A look at attraction-related record albums around the time the world’s number one vacation destination first opened.
Many recognized Mary Poppins as the ultimate combination of everything Walt Disney could achieve on the motion picture screen. It has several connections to the “Florida Project,” as it was called in the early planning stages, from the Audio-Animatronics robin on Julie Andrews’ fingers to the fact that MAPO, a company created with box office profits from the film, helped finance the land purchase and construction.
Walt Disney World Resort was also the culmination of everything Walt Disney had planned and dreamed of from his early days until his passing. Even though he did not see it open, his brother Roy was able to make it happen in his usual masterful way, just as he had done with other impossible projects during their years together. Yet the destination in Central Florida has become such a part of reality for so long, it can be easy to magnitude is easily taken for granted. There are even some who barely understand the scope of what exists there and how much it means to the Walt Disney Company.
When the Magic Kingdom Park opened in 1971, to most of the public it was “Disney World.” The train station sign over the Mickey Mouse face garden read “Walt Disney World” before it was changed to read “Magic Kingdom.” (Disneyland Park in California has also been referred to since 1955 as Walt Disney’s “Magic Kingdom,” although the Florida version uses the trademarked name of “Magic Kingdom Park.”)
It was Julie Andrews (singing “When You Wish Upon a Star”) who co-starred in the Walt Disney World Grand Opening Special, along with Jonathan Winters, Buddy Hackett, Glen Campbell and Annette. The show was sponsored by the resort’s in-park sponsors, GAF film products, Eastern Airlines (sponsor of the beloved “If You Had Wings” attraction with the voice of Orson Welles) and U.S. Steel, which presented commercials showing how they used modular construction to build Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
Magic Kingdom Park sits at the very south end of the Disney property because Walt Disney wanted guests to pass the other Disney offerings that would soon be built before getting there. The property would encompass his dream of Epcot, a city of the future that would be a living example of better ways that people and businesses could improve the world.
Walt also wanted the outside world to fade away as people traveled further into the property and closer to the parks and hotels. While the resort is much more built-up today, it is still too far for to walk from the outskirts of the property to any of the four theme parks–unless you are running in a Walt Disney World Marathon (as your humble author has, and that is very cool to do especially back when the animators worked at the studio and they held up hand-drawn character signs to cheer us along the studio route).
On the south panel of the Magic Kingdom Emporium, signs facing Town Square that now says “Emporium,” used to proclaim some of the store’s wares, including “records.” Even though the store is still themed to the turn of the nineteenth to twentieth centuries (the dawn of the gramophone era) today’s Emporium sells as many records as high-button shoes (perhaps sparing Disney Cast Members the question, “Why don’t you have any records when the sign says you do?”)
On opening day, October 1st, 1971, a large selection of Disneyland and Buena Vista LP records, Storyteller albums and read-alongs gleamed on the polished wood shelves alongside Big and Little Golden Books. There were also some souvenir books and maps also found in other park shops. (One of my first purchases was The Story of Walt Disney World Commemorative, a paperback, almost the size of an album cover and shaped like a “D,” easily the most thorough history of the resort readily in the shops.)
Fifty years later, a much more elaborate hardcover book-tacular has arrived called A Portrait of Walt Disney World: 50 Years of the Most Magical Place on Earth, a labor of love by Steven Vagnini of Walt Disney Imagineering (and formerly The Walt Disney Archives); Tim O’Day (of the Hyperion Historical Alliance) and Kevin Kern (of The Walt Disney Archives). It offers the history all in one place, sets a lot of stories straight, and contains lots of “I did not know that” facts.
Disneyland/Vista Records President Jimmy Johnson had a direct influence on at least one of the premiere Walt Disney World attractions (more about that in a moment). He likely took great interest in the records being sold in the park and resort locations as well. Besides the Emporium, one could find records at Mickey’s Mart (now Mickey’s Star Traders) in Tomorrowland, Village Gifts and Sundries (now Trader Jack’s) at Disney’s Polynesian Resort; and the Fantasia shop in Disney’s Contemporary Resort (thanks to www.waltdatedworld.com).
Some of the records found within the first few years were recent catalog additions: Annette Funicello (a “best-of” collection); Selections from Fantasia and the Camarata version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Longtime sellers like Camarata and Darlene Gillespie’s Alice in Wonderland (the greatest record ever made); Walt Disney’s Most Beloved Songs, soundtracks of Sleeping Beauty and Mary Poppins; and storytellers of Sleeping Beauty, Mary Poppins and Peter Pan. (Bedknobs and Broomsticks, incidentally, was the first Disney feature depicted in three-dimensions diorama Emporium windows.
Because Magic Kingdom shared some similar attractions with Disneyland, collectors found carryover albums and some read-along records of The Haunted Mansion, The Enchanted Tiki Room/Jungle Cruise and it’s a small world.
Some attractions originated in Florida and reappeared either in virtual duplicate or modified versions at Disneyland and in other Disney parks as they began to appear throughout the world. Walt Disney World originals include Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror; The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh; Muppet*Vision 3-D and most recently, Mickey’s Runaway Railway. One of the most popular to originate at Walt Disney World is Space Mountain.
Lucie Arnaz was delighted to reminisce about the making of the Space Mountain grand opening episode of The Wonderful World of Disney, the second network special produced at Walt Disney World Resort. One of the funny stories she told about the show was about her parody of the song “Holiday for Strings,” a rapid-fire recitation of Walt Disney World attractions and activities that she never forgot. She still will unexpectedly break into the routine at restaurants and gatherings, to the delight or astonishment of onlookers. (“Is she zany?” It’s nice to know that she is—and definitely not alone.)
Two attractions were available as record albums when the Walt Disney World opened in 1971 and were also available in retail stores elsewhere. The first LP was not an attraction soundtrack, probably because the music was not licensed for commercial recordings at the time.
Instead, the Mickey Mouse Revue attraction was represented in August 1971, by Mickey Mouse: This Is My Life. When sold in Magic Kingdom, a sticker was added over the shrinkwrap that read “Mickey Mouse Revue.” This also allowed the album to have general salability outside the resort.
As this earlier Animation Spin explains, the photo on the front cover of Mickey Mouse: This Is My Life is a photo of Audio-Animatronics Mickey from the then-new attraction. The “interview” on side one between Mickey and his alter ego at the time, Jimmy Macdonald, culminates with Mickey’s pride in his latest achievement, which was the attraction (misspelled as “Mickey Mouse Review” in the album’s book). In place of the show soundtrack, side two contains a collection of previously released Disneyland Records tracks (film soundtracks and studio versions) stood in the attraction’s program on side two. (In 1980, The Mickey Mouse Revue attraction was moved to Tokyo Disneyland when that park opened in 2009 it closed permanently with some figures now appearing at Epcot in the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros attraction.)
COUNTRY BEAR JAMBOREE
The Original Sound Track of the Walt Disney World Attraction
Disneyland Records – Storyteller Series ST-3994 (12” 33 1/3 rpm / mono)
Released in September 1971. Soundtrack Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Musical Direction: George Bruns, Arthur Norman, Camarata. Running Times: 16 minutes (Country Bear Soundtrack) / 14 minutes (Mile Long Bar).
Country Bear Voices: Pete Renoudet (Henry, Max); Tex Ritter (Big Al); Bill Cole (Wendell); Jimmy Stoneman (Liver Lips); Patsy Stoneman (Teddy Berra); Van Stoneman (Ernest, Terrence/Shaker); Trixie (Cheryl Poole) and The Sun Bonnet Trio: Jackie Ward (Bunny); Bubbles (Loulie Jean Norman); Beulah (Peggy Clark).
Other Voices: Thurl Ravenscroft (Buff the Buffalo); Bill Lee (Melvin the Moose); Bill Cole (Sammy the Raccoon).
Songs: “Pianjo” by Don Robertson; “Bear Band Serenade” by Xavier Atencio, George Bruns; “If You Can’t Bite, Don’t Growl” by Tommy Collins; “My Woman Ain’t Pretty (But She Don’t Swear None)” by Frankie Starr, Paul E. Miller; “Mama, Don’t Whip Little Buford” by Kenneth C. Burns, Henry D. Haynes; “Tears Will Be the Chaser For Your Wine” by Dale Davis, Leroy Goates; “How Long Will My Baby Be Gone” by Buck Owens; “All the Guys That Turn Me On Turn Me Down” Gene Plott, Harold Powell, Roni Stoneman; ”Heart, We Did All That We Could” by Ned Miller; “Blood on the Saddle” by Everett Cheetham; “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” by Tom Blackburn, George Bruns; “Ole Slew Foot’ by Howard Hausey; “Come Again” by Tom Adair, George Bruns.
The Audio-Animatronics stage presentation of Country Bear Jamboree, presented for the last fifty years now (with some modifications) in Frontierland at Magic Kingdom Park (as well as at Tokyo Disneyland), was also the first Walt Disney World soundtrack album.
Jimmy Johnson and his executive assistant, Rose Mussi, were instrumental in the selection and research of songs and music for Country Bear Jamboree. This attraction was one of the last personally supervised by Walt with hand-picked talents that included Bill Justice and Marc Davis. The attraction was first developed for the Mineral King ski resort complex, a project that was never to happen due to pushback from the Sierra Club. As Walt says in the “Project Florida” film, “Everything you see in this room will change.” Therefore it’s an exercise in futility to guess “what Walt would have done or thought” today, or whether some things would or would not have come to pass. He didn’t know from day to day, year to year, so how can we?
The musical director for the original show was George Bruns (Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book), and the musical director for the other two versions was frequent Walt Disney Imagineering contributor George Wilkins, no stranger to animation as the arranger/conductor for the Rankin/Bass feature The Wacky World of Mother Goose.
The cast includes some legendary Disney performers and as well as country icons. Walt Disney Imagineering fixture Peter Renoudet (or Renaday) voices Henry, the host of Country Bear Jamboree. Pete’s career is renowned to those who have even a cursory knowledge of Disney, from his numerous roles in Disney live-action films (including the policeman who sees Herbie the Love Bug attempt suicide) and his offscreen singing to countless theme park voices and record albums. During his stint in the script library, he and Julie Andrews exchanged waves as she rehearsed dance sequences for Mary Poppins.
Also in the cast are members of the Stoneman family, singers whose father Ernest was one of the pioneers of country-western music. Tex Ritter, the grandfather of actor John Ritter, sings for Big Al, though it is a previous vintage recording. Hanna-Barbera fans take note that studio singing greats Bill Lee and Jackie Ward are also in the cast—the singing voices of Yogi and Cindy in the feature, Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear.
Since the original Country Bear Jamboree was only a little over fifteen minutes long, side two is graced with George Bruns background music (or in theme park parlance, “BGM”) from Frontierland’s Mile Long Bar counter-service food location next to the attraction. A book illustrated with photos transforms the LP into a “Storyteller.” When the attraction opened on the West coast, the album cover copy was revised to include Disneyland.
Country Bear Jamboree was made into an amiable but not very impactful theatrical feature. The attraction was transformed into two additional versions (Country Bear Christmas Special in 1984 and Country Bear Vacation Hoedown in 1986). A short-lived but delightful musical morning show was presented at Pioneer Hall at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort starring one of its characters, The Melvin the Moose Breakfast Show.
THE HALL OF PRESIDENTS
Original Sound Track from Walt Disney World
Disneyland Records – Storyteller Series ST- 3806 (12” 33 1/3 rpm / mono)
Released in August 1972. Soundtrack Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Writer: James Algar. Music: Buddy Baker. Running Times: 23 minutes.
Voices: Lawrence Dobkin (Narrator); Royal Dano (Abraham Lincoln); Paul Frees (George Washington, Governor Mifflin, Stephen Douglas, Crowd Voices); Dal McKennon (Andrew Jackson).
Song: “Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Julia Ward Howe and William Steffe.
The second Walt Disney World soundtrack album was The Hall of Presidents Storyteller. It was only available in full stereo while the Country Bear Jamboree was only in mono. This was also the case when both albums were released for a brief time in 2010 through the Disney Parks “Wonderland Music” on-demand CD system kiosks. (When Country Bear Jamboree was included in the CD box set, A Musical History of Disneyland, Walt Disney Records Producer Randy Thornton restored its stereo soundtrack.)
The Hall of Presidents has its musical and visual roots in the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair and Disneyland attraction, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Originally conceived as a Disneyland attraction, it contains music and dialogue lifted for The Hall of Presidents, plus new scoring based on themes from Great Moments. The Lincoln-Douglas debate sequence is an edited version lifted completely from the earlier attraction. The narration by Larry Dobkin and additional dialogue by Dal McKennon (and other uncredited actors) was created for Walt Disney World.
In addition to the soundtracks, two 12-inch picture discs were sold at the resort as well, emphasizing entertainment offerings. A Musical Souvenir of Walt Disney World featured various bands, musicians and vocal groups, recorded live and in studios (some of this album was used on later compilations). The other was called A Musical Souvenir of America on Parade, the electronic soundtrack of the unusual Bicentennial Magic Kingdom parade in which performers wore oversized, Mardi Gras-style heads over their costumes themed to periods in American history.
There was also a seven-inch picture disc for the Walt Disney World Electrical Water Pageant, (precursor to the Main Street Electrical Parade), and a wonderful little flexi-disc called The Walt Disney Character Parade with a song played for the renowned “three o’clock parade” that was also used for a regional Walt Disney World TV commercial.
Soon other park-related vinyl albums appeared in Walt Disney World shops: a storyteller based on the first Walt Disney World animated character, The Orange Bird; two Disneyland/Walt Disney World compilation LPs, an Official Epcot album, and an album of songs by Voices of Liberty, the a Capella Epcot vocal group. Occasionally a record on a non-Disney label would be also offered in park and resort shops, including one by the Adventureland Steel Drum Band.