Wednesday is the day and date that ABC presented the most ambitious TV special Hanna-Barbera had yet produced. Here’s a peek at the rare soundtrack recording.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND, OR WHAT’S A NICE KID LIKE YOU DOING IN A PLACE LIKE THIS?
Capitol Custom Promotional Record / E.H. Morris & Company, Inc. (12” 33 1/3 RPM One-Sided LP)
Released in 1966. Musical Director: Marty Paich. Running Time: 16 minutes.
Voices: Howard Morris (White Rabbit); Sammy Davis, Jr. (Cheshire Cat); Doris Drew (Alice / Singing Voice); Janet Waldo (Alice / Speaking Voice); Henry Corden (Fred Flintstone / Singing Voice); Alan Reed (Fred Flintstone / Speaking Voice); Mel Blanc (Barney Rubble); Bill Dana (White Knight).
Songs: “Life’s a Game,” “What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?” “They’ll Never Split Us Apart,” “Today’s a Wonderful Day,” “I’m Home” by Lee Adams, Charles Strouse.
Instrumental: “Main Title (What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?” by Charles Strouse.
Music rights are touchy things. When the contracts are agreed upon, any number of variables come into play, including musicians’ fees, talent compensation, publishing costs and ongoing payments per unit of sales. Some musical works are never cleared for commercial recording. Again, there can be any number of reasons. A budget may have not have provided the funding, the performers may be under another label’s contract, there night be disagreement about terms, and so on.
In the case of Hanna-Barbera’s TV special, Alice in Wonderland or, What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This, there was no commercially released soundtrack album.
The LP produced and released by Hanna-Barbera Records (which we looked at in a previous Animation Spin, was a studio adaptation of the story and the songs with members of the voice cast (some voice tracks—and Hoyt Curtin’s underscore—were from the film tracks). The songs were arranged by Al Capps based on the Marty Paich charts with a smaller orchestra. Even though this saved money, the record was produced with a much higher budget than any other HBR Cartoon Series LP.
HB’s first feature, Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear! was released as a soundtrack LP on Colpix Records (we talked about that one here). However, the vinyl version of the music from their second feature, The Man Called Flintstone (Spinned here) was handled in a similar way to Alice’s LP songs, with a smaller group of musicians playing new music beds for vocal tracks that either came from the film or were re-created for the record. Coincidentally, Marty Paich was the musical director for the Yogi and Flintstone features as well as the Alice special.
When a promotional album is pressed, the rules are different, because these are made for private use. Rankin/Bass pressed several such promo soundtracks that never became commercial records, including Here Comes Peter Cottontail (‘Spin’ned over here, The Mouse on the Mayflower, The Little Drummer Boy (both ‘Spin’ned here, and The First Easter Rabbit. These pressings are for sponsors, clients, publicity, business partners, participants in the production, and other needs.
The one-sided soundtrack promo album for HB’s Alice in Wonderland was surely more connected with E.H. Morris (the publisher of the songs), Charles Strouse (composer) and Lee Adams (lyricist) than Hanna-Barbera. The sparse front cover art (the back is blank) is the same design found on the sheet music from the same publisher. There is no mention of Hanna-Barbera at all.
Adams and Strouse were a hot songwriting team at the time, having hit very big with Bye Bye Birdie. It stands to reason that their involvement with Alice in Wonderland may have stemmed from Hanna-Barbera’s connection with the movie version of Birdie. The film’s director, George Sidney, was an early partner in Hanna and Barbera’s company and managed to get HB product placement into the movie, as well as some animated effects. Columbia Pictures released Birdie and distributed early HB TV shows through Screen Gems (Alice originally ended with a Screen Gems logo).
The back cover and record label of this particular copy is rubber stamped “Cathy Furniss & Associates” in San Francisco. Furniss was a record promoter, so perhaps the intention was to see if a major label might have interest in releasing the soundtrack music. Such promotion would have benefited Strouse, Adams and Morris, as their newest Broadway musical, “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman,” was opening one day before Alice aired on TV!
Whatever the reason, it’s glorious that this disc actually exists, with all five , fully orchestrated songs, plus the main title music. There’s not much chance that this recording will ever see the light of day again in digital form, but we can always keep hoping that Warner Archive will pleeeeeease keep trying to release the film on DVD. It’s a sparkling gem well worth mining.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Main Title (What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?)”
The very beginning of this piece was edited in the film so it would connect to the musical effect Hoyt Curtin created to accompany Alice as she falls down her TV set. The very end of the track was faded when the special aired in syndication and occasionally pops up on Boomerang, because it was originally attached to sponsor announcements for Coca-Cola and Rexall.