Before 1989, there was another animated mermaid swimming in the heads of animation buffs—from a CBS primetime special by the director of Heavy Metal.
THE LITTLE MERMAID
Complete Original TV Soundtrack
Narrated by Richard Chamberlain with The Ambrosian Singers
Capitol Records (Canada) SQ-6417 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono / 1975)
A Reader’s Digest Presentation in Association with Potterton Productions. Album Producer: Marvin Kane. Writers: Peter Sander, Christine Laroque. Arranger/Conductor: Rob Goodwin. Recording Engineers: John Richards, Paul Sehenuk, Richard Lewzey. Cover Art: George Juhasz. Running Time: 26 minutes.
Songs: “Believe in Your Dreams”, “Because He Loves Me” by Ron Goodwin.
Background Score: “The World Under the Sea”, “The Merkings Family”, “The Treasure Chest Arrives”, “Lullaby”, “The Little Mermaid Departs”, “The Prince’s Birthday Party”, “The Storm”, “The Little Mermaid Saves the Prince”, “The Little Mermaid Falls in Love with the Prince”, “The Mermaid’s Song”, “The Little Mermaid Returns Home”, “The Little Mermaid Leaves the Ball to Visit the Enchantress”, “The Little Mermaid Arrives at the Enchantress’s Domain”, “Transformation of The Little Mermaid to Human Being”, “Little Mermaid’s Apprehension”, “The Prince’s Marriage”, “Little Mermaid’s Disillusionment”, “The Daughters of the Air”, “The Mermaid’s Theme” by Ron Goodwin.
Back in those three-network days, a network like CBS could run a less-conventional animated film as a primetime special. Animated films like The Snowman, Really Rosie or Everybody Rides the Carousel had a sedate, somewhat erudite feel that is unlikely to pre-empt today’s TV shows. It was during this ‘70s period that British-Canadian animator Gerry Potterton (Yellow Submarine, Heavy Metal, Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure) produced three animated half hours for Reader’s Digest based on famous, melancholy stories: The Selfish Giant, The Happy Prince and The Little Mermaid.
The Mermaid film follows the Andersen tale closely with only slight changes, though those variances waiver depending on which translation or adaptation you read. In this one, the evil Enchantress causes the shipwreck in addition to putting the walking spell on the Mermaid (who does not have a name). In some versions, she is left on a rock, neither of the land nor the sea (as in the Rankin/Bass feature The Daydreamer), but in this one, she is first turned into foam and then sent to paradise as a reward for her unselfish love.
Richard Chamberlain narrates in a gentle, hushed tone, also very much in keeping with the low-key style of the production. Ron Goodwin, one of the most versatile composer/arranger/conductors in the UK, presents a musical motif largely unlike his more prevalent action or comedy scores, except for a signature sweep of strings. The music does an awful lot of heavy lifting in this production, and Goodwin is up to the job, and—with The Ambrosian Singers “oooh-ing” throughout—offering moments stirring and sedate, haunting and triumphant.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Believe in Your Dreams”
This is the more upbeat of the two songs in the film. Curiously, it’s set to a somewhat groovy light-pop beat. Very catchy indeed, it reminds me of the choral jingle used in an animated Clairol Herbal Essence Shampoo commercial from the same era.
And speaking of mermaids, Walt Disney Records has recently given the full Legacy Collection treatment to Ashman and Menken’s 1989 musical masterpiece, The Little Mermaid, on CD. The new two-disc hardcover package includes all the songs, much more of the score than ever before, work tapes performed by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman and a 28-page illustrated book filled with lyrics and brand-new material written by Alan Menken, co-writer/director/producer John Musker, Walt Disney Music President Chris Montan, Disney Music Group Editor David Watts and Walt Disney Animation Studios President/Creative Director Dave Bossert.
Alan Menken explains the new Mermaid album in this video:
Paramount Pictures Presents
MONTE CARLO OR BUST (UK Title)
Paramount Records SPFL-255
THOSE DARING YOUNG MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES (US Title)
Paramount Records PAS-5006
Music Composed, Arranged and Conducted by Ron Goodwin. Running Time: 43 minutes.
Song: “Monte Carlo or Bust (Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies)” by Ron Goodwin.
Background Score: Dispatch from Monte to India”, “Love Theme”,” “The Schickel Shamble”, “Xmas It Ain’t”, “The Italians—Casanova or Malcolm-a Campbell?” “Three Girls from Paree”, “The Wily Sir Cuthbert”, “Britain vs Germany: A Not-So-Private Affair”, “Off to Monte Carlo—Again—Or Bust”, “They’re Playing Chester’s Song”, “Dirty Work at the Chalet”, “Can This Be the Way to Monte?” “Festival Time in Sicily”, “The Last Lap”, “Who Gets the Champagne?” by Ron Goodwin.
The two titles of this 1969 slapstick cross-country race comedy couldn’t be more confusing. You see, director/co-writer Ken Annakin (Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson) was also responsible for 1965’s Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines—another cross-country romp with an all-star international cast (that also inspired Hanna-Barbera’s Dastardly and Muttley series).
Flying Machines was so well received, Annakin (do you suppose George Lucas really liked that name?) made a similar film with members of the cast. It was not an full-fledged sequel, so he named it Monte Carlo or Bust.
Composer Ron Goodwin, who convinced Annakin to use his wonderfully silly theme song for Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (“They go up-diddly-up-up, they go down-diddly-own-down”), also to great success, wrote a very similar theme for Monte Carlo or Bust.
But Paramount must have figured that American audiences might connect Annakin’s film with The Great Race as well as Magnificent Men, and the US title became Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies. By the way, if some of these titles seem lengthy, take a look at the films themselves—they’re looooooong.
Goodwin’s score for both films was very cartoony, with themes assigned to various characters that unfailingly played when they appeared on screen. For Monte Carlo/Jaunty Jalopies, he seemed to double the amount of little themes. This score is easily the most densely theme-packed one of all time. Each tune has a full introduction on side one and all of the melodies blend this way and that for the remainder of side two, except when a new tune pops in occasionally. It’s a blast to listen to.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
The Talents of Jimmy Durante and Ronald Searle
Much as I enjoy the more-famous “Flying Machines” theme song, this one is better. The melody, arrangement, choral work and the perfection of Jimmy Durante combine to make a little production that is infinitely appealing. Even if the movie isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, the title sequence can make one smile.