Last night D23 Expo guests were treated to a very special presentation called ‘Melodies in Walt’s Time: the Music of Disney Live-Action Films’. Hosted by Whoopi Goldberg the night featured many celebrity guests such as Leslie Ann Warren and Leonard Maltin and a band to play the great tunes of early Disney live action films.
According to Leonard Maltin, Walt Disney couldn’t read music or play an instrument but “he had a genius for storytelling” and “he understood music in his own way”. In the early years, Walt didn’t make a full fledged musicals because he didn’t have the infrastructure set up to put such a film together like MGM had. However, he did have theme songs and other musical scenes within many films. The band then treated concert-goers to a montage of songs from Shaggy Dog, Western Ho the Wagons, Davy Crockett, Old Yeller, The Gnome Mobile, Follow Me Boys, Summer Magic, The Parent Trap and The Monkey’s Uncle.
This montage was a lot of fun because some of the songs I knew and then others like The Gnome Mobile and The Monkey’s Uncle were new to me, and I will have to look into. Next, Leondard Maltin talked about the flop Babes in Toyland and how that led Walt to meeting Robert and Richard Sherman (they were writers for Annette Funicello who starred in Babes).
Robert’s son, Jeffrey Sherman, spoke about the process his father and uncle took in writing for Disney. Walt was a family member to them, and they became very close. He even shared about how the idea behind ‘Spoonful of Sugar’ from Mary Poppins came from his polio vaccine being ingested with a sugar cube- so a spoonful of sugar made the medicine go down!
The night continued with many guests including Karen Dotrice from Mary Poppins fame, Leslie Ann Warren, Joyce Bulifant and Carol Carothers (wife of Disney writer AJ Carothers). They paid particular tribute to The Happiest Millionaire, which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year.
Then the event was capped off by a visit from Richard Sherman with ‘Fortuosity’ from The Happiest Millionaire sung by Christopher Carothers. I wish I had a clip to show you because it really was a special night.
It’s interesting because I saw this presentation after the Animation panel, which gave quite the contrast between the new and old Disney. I hope if we are lucky some of these new projects will have an ounce of the heart and joy of these old films. Either way, it was such a treat to look back at the great songs from Walt’s live action films.
What are some of your favorite live action films from this era and what songs do you remember most?