Sunday, January 11, 2015

Notable Disney Songs that Didn't Make the Cut (Part 1): 1937-1968

As a semi follow up to my past article, Animated Films that Never Were (Disney Edition), I have decided to write about ten musical numbers that the company axed either in favor of other songs or due to pacing issues. Given that Disney is over ninety years old, it has a very long and interesting history. There are many fascinating 'what ifs' and 'could have beens.' (In fact, Disney's Frozen, had a grand total of seven songs deleted from its original lineup.) So let's take a look behind the scenes at some of the company's decisions to see if any of the music they decided to scrap is actually worth listening to.*

1. Music in Your Soup (Snow White, 1937)

Disney's Snow White was a huge undertaking for the then relatively small studio. Before it was released, feature length animated films were unheard of in Hollywood, and many critics referred to it as 'Disney's Folly.' The critics, of course, were ultimately proven wrong. However, Snow White had a very long and complex production history which lasted a total of four in a half years. "Music in Your Soup" fell victim to this. The musical sequence, animated by Ward Kimball, involved Snow White teaching the dwarves how to eat like gentlemen rather than noisily slurping their soup. The song would have taken place directly after the scene were the dwarves are washing before dinner. Ultimately, "Music in Your Soup" was cut because it simply didn't fit within Snow White's time constraints. Walt Disney actually felt bad about cutting the scene (along with another taking place in the dwarves' bedroom). To make it up to Ward Kimball he let him design and be lead animator on Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio (1940).  

2. The Rain Song (Bambi, 1942)

"The Rain Song" could actually be considered more of a rough draft than a deleted song. The music number was to take place during the large thunderstorm towards the beginning of the film. It is an interesting piece because the singers match the tempo of their voices to the sound of the falling raindrops. However, Walt felt that the "The Rain Song" was too slow and opted to replace it with the more complex sounding and slighty faster, "Little April Showers", which went on to become Bambi's most famous song. Both songs are practically identical in their intent and seem to have been performed by at least some of the same artists.

3. The Work Song (Cinderella, 1950)

While it is easy to overlook now given how big the company has become, Disney was struggling to survive for a good portion of the 1940s. Most of their films failed to return sufficient box office returns. This was due to their movies either being cut off from European markets during war or else due to audiences simply not connecting with them (i.e. Fantasia). Cinderella was the company's first true success since Snow White. Fortunately, it proved to be very successful with both audiences and critics. While most of the original story remained intact (far more so than Snow White anyway), certain scenes were scraped. For instance, the Prince was to have a larger role. The song above was to be performed by the mice. It portrays Cinderella imagining herself as more than one person in order to complete her chores faster and get to the ball. The charming storyboard illustrations were done by Mary Blair. Strangely, Walt Disney nixed "The Work Song" because he thought the scene would make Cinderella look 'spiteful' and less sympathetic.

4. Beyond the Laughing Sky (Alice in Wonderland, 1951)

Alice in Wonderland, unlike Cinderella, had a much more difficult production period. Walt had wanted to make the film for years, stating that it was his favorite children's book. Interestingly enough, the film was panned by critics when it was first released (They stated that it wasn't 'British enough.') and Disney saw it as a disappointment. Today, however, it is often held in high regard. Perhaps Walt had become too attached to the project and would have never been able to perfect it to the way he wanted. Reflecting this, a grand total of 30 songs were written for the film. While several did end up in the film, many others did not. "Beyond the Laughing Sky" was originally meant to be Alice's introductory song, but was later abandoned. It did, however, become reworked as the song, "The Second Star to the Right" in Disney's next film: Peter Pan.

5. Never Smile at a Crocodile (Peter Pan, 1953)

Some of you might be surprised to see this one on the list because Disney did actually release "Never Smile at a Crocodile" on Peter Pan's soundtrack and did appear on the VHS tape Disney Sing-ALong Songs Volume 7: Under the Sea (1997), which is where the clip from above originates. The song by the Sherman Brothers actually does appear in the film, but only as an instrumental piece. Never the less,  it has gone on to become one of the film's most popular and well-known music numbers.

6. The Mighty Hunters (The Jungle Book, 1968)

As with Snow White and Alice, The Jungle Book was a difficult undertaking for Disney Studios. Its direction was drastically changed from the dark storyline by Rudyard Kipling to a more lighthearted romp. (This caused a major falling out with Walt Disney and writer/storyboard artist Bill Peet, who later left the company in January 1964.) Several characters were added (King Louie, Mowgli's love interest) and/or deleted (Rocky the Rhino). Worst of all, Walt died from lung cancer during the film's production at age 65 on December 15, 1966. "The Mighty Hunters," like "Brothers All" and "The Song of Seeonee," was from the earlier version of The Jungle Book that Bill Peet envisioned. All three of the songs reflected the draft's slightly more mature tone. (Yet despite all of this upheaval, The Jungle Book proved to be very successful; arguably the most well-recieved Disney film up until The Little Mermaid [1989]. To this day it remains 30th highest grossing film in the United States adjusted for inflation.)

* I would like to give a big thanks to the DisneyWiki as an inspiration for compiling this list. If you would like to find out more about Disney's music making process, the wiki has an entire page devoted to deleted songs.