Greetings from beautiful downtown Anaheim! Your catalogue correspondent is reporting from the D23 Expo, or “The Ultimate Disney Fan Event.” Every arm of The Walt Disney Company is here on the packed show floor, with special panels, presentations, signings and giveaways pertaining to each aspect of the company: film, television, theme parks, animation, publishing, and of course, music.
As I’m immersed in all things Disney this weekend, both Mike and I thought it would be the perfect time to share with you some of our “wishes upon a star,” in Disney parlance. Back on June 27, Walt Disney Records and Intrada Records announced a partnership including a co-branded series of film soundtracks from the classic Disney library, produced with full input from the film score specialists. Since then, we’ve joined many others in the worlds of Disneyana and soundtrack fandom in putting together wish lists of our most hoped-for reissues that could come from this once-in-a-lifetime pairing. So, without further ado, we present our Top 10 Disney/Intrada Wishes, in no particular order. We’ve drawn these not only from film soundtracks, but vintage Disneyland Records LPs and theme park attractions. Thanks to that old Disney magic, Mike goes first, and then I’ll chime in. And please share your own thoughts at the end of the post; we’d love to hear from you! (Why? Because we like you!)
Without further ado, hit the jump for our picks! See ya real soon!
Mike’s Top Five…
1. The Mellomen, Meet Me Down on Main Street: Assuming the Intrada/Disney partnership will extend far beyond the already plum offerings of film scores, this would be a fun gem to add to any Disneyphile’s collection. The Mellomen, Disneyland’s original barbershop quartet, captured the spirit of early 20th century Americana with this LP of gorgeously arranged, vocally-acrobatic tunes. And dig the group’s bass vocalist: none other than Thurl Ravenscroft, who gave Tony the Tiger and “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” its rumbly panache.
2. Randy Newman, Toy Story 3: Intrada’s first Disney title was a physical release of a digital-only title, so it would only make sense that Intrada get around to releasing the only Toy Story score as-yet unreleased on CD. Newman’s work for the series’ emotional conclusion wasn’t as thematic as either of its predecessors, but the wistful motifs this time out, from “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” and beyond, added an extra tug on the heartstrings – that is, when the story itself wasn’t reducing you to a quivering mess!
3. Richard Bellis’ Lucasfilm adaptations: It took long enough for proper presentations of the scores to Star Wars and the Indiana Jones films to hit shelves (this author would argue a definitive Star Wars set has yet to come out of hyperspace), but one neat little piece of the galaxy’s finest film scores has a Disney connection: composer Richard Bellis’ tricky adaptations of John Williams’ original themes for the Star Tours attraction in 1987. Not only did Bellis utilize the original scores to thrilling effect, but he also created a whimsical, commercial jingle-like theme that complements the ride perfectly. Bellis would later adapt Williams’ themes to Raiders of the Lost Ark for two theme-park adventures featuring Harrison Ford’s intrepid adventurer; all of this music would make for a delightful release on disc.
4. Hans Zimmer’s score to The Lion King: The best-selling soundtrack to the 1994 animated classic featured Elton John and Tim Rice’s catchy musical numbers, as both heard in the film and performed by a revitalized Elton himself. Less noted but just as worthy were the handful of score tracks on the soundtrack by composer Hans Zimmer. Though Zimmer’s widely-used (and oft-imitated) synthesized-orchestral style is one of the more groan-inducing aspects of modern film scores, the composer went deep to compose some of the best themes he’s ever invented. The score won him his sole Oscar and was even adapted into the fantastic Broadway adaptation of the film; a proper CD release is long overdue.
5. A Musical History of Walt Disney World: Walt Disney Records’ six-disc 2005 box honoring Disneyland’s 50th anniversary was one of the company’s best box sets ever. The added ingenuity of Intrada’s staff would make for an ideal counterpart. Just think of all of the gems – released or otherwise – the label’s producers could uncover, not to mention the sleevenotes that could be penned by the writers who’ve done some fantastic work for the label. (Using a Mike Matessino or a Jeff Bond on a Disney project would be a film score enthusiast’s fever dream come true!) Although it’d certainly have to come a bit later than the park’s actual 40th anniversary (commemorated this October 1), it would certainly be another great example of the magic of Disney (and Intrada!) at work. [JM: Hmmm…I’ve been cooking up something for a future Reissue Theory column that should make you – and hopefully our readers – very, very happy!]
And now, it’s time for Joe’s picks…
1. John Barry, The Black Hole: This title is one of the holiest of the Disney/Intrada grails. A starry cast was led by Anthony Perkins, Maximilian Schell and Ernest Borgnine in this sci-fi epic which was one of the first adult-oriented films to come from Walt Disney Productions, even using mild profanity and exploring metaphysical themes of life and death. For its pioneering special-effects, The Black Hole earned two Oscar nominations (Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography). The entire production spared no expense, and that included gaining the services of John Barry to provide the exciting score. An original soundtrack LP was released, and has been issued on iTunes, but the entirety of Barry’s atmospheric and often eerie space opera is, all too unfortunately, largely unheard to this day.
2. Elmer Bernstein, The Black Cauldron: This 1985 film arguably marked the lowest point in Disney feature animation. At the time the most expensive animated film ever made, The Black Cauldron was a costly failure. Audiences stayed away from this dark, intense fantasy which controversially earned the studio its first PG rating ever for an animated film. It collapsed under the weight of its own ambition: Cauldron was the first Disney film since Sleeping Beauty to be shot in 70 mm, boasted the studio’s first-ever use of groundbreaking CGI and boasted advances in surround sound. Disney would have to wait until 1989 and The Little Mermaid to experience an animation renaissance under the stewardship of Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who took over the studio during Cauldron‘s production and reportedly loathed the film. Still, The Black Cauldron offers some stunning riches, foremost among them Elmer Bernstein’s grand, classical-inspired score. It has only been available on CD once, in a re-recording on the Varese label that now routinely fetches $150 and up. A full restoration of Bernstein’s sprawling, dramatic score would further the reputation of this odd, misunderstood Disney almost-classic.
3. Henry Mancini, Condorman: Con-dor-man! Okay, so the titular star of this 1981 film didn’t give Superman or Batman a run for their money, but this loopy superhero comedy can count among its assets a high-flying, fun score by Henry Mancini. The composer brought his typical ingenuity to the tale of a comic book artist (Michael Crawford) who dons the guise of his own creation to defeat some villainous Soviets! Directed by Charles Jarrott (Lost Horizon) and starring Michael Crawford and Oliver Reed, Condorman has gained a cult following of late. Mancini’s score is highlighted by a tongue-in-cheek choral theme (“Con-dor-man!”) for the hero, in addition to melodic love themes, taut suspense cues and strong action sequences. None of Mancini’s score has ever been commercially released, but the time is definitely right for Condorman to take flight again!
4. Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman: At the Parks: The Sherman Brothers have given the Walt Disney Company some of its most enduring songs, and their output was recently the subject of an amazing 2-CD set from Walt Disney Records, The Sherman Brothers Songbook. That compilation offered 59 tracks drawn from a wide canvas of their work for the studio, but the men christened “The Boys” by Walt Disney himself can’t be contained by merely two discs. Some of their most unknown work originated in the various Disney theme parks, as they were frequently called upon to provide songs for not only attractions, but special events. Though “It’s a Small World” and “It’s a Great, Big, Beautiful Tomorrow” became standards, the Sherman Brothers composed a number of lesser-known songs that are just as wonderfully transporting to Disney lands of yesteryear. Just to name a few of these lost treasures: “Miracles from Molecules” from Adventure Thru Inner Space, “The Best Time of Your Life from 1975’s edition of the Carousel of Progress, the theme to EPCOT’s “Astuter Computer Review,” “Magic Highways” from Rocket Rods, “We Meet the World with Love” from Tokyo Disneyland’s attraction of the same name, and “There’s No Place Like World Showcase,” which introduced the EPCOT land via a parade. While a complete Sherman Brothers at Disney box set would be a collector’s dream come true, a set compiling both their most-famous and least-known attraction soundtracks would fill a major gap in their discography.
5. Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman and Buddy Baker, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: Is it really possible that the original recordings of the Sherman Brothers’ Winnie the Pooh classics have disappeared? It’s strange but true. According to Walt Disney Records guru Randy Thornton, “the Pooh recordings were never cleared for record.” When it came time to utilize the songs on the book-and-record Storyteller volumes, the tracks were re-recorded; Sterling Holloway returned as Pooh, but Paul Winchell (Tigger) opted out. In the 1980s, all of the songs and score were re-recorded in stereo (the originals were in mono) for the then-new compact disc format. Christopher Plummer replaced Sebastian Cabot as narrator, and Jim Cummings performed as Pooh, a role he still plays today. Thornton, who has done more for the cause of Disney music than virtually anyone else, candidly admitted, “The new recordings were an actual benefit for Ted [Kryczko’s CD] production. I don’t think the CD would have sounded as good with the original. However, because we now had these great new stereo tracks, Ted and I have never been able to get back to the originals. I have to admit though, Pooh probably wouldn’t be high on my priority list for a soundtrack. Only because there too many yet unrestored soundtracks that never had the exposure of even one Pooh song (particularly recently).” So while our hopes may still be dashed, this is a wish list, after all. The vivid characterizations of Sterling Holloway and Paul Winchell deserve a first-ever CD appearance performing the Sherman Brothers’ irresistible songs, as does Buddy Baker’s evocative score that instantly reminds us of our childhood and our own days spent in the Hundred Acre Wood of A.A. Milne and Walt Disney.