48 years ago this Sunday, ABC broadcast Alice in Wonderland, or What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This? It was one of Hanna-Barbera’s best specials — and best record albums.
THE NEW ALICE IN WONDERLAND or What’s Nice Kid Like You Doing in Place Like This?
From the Hanna-Barbera T.V. Special
Hanna-Barbera Records / Cartoon Series HLP- 2051 (12” Vinyl 33 rpm / Mono / 1966)
Executive Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera. Director: Charles Shows. Writer: Bill Dana. Adaptation: Charles Shows. Song Arrangements: Al Capps. Original Background Music: Hoyt Curtin. Editors: Milton Krear, Dan Finnerty. Engineer: Richard Olsen. Art Direction: Harvard Pennington. Cover Art: Iwao Takamoto, Paul Julian. Hand Lettering: Robert Schaefer. Running Time: 44 minutes.
Voices: Janet Waldo (Alice, The Queen of Hearts); Bill Dana (The White Knight); Scatman Crothers (The Cheshire Cat); Mel Blanc (Caterpillar/Barney Rubble, The March Hare, Prosecuting Attorney/King’s Son); Henry Corden (Caterpillar/Fred Flintstone); Daws Butler (The Mad Hatter, The King of Hearts, Game Announcer); Don Messick (Narrator, The White Rabbit, Jailer); Allan Melvin (Alice’s Father, Humpty Dumpty); Doris Drew (Singing Voice of Alice).
Songs: “Life’s a Game,” “What’s Nice Kid Like You Doing in Place Like This?” “They’ll Never Split Us Apart,” “Today’s a Wonderful Day,” “I’m Home” by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams.
No other Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Series Record had a bigger budget, a bigger cast and more solid production values than this vinyl adaptation of the one-hour animated ABC-TV special, originally airing on Wednesday, March 30, 1966.
Hanna-Barbera Productions was on a roll. Multiple TV series, tons of merchandise, a feature film with one on the way and a high-profile North Hollywood studio complex where we believed that Bill and Joe arrived by helicopter every day to make cool cartoons.
Like Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear coming two years earlier and The Man Called Flintstone just ahead of it, Alice in Wonderland (the record album added the word “new”) was a step toward positioning Hanna-Barbera as a full-service entertainment company, eventually moving into live-action and theme park attractions. The sky seemed the limit.
So, even though the animation quality was noticeably uneven in Alice in Wonderland (as were the technical aspects of 1967’s Jack and the Beanstalk), they went all out on the music and cast some of the best voice actors in the business as well as a handful of celebrities.
It also offered a very imaginative twist on the Lewis Carroll story: In this version, the book already exists, Alice lives in contemporary times and she meets updated (for the 1960’s) versions of the Wonderland characters, as if they always lived there and just changed with the times. It’s a bit dated now, but no less entertaining than a Monkees episode or a visit from groovy Serena to the Stephens’ house.
The best thing about the new story—at least for kids like me back then—was the idea of falling through the TV set, down a flashing, twinkling portal, to another world. Making Alice’s TV a portable unit was especially fantastical, since it didn’t sit against the wall and made the whole thing even more impossible and therefore more inventive. (In the actual special, Alice simply disappears through the TV screen. On the record, the screen breaks first, which seems less fanciful and a little uncomfortable—Alice might cut herself on the broken glass or maybe get an electrical shock!)
This record album, while largely a re-creation of the story and songs, came along when Hanna-Barbera Records were getting into more retail stores and showed the possibility of becoming an all-around recording company, just like H-B.
That puts The New Alice in Wonderland LP at the zenith of the HBR history. The actors most associated with animation reprised their roles, including the glorious Janet Waldo, Mel Blanc, Daws Butler and Allan Melvin. Contractual issues and/or high prices nixed the appearances of Sammy Davis, Jr. (who was signed with Reprise Records); Harvey Korman (just becoming a “name” in TV); Alan Reed (with Henry Corden subbing again) and Zsa Zsa Gabor (who, as far as I’m concerned, could not play herself as well as Janet Waldo plays her on the record).
Bill Dana is given star billing on the record, but his dialogue is completely lifted from the soundtrack. Mel Blanc’s Barney and Henry Corden’s Fred dialogue is not from the soundtrack, but their singing is, even though the orchestra is different. Howard Morris’ exclusion from the vinyl version as The White Rabbit actually led to a falling-out with Joe Barbera (read Mark Evanier’s fascinating account here)stones Modern Stone Age Melodies CD, but that was a direct soundtrack recording with the full orchestra.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Alice and The White Knight”
Every voice on this album was recorded especially for HBR, except this sequence, which used the actual speaking and singing tracks from the film. Note that Janet Waldo recorded a few extra lines for the benefit of the listeners, and also that the album’s song orchestration has a smaller orchestra but still suggests Marty Paich’s TV arrangement.
DELIGHTFUL DORIS DREW
Mode Records (12” 33 1/3 Vinyl LP / 1957)
Reissue: VSOP Records MODE-126 (Compact Disc or Download / Mono / 1995)
Producer: Red Clyde. Arranger: Marty Paich. Musicians include: Dan Fagerquist, Dave Pell, Herb Geller, Max Bennett, Marty Paich, The Hollywood Strings.
Songs: “I Got the Sun in The Morning” and “(Just One Way to Say) I Love You” by Irving Berlin; “Cabin in the Sky” by Vernon Duke and John Latouche; “There Will Never Be Another You” by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren; “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (And Dream Your Troubles Away)” by Harry Barris, Ted Koehler and Billy Moll; “He’s My Guy” by Gene DePaul and Don Raye; “Once You Find Your Guy” by Kay Smith; “You and the Night and the Music” and “Something to Remember You By” by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz; “If I Should Lose You” by Ralph Rainger and Harry Robin; “I Only Have Eyes for You” by Al Dubin and Harry Warren; “I Cried for You” by Gus Arnheim, Arthur Freed and Abe Lyman.
Doris Drew sang the songs for Alice in the Hanna-Barbera Alice in Wonderland special (credited as “Doris Drew Allen”). Like other busy and highly regarded Hollywood studio soloists of the ‘50s and ‘60s (Bill Lee, Robie Lester, Marni Nixon, B.J. Baker, Gene Merlino, Loulie Jean Norman, etc.), Drew could be heard in countless commercials, recordings and films, usually uncredited.
Like the fantastic singers in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, artists like Drew, also a popular West Coast jazz artist, tried their hand at a solo career for several years and appeared on TV variety shows, in addition to records for Mercury, Mode and several budget record labels—including some tracks conducted by a certain John “Johnny” Williams.
Marty Paich—a stellar arranger/conductor/musician who worked with the biggest names in the mid-20th century—including Barbra (like butter) Streisand and, as his website states, “Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Mahalia Jackson, Sammy Davis Jr, Mel Tormé, Lena Horne, Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, Ray Charles and a hundred others.”
Paich also arranged and conducted the songs for Hanna-Barbera’s Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear!, The Man Called Flintstone and Alice in Wonderland — in which he worked with (and probably recommended) Doris Drew. All three benefitted from his talent for creating that big, spectacular “showbiz” sound.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (And Dream Your Troubles Away)”
Recorded nine years before Doris Drew sang in Hanna-Barbera’s Alice in Wonderland, this is a very similar, “sunny side” song that accents the similarity between the performances, but also points up the difference between singing as a character (as Alice) and singing through the various shades of one’s own personality. The best studio vocalists were adept at both.