In 1962, Disneyland Records combined stories based on Funny Little Bunnies, the White Rabbit and Bambi’s friend Thumper on a low-key LP featuring Lucille Bliss.
Walt Disney Presents
Plus Other Funny Bunnies and Their Friends
Disneyland Records DQ-1234 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Stereo / 1962, Reissued in 1972)
Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer: Camarata. Narration: Lucille Bliss. Little Golden Book Texts: Jane Werner, Disney Studio Staff. Recorded at Sunset Sound, Hollywood. Running Time: 35 minutes.
Voices: Lucille Bliss (Narrator); Thurl Ravenscroft, Robie Lester, The Vonnair Sisters, Camarata Chorus (Vocalists).
Stories: “The Story of Thumper” by The Walt Disney Studio; “The Story of the White Rabbit,” “Grandpa Bunny” Adapted by Jane Werner.
Songs: “Peter Cottontail” by Steve Nelson, Jack Rollins; “Hippity Hop” by Tutti Camarata, Jimmy Johnson; ,” “Thumper Song,” “Twitterpated” by Helen Bliss, Robert Sour, Henry Manners; “Whistling Rabbit” by Manny Curtis; “I’m Late” by Bob Hilliard, Sammy Fain (excerpted from the greatest record ever made.
The lower budgets of Disneyland Records in the early’60s was felt especially in albums like Peter Cottontail, which is comprised of long stretches of narration broken up with new songs with very simple accompaniment and material from other albums. Entire albums of spoken word narration were and are a common recorded product, but in the case of Disney records, the comparison between the earlier, more lavish records makes the difference clear.
However, when the narrator is a one-of-a-kind talent like Lucille Bliss, it’s still very entertaining. An energetic, eccentric performer, Bliss is best known for voicing two major cartoon characters: Crusader Rabbit for Jay Ward in the 1950s and Smurfette for Hanna-Barbera in the ’80s. This is the only LP she did for Disney, though Jymn Magon brought her back for Disney Little Golden Read-Alongs—The Little Engine That Could and The Color Kittens—in the mid-‘70s.
All three stories are texts from Golden Books. Thumper was published originally in 1942, and offers a little more detail about his family, including sisters Frilly, Blossom and Millie. The story is a bit of a trope, in which Thumper thumps so much it annoys his fellow forest creatures, until he saves them from “Man! Man! Man!” Then it’s okay for him to thump.
“The Story of the White Rabbit,” as listed in the album notes, is from the long-selling Little Golden Book, Alice in Wonderland Meets the White Rabbit. Obviously in the works before the animated feature was finished, it contains a page devoted to the Jabberwock, a character who was to be voiced by Stan Freberg that was ultimately omitted from the final film. Another interesting note: the text rhymes in two places for no apparent reason. Disneyland Records also used this text for its 1965 Little LP Read Along of Alice, read by Robie Lester. The book is out of print today, replaced by a Little Golden sized version of Disney’s 1951 Alice in Wonderland book (quite a magnificent publication in itself).
The third text also has had the longest shelf life. Published in 1951, Grandpa Bunny is still available today. It’s based on the 1934 Silly Symphony Funny Little Bunnies, with an expanded storyline (the film basically focuses on the cute tasks of the bunnies). Jane Werner takes a number of mythological nature attributes and gives them all to Grandpa Bunny. The book really lends itself to visuals—and in this case, they would be by Disney greats Bill Justice and Dick Kelsey—so the narration itself is nice but not as vivid. It should have been done as a read-along but that never happened.
Two songs written as promotional items for Bambi are included, “Thumper’s Song” and “Twitterpated.” Like some of the extra songs for Pinocchio that turn up on various records like “Monstro the Whale” and “Honest John,” these are songs that were not necessarily created for the films at all, but simply to get into circulation to create awareness of the films and perhaps get on the Hit Parade. Golden Records also recorded “Thumper’s Song,” and it was included on the Walt Disney Song Parade albums, which we explored here.
“Hippity Hop,” a Camarata/Johnson ditty, is also heard instrumentally on the album at the beginning of “Grandpa Bunny.” Fully orchestrated, it makes one wonder if the music existed in some form before the album was made with the lyrics added later. Another unknown at this point is any in-depth info on the Vonnair Sisters—who sing the LP’s title song and “Whistling Rabbit” not for the lack of trying by Mouse Tracks co-author Tim Hollis, who managed to track down a photo of the singers, but little else. Perhaps they were a local group who did studio work at Sunset Sound, or performed at Disneyland.
“Whistling Rabbit,” by the way, was written by Manny Curtis, who is listed on this album as “Mann Curtis.” Burl Ives also recorded the song. A prolific songwriter, one of his biggest songs was “Let It Be Me,” an especially big hit for the Everly Brothers. “Peter Cottontail,” which was originally written for Gene Autry by the same duo who wrote “Frosty the Snowman,” is uniquely presented on this album, with different lyrics than the usual Eastertime ones. For example, instead of “He’s got jelly beans for Tommy/Colored eggs for sister Sue,” it’s “When the others go for clover/And the big bad wolf appears,” and so on. Like the song, “Winter Wonderland” and several others, two sets of lyrics were created for various uses.
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“Twitterpated” – Thurl Ravenscroft
The bridge of this version sounds a lot like background music for TV’s “Green Acres.” It makes one wonder if Vic Mizzy himself worked on the orchestrations for this LP.