Walt Disney Television Animation made the leap into Saturday morning with Adventures of the Gummi Bears as Walt Disney Records read-alongs transitioned from vinyl to cassette.
GUMMI BEARS: GUMMIES TO THE RESCUE!
Disneyland Book and Record #501 (7” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono / Also on Cassette)
Released in 1985. Read-Along Producer: Randy Thornton. Editorial: Ted Kryczko. Soundtrack Dialogue from Season 1, Episode 2a, “The Sinister Sculptor,” broadcast on NBC on September 21, 1985. Running Time: 12 minutes.
GUMMI BEARS: ZUMMI’S MAGIC SPELL
Disneyland Book and Record #502 (7” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono / Also on Cassette)
Released in 1985. Read-Along Producer: Randy Thornton. Editorial: Ted Kryczko. Soundtrack Dialogue from Season 1, Episode 2b, “Zummi Makes it Hot,” broadcast on NBC on September 21, 1985. Running Time: 11 minutes.
GUMMI BEARS: TUMMI AND THE DRAGON
Disney Storyteller Book and Cassette #505 (Mono)
Released in 1985. Read-Along Producer: Randy Thornton. Editorial: Ted Kryczko. Soundtrack Dialogue from Season 1, Episode 3a, “Someday My Prints Will Come,” broadcast on NBC on September 28, 1985. Running Time: 12 minutes.
Voices: William Woodson (Narrator); Paul Winchell (Zummi); Bill Scott (Gruffi, Sir Tuxford, Davini); June Foray (Grammi, Peaceful Dragon); Lorenzo Music (Tummi); Noelle North (Cubbi Gummi, Princess Calla); Michael Rye (King Gregor); Christian Jacobs (Cavin); Will Ryan (Ogres).
When it comes to Disney milestones, Adventures of the Gummi Bears deserves a more prominent place on the company timeline. Had it not been successful, the very idea of Disney TV animation, while not abandoned, might not have grown up under the same perfect storm of creative talent and executive support.
Disney’s Gummi Bears series bounced on to NBC at precisely the same time that Disney’s Wuzzles series premiered on CBS, each starting their seasons with thirteen episodes. It may be anecdotal, but it seemed that more publicity was afforded The Wuzzles (maybe due to a Hasbro tie-in), while the Gummi Bears made a relatively quiet bow. After the ratings were tallied, only Gummi Bears also was renewed. NBC ordered at least eight new shows a year for the next four years.
The concept for the series—beyond the whimsical-but-true story of Michael Eisner using his sons’ favorite candies as a springboard—is classic Disney tailored for Saturday morning. And just as Sid and Marty Krofft’s H.R. Pufnstuf brought a Wizard of Oz sensibility to weekly TV, Gummi Bears brought a kind of magical fairy tale adventure that could have been based on a Disney feature (or a theme park ride, with the “quick tunnels”). The fairy tale setting was also advantageous for NBC as it complemented the super successful Smurfs series from Hanna-Barbera, only suddenly Disney was offering a quality of animation on a different level than kids usually saw during this time in TV history.
And what a cast: June Foray, Paul Winchell, Lorenzo Music, Katie Leigh and Noelle North—plus the much-missed voice of Bill (Bullwinkle/Dudley/Peabody/George/Super Chicken) Scott. Many of these fine actors made their way to the three read-along sets.
No vinyl LP albums resulted from The Disney Afternoon or any early Disney TV Animation property, but the first two Gummi Bears read-alongs were among the very last vinyl 7-inch 33 1/3 records Disney made in the 20th century. By the time the third read-along was ready, cassettes had replaced vinyl and Disney recording enthusiasts had to accept the cassette as the sole format until CD’s came along.
Almost every read-along based on a Disney TV cartoon episode underwent a title change. Gummis to the Rescue! is based on the first segment of the second episode (each episode had two 11-minute stories). Its original title was “The Sinister Sculptor.” The second half of that episode, “Zummi Makes it Hot,” became Zummi’s Magic Spell. Tummi and the Dragon (featuring a delightful performance by June Foray as a friendly fire-breather) was based on “Someday My Prints Will Come.”
That last title might offer a clue as to why these changes may have occurred. “Someday My Prints Will Come” is a cute play on words for a fleeting title that the context of a TV episode, but a tactile consumer product needs something more generic, enticing and epic-sounding, not only to attract the buyer but as a keepsake item. It might have been nice to have listed the original title inside the cover, but read-alongs of this era had very few credits.
The Gummi Bears read-alongs are the only ones among the thirteen total Disney Afternoon-related book-and-record sets to exclude a theme song. However, it is included on the CD album we explored last month.
It’s also worth noting that the Fisher-Price toy company entered into an agreement to distribute Walt Disney Records read-along books and cassettes under their brand simultaneously. There were a few read-along titles that Disney created especially for Fisher-Price, but most of the sets were identical to their Walt Disney Records products. The Fisher-Price releases emphasized the Fisher-Price logo, fonts and colors along with the Disney name. Fisher-Price was also the manufacturer of various other Disney Gummi Bears toy products.