January 9, 2018 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Walt Disney’s “The Country Cousin” on Records

The 1936 Silly Symphony, Walt Disney’s Story of
(After Aesop… Way After!)

Told by Sterling Holloway
Disneyland Records – Storyteller Series ST-1903 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono)

Released September 3, 1959. Executive Producer: Producer/Composer/Conductor: Camarata. Additional Voices: Jimmy Macdonald. Running Time: 16 minutes.
Song: “Mouse Square Dance” by Tutti Camarata.

One of Aesop’s most well-known fables, The Country Cousin was also one of Walt Disney’s best-received Silly Symphony shorts, winning a 1936 Oscar and enjoying years of theatrical, TV and video play.

The Disneyland Records adaptation of The Country Cousin is lesser known among Disney recordings, notably different from the cartoon version and invites some interesting speculation.

Sterling Holloway gives one of his first performances especially for the label and naturally adds a level of humor that words alone could never convey. (The script even allows him to make references to the Cheshire Cat!) Contrary to the Wikipedia entry, this album is very short—just slightly over 16 minutes, so the adaptation makes little attempt to pad the basic story.

The back cover (click to enlarge)

What is new to the album version of the tale is an added sidekick for the country mouse. Don’t let the snarling face on the album cover fool you—that may look like Lucifer from Cinderella, but it’s actually a cat named Boots, a feline friend to the country mouse. More accurately, he’s a frenemy, as the mouse and the cat bicker as much as they chatter —sort of an animal Odd Couple six years before Neil Simon’s play.

For no apparent reason, the names of the country and city mice are different on the album (Syrus and Archie) than they are in the cartoon (Abner and Monty). But it’s generally the same story: Syrus invites Monty to the country and the city slicker isn’t terribly impressed with the rustic accommodations. The cousins visit the city for only a few minutes before another, more sinister cat attacks and is thwarted by Boots, who brings Syrus home.

The back cover tells the story through wonderful storyboard-like sketches that sure look as if they were drawn by Disney story artist Bill Peet, who was working on the Goliath II featurette at the time this album was being made—and which also resulted in a Sterling Holloway album.

At one point in the story, Syrus hold a square dance (the scene depicted on the album cover) to the tune of “Mouse Square Dance.” This Camarata original, featuring Jimmy Macdonald doing the mouse voices (as he did in Cinderella on the Ludwig Mousensky Christmas Concert records), took on a residual life far beyond the Country Cousin album.

In the ’60s, it was reused on two different Disneyland albums. Goofy replaced Sterling Holloway’s square dance calls when the song popped up as one of the “variety show” features on the very odd 1964 album, Goofy’s TV Spectacular. The following year, most of Holloway’s words were heard again in their original form on a Disneyland album we explored last month called Further Adventures of Cinderella’s Mice — even though it was placed into a different story context entirely.

In the ’70s, Goofy’s version of “Mouse Square Dance” was reissued when The Mouse Factory TV series premiered in syndication. Disneyland released a series of tie-in records, including a 7-inch little LP starring Goofy. In the 1980’s, Holloway’s version could be found on various Disney Christmas compilations, including a two-CD set from Time-Life called Disney’s Christmas Collection. Somehow, being part of the Cinderella’s Mice story put it into a holiday context.

“Country Cousins”

Note the impressive range of moods that Camarata accomplishes, even in this brief score, rich with original themes. There’s a touch of distaff modern classic, almost a UPA feel to the background music, as well as traditional Disney. There’s no reason that he could not have transitioned into film composing, except that, as he told me, he really didn’t enjoy it as much as writing and producing for recordings.


  • It’s kind of odd how they incorporated the mice characters and the Lucifer the main antagonist cat from Cinderella into the story of The Country Cousin.

    I remember seeing the original Walt Disney Silly Symphony version and the record version featuring the mice characters from Cinderella stills puzzles me.

    • Could be a bit of brand recognition, or else they really loved drawing those type of mice at the time, Amos from “Ben & Me” came off like a distant descendant of Jaq the way he’s designed. Heck, even Roquefort from The Aristocats in an earlier design slightly resembled that look too!

  • The little Mouse Factory records were not simply distillations from the Mouse Factory record album which was released a few months prior. There were three of them: “Mickey Mouse and the Mouse Factory” (with a smaller version of the cover picture on the big album), “Donald Duck and the Mouse Factory” and “Goofy and the Mouse Factory.” (pictured above) The Mickey Mouse record contained the most borrowings from the big album, while the Donald Duck record contained a few tracks from “Donald Duck and Friends” and the Goofy record, as mentioned above, contained material from “Goofy’s TV Spectacular”. It was another year before one of our local TV stations aired “The Mouse Factory” TV show, so I was a bit mystified about why so many “Mouse Factory” records–although I enjoyed them greatly even before knowing about the TV show. It would have been nice if they could have made a record that followed the format of the actual TV series–with an adult host and a thematic collection of Disney cartoons.

    • My guess is that there was zero budget to create new material for The Mouse Factory beyond reusing existing recordings in a new package, which is essentially what the TV series did. It was a low-budget show as well, without a whole lot of publicity. They never, ever showed in the Miami area where I grew up, which was very frustrating, but the records were everywhere.

  • I had a version of “Country Cousin” on Capitol, told by (I think) Don Wilson (of Jack Benny fame). Also one of “Bongo”. Do you know if those were associated with Disney?
    I believe it was before Disney had their own label. What happened to all the Disney records released on
    Other labels, before Disney Records existed. I have copy’s of the two Donald Duck meets Uncle Milty (Berle) on RCA. I told someone about it & he thought I was making it up.

    • Yes, Steve there is a Milton Berle Donald Duck record co-starring Mickey Mouse. Actually two of them.

      The masters to all the records based on Disney characters and films are owned by the respective companies, but Disney owns the properties. That entails some negotiation and fees, which would not (I’m guessing) amount to enough to justify the costs). The rules are different overseas so you can find some pretty good reissues if you look, but there are some bad ones too.

      We looked at Bongo here:

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