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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: ‘Brave’ is a Feast for the Ears as Well as the Eyes

posted on June 26th, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

The legendary composer Henry Mancini believed that if an audience paid too much attention to the background score of a movie, the composer hadn’t done a sufficient job. The background score is crafted to support what you’re watching, to intensify and accent the drama or comedy – literally, to underscore the action.

Soundtrack to Disney•Pixar's 'Brave' Available from Select Disney Parks Locations

That’s part of the fun of soundtrack albums that offer a rich primarily instrumental score. The music gets to take center stage – and in the case of the soundtrack album to Disney•Pixar’s “Brave,” it’s a magnificent listening experience. If you’ve seen the film, some of the music will rekindle your memories. On a purely audio level, though, it can take you a musical journey over a spectacular Scottish countryside without leaving your CD player.

Patrick Doyle’s compositions, performed by The London Symphony Orchestra (which is behind the screen of everything from the first Star Wars film to this year’s “Marvel’s The Avengers” and so much more) is evocative, authentic and exciting.

“Brave” is not a musical in the traditional sense, but has songs. Three are heard over the action: “Touch the Sky,” “Into the Open Air” and “Learn Me Right.” The first two are sung by Scottish singer/musician Julie Fowlis; the third is written and performed by singer Birdy (vocalist) and folk rock band Mumford & Sons of England.

The other two songs are woven into the story, the darkly comic “Song of Mor’du,” featuring Billy Connolly, and the breathtakingly touching “Noble Maiden Fair,” sung in Gaelic by Emma Thompson and Peigi Barker (the English lyrics are printed on the CD booklet).

'Songs and  Story' Edition of Disney•Pixar's 'Brave' Features Songs and a Narrated Story with Soundtrack Dialogue

The soundtrack CD is available at select Disney Parks locations (you can spot it in the photo in Steven’s post about “Brave” merchandise). Also from Walt Disney Records is the Songs and Story edition of “Brave,” with four songs and a narrated story with soundtrack dialogue. Both are available at your favorite store or by download.

In addition to seeing the movie, Magic Kingdom Park guests (maybe even you?) have already been getting to know leading lady Merida in person. And brand new at Epcot – your kids can experience the fun and Scottish flair at the new BRAVE — The Highland Games Tournament!

Read these posts for more ways to encounter “Brave” at Disney Parks:

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: What Does Tom Sawyer Island Have to do With Star Tours – The Adventures Continue?

posted on May 23rd, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

One hundred and thirty-five years ago, Mark Twain dreamed up the world of Tom Sawyer, inspired by his fabled life on the Mississippi. Eighty years later, Walt Disney designed Tom Sawyer Island as an outdoor playground based on Twain’s characters and adventures—and his own playful imaginings as a child in Missouri.


This week marks the 40th birthday of the Magic Kingdom version of the only Disney Parks attraction that was single-handedly created by Walt himself. In a sense, when exploring Injun Joe’s Cave, journeying through the Magnetic Mystery Mine or finding the secret escape tunnel (my favorite) at Fort Langhorn, anyone can be a kid again, living heroic imaginings as Walt intended.

“The general shape of the island, the way it curves and so forth, was Walt’s idea,” Disney Imagineer Marvin Davis told historian Jim Korkis. Although Marvin and several other legendary Imagineers had offered island designs, their efforts didn’t match what Walt had in his mind’s eye (and childhood memories), so he took the project home for a one-man, all-night session.

“Walt worked for hours in his red barn workshop at his house in Holmby Hills,” Jim chronicles in his book, The Vault of Walt. “The next morning, he laid tracing paper on Marvin’s desk and said, ‘Now, that’s the way it should be.’ The island was built according to Walt’s design.”


The Walt Disney World Resort version of Tom Sawyer Island which has delighted us for four decades opened in May, 1973. In March of the same year, a highly-acclaimed musical version of Tom Sawyer opened in theaters. It was the first film in which Disney Legends Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman provided a masterful screenplay as well as the memorable songs. Appearing in the film were Disney’s Napoleon and Samantha co-stars, Johnny Whittaker and Jodie Foster.

Might seem like a Disney movie, right? Like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang before it, there were people who thought Tom Sawyer was a Disney film, though both were produced through United Artists. Imagine how puzzled some folks might have been only a couple of months later, when the Tom Sawyer Island attraction opened at Magic Kingdom Park! Incidentally, the Disney Studios finally did release a Tom and Huck movie in 1995.


Okay, so what about Star Wars? Well, the Sherman music in 1973’s Tom Sawyer was supervised, arranged and conducted by the out-of-this-world John Williams. This was just four years before he conquered the musical galaxy with his Star Wars score—which of course, contains the stirring theme of Star Tours – The Adventures Continue at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You also hear his music at the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye at Disneyland park.

For his film scores and adaptations, John Williams won five Academy Awards and over 40 nominations, including one for last year’s War Horse—and his work with the Sherman Brothers on Tom Sawyer. In the Walt Disney Pictures feature documentary, The Boys: The Story of the Sherman Brothers, John describes the latter film as “One of the beacons of American 19th century literature translated by the Shermans into something wonderfully viable musically.”

“Their music is known and remembered and loved and appreciated by millions of people,” he says of the Sherman Brothers. “That is a tremendous achievement.”

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: A Little Bit Micky, a Little Bit Mickey

posted on May 18th, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

When you’re part of a family, you try to take care of things for one another. Forty-five years ago, four young performers changed from complete strangers to a literal band of brothers, named Micky, Davy, Mike and Peter. The Monkees were a lightning-in-a-bottle international entertainment phenomenon. And in Epcot’s World Showcase, where great nations of the world share culture, flavor and fun, it became a tradition for Davy Jones to perform during the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival’s Flower Power Concert Series.

After he learned of the untimely passing of the Manchester, England-born song and dance man, and how it rocked his legions of fans, Micky stepped up to continue the Epcot tradition. He will perform live on the America Gardens Theatre stage this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 18–20, at 5:15, 6:30 and 7:45 p.m.

Micky is the first to agree that there is no way to replace his friend. “David was the brother I never had,” he says. “I only wish I didn’t have to appear in his place, but rather perform beside him — which I did as a surprise last year during a few of his concerts.”

This weekend marks Micky’s first solo engagement at Epcot — though it’s far from his first Disney project. “I was a Disneyland kid, growing up in Southern California,” he recalls. “I went there all the time with my parents, my sisters and friends. During The Monkees, we performed in the Disney Parks in Florida and California, more times than I can remember.”

In fact, when The Monkees were experiencing perhaps the greatest pop band reunion in history, Walt Disney World Resort was celebrating its 15th birthday. Micky joined Peter Tork and Davy Jones for some Monkees songs from Magic Kingdom Park on a splashy network TV special, co-hosted by Betty White.

Micky’s numerous Disney connections don’t stop there. When Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida toured the country, Micky became so successful as the villainous “Zoser” that he joined the Broadway company. Musical theater has become one of his passions, in addition to being an accomplished director, producer and, of course, multi-million selling recording artist. (Micky’s most recent albums include a spectacular tribute to Carole King called King for a Day.)

Cartoon fans know him as the voice of “Arthur”—a.k.a.”The Moth”—on The Tick, “Skip” on Hanna-Barbera’s Funky Phantom, and many more. “I was even considered to become the voice of Mickey Mouse!” he smiles, adding a spot-on “Hi folks! Ha, ha! Gosh, that’s swell!”

Micky as Mickey? Maybe when we see this versatile artist live during this, the final weekend of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, we might find ourselves humming, “M-I-C… K-Y-D… O-L-E-N-Z!” After the concerts, we’ll be checking in with Micky about his Epcot adventures, so watch the Disney Parks Blog for our follow-up report. Anything you want us to ask him?

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: A Frog, a Pig and a Dream

posted on May 16th, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Do something completely madcap today to celebrate. Why? Two decades ago, Muppet*Vision 3D opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and a new dimension in deliciously demented daffiness was born — in an attraction that blended Fozzie’s “cheap 3-D tricks” with Audio-Animatronics characters, a live-in-person loony, little tiny bubbles and great big explosions. In other words, the perfect Muppet storm!
Muppet*Vision 3-D at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Muppet*Vision 3D was also the grand finale project to benefit from the creative touch of Jim Henson himself. “Jim was involved in every aspect,” Emmy-winning writer Jim Lewis says. “He worked with all of us and directed the film. After Jim’s passing, Frank Oz came in to help put the finishing touches on it.”

The West Coast version of Muppet*Vision 3D opened almost a decade later at Disney California Adventure park. The two attractions differ mostly by the almost endless little gags that abound inside and outside. “In California, there’s a Swintrek spaceship crashed outside the show building,” said Jim. “But Florida’s the only place where you can find the net full of jello!”

Muppet*Vision 3-D at Disney's Hollywood Studios

“That’s my favorite gag of all,” says acclaimed writer Craig Shemin, who is today Vice President of The Jim Henson Legacy. Craig was a key member of the creative team, along with Jim H., Jim L., scriptwriter Bill Prady (co-creator of TV’s “The Big Bang Theory”) and Jim Henson Productions Creative Director Michael Frith. “A few feet from the theater doors, if you look up, you’ll literally see a net full of jello. If you say it fast, it can make you giggle.” (Hint: It’s the name of our own Queen of Walt Disney World Resort.)

Muppet*Vision 3-D at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Muppet*Vision 3D also ushered in one of the pioneering advances in computer-generated animation, the spirit of 3-D himself, Waldo C. Graphic. Fun facts: Waldo made his debut on The Jim Henson Hour in 1989.One of his Muppet*Vision 3D co-stars, Bean Bunny, first appeared in the 1986 TV special, The Tale of the Bunny Picnic (thanks to Fred from CA for helping me get my Muppetology right!).

Muppet*Vision 3D is also a treasure in that it combines talent and artistry from both Jim Henson Productions and Walt Disney Imagineering. “What an incredible, brilliant, creative individual Jim Henson was!” recalls Kathy Rogers, Senior Show Producer-Director, Walt Disney Imagineering. “He always acknowledged everybody’s value and talent around him, while he always kept the focus going forward. I was in awe of that.”

For more Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks, see below:

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What Does Orange Bird Have In Common With The Beatles?

posted on April 24th, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


For a character who never makes a sound, but communicates through bright orange thoughts that appear over his head, the Orange Bird seems an unlikely recording star—but he was, on several vinyl records that were sold at the Emporium on Main Street, U.S.A., in Magic Kingdom Park, as well as nationwide.


The Story and Songs of The Orange Bird was released by Disneyland Records as a 12-inch “Storyteller” album (featuring an 11-page illustrated book); select songs were found on a 7-inch 33 1/3 rpm “Four Complete Songs” record and two were released as a 45 rpm single “Little Gem” Record.


Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman wrote the wonderful songs for these records, one of which was called “I’ll Fly the Sky Way,” originally written for the Walt Disney Pictures animated feature, The Aristocats, as Thomas O’Malley’s theme, “My Way’s the Highway,” before Terry Gilkyson’s “Thomas O’Malley Cat” was finally chosen.

All of the music was conducted by Disney Legend Tutti Camarata (with orchestrations most likely by Brian Fahey) at the Abbey Road Studios in London.


You know Abbey Road. It’s that road the Fab Four walk over on their famous album. But there’s more of a connection between The Beatles and the Orange Bird than that. All of the Orange Bird songs had the glorious vocal backing of The Mike Sammes Singers, with Mike himself doing the lead vocal on the bluesy “A Cat Don’t Like.” Recently, the MeloD23 Singers paid tribute to the original recordings when they performed two of the songs—one with Richard Sherman himself. (Have you seen the video?)

In the ‘60s and ‘70s, The Mike Sammes Singers were Europe’s “go-to” vocal group for the biggest names in the music business, including Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Olivia Newton-John, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Tom Jones, and they were heard in TV shows, commercials and movie themes.

“They were incredible, so professional and versatile,” Tutti told me back in 2005. “I could go into Abbey Road in the morning and, the same evening, walk out with a huge stack of completed tapes under my arm.”

The Mike Sammes Singers even sang backup for The Beatles, on the songs “I Am the Walrus” and “Good Night.” How’s that for a cool connection?


Now when you visit Sunshine Tree Terrace for your Citrus Swirl, or pick up the latest Orange Bird merchandise in Adventureland, if you somehow hear a “goo-goo-g’joob” somewhere in the distance (or in your head), you’ll know why.

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Do Visions of Muppets Dance in Your Head?

posted on March 30th, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

They do in my head! When Walt Disney Pictures released “The Muppets” last Thanksgiving, there were lots of reasons for fans like us to celebrate. After all, most of us have watched “The Muppet Show” for decades, have seen the movies and experienced the marvelous madness of Muppet*Vision 3-D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (which is as much a loving tribute to the original TV show as the recent movie).

Walt Disney Pictures' 'The Muppets'

Now that “The Muppets” is available on Blu-ray and DVD, we’ve gained one more reason to cheer: last month, the Academy Award for Best Song was awarded to “Man or Muppet” from Walt Disney Pictures’ “The Muppets.” And if you haven’t been keeping a list, this was the very first Oscar awarded to a Muppet project, ever!

It was also the first Oscar for New Zealand-born lyricist/composer Bret McKenzie, who found it an amazing thrill to be part of a distinguished Muppet music legacy, which has earned numerous Grammy and Gold Record awards over the decades. “I wanted to make sure the songs sounded like Muppet songs,” he told us. “So I took on the job of producing them, to make them feel cohesive and to help the film itself hold together sonically.”

You can hear “Man or Muppet” and the other great songs in the new multi-disc “Wocka Wocka” Edition that combines a Blu-ray, DVD, movie download and soundtrack album download in one package.

Muppet*Vision 3-D at Disney's Hollywood Studios

As a fan of both Muppets and music, I particularly enjoy those relaxing, reflective moments, sitting outside the Muppet*Vision 3-D theater—near the towering, porcine majesty of the Miss Piggy fountain—listening to instrumentals from “The Muppet Show” and various Muppet films. How many songs can you name?

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Robert Sherman Made Our Lives a Jolly Holiday

posted on March 6th, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Today, the wind has changed and Disney Legend Robert B. Sherman has had to leave us. But the immeasurable gifts of song he has given — in that magical partnership with his surviving brother, Disney Legend Richard M. Sherman — will stay forever.


Walt Disney believed that the songs were the things that people could take with them, long after they left the theater. No songs attach themselves to our synapses more than the Sherman tunes. We kid around sometimes about how some songs, like “it’s a small world” and “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” are almost impossible to get out of one’s head, but there are far worse things to get stuck there (at least in my head, anyway)!

There are also Sherman songs that reach deep into the far reaches of our hearts and souls, like “Feed the Birds,” “Hushabye Mountain” and Robert’s personal favorite, “On the Front Porch.” Deceptively simple, yet immensely effective and affecting. As it is shown in the not-to-be-missed film, The Boys, Robert and Richard — though they had issues (just like any family members) — could capture lightning in a bottle in the form of miracles from musical molecules.

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the song that ignited the Shermans’ Disney career: “Tall Paul.” Half a century of musical milestones and memories. As a fond nod to Robert, his brother Richard and beloved family, I’m going to pop in a DVD with a Sherman score, listen to one of their albums (I love “The Sherman Brothers Songbook”), relive a Disney Parks attraction featuring their music — and simply hum or sing. Walt was right, of course. Great songs are precious gems that you can carry around and enjoy anytime you wish.

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: For Your Consideration – ‘The Oswalds’

posted on February 25th, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

If there were an Oscar for Best Actor in a Disney Parks Leading or Featured Role—let’s call it the “Oswald”—this year’s award would likely go to our own dashing Dennis Marsico, a familiar face to guests as a host of the Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Action Stunt Show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, appearances on numerous TV series and commercials, as well as a chameleonic Streetmosphere actor.

With so much of this year’s biggest Oscar buzz surrounding the silent masterpiece The Artist, we’d like you to laugh along with us and watch Major Dennis, an affectionate tribute from our pals at runDisney that showcases Disney’s Princess Half Marathon.

Our winner for the Best Actress “Oswald” goes to the lovely and talented Sheila Smith-Ward, who co-starred with Dennis in the first two videos in our unabashedly wacky comedy series, Little Timmy Goes to Magic Kingdom and Little Timmy Goes to Epcot, the latter highlighted by Dennis’ intense devotion to Duffy the Disney Bear. Both videos can be seen on the news page.

Since we just now made up “the Oswalds,” to whom would you award them? Let’s face it—they might as well have just as much gravitas as do so many other awards, perhaps more so…?

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Ducky and ‘Lady and the Tramp’

posted on February 17th, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

The story of Don Williams might as well be a Disney movie.

Ducky Williams Drawing Donald Duck

“Once upon a time, in a place called Springfield, Massachusetts, there was a young lad named Don Williams, who loved Disney Characters and animated films. His grandmother, who also loved cartoons, bestowed upon him the nickname ‘Ducky,’ for she loved cartoons.

Ducky wished upon many stars, in hopes that someday, somehow, he might actually work for The Walt Disney Company. Well, years went by and soon Ducky was a fine young man. But he fell under the enchantment of banking, becoming a Springfield bank vice-president rather than a Disney artist—though he delighted bank patrons with his annual gallery of superbly rendered Disney Characters and scenes.

One day, Ducky decided to break the enchantment and left the bank for Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. But many more years passed as Ducky took jobs in and around the theme parks while pursuing a career in the marketing art department. When his opportunity finally arrived, Ducky was given 90 days to prove himself.

Over thirty years later, Don “Ducky” Williams is the one and only senior character artist at what is now known as Disney’s Yellow Shoes Creative Group. In his remarkable career, he has created thousands of artworks for advertising campaigns, best selling books, online messaging and television programs. And as one of the most beloved Disney Cruise Line onboard presenters, Ducky is sharing his lifelong love of Disney with thousands of fan…all of whom are surely living happily (and Duckily) ever after.”

Ducky Williams’ 'Lady and the Tramp' Artwork in Tony’s Town Square Café in Magic Kingdom Park

Every day, as guests pass through any one of the Walt Disney World Resort road entrance arches, they see Character art created by Don “Ducky” Williams. And at Magic Kingdom Park, Ducky’s artwork adorns the walls (and some windows) of Tony’s Town Square Café. Ducky tells us he had fun creating all the art, but he probably had the most fun doing the painting of that “sssssilly” Beaver with Lady and Tramp.

Ducky Williams’ Artwork in Tony’s Town Square Café in Magic Kingdom Park Ducky Williams’ Artwork in Tony’s Town Square Café in Magic Kingdom Park Ducky Williams’ Artwork in Tony’s Town Square Café in Magic Kingdom Park Ducky Williams’ Artwork in Tony’s Town Square Café in Magic Kingdom Park

So, now when you’re enjoying the new Diamond Edition of Walt Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” on Blu-ray and DVD, you’ll also be watching the same film upon which Ducky himself was inspired—as a youth in 1955, then again decades later, studying scenes to create the Tony’s Town Square Café artwork—and today, finding it as fresh and delightful as ever, in breathtaking high definition on Blu-ray.

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Last-Minute Music Downloads from Walt Disney Records

posted on December 23rd, 2011 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Walt Disney’s Babes in Toyland Original Cast Album

Walt Disney’s Babes in Toyland Original Cast Album

What you get: The musical score from Walt Disney’s first live-action musical (also available on DVD) starring Ray Bolger (The Wizard of Oz), Ed Wynn (Mary Poppins) and our own Queen of Walt Disney World Resort, Annette Funicello.

Why it’s cool: It’s a stereo re-creation of the score (not actually the soundtrack as stated on iTunes) with a magnificent overture by Camarata. Listen for Henry Calvin (Sgt. Garcia on Zorro), a young Ann Jillian as Bo-Peep, and a rousing rendition of “March of the Toys,” which accompanied Walt’s vision of the toy soldiers, introduced in the movie and now a Disney Parks parade tradition.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol

Mickey’s Christmas Carol Storyteller Version

What you get: An album length adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol combining soundtrack elements from the 1983 featurette with songs and dialogue from the original 1974 album – which actually inspired the film.

Why it’s cool: Film, radio and TV star Alan Young (beloved as Wilbur on TV’s “Mister Ed”) wrote and starred on the album. He’s the voice of Uncle Scrooge McDuck (also on DuckTales and in Disney Parks shows), and also voices Mickey! All the female roles are played by the great Janet Waldo, voice of Judy Jetson, Penelope Pitstop and Josie (of Josie and the Pussycats). Goofy is voiced by Walker Edmiston (Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, H.R. Pufnstuf).

Walt Disney’s Lady and the Tramp Walt Disney’s Lady and the Tramp

Walt Disney’s Lady and the Tramp

Why it’s cool: The Christmas song, “Peace On Earth” opens and closes the Walt Disney Pictures animated classic, coming to Diamond Edition Blu-ray and DVD in February. The whole soundtrack album is available for download, as well as the 1962 song album, conducted by Camarata with top Hollywood soloists Robie Lester, Teri York, Bob Grabeau and Marilyn Hooven – who sings “Peace On Earth” in counterpoint with “Silent Night.”

The Night Before Christmas

What you get: The Clement Moore poem set to music by Hollywood vocal director Ken Darby (The Wizard of Oz, Finian’s Rainbow). Look for the versions by Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians or The Harry Simeone Chorale.

Why it’s cool: You may remember this version from the Disney Parks stage show, “Mickey’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” It was introduced on the 1940’s radio sitcom, Fibber McGee and Molly and animated for TV in 1968.

These songs and albums are available for download on selected websites including iTunes and amazon.

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