The landmark RCA Little Nipper vinyl version of the Disney animated classic plus two new releases make dreams come true on this week’s Spin.
WALT DISNEY’S CINDERELLA
With Full Cast and Delightful Songs from the Motion Picture
RCA Little Nipper Series Records WY-399 (Two 7” 45 RPM Records) Y-399 (Two 10” 78 RPM Records) Both Versions Include 24-Page Storybook.
LP Reissue: CAS-1057 (1954, 1965 / Side One: Cinderella; Side Two: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; No Storybooks)
Released in 1949. Producer: Steven R. Carlin. Story Adaptation: Winston Hibler. Conductor: Paul Smith. Arrangements/Underscore: Norman Leyden. Sound Effects: Ray Erlenborn, Arthur Surrence. Running Time: 13 minutes.
Voices: Ilene Woods (Cinderella); Eleanor Audley (Stepmother); Verna Felton (Fairy Godmother); Lucille Bliss (Anastasia); Jimmy Macdonald (Jaq, Gus-Gus); Clarence Nash (Animal Sounds); John Brown (King, Duke).
Songs and Melodies: “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”, “The Work Song”, “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”, “So This is Love” by Al Hoffman, Mack David, Jerry Livingston.
The 1949 RCA Records “Little Nipper” release of Disney’s Story of Cinderella is one of the most significant releases in the history of the Disney company, as well as in the children’s record industry. It was one of a handful of children’s records of its day to actually hit big on the Billboard charts and, while it is not the soundtrack album, it actually predates Disney’s soundtrack LP by seven years. For fans in 1949/50, this was THE Cinderella record set to have, alongside many other cover versions of Cinderella songs by singing stars and big bands, as well as audio product by independents like Little Golden Records.
The big difference between this release and its peers is the presence of so many members of the original movie voice cast. It’s like Lux Radio Theater in miniature, with Ilene Woods, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Lucille Bliss and Jimmy Macdonald reprising their roles. Playing Drizella for the album is Helene Stanley (who played Polly Crockett and was the animation model for Cinderella and Princess Aurora). Voicing Bruno, Major and all the other animals is Clarence “Ducky” Nash (his Lucifer voice sounds a bit like Donald Duck)!
Veteran film, TV and radio character actor John Brown plays the King and the Duke for RCA. Brown was a familiar screen face and radio voice, most famous as two characters on The Life of Riley hit radio sitcom: best pal Gillis and friendly undertaker Digger O’Dell. In 1952, Brown would become a victim of McCarthyism, passing away five years afterward.
For more about the RCA-Disney Records of the early baby boom era, here is some background previously posted for a Spin about Disney/RCA’s Alice in Wonderland: “Even though RCA released the records, they were licensed and produced in cooperation with Disney, right down to the script by Disney story artist (and narrator of the True-Life Adventures) Winston Hibler. Steve Carlin, later the co-creator of TV’s Rootie Kazootie, produced Alice and many other kids’ records for RCA.
“Like so many adaptations of this kind, the production moves at a fast clip, with Kathryn Beaumont sounding out of breath at times. The only song presented in full is “In a World of My Own,” while the other songs get only a few bars each, but of course, all of this had to fit into four segments of less than four minutes each.”
Cinderella tie-in products like this RCA record set were so important to the Disney Studio, Roy Disney convinced Walt to allow a rough cut of Cinderella to be shown to potential merchandise partners.
Jimmy Johnson recalls this screening in his autobiography, Inside the Whimsy-Works:
Walt was very reluctant. He did not like to screen incomplete, rough pictures for people who might not understand what they would look like when completed, but he agreed to chance it. Thus representatives of Western Printing, Golden Press, RCA and several other important licensees were shown Cinderella almost a year before its completion. They were unanimously overwhelmed, smelling a big hit film with the potential of lots of money for their licensed products.
Many of the people present at this historic screening of Cinderella in the rough have gone on to fame and fortune. Lucille Ogle, the chief editor of Artists and Writers Guild (the New York creative arm of Western Printing), was there… Lucille was responsible for more beautiful, best selling children’s books than any other person in the business. Also in attendance was Albert Leventhal, then of Simon and Schuster and later Western Printing, one of the most astute and erudite editors in the book business. (Later, when he was at McGraw Hill, he made one bad mistake; being taken in by one Clifford Irving, who sold a phony biography of Howard Hughes. He left McGraw Hill, for obvious reasons, but has bounced back and is in the book business again with Vineyard Books.)
Jack Burgess of RCA Records made an impassioned speech about how his division could promote Cinderella with their story-telling record album. In the record business the game of musical chairs among executives is played at a break-neck pace. Tenure is short. Yet as far as I know Jack Burgess is still at RCA, probably the only executive in the company who has lasted so long.
Red-haired and freckle-faced Bob Bernstein of Golden Records stretched his lanky six-foot form to the hilt and allowed in a squeaky voice as to how Golden Records would sell millions of Cinderella 25 cent records. Art Shimkin, founder of Golden Records, seconded the motion, and they did. (Bob became president of Random House; Art Shimkin acquired the Columbia children’s records line and marketed them under the name of the Children’s Records of America.
The book accompanying the RCA Cinderella records follows every word on the record, formatted like a script. The illustrations are colorful, but somewhat off-model—an odd thing since the Disney Studio was such an active partner in these record albums. Maybe the turnaround from production to release was too fast to allow for slick final art (the books need to go to press sooner than the records). Click thumbnails to enlarge.
A lot was riding on Cinderella’s success at the box office as well as in retail stores. Disney needed a very successful single-story animated feature to rebuild the coffers after the war, strike and other vicissitudes. Cinderella delivered many times over–enabling Walt, Roy and the studio to move into the greatest period of expansion in their careers. This book and record set was one of a myriad of elements that made it happen.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Conclusion Excerpt from RCA/Disney Cinderella
Note how much visual information is conveyed through dialogue (e.g. “I’ll smash that glass slipper first!”) and the brisk pace of the entire production, which was done like a classic radio show–right down to the live sound effects. This excerpt comes from the LP reissue so there is no reference to the book or a page turn signal.
Walt Disney Records Legacy Collection
Walt Disney Records D002066092 (Mono & Stereo / 2015 / Two CDs and 24-Page Book)
Producer: Randy Thornton. Sound Restoration: John Polito. Additional Restoration and Mastering: Jeff Sheridan. Lost Chords Arrangements: Jerry Cleveland. Liner Notes: Paula Sigman-Lowery, Russell Schroeder, Dave Bossert. Bonus Tracks Producer: Allen Sides, J.A.C. Redford. Bonus Tracks Conductor: J.A.C. Redford. Bonus Tracks Mixer: Rik Pekkomen. Creative Direction: Dave Snow, Steve Gerdes. Package Design: Katherine Delaney, Steve Gerdes. Original Painting and Illustrations: Lorelay Bové.
Total Running Time: 76 minutes (Soundtrack Music: 43 minutes; Lost Chords Songs: 36 minutes; Bonus Tracks: 26 minutes)
Voices: Ilene Woods (Cinderella); Jimmy Macdonald (Jaq, Gus); Eleanor Audley (Stepmother); Rhoda Williams (Drizella); Verna Felton (Fairy Godmother); Mike Douglas (Prince); Marni Nixon (Soloist).
Cinderella Soundtrack Songs: “Cinderella”, “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”, “O Sing Sweet Nightingale”, “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”, “So This is Love” by Al Hoffman, Mack David, Jerry Livingston.
Lost Chords: “I’m in the Middle of a Muddle” by Al Hoffman, Mack David, Jerry Livingston, “I Lost My Heart at the Ball”, “The Mouse Song”, “Sing a Little, Dream a Little”, “Dancing on a Cloud”, “The Dress That My Mother Wore”, “The Face That I See in the Night” by Charles Wolcott, Larry Morey; sung by Kate Higgins, Jennifer Paz, Jeff Gunn, Rob Paulsen, Julianna Hansen.
Bonus Tracks: “Cinderella (Vocal)/Prologue”, “Cat and Mice / The King’s Plans”, “Entanglements / Dress Building ”, “The Palace at Evening / A Dress for a Ball”, “Royal Fanfare and Reception at the Palace” “So This is Love Waltz”, “Midnight Chase”, A Perfect Fit”, “Cinderella Finale” (Vocal) by Oliver Wallace, Paul J. Smith, Al Hoffman, Mack David, Jerry Livingston. Chorus: Judith Siirila, Gene Merlino, Susie Stevens Logan, Linda Harmon, Terri Harnson, Paul Gibson, Amick Bryam, Rick Logan, Gary Jones, Luana Jackman, Karen Harper, Lynn Mann, Christine Anderson, Bill Edwards, Yoaz Paskowitz, Kerry Katz.
Every new release in the Walt Disney Records Legacy Collection series is somewhat of an event, and Cinderella was certainly among the most anticipated. It offers all of the soundtrack music released on all previous CD albums, plus all the Lost Chords demo recordings (songs written for but not used in the film) plus the spot-on stereo re-creations of the Oliver Wallace/Paul J. Smith background music from 1995’s “The Music of Cinderella” album. (I mixed the latter selections in with the soundtrack ones and enjoyed hearing the mono and stereo versions in somewhat chronological succession.)
In effect, this is three albums in one. All three have been released separately before. If you have them already, you may still find the hardcover book alone worth the price. Illustrated with new art by Walt Disney Feature Animation artist Lorelay Bové, the book contains an essay by renowned Disney historian (and all-around nice person) Paula Sigman-Lowery with lots of delicious nuggets from the archives–including the once-and-for-all confirmation that the singing voice of the Prince is indeed Mike Douglas (the popular TV talk show personality who first hosted—with Joan Lunden—the Walt Disney World TV parade in 1981).
Lost Chords historian Russell Schroeder is also on hand to provide background information for all the deleted songs. Since Walt wanted Cinderella to be as sure a thing as possible, a lot of songs were created, many of which are so outstanding, it’s a wonder they didn’t find a home in some other production. The big, brassy stereo remake of “I’m in the Middle of a Muddle” is a particular standout. To Disney art enthusiasts, Dave Bossert (Producer/Creative Director at Disney Feature Animation) presents all manner of production sketches, Mary Blair color concepts and even a pencil-to-finished-scene look at Walt Disney’s favorite scene–in which the dress transforms in shimmers of magic dust.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Disney Music Emporium Cinderella Promo Video
Disney Songs from CINDERELLA
Walt Disney Records Picture Disc D002160501 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)
Producer: Randy Thornton. Sound Restoration: John Polito. Additional Restoration and Mastering: Jeff Sheridan. Total Running Time: 38 minutes.
Along with a host of major and independent record companies, Walt Disney Records has enjoyed enormous success in the recent vinyl boom (Yabba Dabba Doo! Vinyl’s back!). On their Disney Music Emporium website and elsewhere, they are offering a number of new, special edition soundtracks, with the emphasis on classic and tentpole releases.
The Cinderella release contains all the songs and music as the soundtrack material on the Legacy Collection album, less five minutes. It marks the first time that this much soundtrack material has ever appeared on a vinyl record. The earlier Disneyland Records LP albums were either shorter or edited differently (but still very cool). This disc contains the fully restored tracks produced by Randy Thornton.
Picture disks are an extravagance to some, but they’re extraordinarily beautiful and desirable to others. I’ve even some made into clocks or other home décor items. To a true lover of the grooved vinyl platter, it’s nonetheless wonderful to see this spinning on a turntable like a luminescent, revolving prism.