Character Records

In the feature on Disneyland's Blast to the Past, Matt mentioned one of the old releases from Walt Disney Records. That brought back some memories for me for some of what I call the character-based recordings. These releases were different from the soundtracks because they were not based around a particular film. Instead, they had songs by or about the Disney characters that revolved around a particular theme. In most cases, that theme was a particular musical style. So let's jump on the bandwagon and take a look back at three different Disney character-based recordings.

The first of these that I had was Splashdance, which was released in 1984. But contrary to the title, Splashdance was not all songs about water. These songs were all in the musical styles popular in the early 1980s, and the title was somewhat a parody of Flashdance, a popular movie from that time period for all you young folks out there who may not know. As was the style of that time period, the songs of Splashdance relied heavily on synthesizers for instrumentation. The title song (Sound file MP3 Clip - 239 K) talked about the fun of playing in the water during a summer day. The second track, "Happy, Happy Birthday To You" was a generic song about a birthday celebration. However, this song, with different lyrics, was used in the Disney parks for Donald Duck's 50th birthday celebration in 1984. "Digital Duck" told of Donald's experiences with all kinds of technological gadgets. This was followed by Goofy singing "Hoedown at the Robot Farm," complete with several robotic sounds. "One Little Android" was something of a counting song, as a different android joined the song at each verse. The two chipmunks sang a song about their travels in "Chip 'N' Dale's Vacation." "Minnie Mouse" by Sparks started off the second side of the tape with a pop number about Minnie. "Mickey, She's Got A Crush On You" (Sound file 158 K) was obviously a song about Minnie's affection for Mickey, and vice versa. The next song, "Gyro Gearloose," was about a character seen only in the comic books at that time, although he did appear a few years later on DuckTales. "You Can Always Be Number One" (Sound file 226 K) was the Sport Goofy Anthem. Sport Goofy was a promotion they had at the time to encourage children that how you play the game is more important than winning and losing. The final song was "Mousekemania," which was about Disney collecting before it reached the popularity of today.

I always enjoyed listening to this one, even though most of my high school friends thought I was rather old for it. I have also always been quite fond of the cool cover art. I also remember seeing a video for the title song on the old "DTV" show on the Disney Channel. Most of the songs are sung about the characters instead of by them. The main exceptions are "Hoedown at the Robot Farm" and "Chip 'N' Dale's Vacation." Donald Duck can also be heard in "Splashdance" and "Digital Duck," and Mickey and Goofy also make brief appearances in "Splashdance." Of particular note on this recording is Clarence Nash as the voice of Donald Duck, one of his last performances before his death in 1985.

The next release we will consider was mentioned in the Blast to the Past feature - Rock Around the Mouse. This one featured songs in the style of the 1950s and featured a few notable appearances. But once again, the songs were mainly about the characters instead of by them. Some of the highlights: The title song was a typical number setting up the style of the whole recording. "Pinocchio's Boogie," (Sound file 248 K) with a lead singer sounding a bit like Elvis, encouraged everyone to do the right thing. "Quackety-Quack," (Sound file 205 K) based on "Yakety-Yak," was sung by Daisy Duck having an argument with Donald before they were to go on a date. "Go Go Go" was by Huey, Dewey and Louie. And perhaps the most popular track was "Gawrsh Golly Goofy," (Sound file 240 K) about Goofy's attempt at a one-man band.

The big name act on this recording was Little Richard singing "Gawrsh Golly Goofy." This song, along with his version of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" on For Our Children led to a complete Little Richard album by Walt Disney Records. Also appearing were the Jordanaires on "Pinocchio's Boogie"; they often sang backup vocals for Elvis, among others. I believe this was also one of the first recordings to feature Tony Anselmo as the new voice of Donald Duck. This release was also enjoyable, although I didn't enjoy it quite as much as Splashdance. To me for some reason it didn't have quite the same charm as before, although that may be partly because of the style of music. I think most of these songs would be considered more Doo-Wop instead of Rock and Roll, which I like a bit better. But I did still spend a good deal of time listening to this one.

The final release for our discussion today is Mickey Unrapped. This album, released in 1994, used the rap and hip-hop styles as its basis. This album was also condsidered by Walt Disney Records to be a parody record, since most of its songs were parodies of existing songs, although some original songs were included as well. The previous two releases we looked at had almost all original songs. Mickey Unrapped also had many more character vocals than the previous two. Among the highlights is "Whoomp! (There It Went)," (Sound file 311 K) about the gang's misadventures at Donald's birthday party. "U Can't Botch This" features Mickey, Minnie and Goofy rapping about some of their mistakes. Goofy does a turn as a D.J. in "D.J. Goof." Donald's nephews try to be tough in "Ducks In The 'Hood." "Mickey Mouse Club Mix" (Sound file 219 K) includes samples from the original Mickey Mouse Club march.

Like Rock Around the Mouse, Mickey Unrapped included some guest appearances. Tag Team performed the parody of their original hit on "Whoomp! (There It Went)," and were even featured in a video for the song. Color Me Badd sang the closing song, "The Color of Music." And fresh off her Sister Act success, Whoopi Goldberg rapped about Pluto and dogs in general on "Bowwow to the Beat." (Sound file 145 K)

I enjoyed this one almost as much as Splashdance. And it sounds quite good if you have a subwoofer and like lots of bass. Rap and hip-hop probably wouldn't be my first choices of music to listen to, but I really like this CD. I guess there is just inherent comedy value in the Disney characters as rappers, and the uniqueness of that situation does not wear off before the end of the disc. Great job by all the character voices!

Of course, there have been others, such as Mickey Mouse Disco from 1979, Disney's double-platinum parody record. And then there was Mousercise from 1982, which in addition to being a fun collection of songs, encouraged kids to exercise; it even spawned a fitness show, which was one of the original programs when the Disney Channel first went on the air. Totally Minnie in 1986 also had a television special featuring Elton John. Continuing the tradition, La Vida Mickey is a recent collection of Latin-themed songs.

- Story by Steve Burns; Cover art and song clips ©Disney

Steve is a three-time Disney Store National Trivia finalist and webmaster of BurnsLand, home of Steve's Disney Railroad Adventures.

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