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seeking Jack Wagner information

Discussion in 'Archive' started by Dr. Know, Jul 29, 2003.

  1. Dr. Know

    Dr. Know Member

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    Forgive me if this has been covered here before, but could someone please direct me to the best source of information -- web or otherwise -- on the late, great Jack Wagner? Has an article been written somewhere covering his important contributions to the amazing high standards of musical atmosphere in the Disney parks? I would love to know more about his background and bio...

    Thanks!
     
  2. Progressland

    Progressland Member

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    Here's an article from the Summer 1998 Disney Magazine:

    Jack of All Voices
    Jack Wagner: The Voice of Disney
    by Libby Slate

    What do Mickey Mouse, the Abominable Snowman, and the Orlando International Airport have in common?

    All have benefitted from the vocal talents of Jack Wagner, aka "The Voice of Disney." For almost 18 years, Wagner's cheerful, friendly tone has vocally captured the Disney spirit, whether making announcements at the three Theme Parks and touring ice shows, doing voiceovers for television programs, commercials and audiovisual presentations, or supplying voices for more than 20 characters. He has also produced music and sound for virtually every parade and many live shows at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, provided background music for all three Parks' themed lands, and produced record albums featuring Theme Park talent.

    Wagner's association with Disneyland began in 1955 when, as Los Angeles' number-one-rated disc jockey, he was invited to attend opening day. In the ensuing years he did guest announcing and narration for Christmas parades and other special programs, coming aboard full-time as Production Consultant in 1970, and shortly thereafter being named Park Announcer as well.

    "From there, it just kind of snowballed," he says. "Now it seems as if everywhere you go in Disneyland, you hear my voice. It's become sort of like my signature."

    That voice sometimes turns up in unexpected places. When the Abominable Snowman took up residence in Disneyland's refurbished Matterhorn, for instance, Wagner provided some of its screams. And Florida visitors can hear him on three car radio stations giving directions around Walt Disney World and Orlando's freeways, as well as making announcements at the Orlando International Airport - in both English and Spanish.

    Perhaps his most enjoyable assignment is doing character voices, mostly for Theme Park productions, ice shows and award-winning commercials.

    "The main voices are Mickey, Donald, Pluto, Ludwig von Drake, Goofy, and Chip and Dale," he says. "Right now, I'm also Doc and the Queen's Magic Mirror in 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on Ice,' and Gepetto, Jiminy Cricket, and Honest John in 'Pinocchio on Ice.'"

    What are his favorites?

    "That's hard to say," he answers thoughtfully, "there's Mickey..." and he breaks into a high-pitched "Hi, everybody!" a la everyone's favorite mouse; "...and Goofy..." another familiar voice greets us; "...and Donald," but here, no well-known squawk fills the air. "I have to chew gum for 15 minutes before I do Donald," he reveals. "His voice comes from the cheek," he finally lets out one trademark squawk, "so chewing helps tone up the cheek."

    Like any actor, Wagner must perpare before brining his characters to life. "I'm a perfectionist, which is someone who takes great pains and gives them to others," he says with a grin. "I can't just turn it on. I listen to the voice, get into character. When I'm doing a voice, sometimes I'll see myself gesturing. Mickey will say 'g'bye, everybody! So long!' - and *I'm* waving!"

    Besides providing vocal talent, Wagner does the master tape recording of music and effects for the Parks' shows and parades. His first job as Production Consultant was supplying background music for 40 different themed areas at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

    "In Disneyland, you'd go down Main Street and they'd be playing '70s musical hits like 'Mrs. Robinson,'" he recalls. "So I changed that to turn-of-the-century ragtime music."

    Wagner's greatest contribution to the sound of Disney came in 1972, with the creation of the "Main Street Electrical Parade." It was he who convinced producer Bob Jani that the thousands of sparkling lights should be accompanied by electronic music, rather than the orchestral "Night on Bald Mountain" originally considered. He also located the now familiar theme, "Baroque Hoedown."

    "I listened to three or four pieces of electronic music that were in my record collection," he remembers. "When I heard 'Baroque Hoedown,' I said 'This is it!' The melody works terifically with the improvisations of Disney themes and other musical embellishments."

    The man behind the melodies comes by his love of music naturally: his French-born parents were both musicians and his older brother Roger is director of the world-famous Roger Wagner Chorale. Wagner began his own performing career ar age four, dubbing American-made movies into French for foreign release. As a teenager he was an M.G.M. contract stock player, and in the 1950s he made 1,244 appearances on television's The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (but who's counting?). He was also featured on The Ann Sothern Show, Sea Hunt, Dragnet, and other popular series of the decade. Besides being Los Angeles' top-ranked radio personality, Wagner had an interview show, Hollywood on a Silver Platter, that was syndicated to more than 1,200 radio stations worldwide.

    Nowadays, Wagner's recording is one at his own studio, two miles from Disneyland. The rooms are filled with sophisticated audio and video equipment, and the walls are lined with a memorabilia collector's dream: Theme Park opening day tickets, a golden spike commemorating the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opening, posters, badges, clocks and plaques of appreciation for his years of service. There is also a plaque for "The Voice Behind the Voice" - presented to Wagner's wife of 40 years, Maryalice, who has provided voices for Alice in Wonderland, the Blue Fairy, and others.

    Also prominently displayed are police commendations and a red fireman's hat, attesting to his volunteer work on behalf of crime and fire prevention. He is the voice of 25 "talking" police cars used for youth education statewide, and makes special recordings for fire departments.

    Wagner's Disney parade experience has stood him in good stead. For the past ten years, he and Maryalice have produced music, voices and sound effects for Festival Artists' Tournament of Roses Parade floats. Other activities through the years have included announcing Super Bowl half-time shows and recording commercials for Robert F. Kennedy's presidential campaign.

    Among the many highlights in his long career, one in particular stands out. "One of my jobs in connection with Walt Disney World's opening was to introduce the World Symphony Orchestra, 142 players from 60 countries, involving many languages," he relates. "We greeted them in New York and I asked each one in English or French, how to pronounce his or her name, which I then both taped and wrote phonetically. At a breakfast attended by Leopold Stokowski, Arthur Fiedler and many other important people, I introduced each musician and then the President of the United Nations Associations.

    "Instead of going on with the program, the President said, 'Ladies and Gentlemen, may we please have some recognition for the man who flawlessly pronounced all those exotic names?' I never expected that. I really choked up - it was such a thrill!"

    And then there have been some less than stellar moments, he admits. "One day I was riding the Matterhorn. The bobsled came around the final bend and stopped. It wasn't quite at the end, but I thought, 'Oh, I'll get out here.' So I lifted my leg over the side - and here comes my pre-recorded voice saying, 'Please do not leave your vehicle. Wait until you come to a complete stop in the station.' I thought, 'Oh no, that's me!' I was so embarrassed - I turned bright red and did what 'that voice' told me to do!"
     
  3. Dr. Know

    Dr. Know Member

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    Thanks, Jason -- that's just what I was looking for! What an amazing man.

    Jim
     
  4. Gurgitoy2

    Gurgitoy2 Active Member

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    Wow! How funny that they were playing 70's hits on Main Street! Boy, I can just imagine what people would say today if they piped in pop or rap music! I'm kind of surprised that they did that because it's so out of theme...
     

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