I was a child of the vinyl era and learned about the world through listening to record albums. I had a small but eclectic mix of LPs (as they were called) which included works by Mr. Rogers, Bible stories read by James Mason, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and several recordings by Disneyland Records. Some of the Disneyland recordings were soundtracks from films and some were soundtracks from attractions at the parks. Many of these albums enticed listeners with the following nomenclature “A magnificent full-color illustrated book and long-playing record.” Even though I never visited the Magic Kingdom as a child, I was often able to virtually visit through the Disneyland recordings with “magnificent” illustrations. As an adult, I frequently played these records for my children, and listening to them was part of our family life particularly between visits. Here are my Top 5 Disneyland Records theme park recordings.
- Walt Disney World’s Country Bear Jamboree
Dinseyland Record #3994 c. 1972 Walt Disney World Productions
Side One comprises the soundtrack from the show. Side two comprises music from The Mile Long Bar. According to the D23 website, The Mile Long Bar was a saloon that served non-alcoholic drinks and remarks that “an ingenious use of mirrors makes the bar seem like it was a mile long” (D23, https://d23.com/a-to-z/mile-long-bar/ accessed 25 Feb 2018). The first one opened in October of 1971 in Frontierland in the brand new Disney World resort. A year later saw additional openings in Bear Country in Disneyland and in 1983 in Westernland in Tokyo Disney D23, https://d23.com/a-to-z/mile-long-bar/ accessed 25 Feb 2018).
Many artists are credited with composing the songs, but Disney music veteran George Bruns presumably had creative control and is credited with being the conductor.
None of the voices are credited on the album, but one can clearly hear the distinct voice of Thurl Ravenscroft.
This album brings us the Country Bear Jamboree and with the help of the music from the Mile Long Bar, transports us to the heart of Frontierland.
- It’s A Small World
Disneyland Record #3925 c. 1964 Walt Disney Productions
We all know the song. We all know the iconic attraction which was created for the 1962 World’s Fair and has since become one of the most beloved rides for the Disney theme parks. The album presents the soundtrack from the boat ride. It is sparsely narrated by Winston Hibler, who from time to time alerts us to the different countries we are passing through. While the melody is ubiquitous, the orchestrations mercifully change to reflect the ethnomusicology of the cultures we are visiting.
The voyage begins on Side 1 and continues on Side 2 until we are docked where we began. The album ends with the recording of the song.
There’s nothing spectacular here, but just as is the case with the ride, the joy is in its simplicity.
Winston Hibler wore many hats for the Walt Disney Company during his almost four decade career. He was a cameraman, writer, lyricist and producer. He also voiced the narration for the Disney True-Life Adventure Series.
As you all probably know, the song was written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.
- The Story and Song from The Haunted Mansion
Disneyland Record #3947 c.1969
Side 1 of the album begins with the familiar organ notes that can only mean Disney’s Haunted Mansion. You’ll hear music and sound effects from the attraction, but the album also tells a story. Narrated by the great Thurl Ravenscroft, the album contrived a story about Karen and Mike, who stumble across the Mansion during a storm, and they, like you, are compelled to take a journey through this ghastly home. By the way, Ravenscroft’s sonorous bass voice is used in the attraction and his likeness is seen as the bust in the graveyard that resembles Walt Disney. Side 2 is more satisfying. It includes much more of the soundtrack from the ride including Madame Leota’s appeal to the spirits, the ghastly organ music of the ballroom, and the heartbeat of the ghostly bride in the attic. The young couple escapes unscathed, but right before they exit safely, we hear the anthem of the graveyard jamboree, “Grim Grinning Ghosts.”
Karen is voiced by Robbie Lester. Her voice graced many Disney recordings. She appeared in many Rankin-Bass Christmas specials and did the singing for Eva Gabor in Disney films such as The Aristocats and The Rescuers. In addition to her Disney work, Lester was a highly sought after voice artist. Mike is voiced by Ronny Howard. If you are wondering, yes that is the same person as acclaimed film director and portrayer of Opie Taylor, Ron Howard.
They used the soundtrack for Madame Leota, so you will enjoy the distinctive voice of Disney animated film veteran Eleanor Audley as conjurer Madame Leota. You’ll recognize Audley’s voice as that of the wicked fairy Malificent from Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella’s evil stepmother.
The one disappointment is the absence of the voice of Paul Frees as the Ghost Host of the Haunted Mansions in California and Orlando. In Mouse Tracks The Story of Walt Disney Records, authors Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar note that “Performance fees prevented the use of Paul Frees from the attraction soundtrack. . .” (Hollis 188).
Frees is one of the most accomplished voice actors of the twentieth century. In addition to the Haunted Mansion, his is the voice of the Auctioneer in Pirates of the Caribbean, The German parrot in The Enchanted Tiki Room and the character of Professor Ludwig von Drake. He is also the voice of many cartoon characters including Boris Badenov from The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and The Burgermeister Meisterburger from Santa Clause is Coming to Town.
The ghost host is voiced by Pete Renaday, who does an excellent job save for not being Paul Frees. Renaday was another celebrated voice actor who was in fact the voice of Mickey Mouse for many years for Disney records and cassettes (Hollis 119-120).
The music for the attraction and the accompanying song “Grim Grinning Ghosts” was composed by Buddy Baker. The lyrics for the song were written by X. Attencio. You could write a book about their contributions to the Disney brand, but take note that they also wrote the popular song from The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me).”
- Walt Disney’s The Enchanted Tiki Room
Disneyland Record #ST 3966 c.1968 Walt Disney Productions
This album is a double treat as Side 1 includes the music from The Enchanted Tiki Room show and Side 2 takes us on a narrated Jungle Cruise journey.
Admittedly, The Enchanted Tiki Room is not among the most thrilling attractions at the Disney parks, but it is not without its whimsical charms and enjoys legacy status as it is the very first attraction to feature audio animatronics. The audio animatronics were exotic birds that sing and tell jokes.
The avian ensemble comprises a chorus and four hosts from different countries, Jose from Spain, Michael from Ireland, Pierre from France, and Fritz from Germany. Fritz is voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft. Jose is voiced by Wally Boag, one of the stars of Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Review. Boag is a multitalented performer who sings and dances, plays banjo, moves like a rubber band, and folds balloons the way Michelangelo sculpts marble. Boag was also an early inspiration for the brilliant Steve Martin.
There are several songs in the show from other sources, but enthusiasts will aver that the only song that matters is the theme song “The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room” by Richard M. Sherman and brother Robert B. Sherman. It’s hard not to like, and even harder to forget. The music for the attraction and album was arranged by George Bruns.
Side 2 takes us for a journey on the Jungle Cruise. This attraction has no soundtrack so Disney Records used the narration from the ride itself coupled with exotic music titled “Adventureland Suite” to bring the experience to your home. Once again, Disney Records called upon the talents of Thurl Ravenscroft to play the boat skipper. You are
Ravenscroft strikes the perfect balance between stentorian authority and high camp. The music is composed and conducted by Salvador “Tutti” Camarata. Camarata, as he was often called, was involved with Disneyland Records from the early days. He was a gifted musician who was skilled at creating soundtrack albums for home enjoyment. According to Mouse Tracks, Annette Funicello credits him as “the force that shaped her successful recording career” (Hollis 50).
On the front of each of these albums, not as prominently placed as the album title but still noticeable, are the enticing words “A magnificent full-color illustrated book and long-playing record.” The combination of the illustrations and the soundtrack will transport you to the Magic Kingdom in an instant.
- The Official Album of Disneyland/Walt Disney World
Dinseyland Records #2510 copyright 1980
I found this record at a tag sale somewhere in Cos Cob Connecticut in the early nineties. It’s a wonderful collection of ambient music from the two Magic Kingdoms as well as some of their attractions.
Side 1: “Main Street Electrical Parade”
Pirates of the Caribbean
Music of Main Street
The Enchanted Tike Room
Country Bear Jamboree
Side 2: The Disneyland Band
“It’s a Small World”
The Steel Drum Band
The Haunted Mansion
The Royal Street Bachelors
The Fife and Drum Corps
The Hall of Presidents – Mr. Lincoln
Are these the five absolute best? No, for who’s to say which are the best. There are dozens of worthy albums to choose from but my selections are all excellent and are special to me. You can find these Disney treasures at tag sales or on eBay. Disney has released a lot of theme park attraction soundtracks on cd and the internet has access to an exhaustive supply of Disney theme park music. Go find some that you and your family will enjoy.
article and photos by Martin Blanco c. March 18, 2018
The following sources were used for this piece.
Mouse Tracks The Story of Walt Disney Records by Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar published by The University Press of Mississippi, c. 2006.
The D23 Website https://d23.com/a-to-z/mile-long-bar/