One of the earliest titles in the Disneyland Records series of book and record album sets was the story of Bambi with songs from the film and a script written by Roy Jr.
Walt Disney’s Story of
Told by Jimmie Dodd (1957)
Narrated by Ginny Tyler (1960, Reissued in 1969)
Disneyland Records Storyteller Series ST-3903 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)
Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer: Camarata. Script: Roy E. Disney, Based on the Film Story by Perce Pierce, Larry Morey, Vernon Stallings, Mel Shaw, Carl Fallberg, Chuck Couch, Ralph Wright. Music: Frank Churchill, Edward Plumb. Conductor; Alexander Steinert. Vocal Direction: Charles Henderson. Orchestrations: Charles Wolcott, Paul J. Smith. Sololist: Donald Novis. Running Time (1957): 24 minutes. (1960): 21 minutes.
Songs: “Love is a Song,” “Little April Shower,” “Let’s Sing a Gay Little Spring Song,” “I Bring You a Song” by Larry Morey, Frank Churchill.
There is a lot of packaging and repackaging in the children’s record business. Much like its classic films, Disney has always sought ways to repackage, repurpose and reinvent its fine library of recordings. In case of Bambi, the results were quite distinguished.
Bambi was the first animated feature to be adapted into the Storyteller format (the first two were A Day at Disneyland with Walt Disney and Jiminy Cricket and The Story of Perri (a live-action “True-Life Fantasy” film told by Jimmie Dodd). For the Bambi Storyteller, the film story was adapted by Roy Edward Disney, son of Walt’s brother Roy O. Disney.
He was working on nature films with producer Winston Hibler (who often narrated those films) when Disneyland Records founder Jimmy Johnson approached him. As Roy told me in Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney (co-authored with Tim Hollis), “It sounded like fun, so I brought a record of the music home to listen to, suggested the order of the music, and wrote narrator’s text to go with it. I sent it to Jimmy and he loved it. It was just a little spare time job.”
The narration is beautifully timed to match to the music, especially considering the limits of working without video reference—though few people probably had memorized Bambi better than Roy. In addition to the four songs, Roy selected several background cues that were included on the Bambi soundtrack album released earlier that year (WDL-4014). However, the music for the climactic forest fire sequence–entitled “Bambi Hunted” on the LP–was not used with Dodd’s narration. Perhaps it was decided that “Bambi Hunted” was too “busy” and didn’t play well under the narration, or it wasn’t long enough. For whatever reason, it was replaced by a “Rite of Spring” excerpt from Fantasia, which sounds quite similar.
Disney Legend Jimmie Dodd was a big Disney star when this album was in stores, most visibly Mondays through Fridays on ABC-TV’s Mickey Mouse Club, but also in frequent Disneyland Park appearances in person, on local TV and national Disney prime time specials. He also narrated the aforementioned Perri (singing songs with co-Mouseketeer Darlene Gillespie), the story of Peter Pan and played several roles on Disneyland’s Zorro and Davy Crockett albums.
In 1960, when The Mickey Mouse Club was no longer a daily TV phenomenon and the Walt Disney Studios had some new titles to mix in with the classics, several of the Storytellers were re-recorded with another Disney Legend, Ginny Tyler. A number of them were given oval die-cut front covers called “Magic Mirrors” that offered a peek at the first page inside the books.
One of the scripts Tyler was given to re-record was Roy E. Disney’s adaptation of Bambi. Whether it was due to Roy’s participation or just because of general fondness for the source material, the 1960 production of Bambi was edited with a little more care than some of the other Tyler Storyteller remakes, which often cut into the music instead of gently fading out or under the narration. Even the “Rite of Spring” is still there.
When the album cover was redesigned again in 1969, there was an attempt to open up the mono recording so it would sound a bit fuller when played in stereo. There was no cheesy “electronic enhancement” to mar the original sound, just a slight echo to make it clear, at least in headphones, that it had been transitioned to stereo. Clearly Bambi was seen as something rather special.