ANIMATION SPIN
July 9, 2019 posted by Greg Ehrbar

The Disneyland Castle (1955) & “The Sand Castle” (1961) on Records

Sleeping Beauty Castle is the gateway to a Disney musical treasury, plus a renowned composer’s score to a film featuring surreal animation, both spinning on the Columbia label.

SONGS FROM WALT DISNEY’S MAGIC KINGDOM
Dottie Evans, Johnny Anderson and The Merrymakers
Columbia Records (!2” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono)

Released in 1955. Producer: Hecky Krasnow. Musical Director: Ray Carter. Running Time: 31 minutes.

Songs: “When You Wish Upon a Star,” “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee” (from Pinocchio) by Ned Washington, Leigh Harline; “Heigh-Ho,” “Whistle While You Work,” “Bluddle-Uddle-Um-Dum,” “The Dwarfs’ Yodel Song” (from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) by Larry Morey, Frank Churchill; “The Unbirthday Song” (From Alice in Wonderland); “Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?” (from Three Little Pigs) by Frank Churchill; “Little Toot” (from Melody Time) by Allie Wrubel; “When I See An Elephant Fly” (from Dumbo) by Ned Washington, Oliver Wallace; “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” by George Bruns, Tom Blackburn; “Mickey Mouse’s Birthday Party” by Charles Tobias, Bob Rothberg, Joseph Meyer.

Dottie Evans (credited as “Dotty” on this album) is one of those studio singers that millions heard on records in the ‘50s and ‘60s and deserves more notice. On Golden Records, she was often in the Golden Chorus (post-Sandpipers). She played Clara in Captain Kangaroo’s Child’s Introduction to The Nutcracker Suite. For RCA records, she was one of “The Tootlepipers” on the “B” sides of the Shirley Temple-narrated Dumbo and Bambi story albums.

On a small label called Motivation Records, she sang with folk music and children’s record legend Frank Luther (of the historic 1933 record, “Mickey Mouse and Minnie’s in Town”. Evans also recorded with Luther for a series called “Ballads for the Age of Science,” the first of which, 1959’s Space Songs, was recently reissued as a vinyl collectible.

Musical director Ray Carter’s work appeared on radio and recordings in New York, and notably in early television, for which he wrote and conducted music for the children’s series Birthday House and Mr. I Magination with actor/writer Paul Tripp (The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t).

The album’s producer–and the producer of almost every vintage Columbia children’s record–was Hecky Krasnow, an unsung hero who convinced Gene Autry to record “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and produced the first versions of such classic records as “Frosty the Snowman,” “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” Krasnow also produced the Colpix soundtrack albums with the Hanna-Barbera and Screen Gems characters. His daughter Gail wrote a highly recommended book about his life and the music business in that era called Rudolph, Frosty and Captain Kangaroo.

These Disney songs, which also features studio singer Johnny Anderson and vocal group The Merrymakers, were released a number of times on single 78- and 45-RPM discs as well as LP reissues. When they were collected on this LP, Disneyland was a brand-new phenomenon, both as a Theme Park in California and a weekly ABC TV series.

Disneyland Park has had a dual identifier as “Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom” for years, but when Walt Disney World Resort opened in Florida in 1971 that began to change. When there was only one theme park in Florida, it was called “the Magic Kingdom” even though many considered that specific park to be (and even called it) “Disney World.” With the addition of three additional theme parks on the Florida property, it’s become more common to consider the east coast version of “the park with the castle” to be the Magic Kingdom Park (which is its copyrighted name). But when this record was made, there was one Sleeping Beauty Castle and one Disneyland Park and it was also called the “Magic Kingdom.”

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Mickey Mouse’s Birthday Party”

This is the only song on the album that does not come from a movie or TV show, but instead is one of many popular songs about Mickey. My colleague James Parten has more about this 1936 song in his Cartoon Research post here. [https://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/sing-me-a-cartoon-21-even-more-mickey-melodies/] For some reason, this song was also performed on The Hudson Brothers Comedy Hour in the early seventies.


THE SAND CASTLE
Music from the Motion Picture
Composed and Orchestrated by Alec Wilder
Columbia Records CS-8249 (Stereo) CL-1456 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono)

Released in 1961. Conductor: Samuel Baron. Film Producer/Director: Jerome Hill. Running Time: 29 minutes.

Music: “Prelude,” “Variations,” “Facing East,” “Swing Music,” “Incantation,” “Golden Knight,” “Lonely Seascape,” “Ragtime Music,” “Lullaby,” “Finale” by Alec Wilder.

In the wake of Morris Engel’s charming film The Little Fugitive (1953), a number of charming slice-of-life films were produced in and around New York, with low budgets and a blend of professional and amateur actors. At the same time, there was a community of artists, musicians and writers who surely knew each other at least in passing, as their names appeared often on books, records and other projects that constantly overlapped one another. One of these artists was Alec Wilder, a highly celebrated composer whose works fall into modern classical, jazz and—to those of us who cherish Golden Records of the Little and LP variety—children’s records created during their peak of popularity.

Arranger Jimmy Carroll, who moved from Golden to Columbia as well, bringing a similar “Sandpiper” sound to Mitch Miller’s best-selling “Sing-Along” series, worked with Wilder many times at Golden, including writing the Little Golden Record, “What’s Up Doc?” sung by Gil Mack and The Sandpipers, which appeared on the Bugs Bunny Songfest LP we explored here. (Wilder wrote this song with Marshall Barer, who co-wrote the “Mighty Mouse Theme.”)

Frank Sinatra recorded an entire album of his Wilder’s music. Sinatra did not sing on the disc, but he conducted these pieces, a few of them from the landmark Golden album A Child’s Introduction to Orchestra. The Sinatra album featured oboe solos by Mitch Miller, who had worked for Golden before he become an artist and executive at Columbia Records. Even Golden Records founder, Arthur Shimkin, eventually moved to Columbia to handle their children’s record division in the early seventies, so it all fits together.

Oscar winner Jerome Hill wrote and directed for The Sand Castle for producer Louis de Rochemont (Halas and Batchelor’s Animal Farm). Despite its low-key style and limited release, the film received the full Columbia Records treatment with its soundtrack album, almost as if it were An Affair to Remember or Love Me or Leave Me.

Twelve of The Sand Castle’s 64 minutes are animated. The overall film is a leisurely, easygoing portrait of a day at the beach and its various characters, including a fisherman (played by Wilder), a painter, a woman who brings most of her home furnishings with her and group of baseball-playing nuns. (As is frequent in productions of this nature, the filming was done without sound and the dialogue was added later to keep costs down.) Amid the little vignettes, a boy builds a sand castle with his little sister.

The Sand Castle is a black-and-white feature, but there is brief dissolve to color in one scene and a twelve-minute animated dream sequence. The boy’s imagination sees all the characters that appeared that day on the beach juxtaposed within a strange storybook kingdom. The animation is created with two dimensional cutouts, propped up on magnets and manipulated through elaborate settings. The flatness of the figures is emphasized rather than concealed. The overall effect is that of a Caldecott medal-worthy children’s picture book, illustrated in pen-and-ink with watercolors.

This is the complete film, from the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). The dream sequence begins at about 47:00.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Sand Castle”

Those familiar with either Wilder’s compositions for Golden, the Cyril Ritchard Alice in Wonderland recordings, or simply modern classic/jazz combo music, should find something to enjoy in this eclectic score.

3 Comments

  • Great stuff, Greg. One question. On the Little Golden Bugs Bunny record, how were they able to write “The voice of Bugs Bunny”, if it wasn’t Mel Blanc?

    • That is a question for which there may never be a answer, just conjecture. Nothing about Golden Records founder/producer Arthur Shimkin seems to indicate the kind of deception that sometimes occurred on Golden licensed packaging. It may have been a sales and marketing call, since “the voice of Bugs Bunny” isn’t accompanied by the word “original.” There’s a My Favorite Martian record that says “starring Ray Walston” but Walston is not on the record, just on the cover. If I really wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe the covers were printed before the contracts were agreed upon, and perhaps Mel Blanc was going to do the records and bowed out. Using studio cover artists to play well-known characters was common at every record company, including Disney. Only Golden had those occasional issues with confusing cover copy. Yet Golden was such a reputable and celebrated label, and Shimkin had no reason to be deceptive, the question remains unclear on my end.

  • “Mickey Mouse’s Birthday Party” was also sung by unidentified voices on the TV special “Mickey’s 50” (1978), with visuals provided by a primary school children’s art class of drawings.

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