History of Disneyland/Buena Vista Records


Writers uncover Disney?s recorded history
for the first time

ORLANDO, FL - They?re among the most popular forms of Disney entertainment. They?ve sold millions, won numerous awards and influenced the entertainment industry. They?ve been the soundtracks of childhood for generations. But strangely enough, the story of the Disney-produced recordings we welcomed into our homes for over half a century ? in the form of LP?s, 45?s, 78?s, cassettes and compact discs ? has never been fully told.
Two American pop culture writers, both avid Disney record collectors, have taken on this massive task. In their forthcoming book, The Walt Disney Records Story, to be published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2005, authors Tim Hollis and Gregory Ehrbar provide a feast of untold tales and behind the scenes lore from an often overlook Disney genre.
Hollis and Ehrbar explain why Walt and Roy Disney resisted going into the record business for over three decades, until the success of ?The Ballad of Davy Crockett? convinced Roy to take the plunge. Under the guidance of its first president, Jimmy Johnson, the record company experienced both feast and famine in the retail marketplace. Detailed in the book are the teen-pop success of Annette Funicello, the Mary Poppins phenomenon, a Disney-style ?British invasion,? and even a low period when sagging sales forced Walt to suggest closing the division down. There will be answers to nagging questions such as, "Why did the Disney records always use different voices than the animated features?" and "Who were all those anonymous voices who weren't credited on their records?"
Virtually every musical style is represented, from rock, disco and rap to jazz, folk and classical. Complimenting each chapter are performer biographies, some well-known (such as Thurl Ravenscroft, Fess Parker) and many who should be (Robie Lester, Sam Edwards, Dal McKennon, Ginny Tyler, and many more).
?There?s a whole world of talented people involved with these recordings, then and now,? Ehrbar says. ?It?s time for them to be recognized.?
Two-time Grammy nominee Ehrbar served as writer for Disney recordings, books, network TV specials and advertising, also producing compilation CD?s for children. Writer/journalist Hollis? name is well-known to pop-culture fans as the author such best sellers as Hi There, Boys and Girls! America?s Local Children?s TV Programs, Dixie Before Disney: 100 Years of Roadside Fun, and the upcoming Florida?s Miracle Strip: From Redneck Riviera to Emerald Coast, all published by the University Press of Mississippi.
?There aren?t many areas of Disney left to be chronicled, and this is a subject that means a lot to us,? Hollis says. ?So many folks grew up with these records, and most kids have a bunch of CD?s now. Now there?ll be a way to learn how they all came about.?
The Walt Disney Records Story is scheduled for publication in October 2005. The authors welcome the assistance of anyone involved in Disney recordings over the years, or with memories and views on the subject, to contact them to share stories.
Contact Tim Hollis at Hollis1963@aol.com, or Gregory Ehrbar at wondergreg@hotmail.com.


Sounds interesting. I wonder if they'll talk much about park music (and especially the brief history of WDW/DL Forever). But it sounds primarily focused on the film soundtracks.

Since it's not due out until 2005, they're probably still in the process of writing it. Maybe we can get in touch with them and get them to expand their focus a bit. ;)


Sorry, Tim!

I missed your post yesterday and zealously posted same an hour ago.... better twice than no time at all...

I think the news is GREAT and I'm slightly surprised that the regular readers and posters here don't get excited more....

Wonder if a book about The History of The Disney Stores would not fair better!!... ;- )


I doubt that the Disney Forever series would get any more than a mention (if even that) since that whole project was done between Walt Disney Imagineering and RedDotNet.

I'm sure there would be a section on the music from the parks, especially with all of those old LPs Disneyland used to release in it's younger days.
With so many new members coming on board, I thought it was time to update this post. The rough drafts of Chapters 1 and 2 are now being read and checked for errors by Randy Thornton, Tutti Camarata, and Thurl Ravenscroft. The manuscript of just those first two chapters is 76 pages long, so there is a lot more to be done... stay tuned...
Sounds fabulous, Tim--Thurl himself checking your manuscript! Glad to hear that he's apparently doing well! Just thought of a question--are you organizing the book chronologically, by individuals/performers involved, a bit of both, or some other way? Thanks, Mike.
The book is arranged chronologically. Chapter 1 is the "pre-story," covering Disney record up through the end of 1955. In January 1956 Disney officially formed its own record label, and Chapter 2 goes from then until the end of 1958. We are working on Chapter 3, which is supposed to cover 1959 through 1963, but there was so much going on during that frame that it may end up being split into two chapters.

Each chapter also has a half dozen or so sidebars with biographical sketches on the people involved, giving information that is incidental to the text but important as far as explaining who the performers were.

And yes, Thurl Ravenscroft is doing well for a man of his age and with the health problems he has had (throat cancer a few years ago). He is confined to a wheelchair now, but still goes to record Tony the Tiger's voice for new commercials, so he's not through yet!
Thanks, Tim--the idea of the sidebar biographical sketches sounds great, allowing you to also skip around the book if you're looking for information about a particular artist. I had heard that Thurl was still voicing Tony, but I happened to catch a few recent commercials that made me wonder--from what you say, it is still him! Thanks again--Mike.
All indications are that the old SNOW WHITE set marked the first instance of music and voices being taken from a movie soundtrack and released on records... Randy Thornton informs me that the next set, the PINOCCHIO songs, was the first time the word "soundtrack" was used for such a procedure.

And now, in the book's text, we are having to decide how to be consistent between saying "sound track," "soundtrack," or "sound-track." Most of the older Disney LP's spell it as two words, but the present-day usage is usually as one word. This is the type of thing that gives publishers' editors something to work on!


Would anybody know if its possible to get an email or letter to Mr. Ravenscroft? I didnt know that he was in bad health and would like to thank him, maybe a bit of fan appriciation mail might be appriciated.
Aside from the numerous tv and movie mork he did, I personally got to meet him at the Laguna Beach Arts Festival in Ca. They have (had?) a fantastic show where real people would pose in lifesize pictures and statues (if you havent seen it, it may be hard to picture... but honestly you couldnt tell it was real people until they showed you how they did it). Anyway, during intermission, my sister and I went up to the booth and spoke to him on several occasions. I have never met a more gracious man in my life. He sat my sister on his knee, did the Tony voice for us over and over again, and actually remembered our names from year to year!
Maybe a thank you would be good thing to hear.

Any ideas on contacting him? Or is it even a good idea?



Active Member
I read on another board that I frequently frequent that he's not the happiest person in the world. Quite bitter, wishes he was remembered for more than Tony the Tiger and the Haunted Mansion. I know of someone who has been in touch with him in the recent past...with your permission (and give me your e-mail address), I'll see what I can do.

Thurl Ravenscroft does not strike me as particularly bitter, but he is very proud of the wide variety of things he has done in his career, so that may amount to the same thing when it comes to people asking him only about Tony the Tiger over and over.

He does not use e-mail, but several of the other former Disneyland Records performers do (Robie Lester, Sam Edwards, Ginny Tyler, Dal McKennon, Tutti Camarata, etc). Most of them would be glad to hear from fans, but just to be on the safe side, e-mail your messages to me at Hollis1963@aol.com, and I will forward them on to the proper recipients.. or, in the case of ones such as Thurl, I will drop a printed copy into the mail to them. Let's show these people that someone really cares!
I contacted Thurl 2-3 years ago using an address from Brian Jacob's definitive website, All Things Thurl: http://members.aol.com/allthurl/thurl2.htm
I also asked for a personalized, signed picture of Thurl, as Brian suggested you could do, which I've happily had framed(these pieces seem to appear on ebay on a regular basis, courtesy of the usual slimey opportunists).

Thurl is a treasure; I'm sure I heard him again yesterday, rooting the chorus in "Illinois," from the Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln LP--the list of his vocal contributions just seems to go on and on......

Not being as familiar with the theme park attraction soundtracks, I can only assume that the Alice ride takes its card voices from the movie.. and yes, in the movie the cards were played by Thurl's quartet, the MelloMen. The others in the group at that time were Bob Stevens, Max Smith, and Bill Lee. Of course, Lee went on to have a lengthy Disneyland Records solo career himself, and Stevens and Smith were eventually replaced by Gene Merlino and Bill Cole.