ANIMATION SPIN
September 2, 2014 posted by

“Raggedy Ann and Andy” (1977): A Mind-Boggling Adventure

A peek at the soundtrack album to animation’s most expensive-yet-experimental, corporate-yet-independent and mainstream-yet-eccentric theatrical feature – ever!

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RAGGEDY ANN & ANDY: A MUSICAL ADVENTURE
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Columbia Records S-34686 (Stereo) (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / 1977)

Producer/Arranger/Conductor: Joe Raposo. Orchestrations: Joe Raposo, Jim Tyler. Assistant Conductor: Dave Conner. Engineer: Fred Christie. Soundtrack Produced February 8, 1977 at Media Sound, New York. Running Time: 51 minutes.
Voices: Didi Conn (Raggedy Ann); Mark Baker (Raggedy Andy); Fred Stuthman (Camel with the Wrinkled Knees); Alan Sues (Loony Knight); George S. Irving (Captain Contagious); Arnold Stang (Queasy); Mason Adams (Grandpa); Marty Brill (King Koo-Koo); Paul Dooley (Gazooks); Allen Swift (Maxie Fit-It); Joe Silver (The Greedy); Hetty Galen (Susie Pincushion); Sheldon Harnick (Barney Beanbag, Socko); Ardyth Kaiser (Topsy); Margery Gray and Lynne Stuart (Twin Penny Dolls).

Songs: “I Look and What Do I See,” “I’m No Girl’s Toy,” “Rag Dolly,” “Poor Babette,” “A Miracle,” “Ho-Yo,” “Candy Hearts,” “Blue,” “I Never Get Enough,” “I Love You,” “It’s Not Easy Being King,” “Hooray for Me,” “You’re My Friend,” “Home” by Joe Raposo.

Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann character (who turns 99 years old this Sunday) is one of those evergreen properties – along with her brother Andy – that have inspired animated versions throughout the 20th century, including Max Fleischer’s Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy (1941), Famous Studios’ Suddenly It’s Spring (1944) and The Enchanted Square (1947) and a Saturday morning TV series in 1988, among others. Each placed these pleasant, passive rag dolls in odd, fantastic settings with odd, fantastic characters.

But nothing dialed up the crazy better than Richard Williams’ 1977 epic feature (that would be “crazy-cool” as well as “crazy-whaaa…?!”), Raggedy Ann and Andy. A massive enterprise requiring two studios on each U.S. coast, the film is an historic landmark in that Williams combined animation talents from several generations and experience levels and let them loose. Just a few of the artists involved were Tissa David (the first woman to animate a major feature character), Art Babbitt, Grim Natwick, Emery Hawkins, Eric Goldberg, Michael Sporn, Susan Kroyer, Hal Ambro, Cosmo Anzilotti, Spencer Peel, Gerald Potterton, Irven Spence, Art Vitello and many more.

John Canemaker chronicled the production from start to finish in The Animated Raggedy Ann & Andy, a marvelous, richly detailed book that is a treasure to read and re-read, even if one has never seen the movie. Imagine what a book about the aftermath of the film and the recollections of such an august group of artists might be like!

A true animator’s film, the title credits feature the lead animators’ names instead of the voice actors. It would have been nice of the record album would have credited the sterling cast (a who’s-who of New York voice actors), almost all of whom are heard on the densely packed LP. The album includes all 14 songs plus lots of dialogue that covers the story quite well. The only segment missing is the end of The Greedy sequence, detailing how the heroes got away. (It might have been nice if Didi Conn was brought into the studio again to add a few lines of exposition, like the soundtrack album of A Boy Named Charlie Brown.)

raggedy-ann-and-andy-movie-poster-1977-1010379737Joe Raposo’s expertise in music and records is undisputed, as his many honors attest. This album, being his turf, works on records in ways that became problematic in the film. Animated features do not usually have 14 songs, the majority sung to completion (Disney’s Alice in Wonderland had about the same amount but kept most of them short or fragmented). The power of Raposo’s score heard in full stereo has an effect that was not fully realized in the mono prints of the film. That wouldn’t have made the songs seem less numerous, but definitely more spectacular. As soundtrack enthusiasts often have to explain to those who cannot see the point of having the audio without the video, listening is a different experience altogether even if the material is similar or identical.

Two of the songs enjoyed some life beyond the film. Dinah Shore sang “Candy Hearts” with Hal Linden on her daytime talk/variety show. Helen Reddy recorded “Blue” and sang it on The Muppet Show and The Carol Burnett Show, the latter performed in a monochromatic blue Raggedy Ann costume, presumably by Bob Mackie.

Raggedy Ann & Andy boggles the mind because it’s such a bold, spectacular enterprise, involves so many mammoth talents and has some tremendously impressive scenes, particularly Emery Hawkins’ infinitely astonishing Greedy sequence. It’s endlessly beguiling, since its goals for mainstream success were so high yet it broke so many rules. Its very existence is important.

“This record and the movie it comes from were made with a lot of hard work by a lot of good people,” wrote Joe Raposo in the album notes. “All of them hope you like ‘Raggedy Ann & Andy,’” This earnest truth of that very naked statement—that this endeavor took a lot of time, care and sacrifice on the part of many people you may never know, so one should think before dismissing the fruits of their labor lightly or with snark—is a message to always keep the people who have made a creative work in mind, even when that work doesn’t measure up. It’s not easy, especially today, when there seem to be a greater number of worthy targets than ever.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Main Title & “Rag Dolly”
The Joe Raposo “Sesame Street House Band” style is very much in evidence in this tune. It could just as easily have been sung by Bob McGrath in Mr. Hooper’s store. When Billboard magazine did a capsule review of the soundtrack album, “Rag Dolly” was their selected track. That’s not a chorus you hear with Didi Conn; that is the cast singing in unison as they would have in a Broadway show.


RAGGEDY ANN & ANDY: BEND & STRETCH
Kid Stuff KSS-5012 (Mono / 12” LP / 30 minutes / 1980)

Producer: John Braden. Songs: “Reaching Stretching,” “Jumping Jacks,” “Rocking Boats,” “Elephant,” “Monkey,” “Bird,” “Kangaroo,” “Marching” by John Braden.

RAGGEDY ANN & ANDY: TELLING TIME IS FUN
Kid Stuff KSS-5017 (Mono / LP / 27 minutes / 1981 / Producer: John Braden)

Songs: “It’s About Time,” “Brand New Day,” “One Hour,” “Short Hand, Long Hand,” “Five Minutes” by John Braden.

RAGGEDY ANN & ANDY HAPPINESS ALBUM (Picture Disc)
Kid Stuff KPD-6001 (Mono / 12” LP / 28 minutes / 1981 / Producer: John Braden)

Songs: “Raggedy Ann & Andy World,” “Suppose,” “Happy Is” by John Braden; “Brother, Come and Dance with Me” by Engelbert Humperdinck (from the Opera, “Hansel and Gretel”); “This Old Man” (Traditional).

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The Raggedy Ann & Andy 1977 feature had subsequent influences. In two Chuck Jones CBS specials, 1978’s The Great Santa Claus Caper and 1979’s The Pumpkin Who Couldn’t Smile, June Foray and Daws Butler sound as if they were given Didi Conn and Mark Baker’s voice tracks as a starting point. That’s mere conjecture, but the voices are strikingly similar in tone.

In the 1980’s when Kid Stuff Records was flooding the market with albums and read-alongs featuring licensed properties, the album art on their releases featured some of the Jones character designs and some from the Richard Williams feature, likely supplied by publisher Bobbs-Merrill from their files. One of Jones’ new characters, Raggedy Arthur, is mentioned briefly on the records, but none of the others—Jones’ Alexander Graham Wolf and Williams’ Captain Contagious, The Loony Knight, Grandpa and The Camel With the Wrinkled Knees—appear on the records. (click thumbnails below to enlarge)

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GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Suppose”
Kid Stuff’s oft-uncredited actors also sound like Conn and Baker descendants, though this album has the treacly feel that adults might have expected when they avoided the Williams feature in theaters. Little did they know that the second half was far from cutesy.

13 Comments

  • Greg:
    The soundtrack selection was well done.George S.Irving was great,and Didi Conn was apprpriately wistful.Did sound really good in full stereo!

    • Makes you wish the film had a stereo mix from the start. If it was possible they’d do that today for a BluRay release.

  • I remember seeing the movie in heavy rotation on Nickelodeon, along with the Chuck Jones specials. Storywise, it’s a mess, but individual sequences were great, and the songs are memorable for the most part. It’s one of those films that deserve to live on as a cult classic.

    • I remember seeing the movie in heavy rotation on Nickelodeon, along with the Chuck Jones specials.

      You can thank Harmony Gold for that one. I recall their logos opening and ending that film/specials on Nick.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdhfjFf0HQg

      Storywise, it’s a mess, but individual sequences were great, and the songs are memorable for the most part. It’s one of those films that deserve to live on as a cult classic.

      It’s a childhood fav of mine simply for that. I kinda put it up there with Sanrio’s “The Mouse & His Child”, two films that deserve a DVD/BluRay release but it hasn’t happened at all.

  • Didi Conn and Mark Baker also appeared in the 1977 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, riding a float and miming to their own prerecorded Raggedy Ann and Andy vocal tracks on tape delayed NBC television.

    • Somehow I thought I saw that earlier someplace but I can’t find it now, oh well.

      I also remember Didi Conn’s voice so well from one odd thing I saw when I was 8 or so, an educational film about nutrition I saw in school from a 16mm print. She voiced a young girl with the same voice as Ann’s as she is told by a grown-up voice (both voices are off-camera) how the body needs nutrition and all that stuff. It was a pretty nutty film and I recall laughing my head off at it’s conclusion when a professor tries to create a living man made out of food (the title of the film was called “Nutrition: You Are What You Eat”). Years later I found a print on eBay and fell in love all over again with the nostalgia of this quirky short.

  • Some of the score ended up on Broadway in a three performance disaster — http://ibdb.com/production.php?id=4425

    While the show reused some of the songs, it otherwise had nothing to do with the film.

    It was a very dark show – and utterly bizarre in tone http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raggedy_Ann_%28musical%29

    • The Broadway musical – called “Raggedy Ann” or “Rag Dolly,” is very dark in tone, but from listening to the songs from that production, the darkness does give it some emotional weight — It seems like an interesting production which was unfairly overlooked. The Broadway songs are overall better than the film songs, I’d say. I made some inquiries about it, but there are enough hurt feelings and money issues about the production that even today it’s a problem.

      A documentary about the show:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp9thGwbmiI

  • The songs were generally good and very appropriate to the characters. The film itself is a bit problematic, because while its storyline and substance is juvenile, the way it is presented is extremely adult in tone and style. It seems to be based on the old vaudeville shows, where each performer takes his/her “turn” in song. The songs definitely slow down the pacing, which is more the norm for a stage musical, but the format doesn’t work well in a film aimed at children.

    I also feel that the live-action Marcella was poorly cast and poorly realized on screen. Marcella should give the entire story its heart and soul, because Raggedy Ann is her treasured doll. More development should have been given to her character, maybe even a song (in live action) to Raggedy Ann, wishing that the doll were alive. (A different young actress should have been used, as the girl turns in a perfunctory performance that does not capture the hearts of the audience.) As it stands, the film doesn’t really “start” until it turns to animation, with the beginning and ending sequences just sort of there, but not providing the emotional foundation on which the rest of the film should have been based. Without a strong Marcella opening, the film depends on Raggedy Ann and Andy to carry the picture on their own, which they do, but lacking a strong connection to the audience. (They are dolls, after all, and not humans.)

    Didi Conn does a remarkable job of voicing Raggedy Ann; she gives exactly the kind of forlorn yet loving quality that the character needs. The other vocal performers likewise give good renditions of their roles.

    The musical selections presented here were good choices; I would love to have heard more of the album.

    The film remains a remarkable piece of animation; unfortunately, its entertainment value is compromised by its many ambiguities and its lack of “heart.” It’s nice to read that the artists who worked so long and hard on it felt proud of their accomplishment–but they should have taken more consideration for their intended audience. It wasn’t until “Toy Story” came along that this concept of toys that come to life when the humans are away was satisfactorily developed on the screen.

    Thanks for another great post!

    • You do realize that Richard Williams’ own daughter potrayed Marcella, right?

  • I remember the “Blue” song, and was a little surprised it wasn’t a bigger hit for Helen Reddy or whoever else might have recorded it; as there had been not too much earlier a vogue for pop songs with a slightly ragtime or soft-shoe feel to them (Tony Orlando and Dawn, etc.)

  • I wish this Raggedy Ann movie from 1977 got a DVD and/or Blu-Ray release.

  • For all it’s weaknesses and problems, and probably because it was so weird and idiosyncratic, it’s a movie that left a strong impression on me as a kid, and remains, along with “The Mouse and His Child” one of the most memorable films I’ve ever seen – there are scenes and songs that still haunt my subconscious. There are far more polished, consistent, and benign films that I’ve long since forgotten. I join the chorus to demand that whomever owns the rights to both of those films release a cleaned-up version on Bluray! If nothing else, it’s a treasure trove for animation professionals, historians and fans.

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