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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: What Do the Toyland Soldiers Have to Do with the Land of Oz?

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

The Toyland soldiers in either Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort holiday parades are a “must-see.” Watching them on our annual Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade is very cool, but experiencing them in person is even more amazing.
Walt Disney’s 'Babes in Toyland' on Blu-Ray

They’re exactly like the toy soldiers in Walt Disney’s “Babes in Toyland” (which looks dazzling in its new Blu-ray release). In the big battle sequence, Tom Piper (Tommy Sands) leads the soldiers to defeat nasty Barnaby (Ray Bolger) and prevent him from marrying Mary Contrary (our beloved Annette Funicello).

The “March of the Toys” was directed by Disney Legends Bill Justice and X Atencio. They also directed the “Spoonful of Sugar” special effects in “Mary Poppins” — so look for the soldiers there, too, leaping into a toy box.

The legacy of “Babes in Toyland” began with its first stage production in 1903. The producers were looking for another show to be as big a hit as their other musical extravaganza, which was based on L. Frank Baum’s book, “The Wizard of Oz.”

Ironically, Babes in Toyland was the enduring hit, and its Victor Herbert/Glen McDonough songs became standards. In 1934, producer Hal Roach cast Laurel and Hardy in his movie version of “Babes in Toyland” — which, with Walt Disney’s approval, included a “Mickey” character and the Three Little Pigs in the cast.

Just a few years later, Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was a worldwide sensation. Its success inspired MGM to produce a live-action answer of sorts to Snow White, right down to Walt’s innovative use of songs to advance the story. That was 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz,” starring Judy Garland.

On live stages almost everywhere, “Babes in Toyland” evolved from one century to the next, as the characters, storylines and songs got mixed, matched, added and subtracted depending on the productions. In 1954 and 1955, TV viewers watched live TV broadcasts of “Babes in Toyland,” co-written by Neil Simon. Shirley Temple starred in the first color TV version in 1960.

There was even a disco version at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1979! Nevertheless, dedicated groups of artists keep the original Victor Herbert operetta available to new generations — like the Comic Opera Guild of Michigan, which produced four different cast albums of Toyland between 1976 and 2004.

“Before Walt Disney chose ‘Babes in Toyland’ as his first musical, he dreamed of making an Oz movie,” says Disney historian Jim Korkis. “Walt wanted to combine live action with animation for an Oz feature in the 1930s. When the Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers became stars in the late ‘50s, Walt cast many of them in The Rainbow Road to Oz. If you watch the Disney Treasures DVD entitled ‘Your Host, Walt Disney,’ you’ll get an idea of what it might have been like.”

Walt Disney’s 'Babes in Toyland' Toy Soldiers from Walt Disney’s 'Babes in Toyland'

Ultimately, Walt didn’t make either Oz film, but during the 1961 holiday season, his “Babes in Toyland” premiered in theaters. And the first “official” Disneyland Christmas parades also appeared, featuring floats based on the toys from the movie — including the toy soldiers, designed by Bill Justice himself.

Today, Walt Disney’s distinctive, iconic Disney “Babes in Toyland” soldiers remain a fixture in Disney Parks all over the world. No Disney movie has quite the influence on Disney Parks holiday tradition as “Babes in Toyland.”

Next year will bring the premiere of Walt Disney Pictures’ “Oz, the Great and Powerful” in theaters — and the appearance of the Oz garden during the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. It’s been over 100 years and these magical, unpredictable worlds just keep on crisscrossing!

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Sights and Sounds at Disney Parks: Last-Minute Disney Holiday Music Gifts

posted on December 22nd, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

As Santa’s clock counts down to his big day, I always say there’s nothing like the gift of music (ask people who know me… I really say that). The best thing about music is that you can fill a room with it so everybody enjoys the gift together!
Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios

The big news this year is that, for the very first time, a brand-new musical gem has been performed and recorded especially for The Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios! Much in the tradition of Walt and his animators blending music with state-of-the-art visual wizardry in films such as “Fantasia“, the team at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Creative Entertainment has crafted this new version of “Winter Wonderland” to make the most of everything those millions of lights can do.

This magnificent, dynamic new rendition was arranged and conducted by veteran Music Director Dan Stamper of Entertainment, whose massive worldwide list of contributions to Disney Parks shows, parades, fireworks spectaculars and big-city special events could fill a website in itself!

“This was an especially unique project,” Dan told me. “It really required those of us who were familiar with what these lights could do, so we would make the most of all the abilities we have with light movements special effects.

“Basically, I wrote the arrangement in ‘layers’ of sounds, so they could come in gradually, then build and build. It’s funny how things like this come together! It just seemed to evolve.” The resulting musical production is unlike any other version of “Winter Wonderland” you’ve ever heard, conceived with every detail of these amazing light displays in mind.

Keep your fingers crossed: Dan is hopeful that there might be more specially-created pieces like “Winter Wonderland” added in the future to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, in addition to great holiday songs from hit albums.

One of these songs is performed by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (whom you may have seen live during their recent Epcot Eat to the Beat Concert Series gig). The song, “Christmas is Starting Now,” is from “Disney’s Phineas & Ferb Christmas Vacation”.
Disney's Phineas and Ferb Holiday Favorites

“That was the first song [“Phineas & Ferb” co-creator] Dan Povenmire and I wrote for the TV special,” said Story Editor/Scriptwriter Martin Olson. “It set the tone for the rest of the songs. “We first wrote it as a pop tune, then Dan and [Series Original Music Composer] Danny Jacob adapted it to a Big Band arrangement with a live performance in mind.” The song is included on the “Phineas & Ferb Holiday Favorites” album—as well the lovely “That Christmas Feeling,” sung by Martin’s daughter Olivia, who voices Vanessa on the show.
Disney Channel Holiday Playlist Album

New this year is the “Disney Channel Holiday Playlist” album, featuring today’s hottest young Disney Channel Original Series stars, including Ross Lynch of “Austin and Ally“. You’ll be able to see him perform “Christmas Soul” on the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade on ABC-TV.
Disney's New Holiday Album Featuring Mickey and Company- Disney Jingle Bell Fun

There’s also a new holiday album starring Mickey and company called “Disney Jingle Bell Fun”, a collection of favorite songs with fresh, new arrangements of fun songs from your favorite pals, plus fantastic performances by outstanding vocalists.

“Winter Wonderland” is available exclusively as a download from iTunes or Amazon. All the other albums are available on CD at select Disney Parks shops, retail and online stores and by download.

Happy listening!

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Jodi Benson Adds Glow to Candlelight Processional

posted on December 12th, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Experiencing the Candlelight Processional at Epcot is something special to guests who behold it, the massed choir and 50-piece orchestra performing the music, and of course each A-list celebrity narrator who dramatically interprets the Nativity from the Gospel of Luke, the story of “Silent Night” and the classic essay, “One Solitary Life.”

For Disney Legend Jodi Benson in particular, the Candlelight Processional reaches deep into her heart and soul. “It’s one of my favorite things to do,” the Tony Award-nominated star told us. “I get to combine all the ‘parts’ of me reading a story with an incredible impact on my life; not just words on a page, I’m speaking truth for my life and of course, I’m quietly singing along.”

Holidays Around Walt Disney World Resort in the 1980s

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a Candlelight Processional narrator? For Jodi and the other celebrities, the first day at Epcot begins with “blocking.” “You get up onto the stage, learn your entrance and exit, work with your script, do a sound check with the microphone and go over the lighting cues,” she explains. “You get your whole dry run.

“Then every day around 3 o’clock in the afternoon—and I love this part—you do a meet and greet with the student choir and Disney Cast Members. They ask questions and maybe sing for you. So, when you’re all there on stage, you’ve established a bond. You do that every day you’re here, three shows a night.

“Each time that you perform the words, you can approach it from a somewhat fresh approach. Personally, I thoroughly enjoy the choir and the symphony. Music is such a big part of my life and they are all fantastic.”

During the remainder of their Walt Disney World Resort visit, Jodi and her family enjoy the four theme parks as much as the rest of us. “We are ‘Park-a-holics!’ We really are! We do it all. My kids are big thrill riders, so we hit those as many times as we can. And of course, I have to see all the shows!

“You know, it’s kind of funny. You would think that after all these years, why don’t we just visit here and kind of ‘hang out’? But every day, off we go to the parks. I’m there all the way up until about 2:15, then I run back to the room to prepare for the show. After the fireworks, I put on my comfy shoes and we do more park hopping. It is kind of crazy! This year, we were beyond excited to see everything, especially because of New Fantasyland.”

In addition to being the voice of Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,” Jodi’s iconic performances include nods to the golden age Disney heritage. She voiced Lady in “Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure”; Anita in “101 Dalmatians: Patch’s London Adventure”; and played “Sam” on camera in Walt Disney Pictures’ “Enchanted.”

Many fans believe that Jodi provided some of the greatest (and funniest) moments in the Disney•Pixar Toy Story movies, in which she’s the delightfully lilting voice of Barbie, along with Michael Keaton voicing Ken. Incidentally, back in 1994, the America Gardens Theatre was enhanced to its present grandeur to present the live musical show, “The Magical World of Barbie.” Jodi was delighted to recently discover that she and Barbie have the same Epcot stage in common!

And of course, in practically every form of entertainment, Jodi continues to bring her acting and singing talents to our favorite mermaid. As you can imagine, it’s exhilarating—even a little overwhelming—to be the voice of someone who touches so many lives. “It’s a huge responsibility to maintain the character’s integrity, to represent that character well and to make sure you take the time with those who have a connection with the character. Sometimes I stop and have a ‘WOW!’ moment, thinking about the ‘big picture.’”

It’s real. And Jodi Benson wouldn’t have it any other way. “Whether I am on stage at Epcot, in a recording studio, homeschooling my kids or in a church building, it is the same ‘Jodi.’ They’re all me. And I love getting to be with people that are young at heart. That is why the match with Disney is so perfect for me. I feel that it was planned for me, long before Disney ever came into my mind.”

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New Album Captures the Perfect Tone for Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge at Disney California Adventure Park

posted on November 1st, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

In the wake of the extremely popular “Music from Cars Land” album, another new CD comes out November 6 that has already become a favorite among Disney cast members. “The Circle Sessions: The Music of Carthay Circle” offers, for the first time, sparkling jazz versions of great Disney songs, selected from the soundtrack of the Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge at Disney California Adventure park!

New Album For Carthay Circle Restaurant, 'The Circle Sessions: The Music of Carthay Circle'

“We really wanted to capture music across all generations and breathe new life into treasured and familiar songs,” said John Dennis, Director, Music Production, Walt Disney Imagineering, who is music supervisor and producer of the new album. “Everyone involved wanted to allow the variations to weave a different tapestry for our guests.”

Even though several of the songs were created after the themed 1937 setting of the restaurant, the smooth, evocative jazz approach is right at home in the period. But choosing from the voluminous catalog of Disney songs was a daunting task. In cooperation with Chris Montan, President of Walt Disney Music, these are the eclectic, wide-ranging gems they mined for a fresh, yet classic, jazz approach:

1. A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes (from “Cinderella”)
2. Be Our Guest* (from “Beauty and the Beast”)
3. Ev’rybody Wants to Be A Cat (from “The Aristocats”)
4. Winnie the Pooh
5. A Whole New World*** (from “Aladdin”)
6. Alice in Wonderland
7. He’s a Tramp (from “Lady and the Tramp”)
8. Can You Feel The Love Tonight** (from “The Lion King”)
9. If I Didn’t Have You** (from “Monsters, Inc.”)
10. Married Life*** (from “Up”)
11. Some Day My Prince Will Come (from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”)
12. You’ve Got A Friend In Me* (from “Toy Story”)

*Best Original Song Academy Award nominee
**Best Original Song Academy Award winner
***Best Original Score Academy Award Winner

Not only does the CD feature some of the most beloved Disney songs with an upbeat, sophisticated twist, but this timeless collection also creates an ambiance that allows the listener to feel like they are in another time and place.

“Did you know that the selection of music actually changes from the downstairs to the upstairs?” fellow Disney Parks Blog writer Michelle Harker asked me—and I did not know that! “Guests on the first level will often hear these pieces represented by an ensemble trio, while those dining in the restaurant upstairs, will enjoy the same music but in a variety of light jazz piano tones.”

John is quick to point out the musical virtuosity behind this music. On piano is the album’s arranger, Bill Cantos, who has worked with a “who’s who” of the music industry, including Herb Alpert, Lani Hall, Elton John, Phil Collins, Bob Dylan and Burt Bacharach. And while we’re name-dropping, the album was produced by 11-time Grammy nominee Bill Schnee—who has helped such stars as Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Natalie Cole and Whitney Houston to Gold Record awards—and Todd Homme, a longtime music supervisor/producer of music for Disney feature films as well as award winning films such as “Almost Famous,” “Catch Me if You Can” and “Saving Private Ryan.”

Both Bills, as well as every musician you’ll hear, are among the most sought-after music names in Hollywood, heard on countless movie and TV soundtracks, as well as best-selling recordings. You can catch a glimpse of them making this music in Valarie Sukovaty’s “Cue the Dining Music at Carthay Circle Restaurant” post.

Here at Disney, we’re no strangers to hyperbole, as you probably have noticed. But in the case of “The Circle Sessions: The Music of Carthay Circle,” everyone involved has become especially attached to the quality and magic of these performances. “I’ve already been told things like, ‘I play this over and over and never tire of hearing it,’” says John. “Best of all, this CD is the perfect way for parents to introduce their children to jazz music. I feel so privileged to have been part of this project—and that’s probably one of the best reasons.”

Look for “The Circle Sessions: The Music of Carthay Circle” beginning Tuesday, November 6 at Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge, and at nearby locations such as Elias & Co. and Off the Page in Disney California Adventure park. (And if you like this album, allow me to also recommend the landmark “Dave Digs Disney” by the iconic Dave Brubeck Trio, one of several albums that paved the way.)

For information on purchasing select Disney merchandise items, call Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Merchandise Guest Services at 1-877-560-6477 or send an email to

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: A Cinderella Story

posted on October 10th, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Those who have marveled at the crisp, dazzling viewing experience of Blu-ray are surely rejoicing now that Walt Disney’s “Cinderella” is finally available in this format. You can now own one of the greatest classics of all time on Blu-ray, DVD and, if you prefer, as a digital download and even in a magical gift edition.

One of the new Bonus Features of both the Blu-ray and the DVD is called “Behind the Magic: A New Disney Princess Fantasyland” in which Imagineers give Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White of ABC-TV’s “Once Upon a Time”) a work-in-progress tour of the enchantment soon to open in Magic Kingdom Park.

Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park

Of course, Walt Disney’s “Cinderella” is especially significant to Magic Kingdom Park because of Cinderella Castle, but also because of its connection through two of its legendary voice performers.

Longtime TV talk show personality Mike Douglas was the singing voice of the Prince, a fact of which he is very proud, as evidenced on one of the Blu-ray Bonus Features. But he was also the co-host of the very first broadcast of the “Walt Disney World Very Merry Christmas Parade” (now known as the “Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade”) with Joan Lunden in 1983.

The Special Edition, or a two-disc Collectors Edition, Contains Songs That Were Written For, But Never Used, in the 1950 Animated Feature

Haunted Mansion enthusiasts probably recognize that the voice of Madame Leota in the séance scene is the same actor who played Cinderella’s nasty, rotten, mean, yucky Stepmother. Do you get the feeling I’m not a fan of Lady Tremaine? Well, I am a fan of the grand Ms. Eleanor Audley, who also voiced Maleficent in “Sleeping Beauty” and appeared on dozens of my favorite baby boomer shows, from “The Dick Van Dyke Show” to “Green Acres.”

And the “Cinderella” joy keeps coming: the musical score of “Cinderella” has also been made available again, but this time in a Special Edition or a two-disc Collectors Edition that contains songs that were written for, but never used, in the 1950 animated feature.

The Mechanical Kingdom Inspires New Merchandise at Disney Parks, Including These Vinylmation Figures

“Walt often asked for multiple songs from various composers and lyricists as the story would develop on an animated feature,” said Disney artist/historian Russell Schroeder, author of two Lost Chords books, which celebrate fine music that didn’t make the final cut. “These songs were perfectly wonderful in themselves, but for one reason or another, they didn’t serve the film as Walt envisioned it.” The original demo recordings, as well as brand-new renditions of the Lost Chords songs produced by Grammy-award winning Digital Restoration Producer Randy Thornton, are included on the Collectors Edition.

You may know “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” but now you can get to know “Dancing on a Cloud,” too.

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Remembering Disney Legend Ginny Tyler

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

Disney Legend Ginny Tyler

You may not know Ginny Tyler by name, but she is a Disney Legend whose extraordinary voice talents still grace Disney films, recordings and attractions, including Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, in which you can hear her in the preshow as a Tiki Goddess.

Disney Legend Ginny Tyler The Wicked Witch from Snow White’s Adventures, Voiced by Disney Legend Ginny Tyler

But those of us who remember the earlier version of Snow White’s Adventures in the 1970s may also remember her as the voice of the Wicked Witch, screeching the immortal “Enjoy your ride…HA HA HA HA HA!” Ironically, we lost this talented and gracious lady last Friday the 13th.
The Storyteller Album of '101 Dalmatians,' Narrated by Disney Legend Ginny Tyler

Ginny’s “creepy hag” voice came in handy in 1961, when she sang “Floretta” on the Disneyland Records “studio cast” version of Walt Disney’s “Babes in Toyland,” performing as both the old gypsy lady and Tom Piper. Adept at doing little boy voices as well as teenage girls and elegant ladies, she was a frequent presence on such Disney albums as “Acting Out the ABC’s,” “The Wizard of Oz” and, as Rolly the Puppy, narrating the Storyteller album of “101 Dalmatians.”
The Little Girl Squirrel in 'The Sword in the Stone,' Voiced by Disney Legend Ginny Tyler

Perhaps what cemented her voice talent into immortality was her performance as the little Girl Squirrel in Walt Disney’s “The Sword in the Stone,” taking what might be a gimmicky chirping voice with no actual dialogue and helping create one of the most touching, amusing and empathetic characters in the film.

Onscreen, Ginny was, in effect, the “last original Mouseketeer.” When the “Mickey Mouse Club” was re-introduced for national TV syndication in 1962, Southern California viewers were treated to special new sequences in which Ginny explored Disneyland park. She interviewed cast members, ventured behind the scenes, and shared the fun in almost every nook and cranny.

Ginny’s skill at imitating animals and birds led to a lot of film and TV work, including the voice of Polynesia the Parrot for Fox’s 1967 musical “Doctor Dolittle,” starring Rex Harrison. Numerous cartoon voices included teen adventurer Jan on Hanna-Barbera’s cult classic “Space Ghost” and Sue Richards for DePatie-Freleng’s animated version of Marvel’s “Fantastic Four.” And if you had any of those little “Tele-Story” book and cassette read-alongs in the 1970s, Ginny was usually reading to you in her warm, Barbara Eden-like voice.

Narration had been one of Ginny’s specialties as early as 1960, when she became the very first “Disneyland Storyteller,” retelling the tales of “Cinderella,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Peter Pan,” “Bambi” and others for Disneyland LP Records, most featuring illustrated books. This was a role that even Walt Disney considered to be an extra-special one.

On one memorable day, Ginny was sharing her enthusiasm for Disneyland park with Walt. “And I was raving away to Walt how wonderful Disneyland was,” she recalled. “Walt said, ‘And that goes for my Disneyland Storyteller, too.’

“I have never felt prouder in my entire life.”

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Micky’s Many Thanks; Summer Sounds Sizzle

posted on June 29th, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Last month, The Monkees’ original lead singer Micky Dolenz took Epcot by storm (and I don’t mean the weather). From the enthusiasm of the delighted guests at the three shows I attended, it looks like there might be a new Flower Power Concert Series tradition!

From the road, where he’s headlining in the “Happy Together” classic rock and roll music tour, Micky sends his sincere thanks to Walt Disney World Resort guests and cast members. “Everything is so great there,” he told me. “The people are so efficient, the sound equipment is excellent — and the food is terrific.”

Micky is particularly grateful that everyone accepted him in place of his Monkee “brother,” Davy Jones. He was touched that his friend Peter Noone also paid tribute to Davy in earlier Epcot shows.

It was a homecoming of sorts for Micky, since his sister Coco joined him onstage and since he’s been a Disney fan since childhood. “As long ago as I can remember, I loved the Mickey Mouse Club; I had a terrible crush on Cheryl Holdridge and of course, Annette Funicello [who later appeared in The Monkees theatrical film, Head].

“It’s part of almost everyone’s childhood. I remember the first time I went to the Disneyland Resort — my parents surprised me. I’m a big fan of Tomorrowland, with all the science stuff, and Frontierland — especially Tom Sawyer Island.” Micky was happy to hear that there’s a Tom Sawyer Island at Magic Kingdom Park and is excited about Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland park, too.

Did you see Micky at Epcot? Want to see him back next year? If you can’t wait, he may be coming to your town on the Happy Together Tour this year.

And if you want to keep live rock and pop at Epcot, you’ll want to check out the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series, now through July 28 at the America Gardens Theatre in World Showcase.

Sounds Like Summer presents the very finest tribute bands that recapture the authentic musical qualities of classic rock bands with spot-on precision and artistry. I got a chance to talk with Dicky Lee, guitar player for one of the most popular, Hotel California. They’ve just wrapped another well-received week performing the music of The Eagles at the America Gardens Theater.

“We get more email for our Epcot shows than anywhere else in the country,” he said. “Everything is state-of-the-art all the way. Each note and nuance has all the clarity and brilliance that can be achieved with today’s advances in sound.”

The Sounds Like Summer Concert Series keeps the music going with Stayin’ Alive (tribute to the Bee Gees), June 29 – 30; Slippery When Wet (the ultimate Bon Jovi tribute), July 1 – July 7; Police Experience (a tribute to The Police), July 10 – July 17; Southbound and Company (tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd), July 18 – July 21 and 2U (U2 tribute band), July 22 – July 28. Showtimes are 5:45 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. (except on July 4, when showtimes are scheduled for 5:15, 6:30, 7:45 and 9 p.m.).

From the sounds of The Eagles and The Bee Gees to The Police and Bon Jovi, the impact of great music, expertly performed, is impossible to measure. As Dicky says, “This music is the sound track to a lot of people’s lives. Giving them the opportunity to go ‘back there’ for a moment is a source of joy.”

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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!

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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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