The Spies Report
July 9, 2024 posted by Kamden Spies

Jack Benny Plays the Disney Highlights

Classic Cartoons on Old Time Radio – Part IV

Dennis Day and Jack Benny

Some of the most frequent songs sung by performers were from movies that were then being released in theaters. To have a song sung on The Jack Benny Program was very good publicity for film studios at the time. And this includes the songs of Walt Disney. The Benny program played many Disney tunes that were then very relevant at the time, including in the parodies from the last post I wrote in this series.

Before Dennis Day became Benny’s greatest tenor, Kenny Baker was the singer for the Benny show. However, before Baker hit the Benny airwaves, he sang in a few of Walt Disney’s classic Silly Symphonies, The Goddess of Spring and The Night Before Christmas.

Most radio variety shows usually had a song sung, and Jack Benny in his radio prime had Dennis Day, who was a favorite among audiences. Day also seemed to be a favorite of the Walt Disney studio as he was a performer in Disney’s classic “Johnny Appleseed” segment in Melody Time. Day was a perfect fit for animation, besides being an incredible singer, he was also a talented impressionist, and he played every role in the Johnny Appleseed segment. He did impressions frequently on radio, which come to full form on his own show in particular. I only wish he did more animation, because he fit really well into the medium. He also recorded several children’s records featuring the Disney characters in the 1950s, one of which Greg Ehrbar covered Here.

March 13, 1938 “Death in the Nightclub” — Orchestra Closes with “Whistle While You Work.” This episode was to prepare for what was ahead, an incredible parody the following week of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

April 3, 1938 “Return to Hollywood”—The orchestra opens the program with “Heigh-Ho.”

May 31, 1942—This is the last episode of The Jack Benny Show with Jell-O as a sponsor, and the show goes out on a wham! Here, as a final song for this sponsor, Dennis Day sings “When You Wish Upon a Star.” I touched on Jack Benny’s connection to Pinocchio more in-depth when I went over the Pinocchio parody on his show in my last OTR tribute. Benny had performed with the original Cliff Edwards before in the feature film The Hollywood Revue of 1929. Dennis’s song starts at minute 18.


Also, Benny’s tenor before Day, Kenny Baker, sings “When You Wish Upon a Star” here:

Dennis Day and Jack Benny

On The Jack Benny Show, many of the main cast were Disney favorites. Phil Harris is probably the most iconic Disney player who was part of Benny’s main ensemble during much of its run. Verna Felton, who played the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, was more known for her reoccurring role as Dennis Day’s mother on The Jack Benny Program. Felton also appeared as Dennis’s mother on Day’s own radio show, A Day in the Life of Dennis Day. In about the tenth minute of this program from January 22, 1950, Dennis also sings Felton’s classic Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo song. Dennis sings yet another song from Disney’s Cinderella on the Benny show when “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” was sung barely a month after the previous Cinderella recording, with this one airing on February 19.

Dennis Day and his talkative mother… Verna Felton

May 10, 1953, was Mother’s Day, so Dennis Day sings “Your Mother and Mine” from Peter Pan. Unlike any of the other examples, no mention of the original film was made by Benny or Day. The song starts at minute 14 and can be listened to Here. Also: On Dennis Day’s own radio show, he sang a Disney tune at least twice. He sings “Fun and Fancy Free” here and Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah here. On his Birthday Fun as Told and Sung by Dennis Day Little Nipper record, he also sings The Unbirthday Song Here.

Special thanks to Don YOWP (who the photos of Dennis and Verna Felton Came from), Keith Scott, John Henderson of “This Day in Jack Benny,” and Greg Ehrbar.


  • One of the running gags on the Jack Benny program was Dennis Day bragging that he had two radio shows, much to the exasperation of Benny, who only had the one. All kidding aside, Day was clearly a busy boy in his heyday and probably wouldn’t have been able to devote any more time to animation than he did.

    Day guest starred in the first episode of Hanna-Barbera’s “The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, in which he voiced a leprechaun (as did Daws Butler and Don Messick); he was the only actor ever to receive a “guest star” credit on that show. This was also the only episode with a musical number: Day sang in a fine Irish brogue as the animated leprechaun danced a jig with live-action Becky. Becky was quite a good dancer; it’s a pity we didn’t get to see more of it.

    • The jokes about doing two radio shows at once started with Jack Benny regular Phil Harris. Jack made sure that Phil was only in the first half of the script so he had time to get ready to do his own show (I believe they followed each other live on air)! In fact Phil Harris had a really noteworthy role at Disney being in Robin Hood, The Aristocats and of course as the voice Baloo the Bear in The Jungle Book.

  • Terrific post! My dad saw Dennis Day do a standup comedy act – fast-paced jokes, impersonations and songs (along the lines of entertainers like Shecky Greene, Bobby Darin and Sammy Davis, Jr.) – back in the 1960’s. He told me that Dennis rocked the house, was unbelievably funny. Big thank sand respect to everyone involved in the Jack Benny radio and TV shows!

  • I am a huge Jack Benny fan — and a huge Disney fan — so THANK YOU for connecting all of these dots in one article.
    The early Benny show’s movie parodies were seminal. I don’t think people had seen or heard anything like them before, especially in the 1930’s.
    They capture that feeling of “Here we are — all watching this hit movie at around the same time and having these characters and ideas in our heads.” Wow, what a powerful idea. Mass culture at its most exciting — and all new at the time — the feeling that we could all joke about such new movies together.
    Benny’s parodies were the pioneers for all the later mass culture spoofs — Sid Caesar, MAD Magazine, Carol Burnett, and SNL.
    Thanks again.

  • I can think of one other voice acting role Dennis Day did for animation off the top of my head. In Rankin/Bass’ 1976 Christmas special, “Frosty’s Winter Wonderland”, Dennis Day voiced Parson Brown, and the Parson Snowman. And he sang some of Winter Wonderland along with Andy Griffith.

  • For a future article, how about a rundown of Billy Mills and the Kings Men performances of Disney Songs from “Fibber McGee and Molly”? I know I’ve heard live performance of “The Reluctant Dragon”, and I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t at least a performance of “The Martins and the Coys”, Also, I wonder if “Casey Jones” was in their repertoire before “The Brave Engineer”?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *