Smile at a Crocodile” (undoubtedly the most popular Disney “soundtrack” song that isn’t actually sung in the movie, although it’s played in the score whenever the crocodile shows up).

    The significance of those three songs (as opposed to any others they might’ve considered using) is that Disney owned the publishing rights to them, having founded Walt Disney Music Company in late 1949.

    • You are correct, sir! Thank you.

  • This is a fascinating post; makes me wish that the George Pal films and shorts, no matter what the studio, were available in a mass box set called something as obvious as THE COMPLETE GEORGE PAL but, not to take away anything from Stan Freberg…I was amazed to hear that he could handle Mickey Mouse so well, even giving him *MORE* personality than he’s had in a long time! I also liked his HISTORY OF AMERICA album, especially the earliest one in the early 1970’s, heard often on rock radio, but I made the mistake of not buying myself a copy, so now it is sadly out of print, until someone remedies this and really gives us the definitive Stan Freberg on CD and DVD. I don’t have to, but I’ll say it anyway, those classic TV commercials are so good!!

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