In an unusual (and very popular) audio adaptation of a Disney animated feature, the voice of Cinderella was Snow White and Maleficent was the Wicked Queen…?
DENNIS DAY Tells and Sings the Story of
SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS
RCA Records Little Nipper Series WY-33 With Book (2 Discs 10” 78 RPM & 45 RPM)
78 RPM Reissue: Y-484 (1954) / 45 RPM EP Reissue: EYA-45 (with Cinderella)
LP Reissue: CAL-1044 (Mono) CAS-1044(e) (Enhanced for Stereo) (1960)
Released in 1949. Producer: Steve Carlin. Musical Direction: Paul Smith. Running Time: 14 minutes.
Performers: Dennis Day (Narrator, Grumpy, Sneezy, Bashful, Prince); Ilene Woods (
CinderellaSnow White); Eleanor Audley (Evil Queen); John Brown (Magic Mirror).
Songs: “I’m Wishing,” “With a Smile and a Song,” “Whistle While You Work,” “Heigh-Ho,” “Someday My Prince Will Come,” “One Song” by Larry Morey, Frank Churchill.
One fine day, the legendary Ilene Woods was making a rare appearance when your humble author approached her with the RCA Camden LP, Dennis Day Tells the Story of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She was reaching for the album to sign it when a well-meaning attendant began to halt the proceedings, advising the writer that Ms. Woods was the voice of Cinderella, not Snow White.
“That’s all right,” she smiled as she took the album and happily inscribed the message as seen below. “I did Snow White’s voice for this record.”
Why would one princess voice another? Perhaps because the RCA Victor Little Nipper Series version of Cinderella, which we explored in this Spin was one of the most successful Disney-related recordings of the 20th century and one of the first records made specifically for children to make the Billboard charts. Either RCA decided to follow one Disney princess recording with another, assembling the same personnel in front and behind the microphones each time, or both stories were done in the same or consecutive sessions.
Either way, both RCA Cinderella and Snow White albums feature Ilene Woods as the princesses and Eleanor Audley as the villains—and both were ubiquitous in record departments and music stores, constantly reissued on 78, 45 and 33 1/3 RPM records throughout the vinyl era.
It’s an interesting experience to hear the unmistakably mellow tones of Woods wrap themselves around “I’m Wishing” and “With a Smile and a Song” especially in contrast to Adriana Caselotti in the original—and what a treasure to have both to compare and enjoy, as Woods could probably not have played Snow White otherwise unless it was done on a broadcast such as Lux Radio Theater, where one great actor often took on the iconic role of another and fascinating results ensued.
RCA allows us to hear what the Evil Queen would sound like with the voice of Cinderella’s nasty Stepmother, Eleanor Audley. She gives the Queen a similar aristocratic tone to that of Lady Tremaine (and Oliver Douglas’ mother on TV’s Green Acres), but the Snow White story gives her a little chance to stretch, since the Queen is essentially three roles: the elegant monarch, the old lady and the creepy witch. It’s fascinating to hear Audley doing the second two voices. The old lady is akin to her Madame Leota in The Haunted Mansion in the Disney theme parks, and the shrieking witch is a side we rarely hear from her usually cool, dignified characters.
Jack Benny used to call Dennis Day “that kid.” One of Benny’s most popular radio and TV cast members, Day had a childlike quality that made him ideal in the role of a sympathetic narrator. His talent for vocal versatility allowed him to not only voice several dwarfs but also to use his famous tenor for the Prince. (And of course, Day was well-known to Disney devotees for his vocal narration and voicing in Johnny Appleseed from 1948’s Melody Time). Once again, the short duration of the RCA discs did not allow much space for the “six happy songs,” so only “Someday My Prince Will Come” really gets a complete presentation.
Longtime Disney staff composer Paul Smith, who not only scored animated classics like Pinocchio and live action hits like The Parent Trap but also the wall-to-wall music for the early True-Life Adventures, was conductor for this album. Some characters, like the Evil Queen, have their own theme. Others, like the dwarfs, are represented by sound effect cues. Although the album lists very few credits, because of the strong similarities between this and the RCA Cinderella album, it’s very possible that this background music was composed by Norman Leyden with sound effects by Ray Erlenborn and Arthur Surrence.