Book Review: The Walt Disney Song Book

Perhaps even more than the story or the characters it’s the music we remember the most from our favorite Disney movies. From the iconic Some Day My Prince Will Come from Snow White to fun tunes like Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah from Song of the South, we love to sing along. Even our favorite theme park attractions have signature songs, like It’s a Small World, which we just can’t get out of our heads!

Well, now you can not only sing along, but actually play the tunes yourself, thanks to this Golden Book:

This was published by the Western Publishing Company as a fourth printing in 1976. My goal is to have only mint condition first editions in my Disney book collection, but with the extensive title library available, I’ll have to settle for some later editions in questionable conditions, like this one.

I picked this copy up at a local flea market for $6.00 CAN which was still too much to pay, even though it was on for half price. The condition makes it all-but worthless monetarily, but I thought it still had some value for interest sake.

Let’s have a look at the inside:

Nice collage from the inside leaf, front and back

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Title Page

Contents Page

Each movie or Disney property featured starts with a brief introductory blurb. This gives you some basic information about what the songs were meant to achieve in the story.

Let’s begin our review of the songs in this book by visiting the animated film that started it all, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:

As you can see, the artwork, although well done, is not ‘on model’. That is, the characters are more stylized than what we may normally see in promotional artwork for the same characters.

Here are some more pages and songs I picked out:

From Dumbo

Casey Junior is one of my favorite Disney characters! It is amazing how many trains made it into Disney films, although not surprising when one considers Walt obsession with steam locomotives!

From Song of the South

One of my all-time favorite Disney live-action/animated blends! And although the song above may not be the signature song from the film, it has definitely been an inspiration for me. Because I don’t want you to miss any of the fun lyrics, here is the concluding page:

Everyone finished laughing? Then let’s move on:

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From Rascal

OK, when I came across this song from a movie I had never heard of. I’ve never seen this song on any Disney compilation CD either, so why it was included in this volume is beyond me. The live-action film was released in 1969 and was a based on the book Rascal by Sterling North about a young man and his pet raccoon set in Wisconsin.

The movie is a dramatization of Sterling North’s 1963 “memoir of a better era.” The movie relates a year in the life of young Sterling North which featured, of all things, a raccoon.

The film features the forgotten song “Summer Sweet” and starred Bill Mumy of Lost in Space fame.

From Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Not one of Disney’s best live-action/animation blends, it was made to capitalize on the popularity of Mary Poppins. It starred Angela Lansbury (who later became Mrs. Potts) and featured the return of Mr. Banks actor David Tomlinson. Although not a singer per se, he is featured prominently in this song along with Ms. Lansbury.

I had heard and enjoyed this song long before I knew where it came from. I think most Disney fans may have been in the same predicament, as the 1971 film doesn’t rate very high on most people’s ‘Best of Disney’ lists. Although the film received mostly positive reviews from critics and has scored 63% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Now let’s branch away from movies to a theme park entry:

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It’s a Small World

Written by the Sherman Brothers for the UNICEF attraction at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, this song just. Will. Not. Die. It’s been playing continuously, or at least it feels that way, since 1966 at Disneyland. And I guess we wouldn’t have it any other way!

From TV’s Davy Crockett series

With only five television episodes Disney managed to whip the world into a frenzy with this ballad turned anthem. The episodes were released as two feature-length motion pictures to even greater reception. If only I had a penny for every coonskin cap sold!

From TV’s The Mickey Mouse Club show

Fittingly, the song book ends with this merry march, singing the virtues of everyone’s favorite ‘leader of the club’, Mickey Mouse.

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Back Cover

I would give this book a 5 out of 5 Stars as it is useful to those who wish to play their favorite songs on the piano while singing along. The inclusion of complete lyrics is a plus. The artwork, although stylized, is very good.

If you would like a copy, Amazon has several available. Used copies start from $19.99 US with new hardcover copies starting at a much higher $135.88 US as of April 2, 2016.

The Grasshopper and the Ants Record Reader

From WDP comes a Capitol Records release of a truly entertaining Silly Symphony: The Grasshopper and the Ants. Released in 1934, this was one of Aesop’s fables, reimagined by the animators of Walt Disney.

A Capitol Record-Reader was a cherished item for any child of the pre-TV era. They came with two double-sided 78″ (unbreakable) records which enabled the child to hear the story being read by announcer Don Wilson while reading along by turning pages when the sound of a bell was heard.

Pinto Colvig was the voice of the grasshopper, whom you might better remember as the first voice actor behind Goofy. His distinctive voice is clearly heard here, along with Goofy’s signature song ‘The World Owes Me a Living‘. But the Grasshopper sung it first! Goofy wouldn’t warble the tune until 1935 in the Disney Short entitled On Ice.

The record-reader is filled with many illustrated full-color pages, such as these:

Just as an aside, the ants sound a lot like Chip and Dale. And if you think about it, maybe this silly symphony was on the minds of the animators at Pixar when they thought up A Bug’s Life. There we have the similar theme of industrious ants storing up food for the winter, and lazy grasshoppers who just want to have fun, leaving the hard work of preparing for the winter to others. Of course, the outcome is different, but the bones are there!

Walt Disney Treasures released a complete DVD collection of the Silly Symphonies on December 4th, 2001.

You can find The Grasshopper and the Ants on disc one under the heading of Fables and Fairy Tales.

I found this record-reader at a local antique shop and was able to purchase it for just $30.00 CAN. It is in near-mint condition with only natural yellowing of the paper. It was released in 1949, so a little yellowing is to be expected, and I doubt a better copy exists! There are some scratches on the records, but none that cause the records to skip.

Here is an image of the original poster for the theatrical release in 1934:

If you’d like to further research this particular Silly Symphony, you can read a condensed version in the 360-page coffee table book Walt Disney’s Mickey and the Gang: Classic Stories In Verse (2005, Gemstone, ISBN: 1888472065). On pages 14 and 15, you can read the history of the film, and of its place as the first installment of the Good Housekeeping series of full-page illustrated versions of the classic Disney films (1934-1944).

Each version of this fable is different, although all rendered by Disney animators and artists. The most detail is found in the film version, of course, but one detail is added in the record-reader: The Queen offers the Grasshopper a chance to join the ant colony and work along with them, living with them through the long winter. She does not do this in the theatrical version. He refuses, is reminded of his poor choice later, where he admits his mistake. The Good Housekeeping version strips the tale of almost all details, leaving only the basic moral in tact.

ABBA the Movie featuring… Mickey Mouse?

As many of my readers know, I have varied tastes. But I’m always on the lookout for that elusive Disney tie-in in whatever I’m watching! And just recently I was watching ABBA – The Movie and found a familiar Disney star waving to the camera.

But before we get to that, here is the aforementioned movie:

I’ve always enjoyed ABBA’s music, so I knew I would enjoy this movie! But the Disney fan in me just couldn’t help but geek out when I saw this:

The Moomba Festival Parade, Melbourne, Australia (1977)

In the movie, ABBA comes out onto the balcony of the Mayor’s office to overlook the parade and the crowds. In an interview segment on the disc, I learned that the vast majority of the people were there, not to see ABBA on the balcony, but because of the parade! OH fame, how fickle thou art!

But Mickey wasn’t the only Disney character to ride past the four Swedes:

Cinderella riding a Fairy Godmother float

Moomba’s musical performers have included international acts such as ABBA, Neil Diamond and AC/DC as well as a number of smaller local acts.

You owe it to yourself to follow the link above to the Wikipedia site about the Moomba Festival. The word ‘Moomba’ is supposed to mean “let’s get together and have fun!” But… it is based on an Aboriginal word that actually (may) mean “Up Your Butt Hole!” Again, follow the link above if you want a good laugh!

Hmmm… it’s hard to believe Mickey Mouse would attend such a festival…