Sunday, December 13, 2009

Disney's Christmas Mice

. . . and we don't mean Mickey and Minnie.

A different breed of mice came into prominence at the Disney Studio during the 1950s, but they were of a different nature than the oversize icons with the big round ears that had come to represent the company. The design style of these creatures seems rooted in rodents of Cinderella, epitomized by Gus, Jacques and their many friends who helped that film's heroine ultimately realize her happily ever after destiny.

Similarly-styled mice appeared in Ben and Me, of which the title character of Amos was the most prominent. This mouse-type also extended into other Disney efforts. In 1957, McCall's magazine featured the illustrated story Walt Disney's Christmas Carol that retold the classic Dickens tale but replaced Bob Cratchtet with the character of Cedric Mouse, who in physical resemblance could easily have been a cousin of Gus, Jacques or Amos. We featured illustrations and excerpts from Walt Disney's Christmas Carol in a previous post here at 2719 Hyperion.

In an interesting twist, the studio extended this mouse-mythology into the audio arena with the release in 1958 of Mickey Mouse Christmas Favorites which was in fact Walt Disney Records first holiday album. The album combined a number of previously released selections, the most notable of which was what would become the company's perennial Christmas tune "From All of Us to All of You." But as these liner notes describe, a number of the recordings came from some freshly discovered talent:

Discovered under a stairway at the Disneyland Studio, the unique all-mouse symphony orchestra under the able baton of Ludwig Mousensky is undoubtably the first and finest rodent ensemble in the world. And, we here at Disneyland Records are proud to present their first recording, "The Christmas Concert." Here are Yuletide hymns, "Hark The Herald Angels Sing," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "O Come All Ye Faithful," "Jingle Bells," and the popular 'Winter Wonderland." The Mousensky group's rendition of these songs is truly a delightful experience for all. Under the maestro, the orchestra, consisting of Squeeky, Zeke, Horace, Henrietta, Tubby, Tootie, Clarence, Pinky, Stuffy, Zooty, Hans, Fritz, Otto (these three were formerly with the Vienna's famed DeutschMICEster Band), Pee Wee and Frenchy give a new dimension to these Christmas favorites. All proving that Christmas is a time for both mice and men.

While the album jacket did not provide any visual representations of this "rodent ensemble," its high-pitched renditions are certainly reminiscent of those performed by Cinderella's pint-size pals.