March 26, 2019 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who” on Records

A look at the vinyl LP of the second “Horton” book recorded by the publisher, and the soundtrack from the classic Chuck Jones TV special with Hans Conried and June Foray.

Featuring Skip Hinnant as Horton
Random House Records 0-394-05964-6 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)

Released in 1976. Produced by Random House, Inc. Total Running Time: 32 minutes (Horton Hears a Who: 18 minutes, Horton Hatches the Egg: 14 minutes).

Part science fiction, part social commentary, Horton Hears a Who is as much at home in high school and college classes as it is in grade schools today. As in the earlier story, Horton the elephant finds himself at the center of one chaotic situation after another, usually being ridiculed, while he clings both to his values and his goal.

Horton Hatches the Egg was adapted for records relatively fast, as we saw in the last Spin. Published in 1940, Egg was a 78 RPM record set in 1947. In the case of 1954’s Horton Hears a Who, this LP recording came from the publisher itself, Random House, in 1976. On the same disc with Horton Hatches the Egg, it is an unpretentious adaptation with three actors and bouncy electronic keyboard music.

None of the performers are credited on the album, but the voice of Horton is unmistakable. Skip Hinnant was one of the busiest character actors and voice artists of the seventies. He was seen every day for most of the decade (and remembered long afterward) on The Electric Company as Fargo North, Decoder and countless other sketch comedy characters. Hinnant appeared on and off screen in commercials and on the New York Stage, most famously as Schroeder in the original Off-Broadway cast of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

His late brother Bill Hinnant played Snoopy in the same 1966 production, and was also the original Snoopy on the premiere recording with Orson Bean, discussed in this Spin, and in the 1973 NBC Hallmark Hall of Fame TV Special in this Spin.

To many of his fans, Hinnant’s iconic onscreen role is in one of the funniest and most bitingly satirical TV shows in history. It was called “Love of Chair,” and it wasn’t really a show, but a regular sketch on The Electric Company in which Hinnant sat in a room, in a chair, sadly staring into space. Created by two-time Emmy nominated actor/writer Paul Dooley (Breaking Away), who was the head writer of the series, Love of Chair spoofed soap operas. It seemed so simple but it spoke volumes its minimalism, repetition, sluggish of story advancement, returns to point zero and other tropes. Each episode ended with the question, “What about Naomi?” an inside joke referring to show staffer Naomi Foner (who is the mother of Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal).

Love of Chair actually spawned a book version and an interactive educational toy called “Naomi’s Magical Match-Up Machine.”

“Horton Hears a Who”

As a voice actor, Hinnant played a comic strip icon in the stop motion feature I Go Pogo, which was a frequent feature on the early Disney Channel (and a View-Master packet). He was Sunny Bunny in the Rankin/Bass TV classic, The Easter Bunny is Comin’ to Town with Fred Astaire. He was also the voice of Fritz the Cat.

Dr. Seuss’

The Original TV Soundtracks
Rhino Movie Music / Turner Classics Movie Music R2-75969 (Compact Disc / Mono & Stereo)

Released in 1999. Album Producer: George Feltenstein. TV Special Producers: Chuck Jones, Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel). TV Special Directors: Chuck Jones, Ben Washam. Music: Eugene Poddany. Project Supervisor: Julie D’Angelo. Engineer: Doug Schwartz. Originally Recorded on December 4 and 5, 1969. Total Running Time: 68 minutes (Grinch: 27 minutes; Horton: 26 minutes; isolated music tracks: 15 minutes).

(PLEASE NOTE: The Grinch portion of this album was reissued on vinyl in 2012 and covered in a previous Spin.)

Voices: Hans Conried (Narrator, Horton, Doctor Hoovey); June Foray (Jane Kangaroo, Mother Who, Baby Who, Cindy Lou Who); Chuck Jones (Junior Who, Quizmo McKwoff, JoJo, Various Whos); The Mellomen (Thurl Ravenscroft, Gene Merlino, Bill Lee, Bill Cole) (Wickersham Brothers); MGM Studio Orchestra & Chorus.

Songs: “Old Doc Hoovey,” “The Wickersham Brothers,” “Doctor Hoovey, You Were Right,” “We Are Here,” “Be Kind to Your First Person Friends” (inspired by “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa) by Dr. Seuss, Eugene Poddany.

Chuck Jones’ 30-minute version of Horton Hears a Who seems to have been obscured over the years. Obviously it’s been overshadowed (and outgoogled) by the 2008 CG feature. But another reason is that, other than a handful of outstanding Christmas specials, a 30-minute animated TV special rarely has prominence in today’s busy media landscape. Jones’ Grinch was a Christmas special, and a beloved classic, so it continues to survive along with A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Horton Hears a Who is a fine little film that deserves more attention. Its compact length is perfect to make its point and move forward. Composer Eugene Poddany, who wrote the Grinch songs with Albert Hague (of the movie and TV show Fame), wrote the Horton songs with Seuss this time around.

For this version, Seuss made a few revisions from his book, giving the Sour Kangaroo the first name of Jane. He also changed Horton’s first Who friend from the Mayor to Doctor Hoovey, creating a story logic, since a scientist might be more likely to learn of Horton’s existence and also be disbelieved. In the 2008 CG feature, the characters and names reverted back to their 1954 versions.

CBS first broadcast Horton Hears a Who on March 18, 1970. There was no soundtrack album, though the 1976 Random House studio LP discussed above would serve as a substitute. It was not until 1999 that producer George Feltenstein combined How the Grinch Stole Christmas with the Horton special on one compact disc. George of course, is now with Warner Archive, working to offer us access to as many movie, TV and animation classics as possible–and with our own Jerry Beck, brings us such titles as Popeye the Sailor The 1940’s Volume One to DVD and Blu-ray (which you’ve undoubtedly purchased).

Stereo Soundtrack to Chuck Jones’ Horton Hears a Who

There has been no true stereo soundtrack release from the 1966 Chuck Jones Grinch special. It may have been a mono recording from the start, because MGM Records made a stereo “soundtrack” album using Boris Karloff’s dialogue with re-recorded music. Horton Hears a Who was recorded in stereo (though it was broadcast in mono), so the Rhino CD is the only stereophonic film soundtrack from a Chuck Jones/Eugene Poddany/MGM project ever on disc. The Grinch mono soundtrack and stereo re-recording were both reissued, but the Horton soundtrack was not.

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