Sunday, August 2, 2015

Disney Song #71: Winnie the Pooh

To Listen:  Original version / Pooh Corner version

The Facts:
  • Writers: Richard and Robert Sherman
  • Year: 1966
  • Key:  F Major

Heard In: 
Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, Welcome to Pooh Corner

When Disney got license to use A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh character in the 1960's, it would have been hard to imagine the juggernaut that the franchise led by the "willy, nilly silly old bear" would become.  Movies, TV, theme park rides, merchandise: Pooh can do it all.  It's a far cry from the remote Canadian wilderness where the real Winnie (named after Winnipeg) first came from about 100 years ago.

The theme song first was heard in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, a short feature that later became part of the longer film The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  A different version of the song is heard at the beginning of Welcome to Pooh Corner, a television show on the Disney Channel in the early 80's that holds great personal significance (more on that later).

Musically Speaking:
A classic tune which marks the first appearance on our list from the first family of Disney music, the illustrious Sherman Brothers.  We will see them many more times before the countdown is complete.

Personal Connection:
When I was a toddler, my weekday mornings usually consisted of one or more of the following Disney Channel shows, depending on what time I woke up:
  • You and Me Kid
  • Good Morning Mickey
  • Welcome to Pooh Corner
  • Donald Duck Presents
  • Dumbo's Circus
To say those were the days would be quite an understatement.  I only wish this type of quality programming was still on the air for my toddler.  And of all these great shows, Pooh Corner was the highlight, memorable for its life sized characters (human actors in costume) and its good music throughout the show.  I loved it so much that when I wanted to stop watching it one week, it clued my mom into the fact that I needed glasses (my eyes are so bad that I was the only kid in my kindergarten class with glasses).

Robin Frederick is a singer/songwriter who composed much of the music on Pooh Corner, and she also wrote the memorable theme to You and Me Kid (listen to it here).  She was kind enough to take some time and share some memories about her experience working on the show.

I was a songwriter and music producer for the show. I wrote just under 100 songs. After 120 episodes of Welcome to Pooh Corner, many of the same staff (including me) went on to create Dumbo’s Circus for the Disney Channel.

John Debney, who is now a very successful film and TV composer, created the instrumental cues for the show. 

You know about the Sherman brothers songs, I’m sure, and can find out more about them online. 

We worked on an incredibly tight schedule. I would be given two scripts for the next episodes on Wednesday. I would write the songs Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (2 songs for each show - long and short versions), then deliver my rough demos to the arranger, Mike Watts, on Saturday. He would arrange overnight and the next day, then deliver his arrangements to the copyist on Sunday, who would create a readable score for the band overnight and deliver it to the music recording session on Monday morning. I’d be waiting at the studio with the session musicians to record the songs and deliver them to the voice-over session that afternoon where the characters recorded the dialogue and songs. On Tuesday, the stage would shoot the script and it would air shortly after that. Believe me, there was no time for writer’s block for the scriptwriters or the songwriters!  

Eeyore's portrayer had his own special lead sheets. He didn’t read music at all and was very worried about singing. But he could follow the up and down direction of the notes and learn the melody by listening to the demo. He did a wonderful job, always singing in character with charm and panache. Singing a song you’ve never heard before is hard enough; to do it in character with emotional expressiveness and commitment is truly amazing to me. I was always in awe of the actors and loved working with all of them. 

I wrote “Snow Ho Ho” for one of the winter-themed episodes. It has since been used in Disney park parades and appeared on Disney’s The Twelve Days of Christmas video and on a CD of the same name which I produced. It’s also a popular choral song for elementary school holiday shows. Kids love singing “in the snow-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-hooooo….” 

After the shows wrapped, I produced several albums for Walt Disney Records, including The Little Mermaid: Songs from the Sea, Disney Babies: Travel Songs, and Mickey Unrapped. 

1 comment:

  1. We had one WTP record when I was growing up, I can't for the life of me remember which recording it was, and what the storyline was (perhaps it was Pooh Goes Visiting and Gets into a Tight Place, which would have been narrated by Maurice Evans). But that chubby little cubby has a special place in my heart. Really enjoyed your interview -- amazes me that something that brings such simple pleasure to kids can be so complicated in the adult world in which it's created!