Finny June fun with Don Knotts and Thurl Ravenscroft plus a Disney mermaid who made her splash on Disneyland Records…20 years before Ariel.
“I WISH I WERE A FISH” – Don Knotts and The Porpoises
“THE MR. LIMPET MARCH (Super Doodle Dandy)”
From the Warner Bros. Picture The Incredible Mr. Limpet
Warner Bros. Records #5431 (45 RPM / Mono / 1964)
Music: Sammy Fain. Lyrics: Harold Adamson. Arranger/Conductor: Don Ralke. Running Time: 4.6 minutes.
There’s a bittersweet feeling that looms over 1964’s Incredible Mr. Limpet. For kids, there’s a feeling of strangeness that is built into the story from the beginning, when Jack Weston tells Andrew Duggan how he’d rather not revisit this disturbing episode from his past. Then we find out what a jerk Weston’s character is, how he and Carole Cook’s character belittle Don Knotts’ Limpet and count the minutes waiting for him to go fish. Yet, even when at the end (Spoiler Alert if needed!), Limpet leaves his wife behind and keeps his gills, even though his marriage wasn’t very a happy one, this is still a very dark ending for a family film of this era.
Most of us kids still loved the movie and never missed it whenever the local stations showed it (I remember many years ago, when Dorothy Shula, wife of Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula, was being interviewed on local TV and told the reporter she had to leave soon because the kids wanted to stay up and watch Mr. Limpet).
As animation enthusiasts, we discovered that it signaled the end of another era. Warner’s animation studio, at least as it was once functioning, was shutting down and DePatie-Freleng was handling the shards and splinters of what Warner character-related work was left in the ‘60s.
The Incredible Mr. Limpet was a live-action/animated feature produced around the same time as Mary Poppins, when both movies and TV shows were toying with the concept but only Poppins and a parade of TV spots really had major success with the technique at the time. But like Poppins, the budget wasn’t bloated as later ‘60s fantasies and musicals became, so it didn’t do any harm, and it certainly proved that Don Knotts could carry a feature film on his own, no small feat even today.
We Limpet fans are still waiting patiently for a soundtrack album or studio score. There isn’t a lot of music in the film, but there are several ancillary recordings that could serve as bonus tracks, including the Arthur Godfrey single that we posted some time ago . It is our pleasure to present the hard-to-find, groovy-as-all-get-out dance party version of “I Wish I Were a Fish” by Don Knotts himself, with several prominent backup showcase moments from the grrrreat Thurl Ravenscroft, who collaborated with the musical director of this single, Don Ralke, on a musical masterpiece that we explored here: Snoopy, Come Home.
Side B is also a treat. “The Mr. Limpet March” is the song, “Super Doodle Dandy,” in which Henry dreams of heroic fame. It’s actually a very economic sequence, with nothing more than a few shots of Knotts giving speeches and marching on a treadmill with some amusing animated gags and stock footage. It was a way to get more of the live-action Don Knotts into the feature for those who might have felt shortchanged. To us kids, it was all Barney Fife in color and cartoons and funny fish and it was just great and can I maybe get a new record later at Woolworth’s?
Arthur Lubin, the director of Limpet, was also the creator of Mister Ed, so he was able to slip a little Limpet into an episode called “Ed the Musician,” broadcast on April 19, 1964–almost exactly one month after Limpet opened. Go to 17:12 in the video below for a rare showcase in which film and Broadway veteran Edna Skinner—who in her role as Kay Addison didn’t get much to do on Mister Ed except ask her husband, “What’s Wilbur up to now, Doll?”– she sings the romantic ballad, “Deep Rapture” from Mr. Limpet.
And if you still can’t get enough Limpet lore, you’ll want to check out the movie Mr. Winkle Goes to War starring Edward G. Robinson the next time is plays on TCM. Though it bears little resemblance to Limpet, it’s actually based on the same book by Theodore Pratt.
From the WALT DISNEY Studio
The Story and Songs of
MISTY, THE MISCHIEVOUS MERMAID
Disneyland Records Storyteller Series ST-3982 (12” 33 1/3 RPM With Book / Mono / 1969)
UK Version: Disneyland Records Storyteller ST-3984 (Mono / 1969)
UK Reissue: Disneyland Records Castle Series DQ-1190 (Stereo / 1970)
Executive Producer/Writer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer/Musical Director: Camarata. Story: Tom Adair. Orchestrations: Brian Fahey. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London. Running Time: 38 minutes.
Voices: Tony Brandon (Narrator/Prentice the Porpoise, Captain Spook); Carole Lorrimer (Misty); Peter Hawkins (Ocky the Octopus, Cruncher, Ernie the Electric Eel, Blubber the Whale); Ysanne Churchman (Marvin); Roland Pickering (Sandy); Sally Milner (Jane); Joanne Brown (Singing Voice of Misty); Mike Sammes (Singing Voice of Captain Spook); The Mike Sammes Singers.
Songs: “Misty, The Mischievous Mermaid,” “Stick With Me,” “Give Me a Hand,” “What’ll We Do with the Money?” “Captain Spook’s Song,” “It’s Someone’s Birthday,” “Misty, The Mischievous Mermaid (Reprise)” by Buddy Baker, Tom Adair.
In 1969, the Disney studio introduced a musical fantasy about a strong-willed, red-headed mermaid who found herself and her friends awash in wild undersea adventures because of her wild dreams and crazy schemes.
But the mermaid wasn’t Ariel, there was no Prince and it had nothing to do with Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale. This mermaid has school age human friends on land, as well as a sensible porpoise, a whale and several other pals under the sea. She’s determined to find lost treasure in a sunken ship despite the threat of a ghostly pirate.
“Misty the Mischievous Mermaid” was dreamed up by Oscar and Emmy nominee Tom Adair, who had a long association with Disney, through music for the Mickey Mouse Club, Zorro, Sleeping Beauty and such recordings as Dickens’ Christmas Carol, which evolved into the Mickey featurette, Mickey’s Christmas Carol.
Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Adair and his wife Frances co-wrote (with Disney Legend Bill Walsh) one of the most important songs in the studio catalog: “How Will I Know My Love?” It was sung with little fanfare by Disney Legend Annette on her serial in a Mickey Mouse Club episode. The studio had no plans to record this unpretentious song until fan letters started poured in. Half a million records were quickly sold, launching Annette’s career as a teen star—and subsequently bringing the Sherman Brothers to the attention of Walt Disney.
Either Adair wrote the Misty story as a treatment for a proposed film (which is very likely, since treatments and scripts were as plentiful on the studio lot as they were anywhere else in the Hollywood area) or it was just a Disneyland Records project. Whatever its origins, Misty never surfaced as anything other than a recording. However, it was a truly international enterprise. All of the dialogue and music was recorded at Abbey Road. One of the cast members is Peter Hawkins, a veteran character well known to British audiences for numerous film, TV and radio appearances, but absolutely legendary as the voice of the Daleks on the sci-fi favorite, Doctor Who.
The narrator—who tells the story in character as “Prentice” the porpoise, is voiced by Tony Brandon, another name largely unknown to American audiences but ubiquitous to Brits back in the day as a comedian, TV and radio personality, so much so that on the U.K. versions of the Misty albums, he was featured on the front cover as the star. There was even a German version of the LP called Nixi, Das Muntere Meermadchen. (Take that, Hasselhoff!)
For the songs, Adair worked with another Disney Legend, Buddy Baker, with whom he wrote the Christmas Carol songs and many others. Baker was the musical director for the Mickey Mouse Club and landmark Disney attractions like The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.
So Misty wasn’t just any mermaid. She just isn’t Ariel.