A few years after the release of Disney’s Oscar-nominated featurette, Disneyland Records produced a fascinating album using portions of the Bill Peet script.
Walt Disney Presents
MOTHER GOOSE RHYMES AND THEIR STORIES
Told and Sung by Rica Moore
Disneyland Records Storyteller Series ST-3949 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP & 11-Page Book)
Released in February, 1969. Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Producer/Arranger: Camarata. Writers: Bill Peet, Jimmy Johnson. Harpsichord Soloist: Amidav Aloni. Running Time: 38 minutes. (Originally Released in 1963 as “Tales of Mother Goose Volume Three” DQ-1247.)
Rhymes & Stories: “Ride a Cock Horse,” “Humpty Dumpty,” “Betty Botter,” “Little Tom Tucker,” “Rock-a-Bye Baby,” “Dance to Your Daddy,” “Doctor Foster,” “Georgie Porgie,” “Dame Get Up,” “Oh Dear What Can the Matter Be,” “Jack and Jill,” “Little Miss Muffet,” “Little Nut Tree,” “Buff Says Buff,” “Over the Hills,” “London Bridge,” “Polly Put the Kettle On,” “Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat,” “Yankee Doodle.”
Other Features: “Betty Botter (Tongue Twister), “Two Riddles,” “Home Town Rhythm Band-Yankee Doodle” (from DQ-1225, “More Mother Goose”; added to ST-3949 only).
The two-reel theatrical short, The Truth About Mother Goose, (1957, originally released paired with the True-Life Fantasy, Perri) was a tuneful look at the background histories behind three nursery rhymes: “Little Jack Horner,” “Mary Mary Quite Contrary” and “London Bridge.” Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman and Bill Justice with an alternately bouncy and symphonic George Bruns score, it’s a marvelous and underrated film from Disney’s UPA-look era, offering a unique twist on the familiar: These cute little rhymes aren’t quite what they seem.
The film was presented with “Mickey and the Beanstalk” (from Fun and Fancy Free) on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color in 1963, with Professor Ludwig Von Drake replacing Edgar Bergen and John Dehner, respectively, as narrators.
A few months later, Disneyland Records released an album featuring the story behind “London Bridge” plus 18 other rhymes and stories called Tales of Mother Goose, Volume Three. This title is misleading because the label’s first two Mother Goose albums were traditional collections of rhymes and songs. The first featured Sterling Holloway and the second paired Ginny Tyler and Robie Lester. This is really not a third installment as it is a completely different approach that better suits older children and adults rather than preschoolers.
There are two reasons why this album skews older. One is the very nature of the back stories, which are a bit more mature. Not HBO mature, to be sure, but pretty juicy just the same. We learn that “Georgie Porgie” is actually a risqué little ditty about adulterous womanizer George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. “Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be?” was inspired by a traveling circus performer who made empty promises to a young lady.” “Little Nut Tree” concerns a gift from Prince Philippe, Dauphin of France, to a Spanish Princess upon their first meeting about their arranged marriage.
Other rhymes have historical and political contexts. “Ride a Cock Horse” is really about the journey of Queen to Banbury on a highly decorated horse. “Humpty Dumpty” is a reference to the death of corpulent King Richard III. “Doctor Foster” is actually King Edward I. “Little Tom Tucker” is about beggars known as Tom Tuckers. “Rock-a-Bye Baby’s” history goes back to pilgrim days.
The other reason that this album isn’t a garden variety “kiddie record” (a questionable term in itself) is its narration by singer/actress Rica Owen Moore—whose credits include a long stint with the Ray Conniff Singers and previous success on Disney records, including the long-selling mathematics albums with Jiminy Cricket. Moore’s approach is the very opposite of patronization—straightforward which touches of sly flippancy, as if she’s just dishin’ to close friends about the ol’ Goose.
The 1963 album was repackaged as a Storyteller book and LP set and retitled Mother Goose Rhymes and Their Stories. For the book, artist Harry Wysocki created impressive paintings in a sophisticated folk art style harkening back to the 1957 cartoon—though neither LP release actually mentions the film, except through the presence of black-and-white stills on the 1963 back cover.
Perhaps to add some perceived value to the 1969 Storyteller version (or to make it more child-friendly), one added track starts off the disc: Ginny Tyler talking and singing about the “Play at Home Rhythm Band.” This is an excerpt from More Mother Goose, where is sounds right at home. But on Mother Goose Rhymes and Their Stories, this segment starts the album off on the wrong note, so to speak. Tyler had been directed to communicate to a much younger audience than Moore was, so the two just don’t blend. Hearing this at the beginning of the album gives an incorrect impression about the other 90% to follow.
As in the film, Moore sings the traditional 19th melody, explains the story behind it and then sings it again, just like in the film. Since the “London Bridge” segment on the LP was taken from Bill Peet’s film script, one has to wonder if some or all of the others were also written by Peet but did not make it into the cartoon.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
The Story of London Bridge
Almost word-for-word from the Peet script, this excerpt from Mother Goose Rhymes and Their Stories contains a humorous aside heard in the TV version with Ludwig Von Drake: the wisecrack about London Bridge being named “Charcoal Lane” after the fire (Von Drake called it “Charcoal Street”).