ANIMATION SPIN
November 19, 2013 posted by Greg Ehrbar

A Soundtrack Showdown: “The Snow Queen” Vs. “Frozen”

In 1959, Decca Records released a vinyl LP of the English-dubbed sound track to The Snow Queen, a 1957 animated film that reportedly inspired Hayao Miyazaki to continue in his craft. Next Monday (two days before the film opens), Walt Disney Records will release sound track CDs and downloads of Frozen a new musical epic incorporating elements of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale. Let’s compare the two:

snow_queen_front_cover

THE SNOW QUEEN

The Sound Track Album
Decca DL-78977 (Stereo) / DL-8977 (Mono)
Released in 1959. Adapted from the 1957 Russian version written by Nikolai Erdman, Lev Atamanov, Georgly Grebner and Nikolay Zabalotsky; produced by Lev Atamanov and Nickolay Petrovich Fydorov and Directed by Lev Atamanov for Soyuzmultfilm Studio. English screenplay: Alan Lipscott, Bob Fisher, Dialogue Supervisor/Editor: Hugo Grimaldi. Songs: Diane Lampert. Richard Loring. Music: Frank Skinner. Music Supervisor: Joseph Gershenson. English Dialogue Version Producer: Robert Faber. Technical Supervisor: Dave Fleischer. Sound Track Album Running Time: 40 minutes.

Voices: Paul Frees (Old Dreamy, Bucky); Sandra Dee (Gerda); Tommy Kirk (Kay); Lillian Buyeff (Granny); Patty McCormick (Angel); Louise Arthur (Snow Queen). (The voices by Dick Beals and June Foray do not appear on the record and I don’t know who plays the lady who writes on the fish.)
Songs: “The Snow Queen,” “Do It While You’re Young.”
Instrumental: “The Jolly Robbers.”

Many of us grew up watching The Snow Queen on local TV around Christmastime… and loving it. This was before the full animation of Disney and other studios was right there on our home shelves and we took what we could get.

In the case of The Snow Queen, what we got was pretty good indeed. According to nausicaa.net, “Miyazaki saw this film when he was unhappy about his job and wondering if he should continue working as an animator. Miyazaki waswas so moved by it, he ‘decided to continue working on animation with renewed determination.’ He says that he learned that characters in animation can act if they are animated well enough, and animation can move people as other media can do.”

One can only speculate as to whether Miyazaki would have cared for Universal-International’s 1959 English-language version. It’s also interesting to ponder that a film made in the Soviet Union was released without any in the ‘50s U.S. (at least, none that I can derive.) Parents’ Magazine recommended The Snow Queen with great enthusiasm, praising its old-world style. Perhaps adding the live action prologue not only made the film run longer but also assuaged American viewers. Linkletter, a familiar and ubiquitous TV personality, was filmed in the Wonder Breadiest of living room settings, handing gifts to child actors portraying mid-20th century images of adorable youngsters—a few even quoting directly from Linkletter’s bestselling book, Kids Say the Darndest Things (illustrated by Charles M. Schulz).

snowqueen-lobby-card

Linkletter does not appear on Decca’s elaborate sound track album of The Snow Queen, nor do June Foray or Dick Beals, who voiced the lady crow and the Prince, respectively. The vinyl version was an early, if not the very first, recording combining dialogue, narration and music. MGM’s 1956 The Wizard of Oz sound track album was an edited version of the finished sound track with no narration. Disneyland’s 1957 Storyteller LP of Peter Pan was also from a finished track with narration by the Mickey Mouse Club’s Jimmie Dodd.

snow_queen_gatefold

Album centerfold, above. Album back cover, below.

snow_queen_back_cover500

The Snow Queen sound track is narrated by the Olivier of voice acting, Paul Frees, as his on-screen character, Old Dreamy. It’s interesting to notice the difference between the more natural syntax of the narration he recorded for the album with his got-to-make-the-voice-match-the-mouth dubbed performance, both of which are heard on the record. Frees also pronounces the crow’s name (Mr. Korracks?) one way on the record and another way in the movie.

sandradee250One can speculate that when Universal decided to dub and release The Snow Queen in November of 1959, they thought they had something that could compete with Sleeping Beauty (and the Disney family film market in general). Beauty had not met box office expectations but it still was undoubtedly still in the public’s mind since it February release, if only for all its merchandising—including at least a dozen records. Decca may have seen sales potential for Snow Queen records, even releasing a pop single version of Sandra Dee’s “Do It While You’re Young,” a song never sung to completion in the film. (The design of the Snow Queen herself was a sort of visual cousin to Maleficent. Casting Louise Arthur surely was no accident, as she sounds a lot like Eleanor Audley.)

This album is a treasure I had sought for years, especially in stereo. (I also have never found a really good print on DVD, though the 2010 Osiris Entertainment release is about the best I’ve found so far. YouTube has the 1959 English language version and the better-quality Russian print with subtitles.) On the stereo LP, the lovely orchestrations offer full left and right channel separation, though the overall sound is weakened by Decca’s reverb—which masks the relative “hiss” levels between dialogue, music and narration tracks. It would have still been nicer without so much echo.
The album’s has black and white thumbnails movie stills (unfortunately overpowered by color tints), a brief story synopsis and some film credits. It’s unlikely (but not impossible) that this album will ever be reissued, but if the sound elements lie in a vault somewhere, it sure would be great to hear the Skinner/Gershenson music in its entirety.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Snow Queen Main Title & End Title”
it’s difficult to find a DVD without some edits in the theme song, so here is the beginning and end of the album in full stereo. Decca shortened the main title for the record.


WALT DISNEY PICTURES’ FROZEN

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Walt Disney Records D001906102 (CD or download); also 2-Disc Deluxe Version
Album Released November 25, 2013. Music and Lyrics: Robert Lopez, Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Score: Christophe Beck. Producers: Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez, Christophe Beck, Chris Montan, Tom MacDougall, Jake Monaco. Orchestrations: David Metzger, Kevin Kliesch, Tim Davies. Conductors: Stephen Oremus, Tim Davies. Production Director: Andrew Page. Soundtrack Album Running Time (one-disc version): 70 minutes.

Voices: Kristen Bell (Anna); Idina Menzel (Elsa); Agatha Lee Monn (Teen Anna); Katie Lopez (Young Anna); Santino Fontana (Hans); Jonathan Groff (Kristoff); Maia Wilson (Bulda); Josh Gad (Olaf); Demi Lovato (“Let it Go” Single Version Vocalist).
Songs: “Frozen Heart,” “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” “For the First Time in Forever,” “Love is an Open Door,” “Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People,” “Let it Go,” “In Summer,” For the First Time in Forever (Reprise),” “Fixer Upper,” “Let It Go (End Title).”

Instrumentals: “Vuelie,” Elsa and Anna,” “The Trolls,” “Coronation Day,” “Heimr Arnadalr,” “Winter’s Waltz,” “Sorcery,” “Royal Pursuit,” “Onward and Upward,” “Wolves,” “The North Mountain,” “We Were So Close,” “Marshmallow Attack!” “Conceal, Don’t Feel,” “Only An Act of True Love,” “Summit Siege,” “Return to Arendelle,” “Treason,” “Some People Are Worth Melting For,” “Whiteout,” “The Great Thaw (“Vuelie” Reprise); “Epilogue.”

FrozenCD-250Changing the name of Disney’s loose take on Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” to “Frozen” doesn’t rankle as much as putting the name “Tangled” on what was essentially an expanded version of the Rapunzel story. Frozen is a largely different story containing elements of the fairy tale. (The ‘50s Atamanov version of The Snow Queen is a nearly point-by-point adaptation of Andersen’s original.)

Kristin Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who had already created outstanding songs for Finding Nemo—The Musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and 2011’s Winnie the Pooh (both on iTunes), can certainly enter the pantheon of Disney songwriters – particularly in their carrying on the Sherman tradition of the catchy “ear worms,” which translates into a mastery of melody with inextricable lyrics.

The music sequence on the sound track album follows that of every Disney animated feature album since The Little Mermaid. The Lopez songs are lined up first and followed by Beck’s background score, essentially making two albums (Decca’s Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer LP attempted a similar format in 1964, but the instrumentals on Side Two weren’t from the TV sound track).

The Frozen sound track album will be available Monday, November 25 on CD and iTunes download as a single CD—and a double CD with over 20 demos—as well as in a read-along book format.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN (AND LOOK)
“Let it Go” Music Video
Young pop star Demi Lovato does a quite fine job in her performance of Idina Menzel’s show stopper, adorned with clips from Frozen.

6 Comments

  • (I also have never found a really good print on DVD, though the 2010 Osiris Entertainment release is about the best I’ve found so far. YouTube has the 1959 English language version and the better-quality Russian print with subtitles.)

    Another company out there by the name “Films by Jove” also released the film as part of a series of other Russian animated classics they acquired under the name “Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Stories from my Childhood” which aired on some PBS stations in the 90′s. This version features a new English dub featuring the voices of Kirsten Dunst (Gerda), Mickey Rooney (Old Dreamy) and Kathleen Turner (Snow Queen).
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cV1M1y595_U

    Of course, if you had to scrape at the bottom of the barrel, there’s this stupid version from the 80′s done by some fly-by-nite outfit that often dubbed a lot of random Japanese cartoons featuring music by “The Bullets!”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmnbnjzcjw8

    • The Jove Edition is really odd. There are no chapter stops and some of the scenes are presented in a blue tinted monochrome (I suppose this is to guard against piracy) The package design is ghastly (worse than most public domain outfits) but, it is a licensed copy of the original Russian dialog with English subtitles with a beautiful score (entirely different from the Universal International release) I’d love to see someone like Ruscico get their hands on this (who’ve released beautiful authorized restorations of many classic live-action Russian Fairy Tale films by Alexander Row and Alexander Ptuschko)

  • I much prefer the original Russian version’s soundtrack myself.

  • I guess you get attached to the version you grew up with, so I am partial to the 1959 English music, especially the symphonic sections. “Do It While You’re Young” and the Main Title theme are magnificent when used instrumentally for dramatic effect. But I did see the By Jove version and I agree that the original score is nice, too. Could not find, at least in a scan of the internet, a CD of the Russian score.

  • Speaking of fairy tales, I remember there were a series of shorts by Jiri Trnka on PBS way back when. Haven’t seen them since. For that matter, was there ever a video release of “Midsummer’s Night Dream”?

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