By now, everybody who is a cartoon fan knows the story. How people thought that Walter Elias Disney was off his rocker when he wanted to produce a feature-length animated cartoon.
And we all know how it turned out. Disney was crazy all right–crazy like a fox!
So, when it came time to promote the songs from what was, in essence, an animated operetta, why should Disney do the usual thing?
Instead, Disney did the unusual . . . the unexpected . . . the unimaginable. And it worked!
Between 1928 and 1935, Victor (later RCA Victor) had been recording film-to-disc transfers, and pressing them onto sixteen-inch discs for use by theaters that had invested heavily in the “Vitaphone” sound-on-disc process, and did not want to–or could not afford to–invest in the equipment required to play films with the new optical soundtracks. Occasionally, these discs will emerge from concealed hidey-holes, and command modestly impressive sums when these ponderous platters show up on Ebay.
For the “take home” trade, Victor had released a couple of discs dubbed from film soundtracks. In late 1931, they had put out a disc with a clip from the Universal film “Spirit of Notre Dame”, issued as “Knute Rockne Talks To His Team”, and coupled with a six-year-old recording of the “Notre Dame Victory March” by the Notre Dame Band. This was issued as a tribute to the first real celebrity football-coach, who had just died young.
In early 1934, Victor issued the song “Carioca”, from the sound track of “Flying Down To Rio”, played by the RKO Studio Orchestra under Max Steiner.
In England, Electrical and Musical Industries had not only produced the Disney sound track discs I spoke of earlier, but had a series of five discs produced for the Cinematograph Trade Benevolent Fund, These discs–called “Voices of the Stars”–featured snippets of dialogue and/or singing from various Britsh and American pictures, featuring various stars of the silver screen. These even included a clip of a speech from the unfinished 1937 version of “I, Claudius’.
But the idea of the “original soundtrack album” had not occurred to anybody–not yet,anyway!
We may never know who came up with the idea of doing an album of three records–six sides–featuring the popular airs from “Snow White”. But, somebody did–and it proved to be a hit all over the world!
There seems to have been two sessions held in late November and early December of 1937, at Victor’s studio in Hollywood. The six sides recorded at these sessions were issued as three consecutively-numbered 78 rpm discs. They may have come in a kind of paper, gate-fold “album”, well and profusely illustrated with line-drawings telling the story of “Snow Whte’ a la Disney.
One of the most interesting notes on these discs is that, in “Dwarfs’ Yodel Song” (nowadays often called “The Silly Song’), thee is a verse that does not appear in the movie. Lore had it that somebody at the Breen Office–Hollywood’s”Guardian of the Public Morals”–took exception to that particular verse.
Next: The Big Bands take on “Snow White”