The Music of Disney’s 1950 Cinderella

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“Following the pattern he had set more than a decade earlier with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt decided to make Cinderella a musical.  Oliver Wallace, who had won an Oscar for Best Original Score for Dumbo, and Paul J. Smith, who won the same award for Pinocchio, collaborated on the score.

“Composer and historian Alex Rannie notes, ‘The in-home guys were still writing stuff for the shorts; Oliver Wallace had a hit with  ‘Der Fuehrer’s Face.’

” ‘But Walt was looking to exploit the songs as much as possible.  Supposedly he heard [the song] “Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba” on the radio driving to work one day and said, “that’s the kid of song we need for Cinderella for the Fairy Godmother.” ‘

“PPerry Como scored a big hit in 1947 with the hit in 1947 with the half-nonsense lullaby “Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba” which was written by Mack David, Jerry Livingston, and Al Hoffman.  The song stayed on the Billboard chart for twelve weeks, topping at number one.

 Ilene Woods

The songwriters were friends with the popular young singer Ilene Woods, who had her own show on ABC Radio and had traveled extesively with the USO during World War II.  They asked her to record demos of the songs they were working on a film.

” ‘I didn’t now it was for Walt Disney–they said [it was] for a movie,’ Woods recalled.  ‘I went into a studio with a piano and did, ‘OhSing Sweet Nightingale,’ ‘So This is Love,’ and ‘Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo’ and sort of forgot about it.’

“Disney was so impressed with the demos, he chose Woods to be the voice of Cinderella.

” ‘They told me they had auditioned around 380 girls; I always wondered what he heard in my voice that was so different from any of the 380 he’d listened to, ‘Woods later recalled.  ‘He came in every day at the end of our recording, whether it had been music or dialogue, and checked everything out.’

Early versions of the script for Cinderella included a fantasy number where she imagined having an army of servants to do the chores for her.  The sequence was transformed into Cinderella’s rendition of ‘Oh Sing Sweet Nightingale’ as she scrubs the stairs and entry hall of the chateau. Solomon, p. 96

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“Rannie notes, ‘Part of what that song does is show that Cinderella finds happiness in her own company.  The music in her life comes from within her; she provides her own accompaniment within her little world.  That’s how she remains happy.’

“As the bubbles rise from her scrub bucket, the reflections of Cinderella join with her to sing in multipart harmony.  The result is lovely and effective, both musically and dramatically.  Having one singer perform multipart harmony was something of a technical breakthrough, as Woods recorded the song before Patti Page released the hit “(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?’

“Woods and Walt cme up with the idea spontaeously: ‘When we were recording “Oh Sing Sweet Nightingale,” he looked up and said, “Ilene, can you sing harmony with yourself?”  I said, “Gee Mr. Disney, I don’t now; I can’t even hum and whistle at the same time.  What did you have in mind?  He said, “I can se it.”

” ‘ He turned to the engineer and said, “We’ll put the earphones on her and she’ll sing second-part harmony and so on and so on.”  The engineer said, “Well, if you say so Walt, we can do it.”  And we did it.

” ‘When we first heard it played back, it was really beautiful,’ she said.  ‘Sisters’ voiced blend well together, but when the same person is doing all the parts, the blend in unbelievable.  Walt said, “You know, all these years I’ve been paying the Andrews Sisters three salaries and I could’ve had you for one.” ‘

“Although Woods’s story is entertaining, Rannie doubts the effect was conceived and executed on the spur of the moment.  He points out Disney had [p. 97] already featured Adriana Caselotti singing with herself in “I’m Wishing” in Snow White, and that Nelson Eddy had supplied three voices singing together in “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met” in Make Mine Music.  But an arranger would have to write the parts for Woods to sing, and while it’s easy to over dub with modern technology, setting up the less sophisticated equipment available in the late 1940s would have taken considerable time and effort. …

“Regardless of the story, the music from Cinderella earned three Academy Award nominations: Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, Best Sound Recording, and Best Song for ‘Bibbid-Bobbid-Boo.’  The film was also nominated for a Golden Lion at the 1951 Venice Film Festival and received a Golden Bear for Best Musical at the 1951 Berlin International Fil Festival.

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About jackikellum

Jacki Kellum is a Fine Artist, a Designer, and also a writer. For one of her graduate programs, she wrote her thesis on William Blake. Like Blake, much of Kellum's work is about childhood and lost innocence. Also like Blake, Kellum strives to both write and illustrate her work. .
This entry was posted in A Wish Your Heart Makes Charles Solomon, Berlin Film Festival Exhibit, Ilene Woods, Mary Blair Concept Art, Music and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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