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Disney’s Storytellers and Read-Alongs
The Tiny KenNetti Database

Storytellers & Read-Alongs
I N T R O D U C T I O N

Do not blame yourself if you are not aware of the significant differences between Disney’s Storyteller series and Disney’s "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 Disney’s read-alongs. Disney’s 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.

Disney’s "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 "narrator’s 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 "narrator’s 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 Disney’s 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 Disney’s "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 Disney’s "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 Disney’s 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, Cinderella’s 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 Disney’s record company.

Composers such as Jim Andron, Gary Powell and Pat Patrick produced tunes for the record company’s 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 Disney’s 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. Disney’s 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
reflect all these changes in Disney’s
Storytellers
and Read-Alongs.

Disney’s
o r i g i n a l
"READ-ALONG"
(LITTLE LP)
s e r i e s

Note: This listing is based on
the 1970s Little LP list

Published in 1965
301. Sleeping Beauty
302. Mary Poppins
303. Three Little Pigs
304. Peter Pan and Wendy
305. 101 Dalmatians
306. Alice in Wonderland
307. Lady and the Tramp
308. Cinderella

Published during 1966-1970
309. Bambi
310. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
311. Pinocchio
312. Mother Goose Rhymes
313. Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree
314. The Seven Dwarfs and Their Diamond Mine
315. Goldilocks and the Three Bears
316. The Gnome-Mobile
317. Hansel & Gretel
318. Black Beauty
319. The Jungle Book
320. The Happiest Millionaire
321. Peter and the Wolf
322. Heidi
323. It
’s a Small World
324. Dumbo
325. How the Camel Got His Hump
326. Acting Out the ABC
s
327. Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day
328. Little Red Riding Hood
329. Babes in Toyland
330. Little Hiawatha
331. The Grasshopper and the Ants
332. The Little Red Hen
333. Winnie the Pooh and Tigger
334. Mickey Mouse, Brave Little Tailor
335. Johnny Appleseed
336. Pirates of the Caribbean
337. The Gingerbread Man
338. More Jungle Book
339. The Haunted Mansion
340. The Ugly Duckling
341. The Emperor
s New Clothes
342. The Adventures of Robin Hood
343. Thumper
s Race
344. The Night Before Christmas
345. The Bremen Town Musicians
346. Rapunzel
347. The Wizard of Oz
348. Mickey and the Beanstalk
349. The AristoCats
350. Pecos Bill
351. Lambert, the Sheepish Lion
352. Susie, the Little Blue Coupe
353. The Little House
354. Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet
355. The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met

Published during 1971-1977
356. Aladdin and His Lamp
357. Swiss Family Robinson
358. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
359. Sinbad the Sailor
360. Davy Crockett
361. Treasure Island
362. More Mother Goose
363. Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby
364. Bedknobs and Broomsticks
365. Robin Hood (1973)
366. Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too!
367. The Rescuers
368. The Hobbit
369. Pete
s Dragon

Published at least in France
(during 1976-1979)

370. Blanche-Neige apprend l
heure aux Sept Nains
371. Blanche-Neige et les Sept Gourmands
372. Prof apprend l
alphabet à ses copains les Nains
373. Les Trois P
tits Cochons,
P
tit Loup et le Moulin à Poivre
374. Les Castors Juniors détectives
375. Les Castors Juniors toujours prêts
376. Picsou et tout l
or du monde
377. La Danse des Heures
378. La Symphonie Pastorale
379. P
tit Loup et les 3 Petits Cochons
380. La Belle et le Clochard

Published during 1979-1985
381. The Black Hole
382. The Return of the King
383. The Fox and the Hound
384. Tron
385. Return to Oz
386. Mickey
s Christmas Carol
387. Disney Discovery Series: Counting Fun
388. Disney Discovery Series: Baby Animals
389. The Black Cauldron
390. Disney Discovery Series: Manners
391. Disney Discovery Series: ABCs
392. Disney Discovery Series: Things That Go
393. Disney Discovery Series: People at Work
394. Wuzzles: Hoppopotamus Goes To Hollywuz
395. Wuzzles: Bumblelion
s Funny Money
396. Wuzzles: Butterbear
s Surprise Guest
397. Wuzzles: Eleroo and the
Brahma Bullfinch

At this point the series had
moved on tape (c-cassette) format
(although apparently not in France,
where the LLP numbering continued
with over 40 titles).
On cassette, the American series was
re-named and re-numbered...

-

The Tiny KenNetti Database
Disney’s Storytellers and Read-Alongs

Details research, image processing
and text written by Kenneth Sundberg

Special Thanks to
Sampo Haahti
Greg Ehrbar
Tim Hollis

Principal sources:
Tim Hollis & Greg Ehrbar: Mouse Tracks
– The Story of Walt Disney Records
(The University Press of Mississippi, 2006)

List of Le Petit Ménestrel & Disques Adès records:
fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_des_livres-disques_Disney
The Encyclopédisque website:
www.encyclopedisque.fr

Kenneth Sundberg's own research on
Finnish & Swedish Disney "Read-Alongs"
website d23.com

All original artwork © Disney
__________________________________

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