ANIMATION SPIN
September 10, 2019 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Back to School with Jiminy Cricket and His Friends

Few cartoon characters helped us learn more about safety, math, language, manners and plain common sense than Official Conscience Jiminy Cricket, with some help from his pals.

ADDITION AND SUBTRACTION
Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket with Rica Moore and Bill Kanady
Disneyland Records ST-1922 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)
Reissued as DQ-1313 (1966)
Available for download on iTunes and amazon

Released in 1963. Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer: Camarata. Music and Lyrics: Rica Owen Moore. Recorded at Sunset Sound, Hollywood. Running Time: 19 minutes.

Songs:
“Addition” – Rica Moore
“The Glory Tree” (Adding by Ones) – Rica Moore with Jiminy Cricket
“Noah’s Ark” (Adding by Two’s) – Jiminy Cricket
“Adding Combinations” (To Make 4, 5, 6 & 7) – Bill Kanady with Jiminy Cricket
“The Pointing Game” (Combinations to Make 8, 9 & 10)” – Rica Moore with Jiminy Cricket
“Subtraction” – Rica Moore
“The Cannibal Song” (Subtracting by One) – Bill Kanady with Jiminy Cricket
“The Finger Game” (Subtracting Numbers from 5 & 6) – Rica Moore with Jiminy Cricket
“The Mix-Up Waltz” (Results of 3, 4 & 5) – Rica Moore & Bill Kanady with Jiminy Cricket

MULTIPLICATION AND DIVISION
Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket with Rica Moore and Bill Kanady
Disneyland Records ST-1923 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)
Reissued as DQ-1286 (1965)
Available for download on iTunes and amazon

Released in 1963. Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer: Camarata. Music and Lyrics: Rica Owen Moore. Recorded at Sunset Sound, Hollywood. Running Time: 19 minutes.

Songs:
“Multiplication” – Bill Kanady
“Rabbits Times Rabbits” – Rica Moore with Jiminy Cricket
“The Latin Eskimo” (Table of Three’s) – Bill Kanady with Jiminy Cricket
“The Multiple Waltz” (Table of Four’s) – Rica Moore with Jiminy Cricket
“The Switch-Hitch” (Mixed Combinations) – Rica Moore with Jiminy Cricket
“Division” – Bill Kanady
“Gazinta” (Dividing By Two) – Bill Kanady
“The Division Riffle” (Dividing by Three) – Rica Moore
“Go to the Top of the Class” (Dividing by Four) – Rica Moore with Jiminy Cricket

For baby boomers of the ‘60s and ‘70s, Jiminy Cricket may have been a more consistent presence than Mickey Mouse or any other Disney Character. His innate, personable connection with audiences of any age, and the engaging voice of Cliff Edwards made him Disney’s go-to figure for imparting information. For many of us as kids, it was such a relief when the teacher would flip on the 16mm Bell & Howell—offering respite from lessons and classroom hierarchies—and to our elation, the movie was a reasonably good color cartoon, it was Disney, and it starred Jiminy Cricket! (One wonders how many people grew up with Jiminy yet never associated him with Pinocchio.)

Though a handful of Disney characters had been employed for instructional films for military and civilian service by the Walt Disney Studios, Jiminy Cricket came into prominence in 1955 as the professor emeritus with his Mickey Mouse Club appearances on such features as “You Are a Human Animal,” “The Nature of Things” and most famously, “I’m No Fool.”

For a detailed history and listing of these Mickey Mouse Club films—which involved such Disney luminaries as X Atencio and Floyd Norman—look no further than this article by our colleague Jim Korkis.

Beyond Jiminy’s Mickey Mouse Club show appearances (and show-related recordings which we explored here), Disneyland put him on their first Christmas release, a single version of “The Night Before Christmas.” He is also the only character to have co-hosted a record album with Walt Disney himself: A Day at Disneyland. Even this writer brought Jiminy into the picture as host of the original “Walt Disney World Answer Book,” a Q-and-A style guide to the parks, hotels and facilities of the massive Resort in Florida.

In 1963, two albums were released to teach math basics to children through entertaining, catchy songs. Jiminy Cricket’s character is definitely the “hook” of both albums, though he only sings one song completely on his own (“Noah’s Ark”). Most of the time, he might join in occasionally but mostly provides commentary on the lyrics and offers encouragement to the kids at home.

Records such as this were not new (a mail-order multi-disc set of Musical Multiplication Tables advertised by magazines for many years is just one example), but the approach was fresh and delightfully ‘60s (bossa nova, anyone?). Like Best Loved Fairy Tales, which took a jazz approach to the accompaniment (see this Spin), these two records are have a casual, laid-back approach that is never saccharine, patronizing or cloying.

The style is in keeping with all of the Disneyland Records by singer/actor/songwriter Rica Moore, who also narrated Mother Goose Rhymes and Their Stories in an unpretentious, natural tone.

Perhaps this lack of pretention was Moore’s way of counteracting her own opulent childhood. She grew up in great wealth—but lonely–with a huge mansion and as she put it, “hot and cold running servants.” Her mother wanted her to be a concert pianist, and while she loved music, practice and concerts were equally isolating. After graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, she appeared in such films as Iron Glove (1954) with Robert Stack and All Ashore (1953) with Mickey Rooney, but a chance dinner with a Disney director about her real love of writing songs for children led to a meeting with Walt Disney and Tutti Camarata.

The third voice on the mathematics albums is Bill Kanady, a regular soloist and vocal group member on Disneyland Records in the ‘60s. Some of them are The Little Engine That Could; the “Rip Van Winkle” segment of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; Songs from The Happiest Millionaire and the “lost” Snow White songs from The Seven Dwarfs and Their Diamond Mine (see this Spin).

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Switch Hitch”

Moore does a nice duet with herself in this bouncy little swing tune as Jiminy speaks to the listeners.


SWING A SPELL
Jimmie Dodd
Imperial Records LP-9121 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono)

Released in 1959. Arrangements: George Wyle, Jimmie Dodd. Running Time: 30 minutes.
(Reissued in 1963 as Sing Along with Jimmie Dodd without “Constantinople” and “I L-O-V-E Y-O-U” on Disneyland DQ-1235.)

Songs: “Rag Mop” by Johnnie Lee Wills, Deacon Anderson; “Harrigan” by George M. Cohan; “M-O-T-H-E-R” by Theodore F. Morse, Howard E. Johnson; “Constantinople” by Harry Carlton; “Do-Re-Mi” by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II; “Mickey Mouse Cha Cha Cha,” “Encyclopedia,” “I L-O-V-E Y-O-U” by Jimmie Dodd; “Massachusetts” by Luckey Roberts, Andy Razaf; “’A’ You’re Adorable” by Sig Lippman, Buddy Kaye, Fred Wise; “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo” by Mack Gordon, Harry Warren; “Alphabet Song” (Traditional).

“I’m No Fool” and a huge volume of other Disney and Mickey Mouse Club songs were written by the multi-talented Jimmie Dodd. Yet if his doctors had been correct, he would have been dead three years before he wrote “M-I-C-K-E-Y… M-O-U-S-E” and appeared on the show. Though stricken with an ongoing heart ailment, Dodd cheated expectations and lived almost a decade after the series premiered. Everyone connected with the classic series said he was exactly the kind, genuine person viewers saw on their screens.

Dodd’s career was not exactly firing on all cylinders before the MMC. He had been a struggling young Hollywood actor (look for him in a small role as a cab driver in Easter Parade, or as a singing cowboy sidekick in several Republic B-Westerns, though earning a slightly bigger role in Buck Privates Come Home), musician and songwriter. He had submitted “The Pencil Song” to the Walt Disney Studios for a proposed Disneyland TV show episode.

Walt Disney Music Company president Jimmy Johnson offered him a songwriting position, but as the Mickey Mouse Club was being prepared, the staff was so taken with Dodd’s engaging personality, they decided to audition him as an on-camera talent for the show.

In addition to being one of the grownup Mouseketeers on the Mickey Mouse Club, Dodd also was the voice of Bucky Beaver of the Ipana Toothpaste commercials (which Disney artists quietly created at the studio). Korkis wrote more about this fascinating little corner of history here. He also played several roles on the record albums dramatizing stories from Disney’s Davy Crockett and Zorro shows.

For Zorro, Dodd wrote the song “Lonely Guitar” for Annette. Her single version hit number 50 on the charts in 1959. Dodd recorded his own interpretation for Imperial Records on his only album aimed specifically at grownup listeners, a collection of well-known and original blues and light jazz songs. It’s also his only stereophonic recording:

The Swing-A-Spell album is also rendered in a light jazz style with a boys’ choir that sounds as if it could be the renowned Bob Mitchell Choir (The Bishop’s Wife, Peter Pan, Going My Way, The Flying Nun). All of the songs are educational in some way, mostly related to spelling. “Do-Re-Mi,” which is of course, is from The Sound of Music, which was a brand-new Broadway show when this album was released about singing. This is Dodd’s only recording of a Rodgers and Hammerstein song.

Jimmie Dodd should be honored alongside television greats like Fred Rogers, Shari Lewis and Bob Keeshan, who created warm, positive connections with young viewers. With no trace of guile, Dodd spoke directly and sincerely on a daily basis to millions of impressionable minds about caring for others, wisdom, appreciation and other “words to grow by.” No artificial ingredients added.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“E-N-C-Y-C-L-O-P-E-D-I-A”

This is Jimmie Dodd’s version of the tune, written for Jiminy Cricket, that taught millions to spell the very long word, first on TV, then in school films, and so on…

8 Comments

  • Boy do I remember the Multiplication record. We were learning fractions in 3rd grade. Specifically remember Gazinta, Rabbits, and the Eskimo ones.

  • The arithmetic albums should more accurately have been billed “Rica Moore and Jiminy Cricket,” given the minimal role that Jiminy has on both. By the “Multiplication and Division” album he is barely there. I’m wondering if these weren’t originally designed as pure Jiminy Cricket albums, but then due to fatigue or tiredness or whatever was going on, Cliff Edwards was not able to do much singing. He sounds terribly tired on most of these tracks, far from the sprightly Jiminy Cricket of the “I’m No Fool” series and others. Perhaps Rica Moore and Bill Canady were brought in as an afterthought. It’s pure guesswork on my part, but these albums feel improvised to me–not the songs themselves, but in the manner of presentation.

    You have written before, Greg, of how in his later years Cliff Edwards had some personal and physical struggles that rendered him a little less capable of delivering a solid performance. I’m wondering if it wasn’t already starting by the time the numbers albums were recorded.

    When I was in kindergarten, the teachers often treated us to a Jiminy Cricket cartoon while we were waiting for our parents to pick us up. As you mention, it was a delight to find one of these un-spooling on the screen. I had seen some of them before on television, as the “Mickey Mouse Club” was still going strong in reruns, but when we watched them from a projector, we saw them in color!

    Jimmie Dodd filmed some pre-show promotions that I have never seen since since they originally aired. He would often appear for a moment or two before the opening credits of the “Mickey Mouse Club.” The one I remember best is when he had a cloth in his hand and appeared to be cleaning the television screen from the inside! He said something to the effect that “I’m cleaning your TV set so you can have a clear view of the Mickey Mouse Club, starting right now!” Then he faded out and the animated opening began. I don’t know if anyone else remembers these, but they were a nice touch.

    One question–was Bill Kanady a different person from Bill Lee? Their singing voices sound identical.

    • Hi Frederick —
      You had mentioned in the post about the Further Adventures of Jiminy Cricket that these albums were probably made around the same time as these and that is probably true. Cliff Edwards also sounded a bit off on his Golden versions of “Give a Little Whistle” and “When You Wish Upon a Star,” but we’re right with him, hoping he can hit those notes.

      Bill Kanady has a slightly deeper, harsher tone to his voice. When you hear him sing with Bill Lee on the Dwarf songs it becomes more apparent. He actually had a cold when he sang The Happiest Millionaire songs! I have difficulty telling Bill Lee from Bill Reeve, who appears on the Westward Ho the Wagons album. And then there’s Gene Merlino, who sings in a slightly different register but was one of the Hollywood singers who used to vie for offscreen roles with Lee. Merlino told me that he was stunned to get the voice of Franco Nero in Camelot when Lee was also in the running!

  • So what’s the deal with Jiminy Cricket? Is he green, grey, or orange? Or what?

    Greg, thanks for the post and all the nifty details herein. I’da never had the slightest clue that Disney did Bucky Beaver; brush-a, brush-a, brush-a.

    Yeah, Dodd does seem to be a bit forgotten. He was a totally compelling personality on the tube for us young boomers.Even as a kid, I had the impression those songs came directly from him. (I’m big on composers / writers.)

    I’m no fool, indeed.

  • I first saw the Mickey Mouse Club in reruns. By then all manner of sordid rumours had begun to circulate surrounding Jimmie Dodd’s death, which I won’t bother to repeat here. It was easy for me to believe that he might have been just another show business phony, since the magician from the local Bozo show once swore at me angrily when I tried to get his autograph after a performance at the county fair — a trauma from which I’m still recovering! Anyway, it’s good to learn that Jimmie was a genuinely nice guy, and I’m sorry that I ever misjudged him.

    I never got to see a Jiminy Cricket cartoon in school. I would remember it if I had. As Mister Houdini would say, you lucky !@#%ing !*$+@%&s!!!!

    • It’s so funny that you should mention Mr. Houdini! I’m not sure if I watched the same Bozo show in my city (it was a syndicated version in the late ’70s), but the credits called him “Mr. Whoodini” and he was this young guy about whom Bozo once hinted was there for “the mommies at home.”

      Anyway, in one episode this guy decided to give a presentation about Walt Disney. At the mention of Walt Disney’s name, Bozo clasped his hands together and struck a reflexive pose. Looking wistful, the World’s Most Famous Clown sighed, “He was the Master.”

      Even Bozo has to take a back seat to someone now and then. As for Mr. Whoodini, perhaps Bozo’s Big Top was not the stepping stone he anticipated and unfortunate fans took the brunt of his cruel bitterness. (Sounds like a Netflix miniseries to me!)

    • I grew up in the Detroit area. I did a bit of googling just now and discovered that the magician did in fact spell his surname “Whoodini”, so he must be the same guy you remember. I tried to get his autograph after my family saw his act at the Armada Fair, fully expecting that he’d be as nice about it as Sonny Eliot, host of “At the Zoo”, when I met him several years earlier. (Sonny not only gave me his autograph, but he told my sister and me the story of the three bears — Septem Bear, Octo Bear, and Novem Bear.)

      I shall never forget the look on Mister Whoodini’s face when he saw me and snarled: “Get the hell away from me, you little &@$#*%!!!” As I walked away, quite in shock I assure you, some other children, perhaps inspired by my example, were making their way toward the magician. I joined them, thinking there might be safety in numbers and I might get my autograph after all.

      That was when Mister Whoodini really lost his temper.

      I also learned that his real name was Larry Thompson, he taught school in Livonia, Michigan, for many years, and he passed away in February of this year at the age of 76. I wonder if he ever showed Jiminy Cricket cartoons to his class.

      Rest in peace, Mister Whoodini. I understand that we all have bad moods sometimes, and I know that show business can be a harsh mistress. But you, sir, were no Jimmie Dodd.

  • The last season or so of the old Mickey Mouse Club shows used a lot of kinescope footage, some shot at Disneyland. They featured Professor Wonderful, Hub and Bub and some other performers. Jimmy Dodd appears on some of those, but I’ll never forget how tired he looked, and so much older than in the studio filmed episodes. Perhaps his heart ailment was catching up to him by that time. Thanks for the great post, Greg!

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