ANIMATION SPIN
December 14, 2021 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Alvin, Simon… and Chip ‘n Dale?

Chip ‘n Dale’s crack at The Chipmunks’ hottest holiday chestnut is part of the inside story of Disney Christmas albums from the late ‘70s/early ‘80s.

DISNEY’S MERRY CHRISTMAS CAROLS
aka DISNEY’S CHRISTMAS ALL-TIME FAVORITES
Disneyland Records #2514 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Stereo)

Released in September 1980. Producer: Jymn Magon. Children’s Vocal Director: Betty Joyce. Recorded in Los Angeles and Nashville. Running Time: 27 minutes.


Cast: Pete Renoudet (Mickey Mouse); Clarence Nash (Donald Duck); Will Ryan (Dale, Willio); Phil Baron (Chip, Phillio); Tony Pope (Goofy); Molly Ringwald, Larry Groce, The Disneyland Children’s Sing-Along Chorus; Jymn Magon (Merry Crimble).

Disney Character Songs: “The Chipmunk Song” by Ross Bagdasarian; “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson, Mitchell Parish; “Here Comes Santa Claus” by Gene Autry, Oakley Haldeman; “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (Traditional).

Other Songs: “I Wish it Could Be Christmas All Year Long” by Phil Baron; “Silver Bells” by Jay Livingston, Ray Evans; “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane; “Away in a Manger,” “Here We Come A-Caroling,” “The First Noel,” (Traditional).

We detailed all the reasons and circumstances in this previous Animation Spin, it was Walt Disney who first came up with the idea of a novelty Christmas record with speeded-up voices. The attempt on his label, Walt Disney’s Christmas Concert with mice, was not the phenomenon in 1957 that Ross Bagdasarian accomplished one year later with “The Chipmunk Song,” one of the all-time best-selling records of its kind.

Over two decades later, Walt Disney’s in-house chipmunks finally recorded their own version of “The Chipmunk Song” for the 1980 Disneyland album Merry Christmas Carols. Also for the first time, Donald Duck entered the fray, with his original voice, Clarence Nash. Voicing the two Chipmunks were Phil Baron (Chip) and Will Ryan (Dale), who also sang with Nash on the album Goin’ Quackers, which appeared on Animation Spin here.

Merry Christmas Carols also brought several principal Disney characters home to vinyl records for the holidays. Surprisingly, they had hardly recorded any in the past—just a handful of Little Golden Records. Disneyland Records’ From All of Us to All of You with Jiminy Cricket, Mickey and Goofy and a few others were the sparse recordings of the in-house label for many years.

Merry Christmas Carols marks the holiday debut on Disneyland Records of Donald, Minnie, Clarabelle Cow and Chip ‘n Dale, performing four of the disc’s ten songs. The remaining songs are performed by Larry Groce and the “Disneyland Children’s Sing-Along Chorus” (which, under the direction of Betty Joyce, is her continuance of her husband’s top Hollywood children’s and adult vocal group, The Jimmy Joyce Singers, whose credits include The Sound of Music and The Chipmunks Sing with Children).

“The First Noel” is given a powerful rendition by Molly Ringwald—yes, that Molly Ringwald. This was recorded when she was appearing on TV’s The Facts of Life before she joined John Hughes’s group of movie “Brat Pack” actors. Her father was a musician and her singing talent is little known. Producer Jymn Magon recalled that she stood very still at the microphone and her tremendous voice came belting out.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Chipmunk Song” – Chip, Dale and Donald Duck

The aforementioned 1980 trio of Donald, Chip ‘n Dale (Clarence Nash, Phil Baron and Will Ryan) singing the Christmas classic. We paid tribute to our dear friend Will, who we recently lost, in this Animation Spin.



DISNEY’S CHRISTMAS FAVORITES
 – 13 All-Time Favorites
Disneyland Records #2506 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Stereo)

Released in September 1979. Producer: Jymn Magon. Children’s Vocal Director: Betty Joyce. Recorded in Los Angeles, Nashville and Abbey Road Studios, London. Running Time: 33 minutes.


Performers: Larry Groce, The Disneyland Children’s Sing-Along Chorus, Camarata and The Mike Sammes Singers.

Songs by Camarata and The Mike Sammes Singers: “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Johnny Marks; “Do You Hear What I Hear?” by Noël Regney, Gloria Shayne Baker; “The Little Drummer Boy” by Katherine Davis, Henry Onorati, Harry Simeone.


Songs by Larry Groce and The Disneyland Children’s Sing-Along Chorus: “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin; “Frosty the Snowman” by Steve Nelson, Jack Rollins; “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” by J. Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie; Winter Wonderland” by Felix Bernard, Richard Bernhard Smith; “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “O Christmas Tree,” “Silent Night,” “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas,” “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (Traditional).


This 1979 album was produced and released one year before the 1980’s Merry Christmas Carols. Like that album, the music tracks were produced in Nashville and the vocals were done in Los Angeles. However, there were two significant differences.

This album also includes three previously released 1968 songs produced in England by Tutti Camarata that first appeared on Disneyland albums DQ-1319 Favorite Songs of Christmas Featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and DQ-1320 as The Little Drummer Boy and Other Songs of Christmas. There were four Sammes songs in total, including one that did not make it on to this 1979 LP, “The Christmas Song.” All four songs were likely released on a 7” EP in the U.K. They were never released domestically in their stereo format except on a Time-Life two-CD set called Disney’s Christmas Collection.

Disney’s Christmas Favorites LP was like Hanna-Barbera Records’ 1965 album, Merry Christmas, which we talked about here, in that the characters appeared on the cover, but not on the record. Merry Christmas Carols offered a handful of fresh new Disney Character renditions. For many years, some of them were heard as background music in Disney parks during the holidays.

For some odd transactional reason, the Nashville music-only tracks for both albums must not have been exclusive. A number of children’s compilations on various non-Disney labels have used these music beds with different vocals.

In one of the most bizarre twists of fate, Peter Pan Records used many of the tracks under the songs for The Pound Puppies Sing and Bark “Jingle Bells,” a Christmas album for which they licensed the popular Pound Puppies, which were animated for television by Hanna-Barbera. Released under their Child World label, the odd album is a cross between the Barking Dogs and a group of faux male and female “Goofys!”

Disney’s Christmas Favorites and Merry Christmas Carols (#2506 and #2514) were combined for a TV offer, just as Mickey Mouse Disco and Disney’s Children’s Favorites had been with great success. The album was renamed “Disney’s Christmas All-Time Favorites” with the cover art from the Merry Christmas Carols LP.


THE DISNEY FAMILY CHRISTMAS ALBUM
Disneyland Records #3518 (Radio Shack Item #51-3041) (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP with Lyric Book / Stereo)

Released on July 1981. Producer: Jymn Magon. Children’s Vocal Director: Betty Joyce. Recorded in Los Angeles and Nashville. Running Time: 25 minutes.

Cast: Pete Renoudet (Mickey Mouse); Clarence Nash (Donald Duck); Will Ryan (Dale, Willio); Phil Baron (Chip, Phillio); Tony Pope (Goofy); Hal Smith (Goofy); Larry Groce, The Disneyland Children’s Sing-Along Chorus.

Previous Character Songs: “The Chipmunk Song” by Ross Bagdasarian; “Here Comes Santa Claus” by Gene Autry, Oakley Haldeman; “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson, Mitchell Parish; “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (Traditional).

Custom Character Songs for Radio Shack: “Winter Wonderland” by Felix Bernard, Richard Bernhard Smith; “Frosty the Snowman” by Steve Nelson, Jack Rollins; “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” by J. Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie; “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.”

While Merry Christmas Carols was being produced, Radio Shack (a Tandy corporation) struck a deal with Disneyland Records to produce an exclusive album for their electronics store chain.

To make this album unique, five-song tracks from Christmas Favorites and Merry Christmas Carols were remixed to add Disney characters in place of Larry Groce. This may be the only vinyl album in which all ten tracks are performed completely by characters. In subsequent years, a much greater number of CDs have been produced featuring a variety of characters.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” – Mickey & Friends, Larry Groce, The Disneyland Children’s Sing-Along Chorus and Special Guest Star Jymn Magon

Sharp-eared Beatle fans might pick up an inside reference connecting Disneyland Records to the Fab Four that is (surprisingly?) never mentioned in Peter Jackson’s recent “Get Back” documentary on Disney+. At the very end of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” a speeded-up voice says “Merry Crimble!” before Mickey laughs. This is album producer and Beatle fan Jymn Magon, saying John Lennon’s off-the-cuff word for Christmas. In a 1963 interview, The Beatles were asked to send fans a holiday greeting, John quipped, “Gary Crimble and Happy Rudolph! (1:25). He mentioned “Crimble” again in 1964 on the first of their special Christmas flexi-discs sent to their fan club members. These short records showcased their playful, informal sense of humor, their love of silly “Goon Show” comedy, British Pantomime theater, and how their style and relationship gradually changed from year to year.

5 Comments

  • “…the music tracks were produced in Nashville and the vocals were done in Los Angeles.”

    I’m sure you meant that the *instrumental* tracks were produced in Nashville. After all, vocals are music too, at least most of the time. But having spent much of my life toiling away in pit orchestras and backing bands while the singers onstage got all the glory and attention, I have to say that your statement gave me a huge belly laugh. Seriously, you made my day.

    In my teens I spent a couple of summers at a music school that had two programs for high school students, the Young Artists Instrumental Program and the Young Vocalists Program. That drove the singers crazy: “Vocalists are artists, too!” The two groups didn’t really mix; in fact, we not only had separate dorms, they were on separate campuses! So the idea of recording vocal and instrumental tracks not only in different studios, but in widely separated geographical regions, has its points. At least it prevents the singer from stopping after every high note and telling the band to take it down a tone.

    On the first five days of Christmas, the Disney characters et al. sing “My true love gave to me,” as the verse is usually sung in North America. But on the sixth through twelfth days, they sing “My true love SENT to me,” which is how it’s sung in Commonwealth countries. However, on the third day of Christmas, someone in the Disneyland Children’s Sing-Along Chorus is singing “sent” while everyone else is singing “gave”. A good choral director would have caught that, and for all I know she did, but just didn’t want to go through the hassle of doing another take.

    And they want to be called artists…!

  • Those albums were my earliest memories of Christmas songs. Don’t remember the Chipmunk one though

  • Yep, some of those Nashville instrumental backing tracks can be heard in the clear on this Golden Strings album. (Too bad it doesn’t include the “Deck the Halls” and “Sleigh Ride” instrumental backings, as I love those versions.)
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lfA-H03U_0LNpN2NRL4tq4ZBRgdx6Ae9c

  • In Australia, both Christmas albums were repackaged as “Disney’s Christmas Favourites” using the “Merry Christmas Carols” art (release no. TV 8 on the Disneyland label through Rainbow Products)

  • Larry Groce is still going strong as the host and artistic director of Mountain Stage, which is a live music NPR program based out of West Virginia. It’s a fantastic show that has been airing since the early-80’s.

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