With Mickey Mouse’s birthday only weeks away, let’s get a head start with some fascinating recordings in which he takes part in all kinds of Halloween hijinks.
MICKEY MOUSE: THE SCARIEST HALLOWEEN STORY EVER!
Walt Disney Records Read-Along UPC #978-136802052-7 (Compact Disc / Stereo)
Released in 2018. Executive Producer: Randy Thornton. Producers: Ted Kryczko, Jeff Sheridan. Narrator: Chris Smith. Story: Darrick Bachman. Writers: Darrick Bachman, Alonso Ramirez Ramos, Paul Rudish, Eddie Trigueros, David Wasson. Adaptation: Eric Geron. Music: Christopher Willis, WDR Stock Library. Running Time: 12 minutes.
Soundtrack Voices: Chris Diamantopoulos (Mickey Mouse, Morty, Ferdie, Vampire); Russi Taylor (Minnie Mouse, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Granny); Tony Anselmo (Donald Duck); Bill Farmer (Goofy); Tress MacNeille (Daisy Duck). Additional Voices: Paul Rudish, David Wasson.
It’s been five years since Paul Rudish and his animation team introduced the newest iteration of the Mickey Mouse short cartoon. These cartoons have managed to largely win over even the most traditional of devotee, perhaps because they harken back to the brash, snappy early shorts blending in new techniques, wild poses and extreme timing. Shown primarily as interstitials on various Disney outlets like the Disney Channel there have been 75 individual short cartoons and two half-hour specials produced in this style, winning a raft of Emmy and Annie awards.
None of these cartoons had been adapted for audio until this year. Walt Disney Records and Disney Press adapted a 2017 Halloween TV special into this read-along book and CD with soundtrack dialogue, original images from the film and portions of the original score by Christopher Willis.
For those unacquainted with the “new” cartoons, this read-along might come as a bit of a shock. Both the dialogue and imagery of the characters take an enormous amount of creative latitude with the characters. They use expressions and contort their appearances as they only could in this “universe.” Some might feel that the extended length of the special might necessitate relying a bit heavily on dialogue. That’s not necessarily a problem, but it does have a stylistic effect on the pacing.
Part of the fun of having this amount of dialogue, though, is the opportunity to hear this gold standard cast of actors cutting loose a bit more than usual—especially Mickey. As portrayed by Chris Diamantopoulos there are even several points when he tells stories using an affected accent, he sounds like Julia Child!
The Halloweenn special has been released on DVD, as has a collection of the first set of cartoons.. Someone put a heavily edited video of the special online, but it’s been edited haphazardly; it’s more of a sampling of incomplete scenes. It’s worth it to see these in the proper way, since they are so rewatchable.
SONGS AND STORY: MICKEY’S SPOOKY NIGHT
Walt Disney Records D000593102 (Compact Disc / Stereo)
Released in 2010. Compilation Producer: Randy Thornton. Narrator: Chris Smith. Ted Kryczko. Running Time: 19 minutes.
Voices: Wayne Allwine (Mickey Mouse); Russi Taylor (Minnie Mouse); Tony Anselmo (Donald Duck); Bill Farmer (Goofy, Pluto); Tress MacNeille (Daisy Duck).
Story: “Mickey’s Spooky Night” by Diane Muldrow, Scott Tilley, Brent Ford.
Songs: “I Wanna Scare Myself” by Michael Silversher, Patty Silversher; “Shake Your Bones” by Roy Zimmerman, Melanie Harby; “Which Witch is Which?” by Phil Baron, Richard Friedman; “Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett, Leonard Capizzi; “The Werewolf Song” by Marco Marinangeli, Jeff Delman.
Mickey’s Spooky Night was not a cartoon, but a Disney Press storybook released in a number of formats, including a read-along set. The characters in this book are the more familiar versions, with Mickey’s speech being far more peppy and polite than in the new series described. (He doesn’t even use contractions in the text.) That said, based on some amazon reviews of the “Scariest Halloween” read along, this version might be preferable for those more comfortable with the “see-you-at-the-theme-park” Mickey.
The single CD version was part of a short-lived but wonderful series called “Songs and Story.” These did not include a book, but instead offered the story without page turning signals, as well as a few songs culled from previous releases. From a pure audio experience standpoint, it’s nice to have the option of an absent chime or harp sound at every few lines of the story.
CHILLING, THRILLING SOUNDS OF THE HAUNTED HOUSE
A Most Terrific Collection of Recorded Sounds
Disneyland Records DQ-1357 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono)
Vinyl Reissue: 9/25/17
Originally Released in 1964. Producers: Jimmy Johnson, Jimmy Macdonald. Writer: Jimmy Macdonald. Narrator: Laura Olsher. Running Time: 26 minutes.
Stories in Sound: “The Haunted House,” “The Very Long Fuse,” “The Dogs,” “Timber,” “Your Pet Cat,” “Shipwreck,” “The Unsafe Bridge,” “Chinese Water Torture,” “The Birds,” “The Martian Monsters.”
Sound Effects: “Screams and Groans,” “Thunder, Lightning and Rain,” “Cat Fight,” “Dogs,” “A Collection of Creaks,” “Fuses and Explosions,” “A Collection of Crashes,” “Birds,” “Drips and Splashes,” “Things in Space.”
Though it’s narrated by Laura Olsher and written by Jimmy Johnson, the real star of Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House is Disney Legend Jimmy Macdonald. The pioneer curator of the Walt Disney Studios sound effects department—and the second official voice of Mickey Mouse–Macdonald either created, collected or archived everything on this album. Disney film and TV fans might recognize many of them. The dogs, for example, can be heard in the animated sequence of Mary Poppins.
Historically, it’s also one of the most important Disney albums of all time. Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House set a standard for sound effects records aimed at the family market. Generations listened to the man fall from the bridge, the explosion contradict the narrator and the Martian eat the astronaut—all done with witty first-person narration by Johnson and performed with irresistibly coy aplomb by Laura Olsher (Mrs. Cratchit in Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol).
Frequently mistaken for the voice of Dark Shadows star Grayson Hall–who was filming That Darn Cat for Disney around the same time this album was made–Olsher was a seasoned radio pro with the ability to pay off a phrase to its full advantage. Thus, the first side of the album was fun to listen to with friends or alone, while side two was useful for home recordings or live storytelling (as this author’s Cub Scout troop did).
More than anything else, countless millions of homes played side two in their front yards or through their windows during trick-or-treating. There were plenty of general interest sound effects albums before this one, but with the talents of Johnson, Olsher and Macdonald, as well as the two-sided LP format became the best-executed and best-selling of its kind, inspiring a series of imitations.
The first cover was rendered in white with an illustration by Paul Wenzel. The mansion is generic, though many fervently believed it was the Disneyland attraction. A few years later, the cover was changed to orange and the inner sleeve was printed on both sides with “Spooky Party Hints.” This was a great way to help sell new albums and also to encourage people to buy a second copy if their old one was worn out.
In addition to the current downloads, Walt Disney Records issued a facsimile edition of the original album in the white cover on vinyl in tribute to its historical significance and enduring popularity.