10 Ways to Incorporate the Spirit of Disney into your Home

While it’s fun to configure some hidden Mickeys or fill up your home with Disney merchandise, what is it that really makes Disney such a great place to be? I’d argue it’s the little things – how it’s always clean and well lit, everybody has a smile, there are plenty of yummy treats to be had, and the flowers are always in bloom. The Disney resort is designed to delight all five senses for a welcoming atmosphere. Short of transforming your home into an amusement park, here are ten simple, subtle things you can do to bring the spirit of Disney into your home.

  1. Flowers

Keeping a vase of fresh flowers, or even dried ones, on the table at all times brings a bit of nature inside and brightens up a room. Houseplants – whether a potted tree in the living room or a row of herbs on the windowsill – also bring the beauty of nature inside. It’s a little taste of Disney’s year-round gardens.

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  1. Music

Though you might not always notice it’s there, background music is constantly playing in the Disney parks. It’s used to transition between lands and set the tone of the area. Keeping some music on in the background can change the mood in a home, as well. Certainly it can be Disney music, particularly the music that plays in the parks, but any tune will do. We usually keep a 40s station playing in the mornings during breakfast, and classical works well as background music ‘round the clock since it often lacks distracting vocals. Explore your local radio stations, borrow some CDs from the library, or craft playlists on Pandora, YouTube, Spotify, or your music provider of choice.

dscn7515-23. Treats

You may have noticed there is always an abundance of tasty treats available for guest purchase. Keeping out a sweet or salty snack 24/7 may not be the best idea health-wise. But at our house we always like to have a bag of cookies or some cheese and crackers tucked away to lay out when a guest comes to visit. A bowl of fresh fruit is a healthier option for the day-to-day. At some of the fancier hotels, they also sometimes keep out a pitcher of water with fruit or lemon in it. It’s refreshing, healthy, and a little bit elegant.

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  1. Nice trash

It may seem silly, but have you noticed all the garbage cans in Disney are beautiful? Each is themed to whichever park or hotel they’re placed in and, rather than detracting from the atmosphere, they somehow add to it. Try finding a nice trash can, it’s an inexpensive way to spruce up a room. This goes for any mundane piece of furniture or appliance that might normally be hidden away but instead can contribute to a festive atmosphere.

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  1. Cloth towels

Up until recently, the deluxe Disney hotels used to provide rolled-up cloth towels instead of paper ones in their lobbies. This may seem like a small thing, but it was just one of the many touches that made a guest feel special – there was something so luxurious about drying your hands with a warm cloth towel straight from the dryer. Try using cloth towels rather than paper ones at home. This one is a little more tricky, but we recently switched from paper napkins to cloth ones at home. They’re more absorbent, they look and feel nicer, and hey – they save paper, too!

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  1. Scents

Despite being packed with people sweltering in the Florida sunshine, the Disney resort is surprisingly stink-free. Smell is an important part of atmosphere, and after all. On Main Street, USA, especially, the scent of fresh baked goods always pervade the air. At home, we like to use a flame-lit diffuser known as Lampe Berger, but any diffuser, scented candle, or air freshener can add that extra sensory treat.

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  1. Lighting

While you can’t exactly bring the Florida sunshine into your home, keeping things well lit is cheery. But it’s not just about how bright the light is, it’s about where it’s coming from. Keep shades open in the afternoon to let in the cheery sunlight, and light candles in the evening or in cloudy weather to foster a cozy atmosphere.

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  1. Classic Cartoons

Granted, this one is slightly less subtle, but still fairly unobtrusive. If you’ve ever stayed at a Disney hotel, you’ll know that Disney cartoons are playing all the time. Once I enter the lobby of a hotel and see a TV surrounded by tiny furniture, I know I’m home! While the lobby TV’s now play the new Mickey and the Gang cartoons, I prefer the classics, or even some Silly Symphonies. Either way, having some Disney cartoons on in the background morning or evening feels like having a piece of the resort in your home.

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  1. Art & maps

A bare wall is rarely to be found in Disney World. Some nice prints – Disney related or otherwise – add decoration easily. Maps, especially, add character and present opportunities for adventure.

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  1. Entertainment

There is always something to do in Disney World. Even in the quieter places, a guest can always be entertained. In your home, try keeping out a puzzle everybody can add to when they have a few minutes to spare. Leaving out art supplies can also foster spur-of-the-moment creativity. Try sharing a coloring book or contributing to a family collage. These are both fun family activities and calming stress-relievers.

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by Kathryn Blanco

all photos property of Kathryn Blanco

The Kingdom Keepers

The Kingdom Keepers Series

            I love reading and Disney, and a great way to combine the two is reading the Kingdom Keepers series. This series is a fun way to keep the Magic of Disney alive at home. These books follow the story of five teens tasked with protecting the Disney magic from the notorious Overtakers who aim to take over the parks.

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The Kingdom Keepers is a series of novels written by Ridley Pearson. The stories follow a group of five teens, Finn, Charlene, Philby, Maybeck, and Willa, in their quest to protect the Disney parks from the group of evil Disney villains known as the Overtakers. The Overtakers are determined on taking control of the Disney parks and ruining the magic for everyone. It all starts when these five teens are chosen to be interactive hologram hosts in the parks called DHI’s. But one night when Finn drifts off to sleep he appears In the middle of the Magic Kingdom at night. There he learns from an old imagineer and Disney legend named Wayne Kresky, that he and the other four hosts have been tasked with protecting the Disney parks form the overtakers.  At first he doesn’t believe that this is real, but soon learns that the he and the other four kids can cross over into the Disney parks at night in their hologram forms.

The others are at first reluctant but eventually realize that it is up to them to save the parks. Their adventures take them all around the Walt Disney World resort and even in Disneyland, and who knows what’s to come in the upcoming books. You can follow your favorite characters having many adventures in some of your favorite places all over Disney World and Disneyland.

These books are a great way to keep the Disney magic alive at home, and I would recommend reading them if you are looking for a good book.

 

Written by Matthew Blanco

 

 

A Game of Adventure

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My wife and I started playing board games with our children when they were very young.  Almost 18 years later, the games may have changed, but we still enjoy this family pastime.  Playing board games is fun and that’s reward enough, but it also serves other purposes. Board games cultivate social skills. They teach you how to compete, how to accept disappointment with grace, how to concentrate, how to strategize, and even how to count.

Since the early days of Mickey Mouse, the Walt Disney Company has been creating toys and games. When I was a young, I had an abundance of Disney toys and my wife and I made sure to provide plenty for our children. During this time, eBay emerged as an easy platform to shop for a wide variety of items.  It was through eBay that I discovered the world of Disneyanna, a name broadly given to all manners of Disney-themed merchandise.  If I could purchase something made in America, I would.  If I could purchase something of an antique variety that still has a practical use, I would.  So began my hunt for vintage Disney board games and record albums.  No longer confined to tag sales and thrift stores, I had access to Disney memorabilia from all over the country if not the world, and I found a lot of interesting things which I will write about in time.

One day I discovered Disney’s Adventureland Game.  This board game was produced by  the famous Parker Brothers game company.  Created in 1956, it was obviously inspired by The Jungle Cruise attraction in Disneyland.  At the time I discovered the game, we had been to Disney World two or three times and had plenty of free time at home (those days are long gone). We read, we played with toys and we played board games. Playing board games themed to Disney World attractions was an exciting proposition.

The conceit of the game is you are on a boat trip in the rivers of Adventureland, which for all intents and purposes means The Jungle Cruise attraction. While cruising the rivers you are assigned to take three photographs of the animals or landscapes you may encounter.  The first person to successfully take their assigned photos and return to the dock wins. There is no skill involved; it is based purely on luck.  Its appeal lies in your willingness to pretend that you are on a real expedition.  This is very easy for children to do, particularly if the adult sets the example.

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I handily won the eBay bid for the board game which cost only a few dollars plus shipping.  There was a good reason why no one but me seemed to be interested in this item.  While the board was in excellent condition, it was missing all the game tokens and some of the cards, and the spinner was broken.  But I didn’t care – I wanted, no, needed, to have this vintage board game.

The missing tokens were tiny boats similar to the ones on the Jungle Cruise.  I looked for those tokens on eBay, as well as anything resembling a tiny boat.  No luck.  I did find a collection of metal Disney character figures for sale from a Disney themed Monopoly game.  For $1 I had tokens and even if I would have preferred the boats, the children were delighted with the Disney characters.  I tried to repair the spinner, but to no avail.  Easy fix, I used a die.

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The last challenge was to replace the missing cards.  The game is supposed to include two sets of 12 cards, colored white and pink.  Each card contained an image of animals or landscapes you might encounter on the river.  For every white card there is a corresponding pink card.  The players are dealt three pink cards at the beginning of the game, and the object is to “take a photo” of each assigned image by matching it to the corresponding white card.  You have the opportunity to take a photo when you land on a space with the image of a camera. At the time you would draw a card from the white pile.  It it matches one of your pink cards, it is considered that you have successfully taken on of your assigned photographs.  Unfortunately, the game was missing two pairs of cards.  I suppose we could have played the game anyway, but I got inspired.  That summer, our local supermarket was selling plums from a purveyor called Flavor Safari.  On each plum was a detailed color painting of a wild animal. Well, I bought some plums and some pink and white card stock and made two more sets of pictures.  We were ready to go.

The game was an instant hit.  It was so much fun to pretend you were on an authentic adventure tasked with photographing exotic subjects.  I remember watching the children trying to correctly move their tokens.  The counting was messy, but in a relatively short time, they learned how to accurately move their tokens on the board to the corresponding number on the die.

Two or three years after I purchased the game through eBay, Disney re-released it with several other board games from that era.  I could have purchased a brand new Adventureland game with a working spinner, the authentic boat tokens, and a complete set of cards, but our repaired version with the home made touches had its own charm.  We still have the game and several others from that time.  For many years, it brought us hours of fun. I think after I finish writing this, we’ll play a round or two for old time’s sake.  In the background, we’ll listen to  The Jungle Cruise souvenir record album narrated by the inimitable Thurl Ravenscroft and, for half an hour, it will feel like we are in Disney World. DSCN7491

– by Martin Blanco

Photo credit: Kathryn Blanco

Pete’s Dragon

Pete's DragonPhoto Property of the Disney Company, http://movies.disney.co.uk/pictures/petes-dragon-movie-picture-gallery  

Beginning with the 2015 live-action Cinderella, Disney has started releasing remakes of its oldies-but-goodies. With Pete’s Dragon, Disney departed from the technique they’ve employed so far of adapting animated movies as live action and instead simply replaced the animated dragon in the mostly live action movie with a computer generated creation. Pete’s Dragon was an interesting choice for a remake since it lacks the “classic” status Cinderella and The Jungle Book enjoy. That said, the movie did garner some attention in its day, particularly for its score, and Disney has adapted the plot to incorporate a timely message about caring for the earth and all its living creatures.

Pete’s Dragon (in both versions) follows the story of a boy named Pete and his protective, misunderstood, invisible, flying, fire-breathing dragon-friend, Elliot. Aside from that basic backbone, every other aspect of the film was changed (and, in my opinion, improved). Instead of a musical set in a turn-of-the-century, backwater fishing town, the new version follows the story of nuanced characters in a logging town dealing with an extraordinary situation. With strong acting and surprisingly seamless incorporation of the computer-generated Elliot, the new Pete’s Dragon is a decent film. I can’t say it was groundbreaking in any way, or even that I would go out of my way to see it again, but it was a sweet experience. I would recommend it for families with young kids or for devoted Disney fans, especially those who remember the release of the original. The aspect I found most fascinating was that the creators chose to set the film in the same era the original film was released – that is, the late 70s to early 80s. The nostalgic setting made the movie more appealing even for me – I imagine it would impact fans who grew up in that era even more so. Being able to see a Disney film at our local theater is always a treat, so I’m grateful for the film’s release and for the reminder that caring for the environment is another great way to keep the spirit of Disney alive at home.

Kathryn Blanco

Welcome to the Blanco family! The four of us are Disney people through and through, but, living in Connecticut, we unfortunately can’t be at the parks all the time. When we find ourselves driving back north after a magical Disney World vacation, we renew our commitment to keeping the spirit of Disney World alive at home. This can be done through obvious touches, like preparing favorite Disney dishes or watching classic Disney movies, but the most important component is more abstract. This goes beyond the Disney characters and parks themselves – the secret to Disney world is a balance of science, business, and art that creates immersive entertainment. Walt Disney, with the help of his more pragmatic brother, Roy, and a number of talented animators and Imagineers, brought his dream world to life. He created a place where music is always playing, flowers are always blooming, and people celebrate every day. At home, we apply the inspiration and adventurous spirit that we find in the Disney parks to the “real world,” add beauty to everyday things, and remember to always, always, keep dreaming and doing. Join us on our mission to continue to keep those values alive outside of the parks!

My name is Martin and I started this project with my children Kathryn and Matt as an extension of our annual trips to the Walt Disney World Resort. My wife is a physician which has afforded me the privilege of being a full time stay at home parent for 17 years.  Prior to that, I worked in the performing arts.  I will soon be returning to full time work as a high school English and Theatre teacher.  We have been privileged to enjoy at least one Disney trip a year during this time. We love going and hate leaving, but we try to bring the joy of these trips back home to sustain us between visits.  This blog is an outgrowth of this aspiration.

Hello! My name is Kathryn, I’m seventeen years old, and I have been to Disney World too many times to count. At home I loves to read, write, and attempt to draw. To me, the most wonderful part of a Disney vacation is the joy that simply being there, even without riding a single ride, brings. My favorite way to combine Disney life and home life is remembering to be excited about the world, whether it’s science, music, history, or foreign culture.

My name is Matthew. I love drawing and cooking. I play soccer and baseball for my school. My favorite place to be is in Disney enjoying a nice vacation with my family. I love everything about the parks and they are like a second home to me. I hate leaving but when I come home I try to preserve the Disney aura as best I can. And I want to share ways to do this for other people as well.

Tarzan, Past and Present

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The majority of Disney movies are based on classic tales. These sanitized, Disney-fied animations have become the ultimate version of many fairy tale stories and, as such, have drawn criticism for erasing the originals from the minds of generations of children. But I feel they cultivate interest in stories which children would otherwise never have access to. Yes, the Disney stories are vastly different than the tales they are based on – to be fair, many of the stories as we know them today had already evolved through oral tradition. Disney, the most modern incarnation, brings its own contributions to the table – innovative art and animation techniques, moving music, and unequivocally happy endings. That’s not to say the old stories should be ignored or their darker components completely forgotten. Both versions serve their purpose, and an interesting way to experience these stories is to see them from both perspectives – so I have embarked on a literary journey. I will read the original stories on which the Disney movies were based.

I’ve started with the Tarzan books. That’s right – books, plural. The story of Tarzan was not the subject of one novel. In fact, Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote 24 Tarzan books in total. In the interest of time, I decided to stick to the first two novels, Tarzan of the Apes and The Return of Tarzan, which, as far as I can tell, form a complete story arc from which Tarzan’s other adventures stem. While Borough’s prose is not exactly artful, he effectively weaves a compelling adventure story that must have been especially dazzling to his early 20th century readers. A modern audience cannot ignore the glaring scientific inaccuracies or racist and sexist commentary. However, the observations Burroughs makes through the lens of a man who grew up outside of society and is more perplexed by the behavior of the “civilized white man” than what those men would call “savages” is somewhat progressive for his time in that it rejects the concept of colonization as an inherent good. With the time period in mind it’s perfectly possible to delight in Tarzan’s many adventures.

Interestingly enough, in the original story, it is Tarzan who teaches himself to read and write using the books his dead parents left behind. He educates himself to some extent about the human world long before Jane and Professor Porter ever set foot on the island. The novel spends much more time on Tarzan’s early life, starting when his parents were marooned before his birth and focusing on his path to respect among his primate family. When he does meet Jane, the complications of a sophisticated American (unlike in the Disney film) woman having a relationship with an orphaned jungle wild man whose origins are a mystery are not glossed over. A love triangle does develop between Tarzan, Jane, and Clayton – who, although an obstacle to Tarzan’s desires, is not in fact a villain – and the unusual circumstances of Tarzan’s very existence complicate this.

The second novel, which details Tarzan’s adventures in the “civilized” world after Jane’s reluctant rejection, covers an even wider range of topics. Our hero duels a jealous husband, has multiple run ins with a pair of Russian spies, goes undercover in the Middle East for the French government, is captured by and rescued from a nomadic Arabian people, joins an African tribe, and infiltrates a golden city run by vicious human-ape hybrids – multiple times. Not to mention several nearly romantic encounters with beautiful women and quite a lot of unarmed lion killing. Meanwhile, Jane’s story is not forgotten and intertwines in complicated, unexpected ways with Tarzan’s adventures.

As with most of their films, Disney took the basic premise of the Tarzan stories and ran with it, simplifying the plot to fit neatly into 88 minutes and an inspiring message of self-discovery. A soundtrack was added, sidekicks developed, and a couple of nasty raw-flesh eating scenes removed. Although these changes fundamentally altered the nature of the story, without them the movie never would have appealed to a modern audience and I never would have thought to explore an early 20th century adventure series that turned out to be surprisingly rewarding.

– by Kathryn Blanco

Finding Dory…and Maybe a New Favorite

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It’s here! It’s here! It’s…what’s here again? Finding Dory, of course, after nearly 13 years of anticipation, finally hit the theaters! It’s become an early summer tradition for my family and some of our closest Disney-loving friends to go out to the new Pixar movie at our local theater the night before the posted release date, so we bought ourselves some (perhaps too much) popcorn and settled into the cushy movie theater seats to watch Disney’s newest release. This ritual offers an opportunity to connect with friends and bounce our thoughts off of one another in regards to the new film. This year, the bar had been set incredibly high by the beloved Finding Nemo, and I was bracing myself for disappointment. My biggest fear was that this movie would be pleasant, but nothing more than a continuation of Finding Nemo, or a reiteration of the same scenes the other way around. Pixar managed to avoid this problem by giving this story a different message. Marlin did have to learn all over again about the benefits of loosening up, but the story focused on Dory and her very real struggle to cope with an affliction. In order for this to happen, Dory had to move beyond her original role as a source of comic relief. Pixar developed her character by building a touching backstory and putting Dory in situations where she was forced to rely on her own resourcefulness. The new cast of characters she encounters along the way are engaging as well. They emphasize both the importance of a strong support network in times of difficulty and the value of the kindness of strangers. And since an especially attractive part of Finding Nemo was the gorgeous representation of the ocean life, I was glad that Pixar maintained this high quality animation style throughout their new story.

But if it seemed a daunting feat for two clownfish to be reunited in the wide waters off Australia in Finding Nemo, the sequel pushes the limits of the imagination. The fish travel farther than before, but the bulk of the distance is covered by only minute or two in the film. Once they arrive at the main setting, the Marine Biology Institute of California, a whole lot of land-jumping and suspiciously effective camouflage effects allow for the story to take place largely out of the ocean. Meanwhile, the challenges facing our fine fish friends become so insurmountable that they are forced to drastic measures, only to face an even bigger challenge, resulting in numerous false endings. One truck scene in particular – you’ll know it when you see it – destroys any plausibility the story might have had. And yet, more than anything, the animators seemed to be having fun with the story, and that kind of silly joy is infectious. I had a tremendous amount of fun watching it, as did the rest of the audience, as evidenced by the enthusiastic round of applause unleashed when the credits started to roll. I’m more than satisfied with this most recent Pixar adventure, and can’t wait until the next one hits the theaters.

Fantasia at the New York Philharmonic

1145_NYP_FANTASIA_2520x936 (2)Technical difficulties and busy lives kept us from posting for awhile.  We are back just in time for a special Disney event.  Tonight we’re off to Lincoln Center to watch scenes from Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 accompanied by a live performance of the music by the New York Philharmonic.    We’ll write a “review” or at least our thoughts on the overall experience when we return.

Two years ago we attended a similar event.  The NY Philharmonic featured highlights from PIXAR films accompanied by live music performed  by the Orchestra.  Of course we enjoyed the clips, but listening to the music performed live was a great treat, particularly since the live orchestra infused the music with a richness that you don’t get from a recording.   It didn’t hurt having the music performed by an elite ensemble either.

Fans of PIXAR know how distinctive each of their films are.  The different styles of the films naturally required  music that reflected these differences.  If memory serves correctly, they showed the opening sequence from Up which functions beautifully as a complete silent movie unto itself.  The music told the story with affecting grace.  Contrast this with the wild,  modern big band jazz sound of The Incredibles.   In Ratatouille, we heard the sounds of Paris in the jazz age, and Toy Story gave us the music of an American childhood.

These events are a great way to introduce children to concert music while experiencing favorite films in a new way.

More to come later.

 

c. May 20, 2016

THE GOOD DINOSAUR . . .Something to be Thankful for

The Good Dinosaur coming to a theatre near you.

The Good Dinosaur has arrived

Disney Pixar’s newest release, The Good Dinosaur, debuts today! I was lucky enough to attend an advance screening in my home town with my brother and some of our friends on November 24th, an incredibly exciting experience for a Disney fan like myself. Keeping up with the latest Disney films is just one way my family and I maintain the spirit of the Disney parks alive at home. A theater near us always has a showing the night before the official release date we like to attend with some equally Disney-oriented friends. Sharing these new stories reminds us of the magic and creativity of Disney. For all those who ran out to see the film today or are looking forward to seeing it soon, here’s a quick, spoiler free review.

I have to admit, a lot of Pixar films leave me feeling unsure about what I think of them. On one hand, being Pixar, they’re automatically of some quality. Yet the incredible thing about Pixar is each story they tell is so very different. This makes it difficult to compare films, especially from different time periods in Pixar’s development. With that in mind, The Good Dinosaur was not my favorite Pixar film, but still a great movie. The plot seemed somewhere between the (somewhat) more traditional story lines of older movies, like Monsters Inc., and the more experimental ones, like Up. Some scenes were more reminiscent of a survival story than a traditional Disney tale. One scene, featuring the triceratops, Forrest Woodbush, seemed completely out of place. Overall, the story follows Arlo the dinosaur’s adventure as a charming friendship blossoms between him and a young human. With no central villain, the film focuses more on Arlo’s goal of proving himself to his family and his growing connection with his human friend.

Hands down the best aspect of the film was the animation. In fact, it seemed as if the story was being used to display the animation rather than the other way around. There was a lot of opportunity to play with the wonders of nature and Pixar did so beautifully. Everything from the fluid movement of the T-Rex to the texture of a dripping leaf captures the imagination. A few shots almost looked like live action! And the cast of characters, an array of interesting creatures, was delightful.

Of course, it’s crucial not to forget the pre-movie short!  Sanjay’s Super Team, the cartoon in question, follows the story of a young Hindu boy resisting and then reconciling the divide between his modern western life and the culture of his parents, represented by his father’s religious shrine and his parallel shrine to morning cartoons. The story is compelling and the art work that brings Hindu gods to life as superheroes enchanting. Based on the childhood of its director, Sanjay Patel, the short’s representation of the struggle to combine your own passions with your family’s past is one that will resonate with many viewers.

 

Wherever and whenever you get a chance to see The Good Dinosaur, enjoy!

 

c. 2015 Kathryn Blanco

Walt Disney Records are Alive and Well

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a good read p. Martin Blanco

I’ve enjoyed recorded music for as long as I can remember.  I have vivid memories of my parents playing records on their stereo especially on Saturdays when I was subjected to an eclectic mix of Puccini opera, Broadway musicals, Burt Bacharach, Dionne Warwick and Judy Garland.  I even liked some of it.  Anyway, imitating my parents’ habits, I wanted recorded music of my own damn it!

My prized possession was a portable record player which included an AM radio so I could listen to Yankee baseball games (with an earphone if I was in the car).  My tastes were distinct from my parents.  Sure I had some typical kids fare such as a third rate adaptation of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn complete with cloying, inane music (hey, I was six or seven).  I remember a particularly dreadful adaptation of Pinocchio, decidedly not Disney’s, where the authors never missed an opportunity to rhyme Pinocchio with Tokyo (even as a child I could sense the absurdity of the anachronism for the sake of rhyme).  Still, it was not without its child-like charms and by virtue of owning it, I had a certain attachment to it.  I even owned a recording of James Mason, with his wife and daughter, telling stories from the Old Testament.  I assumed that God sounded like James Mason until I was about 17 years old.

But I had some truly great music too.  When I was in kindergarten I expressed an interest in The Beatles.  One night, my father came home from work with a copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for me.  I can fairly say that was the day music came to life for me.  I must have played that album a thousand times and while listening to the music, I would study every inch of the album cover, the interior photo of the Beatles festooned in exaggerated Edwardian garb, and the lyrics set forth on the back.  I acquired many more Beatles singles on 45rpm discs and decades later I still own and play them.

Naturally, I also  acquired an extensive collection of recordings put out by the Walt Disney Company.  Some of these were soundtracks from the movies.  Typically, a soundtrack album would include some of the dialogue and most of the songs from a movie as well as a booklet featuring an abridgement of the story and illustrations.  My childhood predates home video, so these albums enabled the listener to experience  Disney movies after they left the theatres.  As I grew older, I gave many of these away, which ironically I ended up repurchasing from eBay when my children were young.  I also eBay purchased a number of albums that reflected theme park attractions such as The Haunted Mansion or The Jungle Cruise albums.  Just as I did, my children grew up listening to The Beatles and Walt Disney Records, both of which provided a happy soundtrack to their childhood, while the Disney recordings also kept the memories of the theme parks vivid inbetween visits.

Mouse Tracks, the Story of Walt Disney Records written by Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar is an excellent chronicle of the Disney recording studios.  The book gives a comprehensive history of this enterprise and illustrates how the growth of Walt Disney Records parallels the growth of the overall company.  It should come as no surprise to the Disney enthusiast that Walt Disney was a pioneer in the recording industry.

Disney was able to generate a great deal of revenue by licensing music from his popular films for others to record.  In 1933, Disney released the short film The Three Little Pigs as part of his Silly Symphony series.  Not only was the cartoon a success, but it also produced a hit song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.”  Disney licensed and recorded the song and it became an anthem of America’s courage in the face of the Great Depression.

In the early days of cinema, it was easier to rerecord music from a film then to use selections from the actual soundtrack.  Walt Disney was about to change all that.  The authors write “From Edison’s time until World War II, it was more technically feasible to recreate songs from the films and shows in a separate studio either with or without original cast members.  Instead of replicating the style of the original work, the arrangements were often reinterpreted for dancing and radio play.”  This changed with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  They continue, “Victor’s [records] 1938 three disc set of songs from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) became the first soundtrack album from a feature film, followed by the soundtracks of Pinocchio (1940) and Dumbo (1941).”  Walt Disney ostensibly invented the soundtrack recording industry.

The book details how The Ballad of Davy Crockett became a megahit and how it was a game changer not only for Disney, but for just about every artist involved.  Similarly, we’ll learn how the Record division helped brand the Mickey Mouse Club long before a single episode ever aired and how the Mickey Mouse Club subsequently became an ongoing resource to generate more recordings.  The book also examines how the company had to change with technology.  What began as a venture selling discs, had to adapt to cassettes, comapact discs and now digital media.  Through it all one thing is clear:  Disney’s success in the cinema and television extended to the recording industry, creating an additional stream of revenue, additional means to reinforce the Disney brand, and the opportunity to keep the joy of the movies, television shows and ultimately the theme parks with you at home.

The book also highlights the talent that created these marvelous recordings.  You’ll meet composers, producers, illustrators and the actors whose vocal talents shaped the sound of the Disney brand.  Many of these actors are still heard in the Disney Parks today.  You may not know who Thurl Ravenscroft, Paul Frees, Dal McKennon and Janet Waldo are for example, but you know their voices. Now you’ll know their stories.

The book used to be sold in the theme parks, but if it is no longer available there you can surely acquire a copy online.  In the coming weeks, I will provide highlights of some of the vocal talent featured in the book.  If you grew up enjoying records and cartoons, this book will be a nostalgic trip.  If you are a Disney enthusiast, the book chronicles a heretofore neglected aspect of the Disney company and celebrates the numerous artists whose talents have shaped the Disney brand.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the authors.  “The story of Disney’s in-house recording company is rich in successes and failures, great ideas and misfires.  More than anything else, it is the story of hardworking, talented people. . .Our goal is to heighten interest in these recordings and especially the artists who created them.”

-Martin Blanco c.2015

Mouse Tracks  The Story of Walt Disney Records

By Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar

c. 2006

University Press of Mississippi