Wednesday, June 12, 2019

If I Were Disney CEO Part 41 - Music: Disneyland Records

Walt Disney was not a musician, he was a cartoonist.  In fact, from all reports, he had no formal music education.  Yet, the music and songs that flowed from his studio have become a part of our American heritage.  These songs that evoke fond childhood memories - memories of being caught up in the magical fantasies created by Disney.  His music was cheerful, carrying a message of hope; appealing to all generations with a universal theme that life has much to offer.  Disney’s films were not children’s films but they touched the child in all of us.  As one Disney songwriter commented, ‘His most successful films had heart.  There was always something in them that would reach out and touch one of our human emotions.  This is what Walt added to each film he was personally involved with.'”  
David Tietyen, The Musical World of Walt Disney

Disneyland Records was originally conceived in 1954 due to the popularity of the Davy Crockett miniseries on the Disneyland anthology television series.  The label was intended to launch with the “Ballad of Davy Crockett” but could not be ramped up quickly enough.  The success of that record, though, enabled the full build out.  The label was finally founded as Disneyland Records in 1956, the recording unit of Walt Disney Productions.

The label focused on soundtracks for the Disney motion pictures, but also expanded into original recordings like the Children’s Garden of Verses.  Musician Tutti Camarata was brought in to head the artists and repertoire of the label, bringing forth jazz inspired Disney standards albums, with artists like Mary Martin, Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima, Jerry Colonna, and Phil Harris.   The label also expanded into read-along albums, telling combining stories and music for popular Disney movies and other stories.

With the Mickey Mouse Club and Annette Funicello, the label also expanded into popular music.  Buena Vista Records was formed as a label for Anette’s music, to separate it from the more standard and children’s music of Disneyland.

The division was renamed Walt Disney Records in 1988.  With the Disney Channel and the stars it brought in, the youth acts and popular contemporary music offerings have been expanded. 

With the acquisitions Disney has added to its roster, Walt Disney Records now covers Lucasfilm properties including being the official label for all Star Wars related soundtracks.  Disney also has Marvel Records and 20th Century Fox Records, though its back catalog is owned by Universal Music Group.

Primary Goals for the Division:
  • Delineate and Maintain Distinct Divisions - Each label should have a distinct purpose and niche.  I envision a structure like this:
    • Walt Disney Records - soundtracks for Disney, Pixar, and Muppets branded movies and television, as well as related recordings.
    • Marvel Records - soundtracks for Marvel Studios films.
    • Lucasfilm Records - soundtracks for Lucasfilm films and television properties.
    • 20th Century Records - soundtracks for 20th Century Pictures films, as well as contemporary popular music artists.
    • Disneyland Records - soundtracks and music from the Parks and Resorts Division.
  • Digitize as Much as Possible - With the direction modern music is headed, there is no reason not to have the entire Disney music library digitize and available for streaming and purchase.  This includes everything previously recorded and all Disney parks music.  
  • Continue the Legacy Series - Disney had started releasing a collectible cd series called the Walt Disney Legacy Collection, starting with soundtracks of the animated features and important departments on anniversaries.  The package included new artwork and rare and lost recordings, as well as the full soundtrack for the project.  There were several important films that have already been completed, but many popular and important films have not yet been released.  This would be a great series to maintain.
  • Release More Vinyl - With the resurgence of vinyl and the importance of nostalgia to Disney's success, releasing more records from Disney's vault would play well.  Disney has experimented with some in the parks, but their choices have been limited to picture discs of popular films.  I would continue, but with more explicit re-releases of classic records, down to the packaging.  The picture discs and the Magic Mirror package would be a great start.
  • Add a Disney Record Shop at Disney Springs/Downtown Disney - Again, with the resurgence of vinyl, a record store would be a great addition to the Disney Springs area in Florida and Downtown Disney in California, particularly if Disney continues to release classic soundtracks and attraction music.
The above represents just a few initial thoughts for the division.  Music plays such an important part of Disney's success, this division should be well represented.

Up next in the series - Publishing - Marvel Comics

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