ANIMATION SPIN
September 23, 2014 posted by

Taking a Spin with “Susie, The Little Blue Coupe”

Buckle up with Sterling Holloway for the charming Susie, the Little Blue Coupe and The Little House, both based on the Disney shorts and in recordings produced by Decca Records.

SusietheLittleBlueCoupe-Decca

WALT DISNEY’S SUSIE, THE LITTLE BLUE COUPE
Told by Sterling Holloway
Decca Records K-64 (10” 78 RPM LP / 1952)

Director: William Schwartau. Writers: Bill Peet, Don DaGradi. Vocal and Instrumental Accompaniment: Jimmy Carroll. Running Time: 9 minutes.

Some of Disney’s finest animated films were not ambitious features, or Disney Character shorts, but those wonderful “one-shot specials.” Neither Silly Symphonies nor segments from package features—though they may have been earlier in their development—these mini-epics stand on their own, often standing outside general notice and sufficient renown.

However, because these cartoons were so flexible in their subsequent use, they had an advantage over features in that they were so accessible. Schools screened them (“Yay! No work for twenty minutes!”) theaters booked them, TV series included them, cable channels interstitialed them, and home video segmented them. With cable and home video, features did become more easily accessed, so that may have changed in recent years, but for many viewers over the decades, these films were familiar friends.

Susie, the Little Blue Coupe was even more accessible than most Disney animated films because it fell into public domain and popped up repeatedly on low-budget video collections, like Donald Duck in Spirit of ’42 and Mickey Mouse in The Mad Doctor.

An inspiration for the Pixar Cars franchise, Susie is a charmer, part of the classic group of Disney films (and recordings) benefitting from Sterling Holloway’s narration (Stan Freberg also did voice work for the film but is not on the record). There is superb work all around from Bill Peet, who created the story, and Don DaGradi who teamed with him to adapt it, as well as in design, layout and animation (including an uncredited Mary Blair, whose concept sketch work is included in the recent revised edition of The Art & Flair of Mary Blair).


GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Susie, the Little Blue Coupe” – Decca Recording

Many Disney features and shorts were produced as 78 RPM singles and sets but never made it to vinyl albums or CDs, including this disc. It was re-recorded for Decca with music by Jimmy Carroll, a familiar name to fans of the Golden and Columbia record labels. Carroll also provided the fine score for Harold Piel’s version of Harold and the Purple Crayon (1959).



LittleHouse-Decca


WALT DISNEY’S THE LITTLE HOUSE
Told by Sterling Holloway
Decca Records K-65 (10” 78 RPM LP / 1952)

Director: William Schwartau. Adaptation: Bill Peet, Bill Cottrell. Based on a Story by Bill Peet. Vocal and Instrumental Accompaniment: Jimmy Carroll. Running Time: 7 minutes.

little_house_bookMuch like Susie, The Little House goes from riches to rags to riches. The adventures of the house may be even more touching, though, as the house cannot move on its own thus rendering it passive and helpless (which also must have made it a challenge to the animators.

Also like Susie, there’s a good chance that imagery from The Little House made its way into Pixar’s Up, especially in the scenes in which the city is built all around the house.

The look of the 1942 Virginia Lee Burton book was a natural for the Disney style of the day, having the folk art style already proven effective for the studio. This kind of story, in which a non-human object is given hopes, dreams, trials and triumphs, was a staple of storybooks and cartoons, from Fleischer to Animaniacs (and of course before and after). It was also perfect for Bill Peet, who later used the device for his children’s books.


GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Little House” – Decca Recording
This record is next in sequence to Susie in the Decca catalog. With Holloway, Carroll and company also in attendance, it’s likely that both records were done in the same session.


11 Comments

  • Essentially, these are the same story, substituting a sentient house for a sentient car. They follow the exact same story pattern–youth, aging, and ultimately rejuvenation. The theme was later developed and used to quite a different effect in “The Firebird,” a segment from “Fantasia 2000.”

    There are also recordings dating from the 60’s or possibly 70’s, with Robie Lester narrating the story of “Susie” and Lois Lane narrating “The Little House.” Each one was accompanied by a song. The songs were of varying quality, but they were interesting interpretations. The stories were collected on a Disneyland album titled “Walt Disney’s Stories from The Mouse Factory” which featured Mickey on the cover but not on the album itself. The other two stories collected were “Johnny Appleseed” and “Lambert the Sheepish Lion.”

    • You are correct, sir!
      The read-alongs had songs that also appeared on a Disneyland album called “Silly Symphonies,” which had nothing to do with Silly Symphonies, but instead one-shot cartoons, segments from package features and fairy tales. The renditions were, as you say, varied. The song for “Susie,” likely written by Buddy Ebsen years earlier, was done as an R&B/Soul performance. Camarata’s lovely “Little House, Little House,” was my favorite on the album.

      It’s available on iTunes (I wish it were in stereo):
      https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/silly-symphonies/id375719968

  • >Director: William Schwartau
    Scratches head…

  • “Susie” is, so far as I know, AWOL on official Disney DVDs except as an Easter egg on “The Love Bug” (you have to win a game to see it). Still hoping against hope they do a few more cleanings of the vault. If “Escapade in Florence” can make it . . .

    • O Dio Mio! I am delighted to inform you that Escapade in Florence is available from the Disney Movie Club.

    • I know. What I meant to imply was that the existence of an “Escapade in Florence” DVD (not much more than Tommy Kirk on a Vespa and Annette looking cute) offers some hope for remaining Disney animation.

      Besides “Susie”, my animated wish list includes:
      “Tough to be a Bird” (theatrical version)
      “Dad, Can I Borrow the Car” (likewise. The padded-out TV version is available)
      Ludwig Von Drake (supposedly Leonard Maltin was working this when the Treasures were cancelled)
      Other TV episodes with fresh animation (“From All of Us to All of You”, among others)

      Back on topic: I know Jerry Lewis made a record of a number cut from “Peter Pan”. And Dave Brubeck’s version of “Alice in Wonderland” is probably what led to other jazz artists recording it. Maybe a column about unlikely covers of Disney tunes?

    • DBenson,

      Everyone in Europe rode Vespas in the ’60s.

      All good DVD choices. We can always hope.

      Good suggestions on the cover versions. I’ve got plans to cover the covers in future Spins.

      Thanks!

    • Intrestingly, both shorts were featured in the episode “Adventures in Fanstsy” which also had some new animation sections involving inanimate objects.

  • “Susie” and “Little House” were both recorded in New York on May 8, 1952, per Ruppli’s Decca books. They were also issued on 45 r.p.m. as 9-88101 and 9-88102 in albums 1-189 and 1-190 respectively.

  • Susie is also on the Ichabod and Mr. Toad DVD but, again, is accessible only after you suffer through a 15-point trivia game.
    Wish they’d cater for grown-up cartoon buffs on some of their single disc releases…I’m not a games person.

    • Makes the Public Domain releases a bit more enticing! 😉

      Wish they’d cater for grown-up cartoon buffs on some of their single disc releases…I’m not a games person.

      It’s a shame when they pull that stunt at all.

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