The following is a guest blog post from Junior Fellow Chloe Hovind. Chloe is a Library Science master’s student at Indiana University, specializing in music librarianship, and is spending the summer with the Library working on a Disney film music project.
Growing up, my sisters and I were huge Disney fans. We watched all of the movies, loved going to Disneyland, and listened to Disney CDs on repeat. So you can imagine how excited I was to learn that the Music Division at the Library of Congress has a vast collection of Disney music! From special collections (such as The Little Mermaid in the Howard Ashman Papers), to first edition piano-vocal scores and copyright registrations, this collection spans Disney film, television, trailers, commercials, and even includes theme park music for attractions and parades.
What separates this Disney collection from that of any other library is the large number of unpublished scores, which very few individuals have laid eyes on in the last 50-80 years. This means that both Disney researchers and fans like myself can study this all-original music, including pieces that did not make it into final productions.
So what might there be to learn from these collections? Music and song play very important roles in the Disney universe. Consider a film soundtrack: the music introduces and connects scenes, takes hold of listeners’ emotions and denotes major plot points, all-the-while maintaining a classic “Disney” sound. Individual songs work the same way within a movie. They are vital elements in telling the story, in engaging the audience, and in creating something memorable that will be enjoyed for generations to come.
With each new song or piece, Disney submitted a version for copyright registration at the Library of Congress. Many of these scores were submitted while a production was still in progress, years before its release. For any given film we find an assortment of Disney copyright scores and songs that were not used, as well as scores that underwent further revisions before completion. These scores illuminate the growth and development of the Disney sound. They give an inside look at the creative process of Disney composers, songwriters, and lyricists as they wrote music to serve all purposes, of which only a few got selected for the final production.
The copyright deposits for Cinderella (which were recently brought out in honor of the Disney animated movie being added to the National Film Registry earlier this year) provide a great example. The Music Division has multiple scores and lead sheets for various ‘work songs’ for Cinderella to sing before going to the ball – songs which all share language regarding chores, wishing, and busyness. These songs, whose titles include “Raga-daga-day,” “I’m in the middle of a muddle,” “Pretending,” and more, all differ in melody, length, and sometimes composers, giving the researcher a glimpse inside the minds of Disney creators as they attempt to come up with the perfect ‘work song’ for Cinderella to sing. In the end, the ‘work song’ that made it into the film is the song commonly referred to as “Cinderelly,” which is not even sung by Cinderella, but instead sung by the mice.
This Cinderella story, if you will, is just one of many that the Disney musical copyright deposits have to share with us at the Library. As these scores continue to be made more available for research, I am excited to see what I and other researchers will discover – the many other exciting secrets and stories hidden within these works.