Saturday Matinee #147: "The Disney Classics Box Set, Part One: Timeless Classics" (November 12, 2013)
Published October 26, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
In the midst of celebrating Reuben Week last week, I had forgotten that the Walt Disney Company as we know it today celebrated a rather lofty achievement: ninety years of magic. Granted, the company prefers to focus on anniversaries that directly correlate to Walt or their theme parks, as evident by the "100 Years of Magic" campaign in 2001, the "Happiest Celebration on Earth" in 2005, and various other theme park anniversaries divisible by five. But I really hadn't seen much that celebrated the company's ninetieth anniversary. Ninety years and ten days ago (October 16, 1923), Walt and Roy started The Disney Brothers Studio in order to produce the Alice Comedies. Although Walt had done earlier work in Kansas City with his Laugh-O-Grams studio, many Disney historians consider the Alice comedies as the beginning of the "Disney" that we know today, as it was the first true professional collaboration between Walt and Roy.
I haven't come across much promotion for this anniversary, aside from an accidental stumbling a couple nights ago. My brother (and Sunday Brunch writer) Reuben showed me a YouTube video of internet sensations Alex G & Peter Hollens singing a Disney Medley, a capella, featuring various songs from their more popular animated hits. You can check the video out here, which I won't cover this week, but perhaps at a later date. The reason behind this video, which was done in collaboration with Disney themselves, is to celebrate a four-CD box set coming out in November. Disney Records will release a four-CD set simply titled "Disney Classics."
Meant to celebrate all ninety years of the company's existence, it appears to be an updated retread of their "Classic Disney" CD series from the mid-90s, now including more recent fare, some rather obscure (to new fans) material, and the traditional standards. The CD set doesn't seem quite appealing to me, mainly because I have many of the songs, can easily acquire the few I don't yet have, and don't care for several choices. But for those of you interested in this set, for the next few weeks (barring pre-scheduled themed weeks), I'll share the track listing for one of the CDs, along with my thoughts on some of the song selections. First up is "Timeless Classics."
01. "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" - Three Little Pigs
02. "Whistle While You Work" - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
03. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio
04. "When I See an Elephant Fly" - Dumbo
05. "Little April Shower" - Bambi
06. "The Three Caballeros" - The Three Caballeros
07. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South
08. "Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly)" - So Dear to My Heart
09. "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" - Cinderella
10. "All in the Golden Afternoon" - Alice in Wonderland
11. "You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly!" - Peter Pan
12. "What a Dog/He's a Tramp" - Lady and the Tramp
13. "Once Upon a Dream" - Sleeping Beauty
14. "Cruella De Vil" - 101 Dalmatians
15. "Let's Get Together" - The Parent Trap
16. "The Ugly Bug Ball" - Summer Magic
17. "A Spoonful of Sugar" - Mary Poppins
18. "The Monkey's Uncle" - The Monkey's Uncle
19. "Fortuosity" - The Happiest Millionaire
20. "The Bare Necessities" - The Jungle Book
21. "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat" - The Aristocats
22. "Whistle Stop" - Robin Hood
23. "Someone's Waiting for You" - The Rescuers
24. "It's Not Easy" - Pete's Dragon
25. "Best of Friends" - The Fox and the Hound
I had expected the set to differentiate "Timeless" and "Modern" as simply the "Walt" and the "Post-Walt" eras, but I'm rather glad that they decided instead to end it during the post-Walt, pre-Eisner years. That transitory period actually gets represented quite nicely here, with expected classics like "The Bare Necessities" and underrated gems like "It's Not Easy." The omission of "Minnie's Yoo Hoo" seems quite puzzling, as that song gets placed in the Television CD rather than here, where it would seem more appropriate. However, the set still starts off quite strong with "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf," the hugely-popular tune from Disney's 1933 Silly Symphonies cartoon that retold the classic "Three Little Pigs" tale. Walt mused in his later years that had he foreseen the popularity of the short cartoon, he would have made "Three Little Pigs" into a feature film.
I really like that these CDs place the songs in a chronological order, it allows us to trace the evolution of Disney through music, especially when you see vastly-different tracks next to each other, namely the Jazz Classic sandwich that occurs when "Once Upon a Dream" gets sandwiched between "What a Dog/He's a Tramp" and "Cruella De Vil." We can see just how far-reaching the talents are within Disney's songwriters, as well as how the contemporary can become classic over time. "Cruella De Vil," especially, has aged wonderfully, as has the entire soundtrack for 101 Dalmatians. Overall, this set comes across as the strongest of the four, perhaps because it has the most agreeably-popular songs, even if some may not always be the first choice when someone is asked to remember a song from any particular Disney film.
All images taken from "Introducing the Disney Classics Box Set"