Up until recently I believed that my only connection to Walt Disney and the Disney company was that I liked going to the Parks, enjoyed the movies and collected Disneyana. But, while going through some old family photos as such, I came across something I probably had looked at many times, but never made the psychic connection had a link to Disney through music. Music has always been an important part of any Disney production from the first sound film Steamboat Willie to later shorts like the Silly Symphonies to today’s academy award winning songs. It’s also an important part of our theme park experiences. Whether it’s the soundtracks for rides like Rock n’ Roller Coaster and Splash Mountain or the instantly recognizable parade songs or the background music that sets the tone for each of the lands in all of the Parks around the world. Music is all around us when we are there.
While I am not particularly musical, I did have a famous relative who was. His name is probably not an instant “Wow” to the current or even my generation. But, if you were listening to popular music in the 40s to the early 60s, Dick Manning was well known composer and radio personality. By himself and with collaborators he provided lyrics and music to songs sung by eras songsters like Perry Como, Patti Page, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong, Kate Smith, Dinah Shore, Donny and Marie Osmand, Annette Funicello, (Ah, some Disney Bells went off on those last two, didn’t they?”) and many others.
The most direct connection is through that loveable Mousketeer Annette. In 1960, my grandfather co-wrote a song called O Dio Mio, which was released as a single and later as part of several albums of Annette’s greatest hits. Here’s Annette being introduced by Dick Clark on American Bandstand (The MTV of several generations), singing the song.
Dick’s collaborator is also a Disney connection. His partner on that song and many of his other great hits was Al Hoffman. Disney music buffs will recognize that name from some very well known Disney tunes,
A Dream is a Wish your Heart Makes
and So This is Love
all from Cinderella. And from Alice in Wonderland, The Unbirthday Song
Dick Manning and Al Hoffman wrote many songs which were used in movies and television, including some Disney productions. One of Dick’s biggest hits were his lyrics for 1905 waltz melody called Fascination, which was featured most recently on Dancin’ with the Stars in 2011 and 2012. Fascination was also heard in Disney’s Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, in the scene wherein Herbie plays this song on his radio, to the Lancia Scorpion later named “Giselle”, much to the annoyance of driver Diane Darcy.
Another successful song that was used on DWTS 2006 Season 3, was Papa Loves Mambo, a song that was covered by many recording stars of that era including Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Pearl Bailey was danced to by Sara Evans & Tony Dovolani.
It’s played in the of Par-Tay episode in TV series The Middle. And When Disney owned Miramax the song can be heard in the Pallbearer. Perry Como can be heard singing the song in the 2006 movie Stick It. These two songs can be heard in many other non-Disney movies like Diner, My Cousin Vinny, Ocean’s Eleven and on TV in the Sopranos.
For those of you who might have been listening in the Land Pavilion at Epcot, Dick’s song Allegheny Moon, originally recorded by Patti Page could also be heard in a music loop that used to play inside until sometime in the early 2000s.
And there’s a couple of three degrees of separation that connect singers who have appeared in Disney animated films. Elvis’, whose music is famously featured in Lilo and Stitch recorded Dick’s Hawaiian Wedding Song, the last number in the movie Blue Hawaii.
And that great motivator Donny Osmand as Shang, who rallied his troops in Mulan, recorded Morning Side of the Mountain in 1974 with his sister Marie who competed in DWTS season 5. The song was on the Billboard top 100 and made number 1 on the easy listening chart.
My Grandfather came from a strong musical background. His father, David, an emigre from the Ukraine has several recordings of folk songs in the Library of Congress. With his wife they performed around the world and in NY’s Yiddish theater in the 1920s. Dick had a long and varied career which started in radio when he had his own music show. In addition to popular music he wrote the words and music for a musical called The Fifth Season, which ran off Broadway in New York as well as a Rhapsody. His contribution to Disney is limited, but I found it fun to research how it has been used. He wrote at a time when clever lyrics and melodies were very popular and many artists might record a well received song. It’s always a little thrill when I catch part of one of his songs in a movie. And I like thinking that I have a connection to Disney, even if it’s slightly removed. I think Dick would have been pleased that his creations have continued to be enjoyed by new generations of listeners. Here’s a listing of his most popular songs from the promotional piece I found: