An Earth Day visit with Donald’s nephews and a rare appearance of the patient but persnickety ranger and a Wonderful World of Color TV soundtrack on vinyl.
Walt Disney Presents
A NATURE GUIDE WITH RANGER WOODLORE
About Birds, Bees, Beavers and Bears
Disneyland Records DQ-1300 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP)
Released in December, 1966. Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer: Camarata. Running Time: 36 minutes.
Voices: Bill Thompson (Ranger Woodlore); Dick Beals, Gloria Wood, Robie Lester (Huey, Louie, Dewey).
Songs: “Little Ranger Nature Camp,” “The Honey Bee,” “The Seeds,” “Bird Watching,” “Bedtime” by Mel Leven.
True-Life Adventures Music by Paul J. Smith:
From Secrets of Life: Honey Bees: “On a Sunny Day,” “Flight of the Queen,” “The Workers,” “The Swarm and a New Home”; Industrious Ants: “Parade of the Leaf Cutters,” “The Ants and a Grasshopper,” “Ants on the March.”
From Beaver Valley: “Beaver Valley Theme,” “Baby Ducks,” “Beaver Romance,” “Salmon Run,” “Otters.”
From Bear Country: “Black Bear,” “Scratching,” “Winter Fun.”
There are precious few Disney park guests who seek out Ranger J. Audubon Woodlore’s autograph (though his occasionaly co-star Humphrey the bear does have lots of fans and has inspired some merchandise). Woodlore is more of a functional foil and disseminator of information, but he’s certainly a precursor of Ranger Smith.
Bill Thompson, on the other hand, is a giant among voice actors of the classic radio and animation period and should be given more acclaim. He’s not usually among the names most cartoon voice acting fans name when naming the greats, but he should be. The voice of Droopy, the White Rabbit, Smee (and other pirates on Hook’s ship), the Dodo, Jock, King Hubert, Touché Turtle and more, Thompson also played the Droopy-like Wallace Wimple as well as the Old Timer on the long-running radio hit Fibber McGee and Molly.
Except for the Peter Pan soundtrack albums, Thompson’s voice was not heard often on the Disneyland Records. In fact, very few Disneyland Records offered material direct from Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color either. True, there were recordings made of songs like Von Drake’s “Spectrum Song” and The Wellingtons’ version of the Sherman Brothers’ theme to the show, but except for Annette’s “Bella Bella Florence” from the made-for-TV film, Escapade in Florence, Ranger Woodlore’s A Nature Guide may be the only record to feature genuine soundtrack material from the ’60s incarnation of Walt Disney’s anthology series.
The five cartoon soundtrack tunes that open the album all come from the November 13, 1966 episode called “A Ranger’s Guide to Nature,” directed by Ham Luske and written by Ted Berman with music by Franklin Marks. The hourlong program combined segments from True-Life Adventure films with wraparound animation created for the episode.
These songs were among the last ones Mel Leven had written for the studio. Another seldom-heralded talent, Leven wrote songs for George Pal and UPA, but his best-known songs were the three in 101 Dalmatians: “Kanine Krunchies Kommercial,” “Dalmatian Plantation” and most successful of all, Cruella DeVil. Jérémie Noyer provides an interesting interview with Leven’s son William here.
Since there are only five short Woodlore/Huey/Dewey/Louie/Leven songs on the album, the bulk of the LP is taken up by music from two previous Disneyland soundtrack albums: Secrets of Life and Music from Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventures, all composed by Paul J. Smith. Smith’s masterful compositions for these films are richly evocative of his great range of Disney film music from the period, including his scores for of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Parent Trap.
On the album cover, the track titles are accompanied by brief descriptions of the scenes they underscore. The liner notes suggest: “As you listen to the music, you can easily imagine you are looking in on the natural adventures of wild life.” By combining the Woodlore music with the True-Life selections, the album performed the same function as the weekly TV series did–cleverly repurposing earlier material in a fresh context. There is a good chance, though, that most kids who had this album played side one more often than side two because it had more of the “cartoony” stuff.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Little Nature Ranger Camp”
In his book, The Wonderful World of Disney Television, author Bill Cotter notes that “Huey, Dewey and Louie have children’s voices rather than the Donald Duck-like voices used in the theatrical cartoons.” We’ve featured all three voice actors in previous Spins: Dick Beals (Jack and the Beanstalk); Gloria Wood (A Christmas Adventure in Disneyland and Robie Lester (Santa Claus in Comin’ to Town).