The Case of the 80s Dance Flick

It’s the final episode of June Tunes and we decided to focus on dance movies of the 1980s! You’ll notice, however, that we also included Saturday Night Fever in this episode even though it came out in 1977. We felt like we couldn’t talk about dance films without at least mentioning the iconic movie that essentially created a genre of film.

This episode is more relaxed than our previous music episodes, as we share our thoughts on a small list of famous dance movies! We thought this might be a fun way to close out the month of June.

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Saturday Night Fever

  • This movie blended film and music in such a successful way, it inspired many movies to come
    • This film showed movie studios that they could more effectively capitalize on popular music of the time and paved the way for dance movies of the next 10 years
  • It shot John Travolta to superstardom in 1977, one year before Grease, although he had previously appeared on “Welcome Back, Kotter”
  • The soundtrack was filled with BeeGees songs, and it became unclear whether the movie was fueling the popularity of the music, or the other way around
    • The movie marks the rise and fall of Disco music, as it kept Disco in the spotlight for a few more years
  • The BeeGees wrote the songs for the movie AFTER the movie was shot, meaning all the dance scenes were shot with characters dancing to other music like Stevie Wonder and Boz Scaggs
    • They repurposed “Stayin’ Alive” which was just a demo at the time of filming, so it’s the only song that John Travolta was moving to while filming
  • Tony (John Travolta) is a paint store clerk who wants to break out of his everyday life
    • Dancing at the club helps him face the harsh realities of his life like his dead-end job and squabbling parents
  • The movie is based on the article: Tribal Rites of the new Saturday Night, which was a fabricated story by Nik Cohn
    • The article was meant to chronicle the disco dance scene, which Cohn was unfamiliar with, so he wrote a mostly fictional account on which the movie is based

Flashdance (1983)

  • “What a Feeling” by Irene Cara won an Oscar for best music/original score
    • It also hit #1 in the US for 6 weeks
    • In June the soundtrack released and stayed #1 for 2 weeks interrupting Michael Jackson’s Thriller which would come back to #1 only to be dethroned later by the Footloose album
    • In September, Michael Sembello’s “Maniac” also took #1
  • Based loosely around the life of real life welder and exotic dancer, Maureen Mauder, Paramount had her sign away the rights to her life story
  • The now famous off the shoulder big sweatshirt look was purely accidental because Jennifer Beals could not fit her head through her highschool sweatshirt. She decided to cut the collar off and wear it to the audition.  They liked it and added it to the movie
  •  It took 4 dancers for the iconic final dance scene by Alex Owens. One of the dancers was actually a man. Richard “Crazy Legs” Colón.  The famous leap was done by gymnast Sharon Shapiro
  • This was one of the first films that didn’t fit into the “musical”category because it did not center on the songs.  With MTV it became easier to bring pop songs into films. This led to the popular movies of Footloose and Dirty Dancing.

Footloose (1984)

  • Follows Ren, a boy from Chicago who moves to a rural town, where dancing to modern music is forbidden
  • This story is loosely based on true events!
    • In 1980, high school juniors in Elmore City, Oklahoma appealed to the town leaders and requested that a city-wide ban on dancing be lifted so they could hold a prom. When the decision to overturn the ban came to a 2-2 vote, the tie-breaking decision came from the school board president who reportedly said, “Let ’em dance.”
  • Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe were both slated to play the lead, but Cruise was tied up with another project, while Lowe sustained an injury and was unable to play the role.
  •  Melanie Griffith, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rosanna Arquette, Meg Tilly, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Heather Locklear, Meg Ryan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jodie Foster, Phoebe Cates, Tatum O’Neal, Bridget Fonda, Lori Loughlin, Diane Lane and Brooke Shields were all considered for the role of Ariel
  • The movie also stars John Lithgow with an appearance from Sarah Jessica Parker
  • The soundtrack dethroned Michael Jackson’s Thriller album with titles such as: “Footloose,” “Sussudio,” “Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” and “I need a Hero”
    • Seriously, the soundtrack ROCKS

Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985)

  • Came out in 1985 and inspired by the Cindy Lauper song of the same name
    • The story follows a young Army brat played by Sarah Jessica Parker who dreams of dancing on her favorite TV show. With a help of Helen Hunt, she attempts to win a spot on the show
  • The actual song isn’t used in the movie, a cover is used instead because of licensing restrictions
  • The movie starred Sarah Jessica Parker, Lee Montgomery, Morgan Woodward, Jonathan Silverman, Shannen Doherty, and Helen Hunt.
  • Parker was in Footloose one year earlier, though in this film she has the starring role

Dirty Dancing (1987) 

  • It stars Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze and takes place in the early 1960s
  • It is based in part on Elenor Bergstein’s childhood; She was a screenwriter for the project
    • She wrote a script for another film in 1980, and when an erotic dance scene was cut from the film, she was inspired to write this story with heavy influences from her childhood as a Doctor’s daughter that vacationed in the Catskills
    • For a choreographer, she chose Kenny Ortega!
    • For casting, she insisted on actors that could also dance
  • The scene where the couple are dancing and crawling on the floor wasn’t intended to be in the movie, it was a warm-up that the director loved so much that he put it in the film
  • The trees at the lake were spray-painted green for the scenes that took place in the woods and at the lake because the scenes were shot in the fall
  • In an interview with AFI, Swayze explained why he thought Dirty Dancing endured for so long. “It’s got so much heart, to me,” he said. “It’s not about the sensuality; it’s really about people trying to find themselves, this young dance instructor feeling like he’s nothing but a product, and this young girl trying to find out who she is in a society of restrictions when she has such an amazing take on things.”

Hairspray (1988)

  • This John Waters classic starred Rikki Lake as Tracy Turnblad, a “pleasantly plump” teenager who dreams of dancing on The Corny Collins Show in 1960s Baltimore
    • The movie had many other famous names like Jerry Stiller, Divine, and Sony Bono
    • The movie also uses segregation as a main plot point, as Tracy attempts to bring about an era of change by integrating The Corny Collins show. It highlights the harsh reality of the civil rights era while maintaining a goofy tone
  • The popularity of this movie spawned the stage musical of the same name that was then later re-made into a film in 2007
  • John Waters’ success with Hairspray paved the way for him to make “Crybaby” in 1990, starring Johnny Depp

Breakin’ (1984)

  • Also known as “Breakdance” in the UK and “Break Street ‘84” in other regions, this was a very popular movie of the mid-1980s! With more of a focus on break-dancing than plot, this is a fun dance movie that showcases incredibly talented dancers
  • Set in the hip hop club Radio-Tron in MacArthur Park, LA
    • The club is where many of the dancers spend time and have dance battles
    • This is where the main character Kelly meets Ozone and Turbo, the trio are the main characters of the films
  • Menahem Golan of Cannon Films was inspired to create this film after his daughter saw a breakdancer in California
  • By the end of its run, the film grossed $38,682,707 in the domestic box office

Breakin’ 2 Electric Boogaloo (1984)

  • This sequel to “Breakin'” focused even more on dancing, with extended dance sequences as the main focal part of the film
  • It follows the same trio as they try to save the local community center that serves children and teaches them dance and other art
  • We suggest that when you watch this film, try not to get too caught up in the plot, as the dancing is the real show!

The Case of the Movie Musical Part 2

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So in part one, we talked about movies from 1927-1978. Now, we’re covering musical films from 1979-2019!

 

When we left off last week, we had covered some of the most influential movie musicals of the 1970’s. As we head into the 1980’s, movie musicals continue to be adapted from the stage with a few great exceptions. Let’s start in the age of Aquarius with Hair.

 

1979-1989

  • Hair (1979)
    • This movie is based on the 1968 musical Hair: An American Tribal Love Rock Musical
    • The music and story were influenced by the Hippie counterculture and sexual revolution of the late 1960’s
    • The movie follows a young draftee who meets a group of hippies on his way to the induction center. They introduce him to marijuana and LSD and he befriends the group leader as well as falls in love with a young rich girl named Sheila (Beverly D’Angelo)
    • This movie is an example of art imitating life and is a visual representation of the political climate of the US during the Vietnam War
    • Song on the list: Aquarius
  • The Muppet Movie (1979)
    • Written by the same people behind “The Muppet Show,” the movie was produced during the third season of the show and was the first feature film to star the Muppets
    • It was nominated for an Oscar for the score and also for “Rainbow Connection” by Kenneth Ascher and Paul Williams
    • The success of this film led to other Muppet movies to be made
    • The Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry
    • Song on the list: Rainbow Connection
  • Fame (1980)
    • Partially inspired by A Chorus Line, Fame was written by Christopher Gore and was originally called “Hot Lunch”
    • It follows students in a performing arts high school in New York in 1980
    • Because New York Board of Education didn’t approve of the movie’s subject matter, they weren’t able to film in the actual school that its based on
    • The movie starred Irene Cara
    • Song on the list: Hot Lunch
  • The Blues Brothers(1980)
    • Directed by John Landis, The Blues Brothers stars John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd
    • It was based on their SNL characters of the same name, and it follows Jake and Elwood as they try to save their childhood home by getting their band back together and putting on a show
    • This film featured many legendary R&B, Blues, and Soul artists such as: Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, and John Lee Hooker
    • The movie was filmed in Chicago, where it was based, and one of the most expensive comedies ever produced
    • Songs on the list: You Better Think & Rawhide/Stand By Your Man
  • Annie (1982)
    • Based on the Broadway musical which was based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip
    • The movie starred Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters, and Tim Curry
    • It follows a young orphan during the great depression, as she gets adopted by the wealthy Oliver Warbucks
    • Songs on the list: Hard-Knock Life & Little Girls
  • Yentl (1983)
    • Yentl was directed and co-produced by its star: Barbara Steisand
    • It is based on Isaac Bachevis Singer’s play of the same name, which was based on a short story by him as well: Yentl the Yeshiva Boy
    • It follows Jewish girl in Poland who dresses as a boy and takes the name of her late brother to receive an education in Talmudic Law
    • Song on the list: Papa, Can You Hear Me?
  • Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
    • Previously mentioned in the Disney Scores episode, this 1986 adaptation of the Broadway musical by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman was directed by Frank Oz and starred Rick Moranis
    • Song on the list: Downtown (Skid Row)
  • Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)
    • Starring Gena Davis, this quirky musical from the late-1980s is based off a song with the same title by Julie Brown
    • Also starring Jim Carey, Jeff Goldbloom, and Damon Wayans as the aliens
    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCPbxmnGshI
    • Song on the list: Brand New Girl
  • Polly (1989)
    • A late-80’s adaptation of the novel Pollyanna, produced by Disney starred an all-black cast and was set in Alabama in the 1950’s
    • Polly is an optimistic young orphan that brings joy to the small town of Harrington and especially her strict Aunt Polly
    • This was a made-for-TV musical that premiered on NBC and also starred Phylicia Rashad
    • Song on the list: Sweet Little Angel Eyes sung by Brandon Quintin Adams

*Footloose, Hairspray, Flashdance, Dirty Dancing*  are mentioned briefly

1990’s

  • Crybaby (1990)
    • John Waters was coming off the big hit of 1988’s Hairspray so there ended up being a bidding war to make this movie
    • It was not very successful when it first came out but has since become a cult classic
    • Johnny Depp was well known for 21 Jumpstreet at this point and found the script intriguing
    • Set in the 50’s
    • Song on the list: Doin’ Time for Bein’ Young
  • Newsies (1992)
    • Directed by Kenny Ortega and starring Christian Bale, this early 90s movie musical featured songs by Alan Menkin and Jack Feldman
    • Because of a poor opening weekend, Disney pulled the movie from theatres after opening weekend. Because of this, the movie made about ⅕ of its 15 million dollar budget
    • Although it’s one of the lowest-grossing live-action Disney films, it was popular enough to be made into a Broadway musical that won two Tony Awards including best original score
    • Song Included: King of New York
  • Gypsy (1993)
    • This movie starring Bette Midler was based on the stage musical of the same name (which was based on a memoir by Gypsey Rose Lee)
    • Gypsy’s son was the force behind getting the film in production and wanted Bette Midler for the role for 10 years until finally obtaining approval
    • Arthur Laurents, who wrote the book of the musical, hated the 1962 film and was slow to approve of this adaptation
    • Song Included: Let me Entertain You & Rose’s Turn
  • Evita (1996)
    • Based on the concept Album of the same name by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber, which also inspired a stage musical in 1978
    • A film adaptation of the musical was stuck in development for about 15 years
    • The movie was directed by Alan Parker, and was written by Parker and Oliver Stone and starred Madonna as Eva Peron with Jonathan Pryce and Antonio Banderas as the narrator
    • It’s based on the life of Eva Peron, the first lady of Argentina
    • Song Included: Don’t Cry for me Argentina
  • Cinderella (1997)
    • Inspired by Gypsy (1993) Whitney Houston approached the producers about starring in a made-for-TV adaptation of Cinderella
    • Development was delayed and CBS (the original network for the project) was no longer interested. Houston felt she had out-grown the role by 1997 and offered it to Brandy, while Houston co-produced and played the fairy godmother
    • The title character of Cinderella was re-written to be a stronger female character than in the original script, and Brandy was the first black woman to portray Cinderella on screen
    • Critics were lukewarm, but the film was a ratings success
    • Song Included: Impossible/ It’s Possible

 

 

2000’s

  • Hedwig and the Angry Itch (2001)
    • Based on a stage musical of the late 1990s by John Cameron Mitchel and Steven Trask; Mitchel also directed and starred in the movie
    • A German boy Hansel undergoes a botched sex change so that he can escape Germany, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall
    • The operation leaves her/him with an “Angry Itch” referring to the flesh between her legs; the movie follows her and her band as they play seafood restaurants
    • Song Included: Wicked Little Town
  • Moulin Rouge! (2001)
    • A Jukebox musical directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor
    • It was the first musical nominated for best picture since Beauty and the Beast in 1991
    • It follows a young poet who falls in love with the star of the Moulin Rouge, a famous Cabaret theatre in France
    • The Moulin Rouge has been a living legend for over 120 years, and was founded in 1889 (11 years before the film takes place)
    • “It isn’t about tired, decadent people, but about glorious romantics, who believe in the glitz and the tinsel–who see the nightclub not as a shabby tourist trap but as a stage for their dreams.”
    • Song Included: Love Medley
  • Chicago (2002)
    • One year after the critical success of Moulin Rouge, Chicago made waves by being nominated for 9 Oscars; This was the kind of musical that reinvented movie musicals
    • A Roger Ebert put it, “Although modern audiences don’t like to see stories interrupted by songs, apparently they like songs interrupted by stories.”
    • Chicago stars Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta Jones as the leads
    • Directed by Rob Marshall, the same director for Mary Poppins returns, this movie was the first musical to win the Oscar for best picture since Oliver! In 1968
    • Song Included: We Both Reached for the Gun
  • From Justin to Kelly (2003)*
    • Won the Golden Raspberry Award for “Worst ‘Musical’ of Our First 25 Years” in 2005
  • Phantom of the Opera (2004)
    • Composed by Andrew Lloyd Weber
    • Based on a newspaper serial by a French writer, Gaston Leroux, in 1909-1910 which was converted to a novel a year later
    • Famous for being the longest running Broadway show of all time
    • The first performance was in 1986
    • There is criticism with how the Phantom has become less scary
    • One reason is because of the disfiguration that has become less horrifying and the mask more stylized
    • Gerard Butler stars as the Phantom
    • Song Included: The Phantom of the Opera
  • Rent (2005)
    • Brings attention to the fact that many people were dying of AIDS and drug addiction. Love, loss, and AIDS
    • Song Included: La Vie Boheme
  • Dreamgirls (2006)
    • Adapted from the 1981 Broadway musical
    • It’s a work of fiction, but strongly influenced by the life of the Supremes
    • Dreamgirls follows the history of R&B music in the 1960s in Detroit.
    • It stars Beyonce, Anika Noni Rose, Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx, and Eddie Murphy
    • Song Included: And I am Telling You I’m not Going
  • High School Musical (2006)
    • No research needed (we’re covering this in a later episode)
    • Song Included: Get’cha Head in the Game
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
    • Known as for being the bloodiest musical in stage history it is now the bloodiest musical in film history
    • Shows the cruel imbalance of Capitalism
    • First came to stage in 1979. The musical is based on the 1973 play Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Christopher Bond.
    • Song Included: Pretty Women
  • Hairspray (2007)
    • It is not a rule that Edna Turnblad be played by a man, however,  when John Waters cast Divine (Harris Milstead) in the 80’s film and then gave Harvey Fierstien his blessing for the Broadway version it cemented a tradition.  A tradition similar to Peter Pan being played by a woman.
    • John Travolta plays Edna in the 2007 film
    • Portrays the first time a black man and white woman dance together
      • This was of great importance
    • Song Included: You Can’t Stop the Beat

2010’s 

    • Les Miserables (2012)
      • Song Included: Do You Hear the People Sing?
    • Into the Woods (2014)
      • The musical premiered in San Diego, California at the Old Globe Theatre in 1986
      • Twist on stories by the Grimm Brothers
      • Song Included: There are Giants in the Sky
    • La La Land (2016)
      • Song Included: Another Day of Sun
    • Sing Street (2016)
      • Directed by John Carney who also directed Once
      • Song Included: Drive It Like You Stole It
    • The Greatest Showman (2017)
      • Song Included: This is Me
    • Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
      • Song Included: The Place Where Lost Things Go

*Dumbo, Aladdin, Lion King (2019)* Cats (2019) also briefly mentioned*

The Case of the Movie Musical Part 1

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Talking pictures and movie musicals started at the same time. Back in 1927, the first-ever talkie, “The Jazz Singer” starring Al Jolson came to theatres. This was the first time audiences heard actors’ voices, and the novelty of sound in movies inspired others to make musicals!

 

The 1930’s

    • The Jazz Singer (1927)
      • Starring Al Jolson, this is considered to be the first talkie! Although other films prior to this one has synchronized sound for music and sound effects, this movie marks the end of the silent film era and started musical film
      • The movie was based off of a 1925 play, and the first line of the movie was, “You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet”
  • Song Included:  Blue Skies
  • Broadway Melody (1929)
    • The song on this list, “Broadway Melody” is the title song of this musical about two sisters trying to make a name for themselves in Vaudeville
    • This movie won the Oscar for best picture and was the first talking picture to do so
    • It’s also worth noting that many other talkies came out to capitalize on the success of The Jazz Singer, but this was the most successful of the time
    • Song Included: The Broadway Melody
  • 42nd Street (1933)
    • Busby Berkeley, a former Broadway dance director created the most popular musical films of the early 1930’s including “42nd Street”
    • The song on our list is the title number which includes an elaborate dance sequence for which Berkeley was famous
    • Song Included: 42nd Street
  • Top Hat (1935)
    • The “Berkeley spectacles” were replaced by dancing teams like Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald or Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire
    • The song from Top Hat on this list: Oh What a Beautiful Day (To Be Caught in the Rain) features choreography from Rogers and Astaire
    • Song Included: Isn’t This a Lovely Day (To be Caught in the Rain)
  • Shall We Dance (1937)
    • “Shall We Dance” is another example of how musicals starring this dancing duo gained popularity in the mid-to-late 1930s
    • Musicals are meant to be seen as much as heard, and these sequences are an example of that
    • Song Included: Shall We Dance
  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)
    • One of the most popular and influential musical films of all time, The Wizard of Oz starred a 16-year-old Judy Garland
    • It was a marvel for its use of technicolor, which required the sets to be lit so intensely that it was often almost 100 degrees
    • Song Included: Somewhere Over the Rainbow

The 1940’s

  • For Me and My Gal (1942)
    • Another Judy Garland film, this was the first time the actress got top billing! It was also the film debut of Gene Kelly who became a major musical star of the 40s and 50s
    • Song Included: For Me and My Gal
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
    • This biographical musical starred James Cagney and told the story of George Cohen aka “The Man Who Owned Broadway”
    • The musical contains many of Cohen’s most famous tunes including “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Over There”
    • Cohen was awarded a congressional medal for his work inspiring American troops during WWI
    • Song Included: Yankee Doodle Dandy Medley
  • Holiday Inn (1942)
    • This Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire film was the first to include “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin
    • Berlin wrote 11 original songs for the film, White Christmas being the most popular
  • Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
    • Musicals were starting to show a greater unification of music and plot by the mid-1940s
    • This film was directed by Vincent Minnelli, the father of Judy Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli
    • “The Trolley Song” was done in one take; another famous song from this musical is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
    • Songs were written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane
    • Song Included: The Trolley Song
  • The Pirate (1948)
    • This film stars Judy Garland and Gene Kelly once again and includes Cole Porter’s “Be a Clown”
    • Cole Porter was a prominent songwriter of the time period (Anything Goes) and his song was lifted from this musical and fitted with new lyrics for “Singin’ in the Rain”
    • Song Included: Be a Clown

The 1950’s

  • An American in Paris (1951)
    • A musical film based on a 1928 composition by George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin wrote the lyrics
    • Arthur Freed, the producer of most of MGM’s musicals of this time period, wanted an original musical and made more original musicals like “Singin’ in the Rain”
    • Song Included: I Got Rhythm
  • Showboat (1951)
    • Based on the stage musical by Jerome Kern and Hammerstein, this musical had been filmed in 1929 and 1936
    • The song on the playlist, “Old Man River”  is the most notable from the musical and is considered to be an American masterpiece
    • Song Included: Ol’ Man River
  • Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
    • This Arthur Freed production was an original musical about the dawn of “Talking Pictures” and the movie musical
    • It stars Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds and is considered by many to be one of the best musicals from this era
    • “Make Em Laugh” is a direct plagiarism of “Be a Clown” but Cole Porter never acted against the studio for lifting his song
    • Song Included: Make ‘Em Laugh
  • White Christmas (1954)
    • Starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen
    • The movie included a new version of “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin, sung by Bing Crosby
  • Guys and Dolls (1955)
    • Based on the 1950 stage musical by Frank Loessor, this musical starred Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando
    • The popularity of original film musicals dwindled, and more movie musicals were adapted from the stage
    • Song Included: Guys and Dolls
  • Oklahoma (1955)
    • Based on the stage musical by Rogers and Hammerstein, Oklahoma starred Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones (in her film debut, Carousel came out a year later)
    • The film is about a farm girl who is being courted by two suitors
    • Song Included: Oklahoma!
  • Jailhouse Rock (1957)
    • Throughout the 50s and 60s, musicals began to exploit the appeal of popular stars like Elvis and The Beatles
    • This is just one example of the many films made with Elvis
    • Song Included: Jailhouse Rock

The 1960’s

  • West Side Story (1961)
    • “Modern” day Romeo and Juliet starring Natalie Wood, George Chakiris, and Richard Beymer
    • Adapted from the 1957 Broadway Musical
    • Won 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Sound, and Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture
    • Song Included: Gee Officer Krupke
  • The Music Man (1962)
    • Stars Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, and Ron Howard
    • Based on the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name by Meredith Willson
    • Song Included: Ya Got Trouble
  • Bye Bye Birdie (1963)
    • This movie is the film debut of Dick Van Dyke who plays the same character as he did on Broadway
    • The movie also starred Ann Margaret and Janet Leigh
    • The story is based on the phenomenon of Elvis Presley being drafted into the US Army in 1957 (the same year Jailhouse Rock premiered)
    • The songs were written by Charles Strouse and Leigh Adams
    • Song Included: Telephone Hour
  • A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
    • Another example of musical film capitalizing on the fame of pop stars, this is just one of the many movies inspired by and starring The Beatles
    • The movie covers 36 hours in the life of The Beatles and was a critical and commercial success
    • Song Included: If I Fell
  • The Sound of Music (1965)
    • Adapted from the 1959 stage play, this is another Rogers and Hammerstein classic
    • It stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer and was based on a memoir about The Trapp Family Singers
    • This was a big moment in Julie Andrews’ career, since she had just won an Oscar for Mary Poppins
    • Song Included: The Sound of Music
  • Hello, Dolly! (1969)
    • Featured in Pixar’s “Wall-E”
    • When the play premiered, it won 10 emmy awards and held the record for the most Tonys for 37 years
    • It was directed by Gene Kelly and starred Barbara Streishand and Walter Mathou
    • It chronicles a widowed matchmaker at the end of the 19th century
    • Song Included: Put on Your Sunday Clothes

The 1970’s

  • Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
    • Starring Topov and Norma Crane
    • Was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and won 3 of them
      • Best Cinematography, Best Sound, and Best Scoring
    • In order to get the “earthy” look the director of photography Oswald Morris stretched brown panty-hose over the lens
    • It is based on Tevye the Dairyman and other tales by Sholem Aleichem. (The Jewish Mark Twain)
    • Song Included: If I Were a Rich Man
  • Cabaret (1972)
    • Starring Liza Minelli and Michael York
    • Won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical
    • Won 8 Oscars including Best Sound and Best Director. Lost best picture to The Godfather
    • Song Included: Cabaret
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
    • Starring Barry Bostwick, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Curry
    • Based on the Stage Play by Richard O’Brien who loved classic sci-fi and horror films
    • Director Jim Sharman has said that they were going for a darker version of the 1939 Wizard of Oz.  For instance during “The Time Warp” the backup singers vocals were sped up to sound munchkin like.
    • Song Included: The Time Warp
  • The Wiz (1978)
    • Starring Diana Ross, Richard Pryor, Michael Jackson
    • An adaptation of The Wizard of Oz that had an all black cast and captured the African American experience
    • This was the first time the witches were given names, Evilene and Evermean, until the novel “Wicked” came out
    • Song Included: Ease On Down the Road
  • Grease (1978)
    • Starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta
    • The highest grossing movie of 1978
    • Grease won every People’s Choice Award for which it was nominated: Favorite Motion Picture Actress (Olivia Newton-John), Favorite Motion Picture Supporting Actress (Stockard Channing), Favorite Musical Motion Picture, and Favorite Overall Motion Picture.
    • Based on the 1971 musical of the same name by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. Plots and characters were taken out and songs removed and changed.
    • Song Included: Greased Lightning

The Case for Knowing the Scores: 1 1/2 Disney Edition

62355005_1141195532734999_8701329314760622080_nWe are dedicating the month of June to movie music! First on our list, we have the third installment of our film score series! This week we are focusing on the scores and songs of the Disney Animated Classics. We will be looking at Disney scores by each era, while discussing the evolution and influences of the music.

In order to listen along to the incredible list that Robin put together for this episode follow the link below!

 

The Golden Age

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
      • It’s 1937–two years before Judy Garland will sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  Talking pictures have only been around for 10 years, and the movie musical is becoming all the rage (for example, 42nd Street and Top Hat were big successes in the 1930s)
      • Walt Disney makes headlines by not only producing the first full-length animated film, but he pushes the limits by making it a musical as well. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the birth of Disney animation’s Golden Age.
      • The men who worked on this score were: Paul Smith, Leigh Harline, Frank Churchill, and Larry Morey (lyrics)
        • Smith, Harline, and Churchill worked on the score while Churchill and Morey were responsible for the music and lyrics
  • Their score was the FIRST EVER commercially issued feature film soundtrack  
        • This music and songs set the tone for the “Disney Formula” that the later films followed for years to come
        • All three composers were nominated for an Oscar for this score
  • Pinocchio
      • We will not be able to talk about every movie in length, but we will try to highlight the most prominent films of each era. This includes Pinocchio, Disney’s second animated classic
      • Paul Smith and Leigh Harline returned, earning an Oscar for best original score
      • Snow White may have set the tone for Disney Animated musicals, but Pinocchio is responsible for bringing us the most iconic song in Disney’s collection: When You Wish Upon a Star
  • When You Wish Upon a Star
      • Music by Leigh Harline, lyrics by Ned Washington
      • Voiced by Cliff Edwards, a popular singer of the 1930s, Jiminy Cricket delivers the song that would become the theme of Disney
      • Not only did it win an Oscar, the American Film Institute named it the 7th greatest song in film history (one of only four Disney songs on the list)
      • Ned Washington was a lyricist from Tin Pan Alley and was inducted in the songwriters hall of fame in 1972
        • If you are unfamiliar, Tin Pan Alley was a genre of music that came from American song producers in late 19th century New York. It’s where a lot of American popular music was written; another lyricist from this time and genre is Johnny Mercer who we will talk about in another episode
  • Fantasia, Dumbo, & Bambi are other films of this era that we don’t have time to go into fully but are important to note
    • Bambi was the first Disney animated movie where the songs were not sung by characters, but all off-screen; it also was an important movie for the time and an animation marvel, but since this episode is about scores, we won’t go into that
      • Frank Churchill and Edward Plum scored Bambi
      • Churchill and Larry Morey wrote the songs and lyrics, the same team behind Snow White
    • For Dumbo, Churchill and Ned Washington were reunited to write the songs
      • Churchill was obviously instrumental (ha) in early Disney movie scores; He was what Alan Menken became during the renaissance
      • Ned Washington, as you might recall, was the lyricist for Pinocchio
    • Fantasia’s score was made up of classical pieces, so it didn’t really have a true score.

The War-time Era

  • Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music, Fun and Fancy Free, Melody Time, and The Adventures of Icabod and Mr. Toad
    • This era of Disney animation is often forgotten, mostly because the films had a smaller budget and were not necessarily up to the same standards as the films of the Golden Era
    • These movies were known as package films, consisting of two or more shorts instead of an overarching plot
      • Saludos Amigos was notable because the Disney studio worked with other musicians in South America to create the songs of the shorts
        • This was the introduction of José Carioca, a now iconic Disney character very popular in South America
        • Paul Smith also worked on this movie with Edward Plum, the most notable song was “Saludos Amigos” by Charles Wolcott and Ned Washington
      • The Three Caballeros was a similar film that took place in various parts of Latin America, where Saludos Amigos had a strong emphasis on Brazil
        • It was scored by the same people as the former film
      • Make Mine Music, Fun and Fancy Free, and Melody Time were all package films that consisted of narrated shorts based on poems, songs, classical music, or fairy tales
        • One of the most notable shorts from Make Mine Music is Peter and the Wolf
        • Many people would recognize Mickey and the Beanstalk from Fun and Fancy Free
        • The Andrews Sisters are an example of a popular singing duo that lent their voices to “Little Toot” in Melody Time
      • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was a different story, however, because it only consisted of two separate stories
        • These two segments had their own plots and songs pertaining to the specific stories on which they were based: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Wind in the Willows
        • Oliver Wallace, an American composer wrote the score with songs by Don Raye and Jean de Paul; Frank Churchill and Charles Wolcott
        • The most notable thing about this soundtrack, is that it was sung by Bing Crosby; this is an example of a famous singer lending their voice to the animation, which was not a common practice at the time and is much more prominent in animation today

The Silver Age

  • Cinderella
      • With the war over, all hands are on deck for the next era of Disney animation! Disney has now proven that animation is a viable medium in motion pictures, and that they are steering the ship. With more resources, time, and ever-changing technology, Disney begins to make movies based on more complex stories, with dynamic characters. This is the era where Disney Animation stands tall and shows everyone: they aren’t going anywhere.
      • Cinderella is undoubtedly the most prominent film to come from the next era of Disney, and its music continued the trend set by the Golden Age
        • Scored by Oliver Wallace and Paul J Smith, both now veteren Disney composes; the score also reflects the era of popular music and film scores.
        • Songs like “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” became well-known staples in the Disney songbook
      • Mack David, Jerry Livingston, and Al Hoffman wrote the songs of Cinderella, and were nominated for Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo
        • Mack David and Jerry Livingston often worked together on Broadway; Much like other composer/lyricist combos that have come to Disney, they came as a team
        • Al Hoffman was also known for writing many popular tunes including “Fit as a Fiddle” which many might recognize from Singin’ in the Rain (if nothing else)
  • Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone
      • Alice in Wonderland was also scored by the same men behind Cinderella, though the songs were written by several different people
        • Most were written by Bob Hilliard and Sammy Fain, though our old friends Don Raye and Gene De Paul (Ichabod and Mr. Toad) and Jerry Livingston and Al Hoffman also shared writing credits
      • Peter Pan shares similarities in its score to other movies of this time, sweeping orchestral music with the addition of a chorus for some songs
      • 101 Dalmatians, like many movies of the “Dark Age” only has one song. However, the iconic “Cruella DeVil” has had a lasting impact for generations
  • Mel Leven, who wrote the melody and lyrics, also wrote the songs for the movie “Babes in Toyland”
        • This song also shows a clear Jazz influence in Disney music
        • The soundtrack was done by George Bruns who went on to score more films for Disney
      • Lady and the Tramp
        • The songs for this film were written by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke, the most famous of course “Bella Note”; this is the first female credit for songwriting on this list
  • Sleeping Beauty
    • Once Upon a Dream
      • The only character song of the movie was written by Sammy Fein (of Alice and Wonderland) and Jack Lawrence
      • This song melody is based off “The Garland Waltz” from Tchaikovsky’s “The Sleeping Beauty” ballet
    • The rest of the score is standard to the sound of this era, very similar to Cinderella
  • The Jungle Book
    • This film is incredibly important to the direction that Disney went in the upcoming bronze era; George Bruns this time wrote a score that was heavily influenced by the setting of the movie
    • The songs were written by Terry Gilkyson, though Disney felt his songs were too dark and thus he asked the Sherman Brothers to do a rewrite. The only song they kept was “The Bare Necessities”
    • The Sherman Brothers, who also wrote the music for Mary Poppins, would be part of the Disney Animation music team for the next few films

The Bronze Age (or Dark age)

  • At the time, this seemed like a bad era for Disney. The movies took a darker turn with storytelling and the studio was working hard to find its footing after the death of Walt Disney. However, this time was incredibly important in the development of Disney Animation, and that goes for music as well
  • The Aristocats, Robin Hood, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Fox and the Hound
      • George Bruns created a jazz-inspired score for The Aristocats with an influence of classically French tunes as well
        • The Sherman Brothers returned to write the songs, some of the most notable being “Thomas O’Malley” and “Everybody Wants to be a Cat”
      • Bruns’ Robin Hood score is similar to that of Aristocats, with songs sung by artist Roger Miller
        • Robin Hood is notable for having Roger Miller write and sing the songs, as this helped set the stage for artists (Phil Collins) to do this in the future
        • The song, “Phony King of England” was written by Johnny Mercer who was an incredibly prominent songwriter of the time (Moon River)
      • The Sherman Brothers returned once again to write songs for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh; “Winnie the Pooh” has since been a recognizable theme for the silly ol’ bear
      • The Scores for Winnie the Pooh and The Fox and the Hound were both written by Buddy Baker who had worked for Disney scoring live-action films
        • “The Best of Friends,” the only song from The Fox and the Hound, was written by Stan Fidel and Richard Johnston
  • The Rescuers
      • “Someone’s Waiting for You” was written by Carol Connors and Ayn Robbins (who also wrote “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky) with music by Sammy Fein
      • Connors and Robbins wrote the rest of the songs for the film with Artie Butler’s score
  • The Black Cauldron
      • The Black Cauldron was a definite turn from the light-hearted films of early Disney, and with it it had a grand score by legendary composer Elmer Bernstein
      • There are no songs in the Black Cauldron, and it’s dark orchestral score sets the tone for the fantasy epic
      • Bernstein was foriegn to animation-composing, and the idea of using a well-established composer for a stand-alone score and no songs was essentially unheard of for Disney
      • This style was repeated in the Disney films of the post-renaissance (ie Atlantis)
  • The Great Mouse Detective
      • With the exception of “World’s Greatest Criminal Mind,” The Great Mouse Detective also was a movie that relied heavily on a well-crafted score by non other than the great Henry Mancini
      • This was the only Disney film scored by Mancini, who was well-established in the entertainment industry for “Pink Panther” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Peter Gunn”
  • Oliver and Company
    • Scored by J A C Redford, Oliver and Company closed out the Disney dark ages
    • The songs of this movie are notable for how many different artists collaborated on them! Using the voices of Billy Joel, Huey Lewis and the News, and Bette Midler hearkens back to the time of Ichabod and Mr. Toad or Robin Hood
    • One of the most prominent songs: Once Upon a Time in New York City is important as it was the first Disney writing credit for Howard Ashman who was a vital piece of the Disney renaissance

The Renaissance

    • Ah yes, the time period we’ve all been waiting for! Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Disney Animation saved itself from being closed down; and all it took was the angelic voice of a little mermaid
  • The Little Mermaid
      • As Disney was in danger of losing its animation studio, they brought in a composer/lyricist duo that had had some success with musicals such as “Little Shop of Horrors”
      • Alan Menken, the composer, would go on to write music for Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hercules. He was responsible for the sound of the Disney renaissance and helped save Disney
      • His other achievement though, was bringing in Howard Ashman, considered by many to be one of the greatest lyricists in Disney history
      • Ashman also suggested changes to the film that also brought success; He changed Sebastian’s ethnicity for example to Jamaican
      • Here is a clip of Ashman coaching Jodi Benson as she records “Part of Your World
  • Beauty and the Beast
    • Alan Menken and Howard Ashman his the world with a 1-2 punch with The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast
    • From the hauntingly beautiful score of the beginning to the delicate sound of “A Tale as Old as Time,” Beauty and the Beast won the hearts of audiences, and Disney was once again considered to be the best in animation
  • Aladdin
    • After the death of Howard Ashman, Tim Rice came in as a lyricist for Aladdin
    • Howard Ashman had worked on some of the songs in the film before he passed away, including Friend Like Me; Tim Rice wrote the lyrics for A Whole New World
    • Aladdin broke ground by having separate actors sing and speak for the leading roles, a practice they continued as they saw fit throughout the renaissance
    • Robin Williams as the genie also increased the popularity of casting celebrities as voice actors, though this was not a brand new concept in Disney animation
  • The Lion King
    • Scored by the well-known composer Hans Zimmer, The Lion King’s music has a vast and epic feel to it, as well as influences from the African location of the movie
    • With songs by Elton John and Tim Rice, the movie was a step in a different direction from the previous movies of the renaissance, though it kept the broadway-like structure and feel of other renaissance movies
  • Pocahontas
    • Stephen Schwartz joined the Disney team as a lyricist for Pocahontas
      • He had seen much success on Broadway for Pippin and Godspell (and in a few years he would have a MAJOR success with Wicked)
    • Alan Menken returned to score Pocahontas and write the melodies for songs, fitting the mold of the other movies of the renaissance and proving that he was responsible for the Disney-movie-sound of the 1990s
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
    • This movie proved that Disney could in fact cover dark topics with intense themes while still maintaining a appeal for children; this was something they were not able to nail down during the bronze age
    • Stephen Schwartz wrote lyrics for Hunchback as well, and Alan Menken gave us one of the greatest scores in the Disney collection to accompany Schwartz’s lyrics
  • Hercules
    • For Hercules, a new lyricist joined the team, David Zippel and Alan Menken returned once again to write the score and songs
      • Hercules sets itself apart from other Disney movies by using gospel and mo-town influences
      • Using narration throughout the movie, accompanied by music and Zippel’s lyrics, Hercules was able to keep the plot moving forward in a unique way
    • It’s important to note that this is the last movie of the renaissance that Alan Menken worked on and his absence was noticed in the post-renaissance
  • Mulan
    • Jerry Goldsmith, a film score giant, was responsible for the grand soundtrack with Eastern influence in Mulan
    • Along with Elmer Bernstein and Hans Zimmer, this was an example of Disney using a composer unfamiliar with animation, but well-known for live-action film scores
    • The songs for Mulan were written by Matthew Wilder and lyrics were penned, once again, by David Zippel
      • The most popular songs from the film were: Reflection and Be a Man
  • Tarzan
    • For the Tarzan soundtrack, Disney took a new direction. Reminiscent of The Lion King, they had a well-known singer/songwriter write the songs for the film. This time, the artist was Phil Collins and he wrote music as well as lyrics
    • Collins’ voice appears many times in the film, with songs sung by characters and songs off-screen
    • The score is by Mark Mancina, a composer known today for Moana
      • Mancina had worked for Disney in the past as an arranger for other films like The Lion King, and would go on to score Brother Bear (another Phil Collins collaboration)