We’re down to the final five! Feel free to disagree, but these are your humble Animation Spinner’s personal choices for the best cartoon-related singles.
DEBBIE REYNOLDS’ “CHARLOTTE’S WEB”
This Sherman Brothers masterpiece should have received an Academy Award nomination for Best Song. Haunting and evocative, it was sung by a male choir in the movie (which included Bill Lee, Paul DeKorte and Gene Merlino).
Paramount had high hopes for the song, as they released a single version by The Brady Bunch (the flip side of “Zuckerman’s Famous Pig’) and this rendition by the great Debbie Reynolds with against the soundtrack arrangement by Irwin Kostal. It was backed with another gem from the jewel-packed score, “Mother Earth and Father Time.” We explored the soundtrack album here.
MARY MARTIN & TUTTI CAMARATA’S “HI-HO”
One of the most inventive and dynamic interpretations of “Heigh-Ho” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Tutti Camarata combines his years of big-band and star vocalist experience with the astonishing vocal range of Mary Martin for an unbridled blast of energy. Using the “pop” lyrics (“To make your troubles go” instead of “It’s home to work we go”), the song is treated as pure music and transformed as it had never been before.
“Tutti’s Trumpets” were a group of Hollywood’s top musicians, playing on movie and TV classics for all the studios and on countless recordings by the best names in the business. It’s an electrifying listening experience that never loses its edge.
VINCE GUARALDI’S “LINUS AND LUCY”
The combined talents of Vince Guaraldi, Charles M. Schulz, Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson forever changed the animated TV special landscape with A Charlie Brown Christmas, due in no small part to the innovative use of jazz. This form of music was nothing new in cartoons, as big band, popular and progressive jazz, in one form or another, were part of animation from the early sound days.
Guaraldi had a genius for the catchy melody. “Linus and Lucy,” which was introduced in the documentary and record album Jazz Impressions of a Boy Named Charlie Brown and burst into the mainstream with the Christmas special, is considered the umbrella theme of Peanuts animation. Because of the popularity of the special (and the best selling records), “Linus and Lucy” has become a holiday standard along with Guaraldi and Mendelson’s “Christmas Time is Here.”
ROSS BAGDASARIAN’S “ALVIN’S ORCHESTRA”
Peaked at #33
Perhaps no other individual work so perfectly conveys the essence of what makes Alvin, Simon, Theodore and David Seville—and therefore, Ross Bagdasarian–so enduring than this masterpiece of writing, performance and engineering. Everything about it is perfection: the timing of the music blasts that drown out Dave, the sound levels of the orchestra, the ironic cheeriness of the song and the slow but sure frustration of Dave, which sounds as if it has reached the peak of madness.
According to Wikipedia, the orchestra on this record includes studio musicians that became known as “The Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra.” Frank Zappa gave them the name in 1967 when he recorded his first album, Lumpy Gravy, but the musicians were grouped in various ways since 1959, when were led by Ken Shroyer in 1959.
MEL BLANC’S “I TAUT I TAW A PUDDY TAT”
Peaked at #9
The postwar Baby Boom saw the burgeoning success of children’s records and novelty songs. This was both and it hit an impressive #9 on the charts and inspired cover versions by such artists as Danny Kaye and Mitch Miller’s Sandpipers.
It was as difficult to decide the numbering of these records as it was to narrow them down, but the mastery of Mel Blanc belongs at the top, along with the talented team at Capitol, particularly producer Alan Livingston and musical director Billy May, who made some of the all-time best records of their kind.
The record is such a classic among Looney Tunes and Blanc fans as well as those in the animation industry, it was faithfully made into an animated short in 2011 using the late Mel Blanc’s voice tracks with additional dialogue by June Foray. Under the direction of Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone, “I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat” (the spelling varies) was released with Happy Feet Two on November 18, 2011.