A perfect storm of talent at Disney’s Buena Vista label turned Hallmark’s contribution to adorable ’80s character franchises into some of the most outstanding records of the era.
RAINBOW BRITE: PAINT A RAINBOW IN YOUR HEART
10 Original Fun-Filled Songs
Buena Vista Records #62523 (Standard Vinyl) #63156 (Picture Disc) (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Stereo)
Released in 1984. Producers: Jim Andron, Jymn Magon. Arrangements: Jim Andron. Children’s Choral Direction: Betty Joyce. Engineer: Jim Mills. Running Time: 25 minutes.
Performers: Bettina Bush (Rainbow Brite). Michael Silversher (Twink); Corey Burton (Murky Dismal); Pat Fraley (Lurky); Will Ryan (Starlite); Stacey O’Brien (Patty O’Green); Lois Blaisch (Soloist on “Rainbow Land”), The Color Kids.
Songs: “Make Room for a Rainbow Inside,” “The Pits,” “Starlite-Rainbow Brite” by Patrick, Bourland, Gift and Hughes; “In the Twink of An Eye,” “A Color Symphony,” “The First Part of Friendship is Friends,” “Bink! Bonk!” “Paint a Rainbow in Your Heart” by Patty Silversher, Michael Silversher; “Rainbow Land” by Joey Carbone, Lois Blaisch.
Let’s face it—when Rainbow Brite and the other denizens of Rainbow Land were popular characters on TV and mountains of merchandise back in the 1980s, their appearance on records might only cause rejoicing if one was a fan. However, if one was a Disney record enthusiast, it would be obligatory to add to one’s library, regardless of the affinity. Characters like Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Shortcake and the like were everywhere at the time. Kid Stuff’s extensive record line featuring Rainbow’s berry-biggest rival was already in almost every store (the soundtrack albums are in this Spin).
Of course, much more is to be expected of Disneyland and Buena Vista Records. Even so, the overwhelmingly high quality of the melodies and the scope of the productions exceed just “sweet” and “cute.” These are truly spectacular records, an example of how high the level can be, regardless of a somewhat limited budget, even for Disney.
When Tim Hollis and researched our book, Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records, one of our many questions was, “Why were the Rainbow Brite records so especially good?”
There were several factors at work, among them that Disney’s in-house record company was firing on all cylinders in the early ‘80s. President Gary Krisel and master Producer/Supervisor of Product Development Jymn Magon had, since 1976-77, expanded and diversified the catalog from top to bottom. The best traditions were in motion and new practices were working better than ever. New life was breathed into classic Disney brands through records and innovative successes were being achieved with outside brands like LucasFilm (which was the first Disney partnership, before Star Tours or anything else), Peanuts, Rankin/Bass, Spielberg and many others.
Krisel and Magon were about to transition into new roles at Walt Disney Television Animation, so they had nurtured a new team to continue the success. The Rainbow Brite records were being made while important players like Bambi Moé, Ted Kryczko, Ron Kidd, Jim Andron and others had been brought into the fold. The new team was anxious to make their mark and please their mentors, new bosses and new clients.
A graduate of CalArts, Jim Andron was musical director for the popular TV and recording group, the New Christy Minstrels, in the ‘70s. By the ‘80s he was operating a commercial music company in Hollywood called LA MusicWorks, which was located in the landmark Crossroads of the World, coincidentally across street from Tutti Camarata’s Sunset Sound studios.
“I was trying to get a foothold with Disney,” Jim Andron said in Mouse Tracks. “We took extra time and care.” Andron wrote the exuberant arrangements and conducted a full orchestra of strings, brass, woodwinds and a rhythm section, which was very unusual for children’s records of this era, which relied on fewer instruments or the Synclavier, an electronic keyboard called the synclavier which could approximate them.
Songwriter Michael Silversher recalls that they were most likely recorded in Nashville. This had been the procedure for Disneyland Records since the triple-platinum-selling, industry-changing, Mickey Mouse Disco, which we explored in this Spin.
One of Andron’s most enduring assignments for the label came after Rainbow Brite. He was asked to compose and produce music cues for Disney and Buena Vista read-alongs. These cues–in addition to many others by Gary Powell and Pat Patrick–are as familiar to read-along listeners of the last 40 years as, for example, the Hoyt Curtin/Ted Nichols music is beloved by fans of classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons. To this day, the newest read-alongs—when soundtrack music is not available—employ this versatile, highly listenable music.
Even though the read-along book-and-record sets (below) featured the original TV cast, it was necessary to recast some roles based on musical abilities. Being able to carry a tune is one thing, but being able to sight-read music, blend in harmony, hit specific notes and keys and so on requires some background in singing. Pat Fraley (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Costume Quest) worked on all the versions. He spoke and sang voices for the Rainbow Brite theatrical feature, the DIC TV Animation cartoon, the music albums and the read-alongs.
“In the movie, Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer, I did, Lurky, Buddy Blue, On-X, Dog, Guard, Spectran, Slurthie, Glitterbot and Skydancer,” Fraley explained. “The characters I did on the series were Lurky, Buddy Blue, and On-X. On the Disney-produced albums, I did Lurky. Murky was Corey Burton.”
But what of the radiant Ms. Brite herself? “They didn’t know I sang,” said Bettina Bush, the original speaking voice of Rainbow Brite (and more as a grownup, the voice of Kai Green on Ben 10: Omniverse). She recalled that both Disney and DIC “had been auditioning other girls to sing. I was in a recording session for the cartoon and was singing to myself, and they said, “Do you sing? “I started rattling off my credits. I was about six or seven at the time. They started laughing, and I think they asked me to sing ‘Happy Birthday.’
“I said, ‘Do you want to hear some of the songs that I really sing?’ And I did ‘Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.’ It was really funny. I thought, why would you think of using somebody else?”
Michael Silversher remembers the circumstances surrounding the songwriting. “It was a Murky (another intended pun) time for Patty and I, having moved from one rental in Eagle Rock to another, and we wrote most of our songs in two weeks and in front of a heater vent in the hall of the house, which was freezing cold! I made the demos in the garage outside on the fly with equipment loaned to me by Yamaha as a Yamaha Artist.” Michael’s voice was speeded up for the singing voice of Twink.
Paint a Rainbow in Your Heart won a Gold Album award and must have made an impression on a lot of people over the years—there’s even an article in The Huffington Post about it.
To paraphrase Shakespeare and Willy Wonka, “So shines a good record album in a weary world.”
RAINBOW BRITE: CHRISTMAS
10 Fun-Filled Christmas Songs
Buena Vista Records #2511 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Stereo)
Released in 1985. Producers: Bambi Moé, Jim Andron. Arrangements: Jim Andron, Jim Mandell. Children’s Choral Direction: Betty Joyce. Engineer: Jim Mills. Running Time: 29 minutes.
Performers: Bettina Bush (Rainbow Brite). Michael Silversher (Twink); Corey Burton (Murky Dismal); Pat Fraley (Lurky); The Color Kids.
Original Songs: “A Gift of Love,” “Christmas in the Pits” by Michael and Patty Silversher.
Traditional Songs: “Jingle Bells,” “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” “The First Noel,” “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, “ “Hark The Herald Angels Sing,” “O Christmas Tree,” “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”
Traditional Songs with New Lyrics: “The Twelve Days Of Christmas” by Don Vandevort, Michael and Patty Silversher; “Deck the Halls” by Steve Gillette.
If this record had nothing else on the vinyl but “A Gift of Love,” that alone would make it worthwhile. Truly what should be a holiday standard, Patty and Michael Silversher’s “A Gift of Love” offers not only a lovely melody but, kindness, generosity, unselfishness and a subtle spirituality folded within simple lyrics. Of course, the lyrics are tailored here for the Rainbow Brite characters, exchanging gifts and making thing nice for their friends, but the “brand new coat of colors” lyric suggests an extra level of meaning. Rainbow and friends create all the colors everywhere, but the act of caring for others does the same thing in the real world.
“When we write a song, we get very emotional, especially with ballads,” Patty Silversher said in Mouse Tracks. “We got just as emotional with Rainbow Brite as any other project.”
“A Gift of Love” made such an impression that producer Robin Frederick asked the Silvershers to revise the lyrics changes for Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Uncle Scrooge on the album Disney’s Twelve Days of Christmas. This is one of the finest Disney character albums and a personal favorite of our beloved friend, the late Russi Taylor (please see this Spin). The point of the song is made more clear in this version, though still not in a heavy-handed, sledgehammered way, that the characters are gathering gifts for the less fortunate and not just for themselves. The musical arrangements in both renditions, especially when the song shifts into a higher key at the end, are exhilarating.
Rainbow Brite Christmas is an overall collection of carols and familiar holiday songs (the use of public domain Christmas tunes may indicate an even lower budget but no less production quality). The other original Silversher opus, “Christmas in the Pits,” is a comic duet between villainous Murky and his flunky Lurky, but even this song can be seen as multi-layered for adults weary of the pressures of the season’s obligations, economics and other challenges.
RAINBOW BRITE READ ALONGS
Buena Vista Records / Hallmark Cards / Golden Books (7” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono / 1984)
Producer: Ted Kryczko. Writers: Dorothy Eyre, Sarah Leslie, Leslie McGuire, Lyn Calder.
Voices: Linda Gary (Story Reader); Bettina Bush (Rainbow Brite); Peter Cullen (Murky Dismal); Mona Marshall (Red Butler, Paddy O’Green, Canary Yellow); Pat Fraley (Lurky, Buddy Blue); Robbie Lee (Twink, Shy Violet); Andre Stojka (Starlite).
RAINBOW BRITE SAVES SPRING (#280)
Song: “Paint a Rainbow in Your Heart.”
RAINBOW BRITE AND THE BROOK MEADOW DEER (#281)
Song: “Rainbow Land”
RAINBOW BRITE AND THE GREAT COLOR MIX-UP (#282)
Song: “A Color Symphony.”
RAINBOW BRITE: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BUDDY BLUE! (#283)
Song: “Make Room for a Rainbow Inside.”
All four Rainbow Brite Buena Vista Read-Alongs were adapted from similar softcover Golden Books. The cast of the DIC TV series was brought in to do the voices, an unusual move for lower-budgeted read-alongs, which rely most often on dialogue tracks or studio casts.