ANIMATION SPIN
February 26, 2019 posted by Greg Ehrbar

The Story of Walt Disney’s “Dumbo” on Disneyland Records

The shortest, least pretentious Disney animated feature was adapted into simple, straightforward Storyteller albums—but who does the voice of Timothy Mouse on them?

Walt Disney’s Story of
DUMBO

Told by Timothy Mouse
Disneyland Records – Storyteller Series ST-3904 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono / Storybook)
LP Reissues:
Disneyrama Pop-Up ST-4904 (1963)
Disneyland Records – Storyteller Series ST-3904 (1965 / Same orange cover as Disneyrama)

Originally Released on October, 15, 1957. Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Album Producer: Camarata. Running Time: 22 minutes.

Performers: Betty Noyes (Mrs. Jumbo); Margaret Wright (Casey Jr./Vocal Effect by Sonovox); Cliff Edwards (Jim Crow); Hall Johnson (Preacher Crow); James Baskett (Fat Crow); Nick Stewart (Glasses Crow); Jim Carmichael (Straw-Hat Crow); The Hall Johnson Choir, The Sportsmen Quartet (Thurl Ravenscroft, Bill Days, Max Smith, Mart Sperzel).

Songs: “Casey, Jr.,” “Baby Mine” by Ned Washington, Frank Churchill; “Pink Elephants on Parade,” “When I See An Elephant Fly” by Ned Washington, Oliver Wallace.

Instrumental Excerpts: Main Title, “Casey, Jr.,” by Frank Churchill; “It’s Circus Day Again” by Ned Washington, Frank Churchill; “Pyramid of Elephants,” “Dumbo Theme,” “Dumbo’s Triumph” by Oliver Wallace.

The simplicity of Dumbo makes it a very simple story to adapt for records, in general. Since Timothy Mouse is the prime mover of the story, he is the natural narrator. The album keeps everything fairly brief, deleting the songs “Look Out for Mister Stork” and “Song of the Roustabouts” and omitting a few seconds of “Pink Elephants on Parade.”

No one is credited as Timothy Mouse for the LP. Whether the original voice of Timothy, Edward Brophy, performs the narration remains to be confirmed at this juncture—but an educated guess is as follows.

It may very well be Jimmy Macdonald as Timothy. Macdonald functioned as a jack-of-all-trades—yet another unsung hero–of Disneyland Records, seldom receiving printed credit. In addition to the occasional Mickey Mouse and Willie the Giant voice, he played various sped-up mice (including Jaq and Gus for Cinderella records, see an example here) and the Big Bad Wolf for Camarata’s version of the story and song, explored here. And of course, he was the co-star of Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of The Haunted House with Laura “Yewww Are a Bold and Courageous Person” Olsher (more about that here.

Certain vocal inflections give away the possibility that Macdonald is imitating Brophy quite well, but his lower register seems to be the main clue. At any rate, Brophy never recorded any Dumbo records [unless one is revealed in the comments section!], not even the RCA Victor version with Shirley Temple (Paul Frees did the honors), which is discussed here.

For some reason, Dumbo has been assigned a bit of a voice in one instance on this LP. In a few minutes of dialogue, Timothy recalls when he first approached Dumbo. The poor little fellow has quite a strange moan, like baby Frankenstein. There is a sound effect of rustling peanuts. From that point on, there are no more such moments.

All the other music and song material is edited from the “WDL” and later “DQ” edition soundtrack albums (see this Spin). No soundtrack dialogue ever wound up on any subsequent Storyteller releases, CD’s or downloads for stories. (Even the just-released CD read along uses newly-recorded character dialogue with a different cast.)

The Storyteller album of Dumbo traveled a slightly different path than that of its fellow albums in that it was not made into a “Magic Mirror” LP in 1960. Instead the “magic circle” 1957 version continued to be sold until 1963, when the small, short-lived “Disneyrama” series appeared. Dumbo was one of these titles for two years.

In 1965, the pop-up artwork was reassembled into flat images for an eleven-page storybook. The same orange cover art appeared on the front with revised copy. This edition continued until the book portion was dropped altogether and the story album replaced the music album, putting the recording for #3904 into the cover of #1204 and eliminating the soundtrack music album. The same was eventually done with the Bambi Storyteller and soundtrack albums.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
DUMBO Storyteller

An interesting fact about one of the vocals: Betty Noyes, who sings “Baby Mine,” was also the offscreen singer for Debbie Reynolds when she sang “Would You” in Singin’ in the Rain. Though Reynolds did most of her own singing in the 1952 classic musical, in this particular scene her character was supposed to be dubbing the tone-deaf singing of Jean Hagen’s character and it was felt that a more pitch perfect voice was needed. So Noyes was doing a dub for an actor who was pictured doing a dub for another actor!


Walt Disney’s Story of
DUMBO

Executive Producer: Disneyland Records Book & Record LLP-324 (7” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono / March, 1969)
Released in March, 1968. Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer: Camarata. Running Time: 12 minutes.

Performers: Margaret Wright (Casey Jr./Vocal Effect by Sonovox); Cliff Edwards (Jim Crow); Hall Johnson (Preacher Crow); James Baskett (Fat Crow); Nick Stewart (Glasses Crow); Jim Carmichael (Straw-Hat Crow); The Hall Johnson Choir, The Sportsmen Quartet (Thurl Ravenscroft, Bill Days, Max Smith, Mart Sperzel).

Songs: “Casey, Jr.,” by Ned Washington, Frank Churchill; “When I See An Elephant Fly” by Ned Washington, Oliver Wallace.

Recorded three years into the launch of the “See/Hear/Read” Disneyland Book and Record series, Robie Lester reads the text of the 1947 Little Golden Book all the way through on side one, with two soundtrack songs on side two in the format of the series at the time.

The Little Golden Book had softened some of the action with very small readers in mind. This adaptation also omits the drunken scene that transitions Dumbo into the tree. Instead, Timothy gets the idea of flying after the Dumbo is humiliated in the clown act. They practice and he seems to fail, but after a nap, they end up in the tree because Dumbo flew there, but with no champagne. Also removed is Mrs. Jumbo’s spanking one of the cruel boys. She only angrily sprays them with water.


Walt Disney’s Story of
DUMBO

Disneyland Records Book & Record #324 (7” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono / 1978)

Released in April, 1978. Executive Producer: Gary Krisel. Producer/Director: Jymn Magon. Running Time: 12 minutes.

The front cover of these book and record sets may look the same, but the record insignia at the top left is the clue to the difference. The insignia on Disneyland read along records that are narrator-only (1965-1973) usually with one or two songs, has capital letters and a record at the left of the book. The read alongs with background music, songs and a full cast (starting in 1977) show a record at the top of the book, capital and lower case letters.

The 1978 story adaptation, though accompanied by the identical illustrations, follows the film more closely than the earlier version. Mrs. Jumbo’s punitive action is reinstated, with sound effects. However, Dumbo’s journey to flying success remains the same as in the Little Golden Book because the illustrations still support the earlier explanation.

2 Comments

  • It may well be Jimmy MacDonald voicing Timothy, but whoever it is has flawlessly captured Brophy’s vocalizations and intonations. I always thought it was the original voice actor brought back to do the narration for the album, but this is due of course to the absence of any information about it. In either case, giving the voice credit to Timothy Mouse was probably the best choice–just as Cliff Edwards’ voice work was often credited to Jiminy Cricket. With marketing aimed primarily at kids and not discerning collectors and Disney scholars, it makes more sense to give the illusion that the cartoon character is a “real” personality in his own right.

    • Glad to see the comment about the possibility of it being Jim MacDonald.

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