ANIMATION SPIN
August 14, 2018 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Walt Disney’s “Dumbo” Soundtrack on Records

The fourth Disney animated feature was short, sweet and successful on the big screen, TV, home video—and on records, from 78 shellacs to internet downloads.

Walt Disney’s
DUMBO

Recorded from the Sound Track of the Film
RCA Victor Records P-101 (Three 10” 78 RPM Discs)
Released on November 14th, 1941. Originally Recorded July 14, 1941. Musical Director: Oliver Wallace. Orchestrations: Edward Plumb. Running Time: 18 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: “Look Out for Mister Stork,” “Casey Junior,” “Song of the Roustabouts,” “Baby Mine” by Ned Washington, Frank Churchill; “Pink Elephants,” “When I See An Elephant Fly” by Ned Washington, Oliver Wallace.
Instrumental: “Dumbo’s Serenade” by Oliver Wallace.

Dumbo was the third Disney animated feature soundtrack album released by RCA Victor, and like the previous Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Pinocchio releases, all the material on the three 78 RPM discs came directly from the film with sound effects and dialogue intact. Unlike the other three however, RCA’s Dumbo soundtrack was never reissued on compact disc.

The album opens after the main title credits with a crack of thunder, followed by the ominous opening verse spoken by John McLeish that precedes “Look Out for Mr. Stork.” Subsequent versions of the Dumbo soundtrack do not include this verse, nor much of the other scattered dialogue and effects on this album, simply because this was all that RCA had to work, as this was made in the days before recording tape and mixing boards.

The brevity of 78 RPM discs did not allow for the complete version of “Pink Elephants” (the words “on Parade” are not listed in the title on this particular album), nor do we get more than one chorus of “When I See An Elephant Fly.” But “Baby Mine” is short enough to share its disc side with the delightful music accompanying Dumbo’s bath, titled here as “”Dumbo’s Serenade.”

Hearing all of this on the most popular music reproduction media of the day emphasizes how much the music of Dumbo exemplifies a variety of late ‘30s and early ‘40s musical styles. In only a few tunes, there is novelty pop (“Casey Jr.”) jazz/scat (“When I See An Elephant Fly”), choral ballad (“Baby Mine”), modern opera (“Song of the Roustabouts”), the myriad of styles that is “Pink Elephants,” and several authentic-sounding circus marches (which should be extra-familiar to Mickey Mouse Club fans who also heard them on Thursday afternoon “Circus Day” extravaganzas).

It is truly remarkable how the music’s distinctively mid-20th century sound (whose then-contemporary appeal surely led to its Oscar for Best Score), is so playable today regardless of changing musical tastes, and probably will remain so for all time as long as elephants can still fly.


Walt Disney’s
DUMBO

Music from the Original Motion Picture Sound Track
Disneyland Records WDL-4013 (12” 33 1/3 RPM with LP-size book)
LP Reissue: DQ-1204 (9/8/1959, 1963, 1970’s)
First released in 1957. Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Album Producer: Camarata. Cover Art: Al Dempster. Musical Director: Oliver Wallace. Orchestrations: Edward Plumb. Running Time: 29 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: “Look Out for Mister Stork,” “Casey, Jr.,” “Song of the Roustabouts,” “Baby Mine” by Ned Washington, Frank Churchill; “Pink Elephants on Parade,” “When I See An Elephant Fly” by Ned Washington, Oliver Wallace.
Instrumentals: “It’s Circus Day Again” by Ned Washington, Frank Churchill; “Dumbo Theme,” “Dumbo and Timothy,” “Pyramid of Elephants,” “Dumbo Disgraced,” “Dumbo’s Triumph” by Oliver Wallace.

When Disneyland Records presented listeners with the vinyl LP version of the Dumbo soundtrack, it was the first time home listeners could enjoy so much of the background music as well as the main title, all three sections of “When I See An Elephant Fly” and the complete “Pink Elephants on Parade.”

As he did when creating the other album-length soundtracks, Tutti Camarata designed the Dumbo LP to maximize the listening experience. As a pioneer in formatting the long-playing soundtrack album (much the way Goddard Lieberson did the same for Broadway cast albums at Columbia Records), Camarata would rearrange the order of the selections if it improved on how they “played out” on the disc–to keep the program constantly fresh, varied and repeatable as a creative whole.

Another reason track sequences were sometimes re-ordered in the vinyl era was to keep certain selections closer to the outside edge of the LP record and others closer to the center, as certain tracks required more dynamic range and needed the full fidelity of the disc’s edge. Camarata must have realized that “Pink Elephants on Parade,” with all its tempo changes, wild orchestrations and frequency changes, needed to begin side two (at the outside edge), while the simpler, quieter “Baby Mine” worked well tonally at the end of side one (near the center)—and also provided an emotional conclusion to the first half of the record. (Those familiar with subsequent soundtrack albums, such as those for The Sound of Music or even Mary Poppins, will be aware of the their lack of total sequence as well.)

To accomplish this, Camarata moved an entire cluster of Oliver Wallace’s background themes out of their chronological film order. As stated above, “Baby Mine” is followed by “Pink Elephants” on this LP, but the music goes out of sequence at track two on side two. There, we go back to the Dumbo’s bath scene, followed by his mother’s capture and his rejection by the other elephants.

Two of these three pieces of music are identified incorrectly on the LP cover and label: “Dumbo and Timothy” is actually the bathing scene and “Pyramid of Elephants” underscores the anger of Dumbo’s mother. “Dumbo’s Disgrace” can be considered accurate because he is blamed for his mother’s fate. The album concludes with “When I See An Elephant Fly,” “Dumbo’s Triumph” and the Finale. It all serves to spread the songs more evenly among the instrumental and allows the proper tracks to sit on the sections of the record best suited for them.


Walt Disney’s
DUMBO

Classic Soundtrack Series
Walt Disney Records #60949-2
Available for download on iTunes and amazon

Released in 1997. Album Producer: Randy Thornton. Album Executive Producer: Ted Kryczko. Musical Director: Oliver Wallace. Orchestrations: Edward Plumb. Restoration Research: Julie Alexander: Restoration/Mastering: John Polito. Editor: Randy Thornton. Art Direction: Luis M. Hernandez. Design: Susan Andrade. CD Running Time: 41 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: “Look Out for Mister Stork,” “Casey, Jr.,” “Song of the Roustabouts,” “Baby Mine” by Ned Washington, Frank Churchill; “Pink Elephants on Parade,” “When I See An Elephant Fly” by Ned Washington, Oliver Wallace; “Clown Song” by Arthur Quenzer, Oliver Wallace.

Instrumentals: “Circus Parade (It’s Circus Day Again)” by Ned Washington, Frank Churchill; “Loading the Train,” “Stork on a Cloud,” “Straight from Heaven,” “Mother and Baby,” “Arrival at Night,” “Bathtime,” “Hide and Seek,” “Ain’t That the Funniest Thing,” “Berserk,” “Dumbo Shunned,” “A Mouse,” “Dumbo and Timothy,” “The Pyramid of Pachyderms,” “No Longer An Elephant,” “Dumbo’s Sadness,” “A Visit in the Night,” “Hiccups,” “Firewater,” “Bubbles,” “Did You See That?” “Up a Tree,” “The Fall,” “Timothy’s Theory,” “You Oughta Be Ashamed,” “The Flight Test,” “Save My Child,” “The Threshold of Success,” “Dumbo’s Triumph,” “Making History,” “Spread Your Wings” (Demo) by Oliver Wallace.

Grammy and Gold Record-winning producer Randy Thornton was opening treasure chests, jewel boxes and golden vaults in the latter 20th century as Walt Disney Records gave him green lights to release extended soundtracks that had been previously limited to vinyl album playing times or had never been released at all. Good times.

The CD release of Dumbo allowed us to savor 41 minutes of music from the 64-minute feature, virtually everything musical that was there to make a great album, all crisp and clear of overdubs and effects, restored to a brilliance impossible even on the original release.

One of the new additions, never included on any previous album, is the “Clown Song,” a brief but memorable number in which the clowns decide they’re “gonna ask the big boss for a raise,” offering a wild contrast to the bitter, stark “Song of the Roustabouts,” but with an equal sense of futility.

In addition to all the songs and music, the disc concludes with one instrumental called “Spread Your Wings” that Thornton explains in the liner notes as a possible song played on keyboard by Oliver Wallace himself, but for which lyrics had not been found. (Home video releases also included another deleted song that was to be sung by Timothy called “Are You a Man or a Mouse?” One the same video releases, Disney producer Don Hahn observes that Dumbo was such a pleasure for the Disney artists to make, was so blissfully planned and required so little change from start to finish, there aren’t very many “lost” elements!)

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
A Few “Lost” Seconds from of the 1957 Dumbo vinyl LP

This short snippet ends track two, side two (right after “Dumbo’s Disgrace” discussed above). It occurs earlier in the film than the three preceding it—just before Mister Stork asks the elephants which of them is expecting. In the film, only the first half of this piece of music is heard. The second half is not heard, nor does it appear on any other soundtrack version of Dumbo. (Camarata may have placed this after “Dumbo Disgraced” to give the medley a concluding button.)

7 Comments

  • The soundtrack for “Dumbo” is one of my all-time favorite movie soundtracks. I have the CD and one of the LPs. Hopefully if they ever do a Legacy Collection soundtrack, they can include those few deleted songs and that lost music cue posted here.

  • Very nice… I only wish that you’d also have included the storyteller too..told by Mr.Timothy Mouse himself (“Pink Elephants” still being truncated, though..)

    • I cannot verify that Ed Brophy played Timothy on the Storyteller LP, but it sure sounded like him. The 1957 Storyteller was made up of film stills, the second was a “DisneyRama” dimensional diorama, and the 1969 took those dioramas and cut them into two-dimensional images for another book. The songs were included and it was a lovely Storyteller. We did look at the Shirley Temple RCA Bluebird record album a few years ago on Spin.

    • Greg, I had long that the voice of Timothy Mouse was Arnold Stang. After all, he DID voice at Paramount Harvey back east a little earlier a certain totally identical mosue named HOIMAN!

  • One little correction … the Dumbo soundtrack LP *was* shortened for the DQ series in 1963, and my copy proves it. All the instrumental selections were removed except the Main Title and “Dumbo and Timothy”. They were restored (and the color artwork was added to the back cover) some time in the 1970s.

    • Well, there you go. Forever discovering new editions of these albums! When I bought the album in the early ’70s it had the 1959 image on the front, the 1963 black and white film stills on the back, and the entire album, so it was restored sooner than the color back cover, but nevertheless there was a shortened version sometime in the ’60s. Gotta revise. Thanks, it adds to the history and I am grateful!

  • Well, I was not aware that there was a CD issue of this soundtrack. I, too, however, hope that there is a legacy collection in the future for this film, even if it amounts to only one disk. I have the DVD/blu-ray combo and, upon checkign it out, couldn’t realize how short the film actually is, but it is a genuine musical classic and deserves to have itself fully restored for the (hopefully) ongoing LEGACY series. In fact, I’m wondering why “SNOW WHITE” also had not been expanded for such a release.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *