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Storytellers and Read-Alongs
Do not blame yourself if you are not aware of the significant differences between Disneys Storyteller series and Disneys "Read-Along" series. In the mid-1980s these terms were completely mixed up when Disneyland / Vista Records updated their read-along series and put it under the name "Disney Storyteller". Ever since the terms have been synonymous.
However, as a term in Disneyland Records colorful history, the Storyteller has a more precise meaning. The Storyteller long playing records are nearly a decade older product than Disneys read-alongs. Disneys Storyteller series started in 1957. These long-playing records (total duration originally 22 - 26 minutes long) featured a full-color illustrated book (with 11 to 21 pages) bound inside the record album. Originally, the book did not contain the full text of the story that was heard on the record.
Disneys "Read-Along" series, however, featured 24-page books with word-to-word text that was heard on the record. This series began in 1965 with a name monstrosity Walt Disney Original Little Long Playing Record, which is often abbreviated into Little LP. A synonym for the series is "See, Hear, Read" due to the big words on the covers of the original books ("See the pictures, Hear the record, Read the book"). But as the explanatory word "read-along" started appearing on the book covers in the late 1970s, the term was adopted as the series almost official title. (For the sake of simplicity, KenNetti uses usually the "Read-Along" title when speaking of the "See, Hear, Read" series).
As their name suggest, the Storytellers were originally "narrators albums" meaning that only one person narrated the record and performed possible character voices. Of course, some exceptions occurred as early as in 1958, when the Peter Pan album included dialogue from the motion picture. As the years passed, the Storyteller albums based on Disney Classics became known for their more entertaining and rich music content with dialogue-orientated format (especially in the revised 1970s and 1980s versions). The more educational "Read-Along" series was produced for a younger target audience and therefore it originally didn't contain background music nor sound effects, and the dialogue was sparse. Compared to the Storyteller records, the original "Read-Along" series was actually dominated by "narrators albums" until the extensive changes that took place between 1977 and 1979.
The original 1950s Storyteller records featured not only Jiminy Cricket but also Mouseketeers Jimmie Dodd, Darlene Gillespie and Annette Funicello as narrators. In 1960 the Storyteller records were revised and re-recorded using the multitalented Ginny Tyler as the first official "Disneyland Storyteller". The revised records were released as Magic Mirror Storytellers, with a stylish cover that had a oval hole revealing a small portion of the book's first-page art. Regardless of this revision, several original Storytellers were reissued as Magic Mirror Storytellers. The Ginny Tyler versions led the way to the more modest "Read-Along" series, because the background music was taken away in most cases and the scripts tightened.
As the Little LP (i.e. "Read-Along") series started in 1965, Robie Lester became the official "Disneyland Story Reader" a title that was alone hers during the next five years. As no other voice actors were used on these recordings, Lester got to use her entire range by improvising all character voices. The same procedure (of one narrator doing all character voices) was used on many of the series' international counterparts, produced in nearly all corners of the world. For example, in Finland the first Finnish "Pieni Long Play Levy (Pikku-LP)" was produced already in 1966.
More than a decade earlier, in 1953, a French gentleman called Lucien Adès founded his own record label Disques Adès and created the series Le Petit Ménestrel ("The Little Minstrel") which was a significant European forerunner to Disney's read-along series though not the first read-along series in the world with Disney titles. After contacting the French branch of Walt Disney Productions, Adès produced several Disney read-alongs on his Le Petit Ménestrel series in French before Disneyland Records started its official American series in 1965. Quite remarkable is that Disneys official record series both "Read-Alongs" and Storytellers appeared exclusively on the Adès label in France. (Downright incredible is that these French equivalents had originally identical catalogue numbering to the American series LLP300 for the read-alongs and ST3900 for the Storytellers although, as the Disques Adès catalogue was eventually revised, the original numbering was replaced by a new one). The Disney Company has acknowledged the French inspiration for their Storyteller and "Read-Along" series, by inducting Lucien Adès posthumously into an official Disney Legend in 1997.
However, the read-alongs, both Disney and beyond, were a much earlier invention. RCA Victor and His Masters Voice (HMV) started their similar Little Nipper series already in 1944, and produced several Disney titles, including an exclusive Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs version in 1949. Capitol Records similar Record-Readers series started in 1946 and included also Disney stories. Golden Records started its Little Golden Book & Record series some years later, including also many Disney titles; this series can be quite easily confused with Disney's 1965 series due to the same illustrations, originating from the Little Golden Books. Also some scripts of the Disneyland Records read-alongs were adapted from the Little Golden Books versions. Eventually the Little Golden Book & Record series ceased to exist and its non-Disney titles became part of Disneyland Records catalogue when the "Read-Along" series was updated and revised in the 1970s.
Gary Krisel and Jymn Magon were the men behind the 1977-1979 revision to Disneys "Read-Along" series. They also updated the Little Golden Books & Records series, and naturally, produced also the new versions of the Storyteller records. Magon created a new innovative writing style for the read-alongs by taking the "he said" / "she said" phrases out. Krisel and Magon produced each recording with a talented cast of voice actors, background music (often authentic from the Disney Classics) and with atmospheric sound effects. Engineer George Charouhas added a magical touch of nostalgia by re-creating the sound quality of the original movies. Also, for the first time in Disneyland Records history, the voice actors watched film footage to study the original character voices. The talented voice actors appearing regularly on the Disneyland Records 1977-79 projects included Les Perkins, Corey Burton, Hal Smith, Bob Holt, Linda Gary, Pat Parris and Tony Pope. All this lead to the initiation of the Disney Character Voices department.
Krisel and Magon did a great job in updating most of the "Read-Along" series. Although the series got an improved and definite modern look, underneath the great-looking covers awaited a catch: most of the books stayed the same from the inside, with old illustrations from the Little Golden Books! This procedure was actually nothing new to Disneyland Records, since similar "cheating" was used already during the early 1960s, by hiding old content within freshly changed covers. Some of the revised 1977-79 "Read-Alongs" remained intact with the Robie Lester 1960s narration, though the recordings were slightly enhanced with background music and, occasionally, with sound effects. Snow White was one of them.
As already mentioned, the renewed 1977-79 read-along series became nearly officially known as Disneys "Read-Along". In the late 1980s the British equivalent of this series was officially called as The Disney Read-Along Collection, published by Pickwick International. In Sweden the renewed read-along series became Walt Disneys Musiksaga ("music fairytale"), published by Select / Hemmets Journal Ab, most likely with the Danish publishing company Egmont leading the Scandinavian revision. The Finnish counterpart of the revised Swedish series was literally translated into Musiikkisatu, started in 1984, and published by Oy Kirjalito Ab (nowadays known as Egmont Kustannus Oy Ab). At least in Finland, the new series was published only in c-cassette (tape) format.
In the United States, the "Read-Along" series was called officially as Disney Storyteller in the mid-1980s, although the genuine Storyteller records also on cassettes had not disappeared anywhere. Just like the read-alongs, also the original Storyteller series (catalogue number starting with "ST") was revised, beginning in the late 1970s, with the dynamite duo of Gary Krisel and Jymn Magon at the helm, and featuring Les Perkins stable of voice actors.
Especially on the Swedish Musiksaga series the read-along recordings were splendid, since many of them used dialogue from the authentic Disney dubbings. However, most of the books and scripts were the 1977-79 updates which meant that the high class of the recordings clashed with the poorly or at least curiously illustrated books, and with a few inferior scripts. For example, Cinderellas magical dress was still the ghastly Little Golden Book version with pink ribbons, and Alice in Wonderland illustrations were still too much "Mary Blair". The story of Lady and the Tramp still culminated with a small fire in stead of a blood-thirsty rat. The story of Snow White concentrated too much on explaining the princess earlier years, and Alice, while in Wonderland, still met the Jabberwocky which never made it into the movie. Nevertheless, as in the United States with the updated series, also the Musiksaga and Musiikkisatu series were successful enough to endure till early 2000s with several new, improved editions of the old Disney Classics.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s Disneyland / Vista Records expanded their catalogue to non-Disney franchises such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Charlie Brown, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, ALF, Gremlins and many others. The many successes brought new talent to Disneys record company.
Composers such as Jim Andron, Gary Powell and Pat Patrick produced tunes for the record companys music library that was put into extensive use on the new read-alongs in the mid-1980s. Although producers such as Ted Kryczko and Randy Thornton brought many good things to Disneys record company in the late 1980s, the new "Read-Alongs" (such as the Gummi Bears and the Duck Tales) started musically sound repetitive due to the heavy use of the music library. This new era culminated in yet another update in the "Read-Along" series with quite stylish pink book covers with only the Disney logo. Once again, these new covers hid many previously released read-alongs, but at least and at last the illustrations inside the books were mostly updated. Disneys record company had transformed into Walt Disney Records and moved into the era of compact discs.
The case of Snow
White and the Seven Dwarfs
This listing is based on
at least in France
this point the series had
Tiny KenNetti Database
research, image processing
artwork © Disney
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