Thursday, December 11, 2008

Disney Christmas Favorites - 1973

The whole first side of this record is dedicated to a re-release of a 1957 45 RPM EP called "Walt Disney's Christmas Concert" starring Ludwig Mousenksy and the All Mouse Symphony. Ludwig and his mouse friends sing and a familiar high pitched voice you may recognize as something Alvin and the Chipmunks did.

Pop culture is a funny thing, though. So much of the time everything comes down to timing. This is a great example of that. If you didn't know the timing of Ludwig you might think that this was Disney's attempt to do a knock of of the Chipmunks. However the irony is this. Ludwig Mousensky and the all mouse Symphony was conceived and released a year before Alvin and his buddies struck gold with their novelty Christmas hit. For what ever reason, this record didn't take off. Maybe the songs weren't as good, maybe it lacked a fun original Christmas song or maybe it was just timing. Anyways, the idea of speeding up voices to sound like little critters singing Christmas songs is hardly if ever credited to that record when the truth is that Alvin and The Chipmunks were the real knock off.

I have a book called "Mouse Tracks: The Story Of Walt Disney Records" that contains the following story.

Walt Disney himself came up with the idea for the big 1957 Christmas record release. "You see," Walt told Johnson (Jimmy Johnson) the previous summer, "there's this bunch of mice who live in the basement of a recording studio. They sing, they play instruments, and when everyone goes home at night they make records. We can use the sped-up voice technique we used for the mice in Cinderella." Johnson and Cammarate set to work on Walt Disney's Christmas Concert, and extended-play 45-rpm release starring "Ludwig Mousensky and the All-Mouse Orchestra."

Jimmy Macdonald provided many (if not all) of the voices, drawing from his experience as Jaq and us in Cinderella. The EP combines familiar holiday music with short comic introductions featuring the sometimes-unruly musicians and Ludwig (whose accent drops in and out). Achieving the proper sound required some recording studio technical know-how. Camarata explained how this efect was obtained: "The established tempo at which the orchestra was recorded was at one-third the 15 IPS (inches of tape running through the recording machine per second). The orchestration was pitched one-third lower than the original key, so that it would return to the original key when played at 1 IPS." He continued, "Most of the voices were overdubbed at the 7 1/2 IPS speed, in the orchesra key, while others were done in natural falsetto by Gloria Wood. The choice of the key adn temp at which we recorded was determined by breaking down the 15IPS speed into increments of three." The album included an illustrated story booklet by Disney story artist Bill Peet. It featured a backstory that claimed, "The engineers at Disneyland Records kept picking up faint musical strains on their ultra-sensitive equipment, and finally tracked the noises to the All-Mouse Orchestra, which was performing under a staircase in the basement."

Walt was disappointed in the finished product, saying, "I've never known a musician with a sense of humor." The public did not flock to buy the recording, and Johnson later reasoned that one reason for its tepid reception was that the recording never identified the performers as mice. Without looking at the record cover, it's hard to figure out just by listening to the album what the characters are supposed to be doing. Two other missing factors were catchy original song and engaging character personalities, both of which wer honed to perfection the following year by actor/composer Ross Bagdasarian, alias David Seville. "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)," on Liberty records, won three Grammy Awards and was the fastest selling record hit of the era. Walt never stopped ribbing Johnson about the misfire.

So there you have it. The full story of Ludwig and the 1957 release. If you like learning about Disney records I highly recommend "Mouse Tracks" it is well written and has lots of great stories and details. Find it on Amazon. There's also a whole website dedicated to the book at

Side two has some fun songs by Cliff Edwards (Jimminy Cricket), Louis Prima and The Witches Three. Louis Prima's Senor Santa Claus is an absolute classic. If you haven't heard it before you are sure to like it.

The last song "Jingle Bones" I think is another groundbreaking song. For me it is the precursor to all the songs in "A Nightmare Before Christmas" because it mixes Halloween and Christmas Themes. It's also really really catchy and will get stuck in your head, so be warned. Also be warned that because this is a Disney record, you might want to get this while you can because who knows how long it will stay up.


01 Jingle Bells - Ludwig Mousensky And The All Mouse Symphony.m4a
02 Winter Wonderland - Ludwig Mousensky And The All Mouse Symphony.m4a
03 Hark The Herald Angels Sing - Ludwig Mousensky And The All Mouse Symphony.m4a
04 O Little Town Of Bethlehem - Ludwig Mousensky And The All Mouse Symphony.m4a
05 O Come All Ye Faithful - Ludwig Mousensky And The All Mouse Symphony.m4a
06 Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer - Mike Sammes Singers.m4a
07 Kris Kringle - Cliff Edwards.m4a
08 Jolly Old Saint Nicholas - Disneyland Chorus.m4a
09 'Twas The Night Before Christmas - Cliff Edwards.m4a
10 Senor Santa Claus - Louis Prima.m4a
11 Jingle Bones - Witches Three.m4a

Disney Christmas


Alexandra Tyler said...

hi there! so i was at the thrift store today and scored the Disney Christmas Favorites album (and as luck would have it the ONLY song that skips once is the hot Louis Prima track). Anyway, I was on the hunt for info about the album and stumbled upon your site. WOW!!!!!! I'm so glad i did. What amazing mixes. Thank you thank yoU!!!! You are thee best. OK, back to downloading.
: )

Spencer said...

It's my pleasure.

megamania said...

Hi...i realize this was posted in 2008 but i have been searching for this album. i have very fond memories of this record from my siblings and i used to make tissue ghosts at christmas time because of the track "jingle bones"...strange kids :) do you know how i can get my hands on this record or at least a copy?

Spencer said...

E-mail me and I'll hook you up.

Chris Gannon said...

I would also love to have this album again - so many wonderful Christmases spent listening to it over and over again!

I've managed to track down some of them, mainly off terrible YouTube recordings...any chance I can get hold of it?

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, good night! ;)

Spencer said...

E-mail me and I'll send you a link.

Carol said...

do you have a file or link you'll share to download the songs? This was my favorite album growing up!

Spencer said...

E-mail me and I'll send you a link.

Nicolle said...

Spencer I just left you an email. I read the other comments & I tell you,I felt like I was the only one who remembered this album .... glad to know it touched so many other people. We had a house fire back in '92 & it melted this album, my dad will be surprised .... again thanks in advance.

Spencer said...

This is probably the most popular record on the site. Of course around Christmas I get a request for this several times a week, but I actually get requests for this album year round. It brings back a lot of memories for a lot of people.

Chris said...

Finally got hold of it last year (thanks S!) and since then have had a little boy who is now 8m old. This is his first Christmas and we've been listening to it it non stop and he loves it too! So thankful to you for it - it'll now be part of his Christmases too :)

Spencer said...

So glad to hear it.

Kim said...

Every year on December 1 my mom calls me and plays Jingle Bells. It has been a tradition since I moved away from home. Could you please send me the link so that I can make a cd?
Merry Christmas!

spedcat said...

I have a scratchy record copy and would love to put the album onto a CD. Please help me out so I can share it with my young nieces and nephew. THanks a ton...I have a tape, but am afraid the machine might eat it.

Geofmill said...

I guess that I a in the same situation as many of the others, with a twist. We am in Italy, and my wife's family always plays this album when they decorate the tree. In the last few years the record player has died, the record is old and have not been able to get another format. I see that you have offered a link for download. Is this still an option? Thank you in advance for your help!

Spencer said...

E-mail me and I will send you a link where you can get the files.

elysehawks said...

Where can I get the music files for this!? Can someone send them to me? My family grew up listening to this album!! It would mean to much to have it again!! Help! :D Thanks!

elysehawks said...

Where can I get the music files for this!? Can someone send them to me? My family grew up listening to this album!! It would mean to much to have it again!! Help! :D Thanks! said...

Me too Me too. Childhood memories conjured again. Where can I find the files? ANy ideas?

Spencer said...

E-mail me and I will send you a link where you can get the files.