After The Sword in the Stone in 1963, the next feature-length Walt Disney animated film with all the songs by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman was to be Winnie the Pooh. Then Walt had a different idea.
As they explained in their autobiography, Walt’s Time (edited by Bruce Gordon, David Mumford and Jeff Kurtti), “We had completed songs for about two-thirds of the film when Walt stunned everyone by announcing that, since not many children outside of England had heard of “the bear with very little brain,” he intended to “platform” the feature by dividing the feature into three separate featurettes of 26 minutes each.”
Pooh and his Hundred Acre Wood friends were not exactly anonymous in America. Both literary entities were beloved by many in the U.S. Shirley Temple presented a one-hour adaptation of Pooh stories on her weekly NBC musical series. Jimmy Stewart narrated several stories for RCA children’s records. But like Mary Poppins, a big-screen adaptation had the potential to create a much wider phenomenon (and of course both did).
Walt (and perhaps also Roy O. Disney) may have also been acutely aware of other advantages of presenting Pooh in featurette form. A short film was less expensive and a lower risk. When attached to a modest comedy feature it could catapult both into box-office success. With virtually no regular short cartoons in production it kept the artists busy, too.
And so, fifty-five years ago this year, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree was released with the Dean Jones comedy The Ugly Dachshund and struck gold. Pooh gradually became a major Disney franchise and every division of the Walt Disney Studios found their way to Rabbit’s table. As have so many of Walt’s original plans, it succeeded decades beyond and is still earning rewards today.
Disneyland Records President Jimmy Johnson, had created, sustained and finally brought the in-house record company to full fruition by aggressively petitioning Roy to keep the Mary Poppins soundtrack album with the company’s still-new Buena Vista label instead of licensing it externally. He did it be successfully promoting and marketing the one disc as well as dozens of component records (second cast, singles, book sets, etc.). There would be no Walt Disney Records today without this groundwork. With these learnings he could see even more potential in Pooh than in Poppins. Disneyland Record set forth the produce and release records and books related to Pooh than any other characters up to that date in Disney history.
The short form style of the Milne books lent themselves to multiple records, books and packaging. Johnson also had the good fortune of having hired Tutti Camarata, an arranger, conductor, songwriter, musician, producer and experienced Anglophile. Tutti’s role in the success of the Poppins and Pooh music is well worth noting. Here’s some background.
When the Shermans first found themselves assigned to the Milne books, they admitted that they found them to be “kiddie nonsense.” It was Julie Andrews’ then-husband, award-winning designer Tony Walton, who explained what Pooh meant to him as a British child. “Soon we started to fall in love with Pooh ourselves,” they wrote. “Our songs for Winnie the Pooh were truly a love affair, thanks to A.A. Milne and to Tony Walton, who loved him as a little boy.”
A New Jersey native after many years in America working with such names as Jimmy Dorsey, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Bing Crosby, he moved to England as an executive at London’s Decca label and got a vast knowledge of the musical styles and talents in the British industry. When the Sherman Brothers were working on Mary Poppins, Tutti shared his knowledge of British musical theater and music hall form and style.
Music of this knowledge and enthusiasm came into play as well with the Winnie the Pooh records. When Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree was released to theaters, Disneyland had produced several successful tie-in records. The film, the records and related merchandise were highly successful, so Johnson and Camarata planned a greater number of Disneyland Records for 1968, the year Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day was to pair with another Dean Jones comedy, The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit, for the Christmas season.
WHEN WE WERE VERY YOUNG
In June of 1968, the first non-film related Pooh/Milne Disneyland album was released. When We Were Very Young is a collection of poems that had already been set to exquisite music by Harold Fraser-Simson that dated back to 1926. Several were very popular throughout the years, particularly this version by a young Petula Clark. Another called “Halfway Down the Stairs” became a favorite to Muppet fans after Robin sang it on the classic TV series. Ten of these songs were released on an excellent Disneyland Storyteller album with Camarata and The Mike Sammes Singers.
From the Walt Disney Studio
The Story and the Songs of
WINNIE THE POOH AND TIGGER
Based on the A.A. Milne Books
Sterling Holloway as Pooh
Disneyland Records – Storyteller Series ST-3975 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP with Book / Mono)
Released in August 1968. Executive Producer/Writer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer/Arranger/Conductor: Tutti Camarata. Orchestrations: Brian Fahey. Recorded at Sunset Sound, Hollywood and Abbey Road, London. Running Time: 28 minutes.
Voices: Sterling Holloway (Pooh); Sam Edwards (Tigger); Robie Lester (Piglet, Roo); Ginny Tyler (Kanga, Christopher Robin); Thurl Ravenscroft (Eeyore); The Mike Sammes Singers, The Jack Halloran Singers.
Songs: “Winnie the Pooh” by Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman; “Happy Morning” by A.A. Milne, Tutti Camarata.
Stories: “Tigger Has Breakfast,” “Tiggers Don’t Climb Trees.”
For the first story album since 1966’s Honey Tree and the Grammy-nominated Happy Birthday Party (see this Spin), Johnson and Camarata chose Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. They brought back Sterling Holloway, who was the first performer the record company ever had on contract. Also from the original film cast came Barbara Luddy (Lady from Lady and the Tramp) as Kanga. The remaining roles were played by regular members of the label’s “stock company,” who would perform dozens of roles on numerous records in the sixties.
Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, the 1968 Storyteller album, is easy to confuse with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, the 1974 Storyteller album. Sam Edwards plays Tigger on the vinyl version, which was released four months before the film, in which Paul Winchell more famously voiced Tigger. Chronologically, that does make Sam Edwards the first actor that the public heard in the role of Disney’s Tigger, just as Dal McKennon was the first heard as Uncle Scrooge McDuck on the Donald Duck and His Friends LP in 1960 before Bill Thompson voiced him on film in 1967.
Interestingly, the 1968 “Little LP” read-along version of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, read by Robie Lester (who plays Piglet and Roo on all the Storytellers), is based on Blustery Day and includes two songs from the film. It follows the film version more closely than the Milne book–minus the tree-climbing sequence, because Tigger Too several years away. (It got a bit confusing when, after Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too also became its own Little LP read-along—and the booklet for the 1973 text was sometimes placed inside the 1968 cover by mistake!)
“The Story of Winnie The Pooh and Tigger”
The 1968 Tigger album, adapted almost completely from the Milne text, does not have elements of the story that might be expected by those more familiar with Blustery Day or Tigger Too. For example, he does not say “T-I, double-GUH, -ER!” When he finds he doesn’t like honey, he does not say it’s only fit for Heffalumps and Woozles, as this was a setup for the dream sequence in the film. And when he and Roo are rescued from the tree, they fall directly into Christopher Robin’s tunic. The narrator does not tilt the page of the book.
From the Walt Disney Studio
The Story and the Songs of
WINNIE THE POOH AND THE NORTH POLE EXPOTITION
Based on the A.A. Milne Books
Sterling Holloway as Pooh
Disneyland Records – Storyteller Series ST-3972 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP with Book / Mono)
Released in September 1968. Executive Producer/Writer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer/Arranger/Conductor: Tutti Camarata. Recorded at Sunset Sound, Hollywood. Running Time: 21 minutes.
Voices: Sterling Holloway (Pooh); Jonathan Walmsley (Christopher Robin); Robie Lester (Piglet, Roo); Barbara Luddy (Kanga); Dal McKennon (Rabbit); Thurl Ravenscroft (Eeyore); Sam Edwards (Owl); The Jack Halloran Singers.
Songs: “Winnie the Pooh” by Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman; “Sing Ho (For the Life of a Bear),” “Expotition Song” by A.A. Milne, Tutti Camarata.
This album is a complete adaptation of a slightly longer chapter from the second Pooh book, The House on Pooh Corner called In Which Christopher Robin Leads an Expotition to the North Pole. It has no connection whatsoever to the Pooh featurettes.
For this album, Barbara Luddy returns as Kanga (the album notes are incorrect) and Jonathan Walmsley (later of TV’s The Waltons) reprises his role of Christopher Robin. He would also appear on the next Heffalump LP. Christopher Robin has a lot to do in this story so it was nice that they brought Walmsley back to do the voice.
It is difficult to guess whether Luddy was also there to record Blustery Day as well as the earlier Tigger album, but it would be very possible. Many scripts were done at once. Robie Lester, Dal McKennon, Sam Edwards and Ginny Tyler were constantly kept on their toes, learning new lines (and new roles) on the fly. Thurl Ravenscroft does not sound as if he was recorded at the same time as the others in this session, though he does sound as though he is in the room for the aforementioned Tigger LP.
Some of these performers were also in overlapping recording sessions at Camarata’s Sunset Sound Studio because so much production was going on. In addition to making Disney records, Sunset was recording commercials, pop, rock, country, jazz, R&B–just about everything–by the biggest names in entertainment.
“Winnie the Pooh and the North Pole Expotition”
This is an especially good chapter to adapt for an ensemble cast and of the three albums, this one seems to have the most overall pace, rhythm and cohesion.
From the Walt Disney Studio
The Story and the Songs of
WINNIE THE POOH AND THE HEFFALUMPS
Based on the A.A. Milne Books
Sterling Holloway as Pooh
Disneyland Records – Storyteller Series ST-3971 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP with Book / Mono)
Released in November 1968. Executive Producer/Writer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer/Arranger/Conductor: Tutti Camarata. Orchestrations: Brian Fahey. Recorded at Sunset Sound, Hollywood and Abbey Road, London. Running Time: 28 minutes.
Voices: Sterling Holloway (Pooh); Jonathan Walmsley (Christopher Robin); Robie Lester (Piglet, Roo); Dal McKennon (Rabbit); Sam Edwards (Heffalumps); B. J. Baker (Soloist); The Mike Sammes Singers, The Jack Halloran Singers.
Songs: “Winnie the Pooh” by Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman; “Hunny” by A.A. Milne, Tutti Camarata.
Stories: “Pooh and the Heffalump Trap,” “In Which a Search is Organized.”
Boasting an especially spectacular album cover, even for Disneyland records, this Storyteller album combines two Heffalump and Woozle-related stories from both the Winnie the Pooh and The House On Pooh Corner books
In the Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day film, Tigger plants the idea of Heffalumps and Woozles in Pooh’s mind, but in the original book chapter, In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump, it is Christopher Robin who says, “I saw a heffalump today.” Pooh and Piglet set up a trap and things turn into a wacky Gilligan’s Island sitcom of mistaken identity and zany hijinks (I make the comparison as a compliment, mind you).
Side two contains Milne’s sequel, from the chapter entitled “In Which a Search Is Organized, and Piglet Nearly Meets the Heffalump Again.” The sequence with Pooh and Piglet searching and talking about jagulars was worked into 1974’s Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too film. This chapter was
“Winnie The Pooh and the Heffalumps”
On this LP, as on all three albums, Camarata continues the tradition set forth by Harold Fraser-Simson and adds simple, pleasing melodies to Milne’s verse just as the Shermans did.
NOW WE ARE SIX
The final entry in the Milne and Pooh-related Disneyland albums of the sixties–released a month before Blustery Day–was Now We Are Six, a very faithful collection of songs and rhymes spoken and sung by Sterling Holloway, soprano Joanne Brown and The Mike Sammes Singers, conducted by Camarata.
MORE ANIMATION SPINS ABOUT WINNIE THE POOH
Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree
Winnie the Pooh and The Blustery Day
Celebrating Sterling Holloway and A Happy Birthday Party with Pooh
Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too
Special thanks to historian Brian Sibley for his consultation on this article.
My family had A. A. Milne’s four children’s books with the original illustrations by E. H. Shepard; my parents used to read them to us at bedtime. I feel the same way about the Disney adaptations of Winnie the Pooh as I do about Hanna-Barbera’s “Charlotte’s Web”: not a bad effort at all, and full of great stuff, but falling decidedly short of the original.
Camarata’s familiarity with English musical styles clearly extends beyond those of the music hall and musical theatre, also including folk song, sacred music, opera and concert music. One instrumental passage in “Politeness” is strongly reminiscent of the final fugue in Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”, with the treble instruments playing an elaborate obligato over the main theme. Britten originally composed this work — a set of variations showcasing the different instruments of the orchestra — for a children’s documentary film in the forties, but it has since become a very popular concert piece. It’s inconceivable that Camarata wouldn’t have known it well.
I don’t know if you’re aware, since you didn’t mention it, that Disney Legend David Tomlinson recorded a children’s album “When We Were Very Young” with the Westminster Concert Orchestra in 1957, in which he recites Milne’s verse and sings Harold Fraser-Simson’s song settings.
You are very astute in identifying Britten and his connection to Camarata. In fact, the Buena Vista recording of A Young People’s Guide to Orchestra is one of only two Disney records that Tutti personally narrated, the other being Carnival of the Animals. Disney was fortunate to have him there, quietly and happily offering his vast expertise to everyone. The creative legacy of his contributions continue to unfold.
Did not know about the Tomlinson album–that’s on the wish list for sure!
Come to think of it, Camarata used the double bass solo to personify the elephant in “The Four Friends”, just as Saint-Saens did in “Carnival of the Animals”. It’s a very fine album, superbly orchestrated and drawing on all the rich traditions of English vocal music. My parents would have loved it.
By the way, I recently found out that Camarata was musical director of “The Edsel Show”, a notorious 1957 hour-long TV special to launch Ford’s ill-fated car line, starring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Rosemary Clooney. The only time Clooney ever rode in an Edsel was on the way to the studio — and when she opened the door, the handle came off!
Walt Disney was still living when the first Pooh film was released. I can’t begin to describe the excitement of going to see “Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree.” In my child eyes, the “Ugly Dachshund” feature was only something to be endured in order to watch Winnie-the-Pooh. It was the same with “The Horse in the Grey Flannel Suit” notwithstanding the natural likeableness of Dean Jones, Suzanne Pleschette, and the others who starred in those films. What kids wanted was the animation of the Pooh stories.
Winnie-the-Pooh was everywhere. In toy stores, in every child’s bedroom, even in cereal boxes. I still have the plastic Pooh figurines that came in “specially marked boxes” of whatever the cereal was. I ate a lot of cereal I didn’t much care for, just to have the Pooh plastic characters. These were designed to fit on a pencil or to hook onto the side of a table or a chair–or anything.
So while Walt Disney was right about the time being “ripe” for Pooh’s ascendancy in America, and it was doubtless a great marketing strategy to sub-divide the feature film into smaller parts–I believe a Pooh feature would have done extremely well at the box office, all those years before “The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh” was eventually released.
These record albums were of course a big part of the overall marketing of Pooh, and I collected and listened to these records avidly. One curious thing about the album “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger”, at least the copy I had, was that sides 1 and 2 were switched. Side 1 contained the “Tiggers Don’t Climb Trees” story and began with Sterling Holloway’s narration, no music, and ended with the closing version of the Pooh song. Then side 2 opened with the by-then familiar Pooh song and ended with only Holloway’s narration. And side 2 was the story that introduced Tigger! It didn’t take me long to catch on that somehow the sides were reversed, and after the first listen I always played the record with the stories in their proper order, even if it meant–gasp!–playing side 2 before playing side 1!
One more thing to note is the proliferation of plush toys that accompanied the Pooh featurettes. Each of the Heffalump and Woozle characters depicted on the album cover of “and the Heffalumps” existed as a stuffed toy. We had numerous of those Heffalump and Woozle characters in toy form. The H & W characters are almost never referenced in Disney merchandising now.
As for the albums themselves, the Disney “stock company” became very familiar voices to children through those releases. Probably more children were used to hearing Sam Edwards as Tigger than Paul Winchell. I never quite understood why Sterling Holloway’s narration was in the third person instead of in the first person as Pooh. His narrator voice is pretty nearly identical to his Pooh voice. It’s as though Winnie-the-Pooh is reading the stories based on his own adventures–if Pooh indeed could read. That quibble aside, these albums were sheer delight for a child.
I notice that Thurl Ravenscroft as Eeyore is not listed in the credits for “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger” although you did refer to his presence on that album later on. In some respects, Thurl really steals the show–possibly his best Eeyore performance is on that record album.
When we went to see Honey Tree and Ugly Dachshund, we stayed to see Honey Tree twice. As a kid I really did want to see the cartoon more, just as I waited each Sunday night for the coming attractions for the Wonderful World of Disney in hopes that there would be animation, with all due respect to “The Budgie That Thought He Was a Blender.”
My copy of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger LP is also reversed so I have to wonder if they are all printed incorrectly. The same is true for the HBR Yogi Bear Jack and the Beanstalk/Little Red Riding Hood and a few others. These things happen. When Sony released Christmas with Conniff on CD, they got the sides backward, so when I learned that Real Gone Musc was doing a “complete” edition I told the producer and it was finally fixed. I still think that Fantasy’s A Charlie Brown Christmas LP is flipped, no matter what the matrix numbers say.
Thanks for catching the Eeyore omission, we took care of it. Want these posts to be as accurate as possible!
Having grown up with the Jimmy Stewart narrated Pooh records on RCA Nipper, I never cared for Sterling Holloway as Winnie. He sounds too old. (Both versions are Americanized, which is odd in retrospect. Wonder if there was any blowback in the UK?)
Cecil Roy was THE voice of Pooh to my ears all through childhood, due to the James Stewart recordings.
There are many who would say that “their” voice for Pooh was Jack Gilford, Maurice Evans, Richard Briers or Alan Bennett as well. And there’s me, who has a soft spot for Herb Duncan as George Jetson.
I walked a Winnie the Pooh beat with my film research late last year and all this info is entirely new to me. Thanks so much!
No one’s caught this yet? The Ugly Dachshund / WTP and the Honey Tree , premiered, like me, in 1966, therefore they, and me, will be only fifty-five this year.
See there? Now that’s why you’re indisputable! And you win the set of American Tourister luggage—and Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat! (BTW, I just interviewed the great studio singer Jackie Ward, singing voice of Cindy Bear, and thanked her for bringing my favorite side dish to musical life.)
Such memories…when I was a very small child in the mid-seventies, I had my sister’s hand-me-down copies of the Now We Are Six and Winnie The Pooh And Tigger albums. Some of my earliest memories are of listening to them. When I re-listened to the Now We Are Six album when I was older, I got some of the jokes they slipped in there…when Sterling Holloway introduced the Alexander Beetle poem, he said, “This poem is about a beetle. Not one of the singing Beatles, like Ringo…” At three or four, I didn’t know what he was talking about, and though he was saying “raincoat.” The musical arrangements of some of the poems were gorgeous, and I liked the English guy’s interjections in “A Thought”: “Isn’t that extraordinary, I never thought of that before! If I were John and John were me, then he’d be six and I’d be three!”
And with Winnie The Pooh And Tigger…yes, I knew Sam Edwards as Tigger before I knew Paul Winchell, but it seems to me that Winchell based his voice characterization somewhat on Edwards’. I like the way these stories are set up to be part audiobook and part radio play. Again, the setting to the songs is wonderful, especially “A Happy Morning.” And I think it’s the first place I heard Thurl Ravenscroft’s voice. I also got a kick out of one point where, when the actor playing Roo won’t stop giggling, Sterling Holloway interrupts his narration to say, “Please, quiet, Roo.”
I was reading by the age of three and can’t remember a time I didn’t know how to read, so I remember being in my room on those sunny afternoons, listening to this record and following along with it word-for-word in my “World of Pooh” book.
I still have both records (though I also bought a less-scratched copy of Now We Are Six more recently in a used-record store, with the booklet that was missing from my sister’s old copy). I wouldn’t part with them for a mountain of gold.
One thing I thought weird, even when I was a kid…the track listing for Now We Are Six lists the poem “The Knight Whose Armour Didn’t Squeak” as one of the poems, but the actual poem on the album is the shorter poem “Knight in Armour.”
(It was also from A.A. Milne’s writings that I learned the British spell every word that ends in an “or” with an “our”.)