A look at the LP that marked Chip ’n’ Dale’s vinyl debut, Robie Lester’s earliest narrations, plus appearances by Ranger Woodlore and the Beagle Boys.
Walt Disney’s Original CHIP ’N’ DALE: CHIPMUNK FUN
Disneyland DQ-1230 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono)
Released in February, 1963. Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer: Camarata. Running Time: 19 minutes.
Voices: Gloria Wood, Dick Beals, Robie Lester, Jimmy Macdonald (Chip’n’ Dale); Clarence Nash (Donald Duck); Dal McKennon (Ranger Woodlore); The Mellomen.
Songs: “Chip ’n’ Dale” “Little Red Caboose” by Deke Moffitt; “Daisy Daisy” “The Train” by Cliff Edwards, Martin Schwab; “Chipmunk Train Song” by Jimmy Johnson, Tutti Camarata; “Litterbug, Shame on You” by Mel Leven; “Casey Jones” by Eddie Newton, T. Lawrence Siebert; “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “Polly Wolly Doodle,” “Comin’ ’Round the Mountain.” “I’m a Little Prairie Flower” (Public Domain).
Stories: “Fun Story;” “Fun Story Narration;” Narrated by Robie Lester; Sound Effects by Jimmy Macdonald.
This is yet another very short, very modest album from the early ’60s of Disneyland Records catalog (pre-Mary Poppins), when the division was just beginning to make a profit thanks to Annette’s star status, and the efforts of record company president Jimmy Johnson to cut manufacturing, production and distribution costs and keep a steady stream of products on record retailer shelves. What this LP may lack in luster, though, it makes up for in charm.
The disc repurposes a few selections from 1960’s Donald Duck and His Friends with two fresh stories and some new songs with a general railroad theme.
Director Jack Hannah’s 1951 short, Out of Scale, was obviously inspired by Walt Disney’s legendary love of trains, particularly the 7 1⁄4” gauge Carolwood Pacific Railroad in the backyard of his home (all of which is beautifully chronicled in Michael Broggie’s book, Walt Disney’s Railroad Story. Out of Scale was also adapted into a Little Golden Book, Donald Duck’s Toy Train, written by Jane Werner and illustrated by Dick Kelsey and Bill Justice.
On the Chipmunk Fun album, however, there is a train story that is not based on either the Golden book or the Hannah cartoon. The odd thing is that neither this train story–nor the forest story on side one–have actual titles. They’re just called “A Fun Story” and “Fun Story Narration.”
“A Fun Story” finds Donald flying Ranger Woodlore by helicopter to the forest, where they hear the sounds of wildlife (courtesy of Disney Legend Jimmy Macdonald). They encounter Chip ’n’ Dale, whose tree is cut down. When the chipmunks become caught in a logjam, Donald decides to “save the little monsters” (a line repeated twice) by using dynamite to blow up the logjam (talk about passive aggression!) and of course, it literally backfires.
“Fun Story Narration” is about Donald’s train, but instead of following the Out of Scale plot, it involves the Beagle Boys and Uncle Scrooge (at least by mentioning him). As on the Donald Duck and His Friends LP, the vinyl stories connected to comic and story books in ways that Disney theatrical and TV cartoons rarely did at the time. Perhaps that was due to Jimmy Johnson’s history with Disney’s publishing division.
Robie Lester narrates both stories. It would be two years before she would be dubbed the “Disneyland Story Reader” on what would be dozens of read-along book and records sets (helping to make her the performer who, to this day, performed on more individual Walt Disney Records releases than any other).
On Chipmunk Fun, Lester narrates at a fast clip, much like her role as Dorothy/narrator on 1969’s The Story of The Wizard of Oz and her performance on the Mary Poppins read-along (the second in the series). A trained singer, Lester could easily alter the pace depending on the recording and the director. It must have eventually been decided that the read-along records required a slower read to allow for the younger listeners ability to follow along in the books. Some of Lester’s slowest paced reads can be heard on such read-alongs as The Gnome-Mobile and The Seven Dwarfs and Their Diamond Mine.
Lester closes out the album singing a tune by her friend Mel Leven that’s been referred to as either “The Litterbug Song” or “Litterbug, Litterbug, Shame on You,” from Donald Duck’s last Walt-era cartoon, The Litterbug (1961), directed by Ham Luske.
A final thought on the title of this album: One has to wonder if Jimmy Johnson and Tutti Camarata named it Chipmunk Fun by “Walt Disney’s Original Chip ’n’ Dale” in response to what had happened a few years earlier, when Walt himself had the idea of a Christmas record with speeded-up voices for mice. As recalled here in an earlier Spin, the disc was eclipsed by Ross Bagdasarian’s “The Chipmunk Song.” That hit tune also appeared on the 1959 album Let’s All Sing with The Chipmunks, which included a song called “Chipmunk Fun.” It was reissued with TV’s Alvin Show character designs in 1961, two years before Chip’n Dale’s debut album. Who knows?
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Fun Story Narration”
Yes, that’s what it’s called on the LP label! There are no liner notes or a track listing on the cover; the back cover advertises other Disneyland albums.