The animated feature that was as an artistic bridge between two animation eras is also a recording that in many ways did the same thing for Disneyland Records.
Walt Disney Productions’ Story and Songs from
Disneyland Records #1369 (LP Only / 1977)
Disneyland Storyteller LP #3816 (With 11-Page Book) (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono / 1977)
Album Producer / Adaptation: Jymn Magon. Story: Larry Clemmons, Ken Anderson, Frank Thomas, Vance Gerry, David Michener, Ted Berman, Fred Lucky, Burny Mattinson, Dick Sebast. Musical Score: Artie Butler. Running Time: 35 minutes.
Voices: Bob Holt (Narrator); Bob Newhart (Bernard); Eva Gabor (Bianca – Speaking Voice); Robie Lester (Bianca – Singing Voice); Geraldine Page (Madame Medusa); Joe Flynn (Mr. Snoops); Bernard Fox (Chairman); John McIntyre (Rufus); Jim Jordan (Orville); Jim Macdonald (Evinrude); Jeannette Nolan (Ellie Mae); Pat Buttram (Luke); George Linsday; Michelle Stacy (Penny); Shelby Flint (Soloist).
Songs: “The Journey,” “Rescue Aid Society,” “Tomorrow is Another Day” by Carol Connors, Ayn Robbins; “Something’s Waiting for You” by Sammy Fain, Carol Connors, Ayn Robbins.
To animation and/or Disney enthusiasts, The Rescuers is notable for being the transitional film between the original Disney artists and the new guard. It also is considered a creative break from the gradual sameness (however delightful) of the previous three features: Robin Hood, The Aristocats and The Jungle Book.
From an audio perspective, The Rescuers is a combination of both. There is a similarity in the casting of actors (however fine) that came largely from rural comedies of the ’60s and a “what worked before” formula (that almost again included Phil Harris). Archie comics fans might note that Michelle Stacy, the voice of Penny, played L’il Jinx in an unsold primetime Archie live-action pilot in the mid-‘70s.
Musically, there is evidence of an attempt at a slightly different sound. The score by Artie Butler (Sinatra, The Bugaloos) is noticeably different than those in previous Disney animated features, making use (but not overuse) of electronic instrumentation of the period.
The studio sought Oscar nominees Carol Connors and Ayn Robbins to add a contemporary feel to the score, while keeping it within the comfortable “Disney” of the era. Sammy Fain, who gave us such classic Disney songs as “Alice in Wonderland” and “You Can Fly,” collaborated with the team on the Oscar-nominated “Someone’s Waiting for You.” And Shelby Flint, who was such a musical presence in’70s animation (Snoopy, Come Home and Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July), sings three of the four songs off screen. Perhaps the song most remember best is “Rescue Aid Society,” which features Robie Lester’s pitch-perfect singing for Bianca.
Narrating the record—which was released with and without a book — is veteran actor Bob Holt, who voiced the Codfish in Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks and countless characters for Hanna-Barbera (including the Great Grape Ape), Ralph Bakshi (notably as Avatar in 1977’s Wizards) and for DePatie-Freleng (as The Dogfather and Hoot Kloot; in the Doctor Dolittle series and in several Dr. Seuss specials). Holt continued to record albums and read-alongs for Disneyland Records for several years following this album, having already cut over a dozen Disneyland Little Golden Book sets.
The Rescuers was the Storyteller debut of Disney innovator Jymn Magon, who wrote and produced all those Little Golden Disney book and record sets and ushered in a “second golden age” for the label with Mickey Mouse Disco and a library of new records featuring Disney characters and other properties from Rankin/Bass, Spielberg and LucasFilm.
Like the best Storyteller albums of any era, The Rescuers combines background music with soundtrack dialogue and sound effects. Some of those elements had been missing from several dialogue albums of the ’60s and ’70s.
Starting with The Rescuers, Magon also introduced a new format to Disneyland 7-inch book and record read-along sets that is used to this day. Since 1965, the readers (Robie Lester or Lois Lane) read solo from texts taken directly from the Golden pages. Magon decided to adapt them more fittingly for audio, omitting such phrases as “he said” and “she replied” and allowing the context of the surrounding text to indicate which character was going to speak. After The Rescuers, Magon reformatted most of the classic Disney read-along sets with full casts, music and sound effects (collectors can tell the difference between the pre- and post-1977 editions by the look of the little book and record in the top left of the front covers).
My only quibble with this album is that the songs are not complete. “Rescue Aid Society” is cut and the other three songs simply fade out. This decision was based on the idea that, as a story album, the songs were secondary. That would have been fine had there been another recording giving listeners more of the song content, but that did not happen until Ovation Records released the box set, The Magical Music of Walt Disney.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
The Rescuers is one of the more highly regarded of the post-Walt features, but its score gets little attention. This spectacular piece — accompanying a series of pastels depicting Penny’s message-in-a-bottle going from the bayou to New York — is a fine example of music and voice having a major effect on the dramatic mood.