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Thursday Treasures

November 17, 2011

"Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic" - November 17, 2011

by Albert Gutierrez

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, our family thrived on long-playing records and cassette tapes. We still have a fairly decent collection of LPs, a few dozen of which I keep in my room. Among those LPs were Disney records, but they were of the kiddie variety. They usually were a collection of children's songs or read-along 45's that only featured one or two songs among the story. Thus, most of the Disney music that my siblings and I were exposed to came from watching VHS tapes of the movies and Disney Sing-Along Songs. However, technology somehow managed to finally get updated in our home in 1995. We bought our first CD player, and a set of four CDs. Two of them were Piano Moods and Celine Dion's "The Colour of My Love," neither of which held much interest for myself and my siblings. The other two ended up getting much more spins in the player: "Classic Disney," Volumes I and II.

"Classic Disney" was a compilation CD series that began in 1995. Each volume featured twenty-five songs celebrating Disney's rich history with music. Over the latter half of the 1990s, five volumes were released, featuring 125 songs featured in various Disney projects between 1929 and 1998. The earliest* song included was 1929's "Minnie's Yoo-Hoo" (Volume I, Track 25) a natural choice, as it could be considered the very first theme song for a Disney character. The most recent song in the collection was 1998's "I'll Make a Man Out of You" (Volume V, Track 1) from the hit film Mulan. The other 123 songs ranged from well-known classics like 1964's "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" (Volume II, Track 7) from Mary Poppins to contemporary hits like 1992's "A Whole New World" (Volume I, Track 1) from Aladdin. Looking back on it now, it's quite fitting that "A Whole New World" is the headlining song that leads you into a musical crescendo of Disney nirvana. What better way to enter the world of Disney music than through what is arguably their best song of the 1990s?

*Technically, one could argue that the earliest song in the collection is 1892's "Dance of the Reed Flutes" from The Nutcracker (Volume I, Track 22). But the version featured in the collection is taken from Fantasia's 1940 arrangement. Therefore, "Minnie's Yoo-Hoo" predates it by eleven years.

Since "Classic Disney" was the extent of our musical Disney collection, it received a lot of play from us. The CDs rarely left the 5-disc turntable on our player. Sometimes, we would pause a song on the player, then scramble to find that scene on the VHS tape of the movie. I still vividly remember one night when we were watching Mary Poppins: every time a particular song came on that was in "Classic Disney," we'd pause the movie, find the track, and then synch the two up. It was very exciting for us to hear the likes of "Jolly Holiday" (Volume I, Track 10) or "A Spoonful of Sugar" (Volume I, Track 11) being sung to us from two ends of the room. I guess you could say this was the NJ Trio's earliest exposure to a surround sound system in the home!

Even though Volumes III, IV, and V came out in the later years of the 1990s, we never bought them. We had become too accustomed to the first two volumes being our definitive collection of Disney songs, that it seemed weird - to me, at least - to suddenly have an additional 25/50/75 songs. For most of my life, the first 50 songs from "Classic Disney" were what I considered the best of Disney music. All because we got used to hearing them over and over again. Sure, we picked up other Disney CDs over the years. 2002's Beauty and the Beast Special Edition soundtrack was one of the first CDs I bought with my own money, and will always be my favorite animated Disney movie soundtrack. But by the early 2000s, Disney music was no longer the go-to choice when I needed something pleasant to hear. Even the "Classic Disney" CDs started getting less play, and eventually, no longer held slots 1 and 2 in the turntable.

Then, in 2005, I was browsing through Virgin Megastore at Downtown Disney's West Side. I rarely went through the CD section; I enjoyed browsing the DVDs more. But there was a sale on some Disney products, and so I decided to see what they had: a great big row of CD box sets, on sale for the low, low price of $27.99! Intrigued, I picked up a box, and found it contained all five volumes of "Classic Disney"! A wave of nostalgia suddenly hit me, as I recalled afternoons listening to "A Whale of a Tale" (Volume I, Track 17) while studying for a math test. I remembered my sister's robot project, where she attached a tape player to the back that included the beginning of "Main Street Electrical Parade" (Volume II, Track 9) among its songs. I knew I had to buy this box set. I didn't care for the other three volumes, I just wanted an opportunity to listen to my 50 songs once more.

Of course, I did end up listening to Volumes III, IV, and V. Thankfully, I grew to love those volumes as much as I did the first two. It was through these volumes that I gained a newfound love for most of the songs. I never heard the song "Home" (Volume IV, Track 4) from Broadway's Beauty and the Beast until I bought this set, and it's become one of my favorite from the musical. Even a song like "Are We Dancing" (Volume III, Track 16) grew on me. I wasn't fond of it when I first saw The Happiest Millionaire, but after listening to it several times on the CD, I've grown to appreciate it much more. It's one of the few romantic ballads from a live-action Disney movie, and easily sits up on top of the list with Pete's Dragon's "Candle on the Water" (Volume II, Track 8). And if "Seize the Day" (Volume V, Track 10) weren't included, I might never have become such a huge fan of Newsies!

My Disney music collection has grown tenfold since those original 50 and subsequent 75 songs, and my music collection in general makes those original 50 seem quite paltry. But sometimes, when I just want to feel like I'm 10 years old again, I'll pop a "Classic Disney" in the car on my morning commute, and smile as I drive away.


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