The Far Out Sounds of Sonny Eclipse

Sonny Eclipse

(Author’s note: Portions of this piece, specifically quotes provided by George Wilkins and Kal David, previously appeared in the article “The Biggest Little Star in the Galaxy: Sonny Eclipse” which I wrote for Celebrations Magazine, Issue 53, which was released in May of 2017.) 

The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” It’s a lovely sentiment but doesn’t quite seem sweeping enough. After all, we’ve seen plenty of evidence that the love of music extends well beyond humanity. Who can forget Experiment 626 (aka Stitch) and his adoration of Elvis? Or the swinging sounds of Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes on Tatooine? And, of course, there are the melodious sounds of the Biggest Little Star in the Galaxy: Sonny Eclipse, the resident musician at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland.

The funny little alien from the planet Zork has been entertaining Guests at the Magic Kingdom since 1994, performing an act that would be just as comfortable in a Las Vegas lounge or aboard a cruise ship. Alternating between songs and corny jokes, Eclipse performs on his “amazing Astro Organ” and is accompanied by an invisible group of backup singers known as the Space Angels. He’s like an extra-terrestrial version of Wayne Newton or Bobby Vinton, with just a hint of Esquivel thrown in to give his music a space-age bachelor pad feel.   

But how exactly did Sonny Eclipse come to inhabit his spot in the Most Magical Place on Earth? To understand that, we’ll need to take a trip back to the past.

The Tomorrow That Never Was

When Disneyland opened in 1955, Walt Disney described Tomorrowland as, “A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man’s achievements … a step into the future, with predictions of constructive things to come. Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure, and ideals: the Atomic Age, the challenge of outer space, and the hope for a peaceful and unified world.”

The area would be a place to peer into the future and experience the cutting edge of human innovation, from journeys into outer space to the home of tomorrow. The problem, as Walt once declared, was that “Tomorrow is a heck of a thing to keep up with.” Technological progress rapidly transformed what once seemed science fiction into fact, rendering views of the future obsolete, or exposing them as wildly inaccurate predictions.

Journalist Hendrick Hertzberg wrote about the problem as far back as the 1980s, when he said that the area, “was the only [land] I had really wanted to see as a kid, because it was supposed to show what the future would be like. But this is 1981, and if Tomorrowland is any guide, the future has seen better days.” 

Author Lindsay Mott described the dilemma in her Celebrations Magazine article “Tomorrowland: Bringing the Future to Life Through Imagination”. In the piece, she notes that Tony Baxter began considering the conundrum as he worked on Disneyland Paris. In fact, he stated outright, “We are faced with [the fact that Tomorrowland] is out of date. We’ve gotten locked into the idea that the future was white stucco and gleaming glass.” 

Because of this, the area was re-imagined in the 90s. In 1994, the New Tomorrowland debuted at the Magic Kingdom, embracing a retro sci-fi style that could best be described as depicting “the tomorrow that never was”. The new aesthetic resembles the future as depicted in comics like Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon and television shows like Lost In Space and The Jetsons. 

With all of this in mind, it’s not a stretch to say that Sonny Eclipse is essentially the musical embodiment of the land’s new ethic. His musical styling is anachronistic, sounding more like some hi-fi recording of the Rat Pack than whatever we might perceive as the “music of tomorrow”. 

We Choose to Go To The Moon

Neil Armstrong on the Moon

The Space Age officially began in 1957 with the Russian launch of Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. It reached its peak during the Apollo program, which lasted from 1968-1972, and saw the first human land on the moon. As noted by NASA, “Sputnik’s launch caught the United States by surprise and led to the creation of NASA.  The Space Race was inaugurated between the two countries, as each superpower sought to achieve superiority in space.  The competition led to the rapid development of space capabilities by both countries, first putting animals and then humans in space and sending automatic probes to the Moon and planets.”

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave his famous, “We Choose to Go to the Moon” speech, detailing his plans to send a man to the moon. In it, he stated, “We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people…But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal?…We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”

The preoccupation with space was not only political, it became a cultural craze. That same year, the Jetsons debuted on ABC, depicting a family of the future. They inhabited a Googie-style home, had a robot maid, and commuted to work in an aero car. Three years later, the show Lost In Space would debut, taking the premise of the classic adventure novel “The Swiss Family Robinson” and re-imagining it for the Space Age. 

As the New York Times noted, “An effect was much more than simply a spillover from the silvery streamlining of the space program. It was an increasing preoccupation with the future and technology that helped change not only the country’s look in the 1950s and ’60s but also, in some ways, its very conception of itself as if seen anew from space.”

During this same time period, a few new musical genres began to flourish. Easy listening, lounge music, and space-age pop all came into being. Frank Sinatra had become the leader of the Rat Pack in 1957 (the same year Sputnik launched), after the passing of Humphrey Bogart. Along with performers like Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford, the group became synonymous with Las Vegas (which introduced its iconic ‘Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign in 1959).

As noted in a 1996 Chicago Tribune article, “In the late 1950s and early ’60s, it was a scene glamorized by Hollywood and countless albums that functioned as aural travelogues of exotic locales, from Hawaii to outer space. In this idealized, stylized version of the high-life, the lounge was the place where Sammy and Frank, and Dino hung out and shared a martini or three while chiding the squares to “Just swing, baby!””

Juan Garcia Esquivel, typically referred to simply by his last name, was another key innovator in the genre. NPR even went so far as to describe him as, “the man who practically invented 1950s lounge music.” He is, perhaps, best known, as the leading figure in the space age pop movement, a curiously hard-to-define genre. The webpage Space Age Pop writes, “This music might be characterized most easily by what it isn’t. It’s rarely simple enough in structure and instrumentation to be called rock (and certainly retains enough of a sense of humor to be disqualified as art rock). It’s not serious or straightforward enough to be called jazz. It’s often too esoteric or extreme to be called pop. It’s in some middle ground between all of these, which means it’s populated with the outcasts from other well-established genres. As a result, Space Age Pop is full of brilliant, bizarre, and exciting sounds, which are particularly striking to ears accustomed to the stereotypes that populate the more familiar genres.”

Jet Set Pop followed in the sixties, featuring artists like Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, while composer John Barry wrote the smokey, evocative music of James Bond. Albums like Stan Getz and João Gilberto’s 1964 release ‘Getz/Gilberto’ introduced wider audiences to Bossa Nova classics like “The Girl from Ipanema”. In 1966, Sergio Mendes would release a cover of Jorge Ben’s ‘Mas Que Nada’. 

While all of these musical forms had their own idiosyncrasies, what they had in common was a mood. They were leisure music, the type that you might listen to while wearing a smoking jacket and sipping a martini. Though the style would eventually be supplanted by rock and roll, for a brief time it represented the good life for the hi-fi generation, who still believed that technological progress would be the cure for mankind’s woes.

It was this very trust in the promise of the future that Walt tapped into with the creation of Tomorrowland, an optimism that would slowly disappear in the coming years with the chaos of the Vietnam War, the terror of the Cold War, the War on Drugs, and the AIDS crisis. 

With all of that in mind, it makes sense that Disney would attempt to tap into this bygone sense of unbridled optimism when creating “the tomorrow that never was”. 

The Biggest Little Star in the Galaxy

Longtime Disney composer George Wilkins–who also wrote music for The Living Seas, It’s Tough to Be A Bug, and other classic Disney attractions– wrote the music for Sonny Eclipse with the help of Imagineer Kevin Rafferty.

Wilkins’s journey through the music industry started in the 50s when he performed with Patti Page. In the 60s, he formed a group called the Doodletown Pipers, who played with such luminaries as Count Basie and Bing Crosby. 

Back in 2017, I had the good fortune to interview Wilkins for an article in Celebrations Magazine. At that time, he told me, “I started with Walt Disney Pictures in 1979 as a staff composer. I worked with Buddy Baker to start with and then got very busy writing and producing music for Epcot and Disney Tokyo.”

In his book “Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career”, Kevin Rafferty recalled, “George Wilkins and I wrote eight original songs for the character. I thought it would be fun for Sonny to sing different types of music, from ballads to rock to blues to “Bossa Super Nova” so we wrote in all those styles. I penned the lyrics and jokes to reflect Sonny’s outer space perspective.”

According to the official backstory that was created for the character, Sonny played mall openings, bar mitzvahs, and weddings prior to getting hired at Cosmic Ray’s. Rafferty even stated, “He’s a big deal on his planet, but on our planet, he’s really down to earth.” That planet, for the record, is called Zork. And Sonny’s hometown is the city of Yew Nork. 

In speaking with Wilkins, he told me that the original concept had been for Sonny to sing inverted versions of jazz standards, transforming songs like ‘How High the Moon’ into things like ‘How Low the Moon’ but the idea was quickly abandoned after licensing costs were taken into consideration. Instead, the following songs were composed:

  • My Name is Sonny Eclipse 
  • Out in Space
  • Hello Space Angels
  • Gravity Blues
  • Starlight Soup and Salad
  • Bright Little Star
  • Planetary Boogie
  • Yew Nork, Yew Nork

“Because Sonny is a nightclub act he had to have a girls back up trio,” Wilkins said. “Since that would have been impossible money-wise, we made them ‘invisible space angels’ that he could call upon wherever and whenever. As far as the Astro Organ went, we knew a performer who had a MIDI setup very much like we needed that could do anything from musical instruments to sound effects.”

The smooth crooning voice for Sonny was provided by bluesman Kal David. He broke into music in 1962 when he formed Kal David and the Exceptions. Over the course of his career, he performed with legends like Etta James and as lead guitarist for John Mayall. His first contact with Wilkins came about at a lounge where Kal and his band were performing.

“He was friends with some of the members of my band,” David said. “I guess he liked us because he returned several times.”

The two worked together on a song for Epcot’s Wonders of Life Pavilion in 1989, with David singing “Unhealthy Living Blues” in the Goofy About Health Area. He later auditioned for the part of Sonny and was brought into the project. 

According to David, “George played all the music that you hear on Sonny’s tracks on synth…but the only thing the synthesizer cannot emulate is the guitar. So he had me play the parts.”

The part of the Space Angels was performed by a group known as ‘The Brunettes’, one of whose members, Lauri Bono, is David’s wife.

“The Brunettes are Lauri Bono, Amy Weston, and Patti Brooks,” David said. “They sang in my larger band and I was musical director for them and the leader of their band. When George was casting the Space Angels, we told him about Amy and Patti and he like the idea of the self-contained group as opposed to hiring three individuals. Also, they are great singers with a natural blend. In order to justify the existence of the Space Angels we wrote a song that tells how they came to exist.”

The resultant show runs around 25 minutes long and has developed something of a cult following among Magic Kingdom devotees. In his book, Rafferty even notes, “I can’t tell you how thrilled I was the first time I saw Guests responding to him with their fingers snapping and toes tapping–and some of them even danced to his musical stylings. Imagine my surprise when I read a newspaper article about two Disney park fans who fell in love while dancing to “their” song, “Bright Little Star” by Sonny Eclipse!”

Nearly 30 years have passed since Sonny debuted in Tomorrowland, and his performances continue to delight and entertain visitors to the Magic Kingdom. His smooth, cool voice and groovy melodies still transport Guests out of today and into the world of yesterday’s tomorrow. Not bad for a little Zorkie from Yew Nork. 

Magic and Imagination: The Music of the Main Street Electrical Parade

Main Street Electrical Parade

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,

Disneyland proudly presents

Our spectacular festival pageant

Of nighttime magic and imagination

In thousands of sparkling lights

And electro-syntho-magnetic musical sounds,

The Main Street Electrical Parade!

Fifty years ago, Guests at Disneyland first heard those magical words. They were spoken in a sing-song robotic voice and introduced the world to the park’s latest nighttime spectacular: a parade of glittering lights and whimsical electronic music. 

With the success of Walt Disney World’s Electrical Water Pageant (which debuted in 1971), Disneyland decided to explore the idea of similar entertainment. Ron Miziker, an entertainment producer for Disney, came across an article at the Anaheim public library explaining how people would string together lightbulbs and then parade down the streets in the earliest days of electricity. That simple story sparked an idea, that Bob Jani would transform into the Main Street Electrical Parade. 

While the twinkling, multicolor lights are the stars of the show, it’s hard to imagine it having such enduring success without the memorable musical score that plays. In early concepts, Jani thought that the music of Fantasia should provide the soundtrack. Jack Wagner (who you might know as the voice declaring, “Remain seated please; permanecer sentados por favor.” and “Please stand clear of the doors. Por favor manténgase alejado de las puertas.”) disagreed with the choice, believing that the music should be electronic instead of orchestral.

Outside of Disney, Wagner worked as a DJ and had an enormous collection of records at home. He began searching through the collection until coming across an album by Jean Jacques Perrey and Gerson Kingsley called “Spotlight on the Moog: Kaleidoscopic Vibrations”. On side two of the record, he discovered “Baroque Hoedown”, the song which became the theme for the Main Street Electrical Parade.

The In Sound From Way Out

Born in 1929, Jean Jacques Perrey did not set out to become a musician. Instead, he started out in medical school. He left those studies to begin creating musique concrete compositions, an experimental technique that involved using natural sounds to create a montage of sound. 

According to longtime collaborator Dana Countryman, Perrey’s experiments with electronic synthesizers began in the 1950s. According to Countryman, “Jean-Jacques first started recording electronic music in 1952, long before the Moog synthesizer was first made for sale in 1967…Relocating from Paris to New York City, JJ actually owned and recorded with the second Moog ever produced…Jean-Jacques was truly the pioneer of popular electronic music.”

After moving to the United States in the 1960s,  Perrey met Gershon Kingsley. Seven years his senior, Kingsley grew up in Berlin, before moving to Palestine, where he taught himself to play the piano. He later played jazz in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv before emigrating to the United States. He studied at the Los Angeles Conservatory of music and began writing music for Broadway and Off-Broadway productions.

Perrey and Kingsley joined forces to become an electronic music duo, releasing the groundbreaking album “The In Sound from Way Out!” in 1966. The liner notes to the record note that it was the product of 275 hours of work and several miles of tape. In addition to the album’s use of feedback loops, oscillators, and musique concrete recordings, Perrey played the Ondioline, an electronic keyboard that became the forerunner of modern synthesizers. Tracks on the finished product included titles like “Computer in Love”, “Swan’s Splashdown” (a rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”), and “Spooks In Space” (a variation on Camille Saint’Saens’s “Danse Macabre”). The webpage Seven 45rpm describes the album as, “filled with tunes that sounded like some kind of surreal animated cartoon from out-of-space gone berserk.”

The following year, the duo released “Kaleidoscopic Vibrations”. It is notable for being one of the earliest to ever use the Moog (a modular synthesizer developed by Robert Moog). The album featured a number of arrangements of popular songs, as well as several original compositions. Kingsley’s orchestrations were recorded first, before Perrey added tape loops and effects to each track. 

Baroque Hoedown is the first track on side two of the record. The song is a bright, cheery piece, once described as “harpsichord gone country”. The title hints at this juxtaposition, with baroque referring to the music of 17th to mid-18th century that was known for being heavily ornamented (composers include Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel). It sounds a bit like Bach as interpreted by a stereotypical pianist in a western saloon. In short, perfect for a grand parade of twinkling lights, fanciful characters, and childlike wonder.

Electro-Syntho-Magnetic Musical Sounds

As noted, Wagner was looking for music for the Main Street Electrical Parade when he encountered “Baroque Hoedown”. He passed the piece along to music director Jim Christensen, who endorsed the choice. According to Don Dorsey,  a musician, producer, director, and audio engineer who worked on the 1977 version of the Main Street Electrical Parade, “The bright electronic sound and quick, catchy melody were infectious.  The tempo was right for choreography and a one-minute and three-second portion could be looped to play continuously; exactly what parade music needed to do.” 

Wagner and Christensen then met synth programmer Paul Beaver. Paul and Jim worked together, recording demos. According to Dorsey, “One was a short patriotic medley and the other was the original Baroque Hoedown recording with a synth bass line added.” Dorsey further notes, “it was decided to build the entire parade on top of Baroque Hoedown, a technique similar to “It’s a Small World” where one melody is overlaid with multiple synchronized arrangements.  In this plan, instead of moving the audience through the arrangements, the arrangements would move past the audience.  Armed with sketches of the parade floats, Jim began the puzzle-like process of fitting Disney melodies into the harmonic structure and format of Baroque Hoedown.”

Six musical scenes were created for the parade, all built around Perrey and Kingsley’s composition. Curiously, despite the fact that Disney obtained the rights to use the music, Perrey was unaware of the fact until 1980. He recalled, “In the 1970s, Walt Disney Productions chose this tune to be the theme for the Electrical Parade. It was extraordinary, I didn’t know about it because the publishers said nothing to me. It was by chance, in 1980, that I went there and was so surprised to hear “Baroque Hoedown” arranged for a full orchestra.”

Though the parade was a wild success, it was retired in 1974 as Disney prepared to celebrate America’s Bicenntenial. It was this new spectacular that brough Don Dorsey into the picture, as he was asked to create music for “America on Parade”.

In 1977, with the Bicenntenial celebration in the rearview, the company decided to bring the Electrical Parade back. Dorsey was named music director, and he brought a new approach to the parade. According to the history on his webpage, “The original parade had begun with a manually triggered tape of an oscillator sweep, followed by a fade in of the continuous parade music as the lights were turned off in each area the parade approached. Don wanted to heighten the excitement of the parade beginning by incorporating a fanfare that segued directly into the parade tempo. He also wanted to synchronize a dramatic “lights out” cue to the music. As the parade progressed through the park, this would require an inaudible transition from each new fanfare into the continuous track in perfect synchronization. To accomplish this, Don invented a production and playback method called the Opening Window which has been used to kick off virtually every Disney parade since.”

Dorsey, Wagner, and Christensen worked together to create the updated version of the music. In 1979, one final enhancement was added, when Dorsey suggested that Wagner’s introduction be run through a vocoder, transforming it into the robotic sounding voice that has become so associated with the parade. 

Over the years, segments have come and gone, including portions for The Fox and the Hound, Pleasure Island, and Return to Oz, while some additions (such as Peter Pan) have become permanent fixtures. 

50 Years of Nighttime Magic and Imagination

On April 22, the Main Street Electrical Parade returned to Disneyland, adding a grand finale float that, according to Disneyland’s’s official page, celebrates, “the theme of togetherness, reflected in a design that brings together characters and moments from more than a dozen beloved Disney and Pixar stories. These stylized scenes—interpreted in thousands of sparkling lights and electro-synthe-magnetic musical sound—bring to light classic and contemporary favorites such as Encanto, The Jungle Book, Raya and the Last Dragon, The Princess and the Frog, Coco, Mulan and more. Inspired by both the design of classic Main Street Electrical Parade floats and Disney Legend Mary Blair’s art style on “it’s a small world,” the new grand finale float is one of the longest and grandest in the parade’s 50-year history!”

At half a century old, it remains one of the most beloved Disney experiences, and its popularity shows no signs of waning. Here’s to many happy returns of the day and the hope that the Main Street Electrical Parade is around for another 50 years at least. 

Jimmie Dodd & The Mickey Mouse March

Who’s the leader of the club

That’s made for you and me?

If you’re a longtime fan of Disney, I’m sure you know what comes next. You can probably hear the melody in your head.

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!

The Mickey Mouse March first paraded onto televisions across the United States on October 3, 1955. The song served as the theme for the Mickey Mouse Club, a program that debuted a few months after the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim. The show lasted an hour and featured a cast of “Mouseketeers” who sang songs and performed skits in-between Disney cartoons and Disney Newsreels. 

Each week featured a different theme, and included serials like The Adventures of Spin and Marty, The Secret of Mystery Lake, and Annette (a segment featuring Annette Funicello as Annette McLoud, a poor orphan from the country who moves to the big city). 

Funicello became one of the show’s biggest stars, as did Bobby Burgess and Cubby O’Brien. Other Mouseketeers included Karen Pendleton, Darlene Gillespie, Tommy Cole, and Lonnie Burr, to name just a few. 

Jimmie Dodd acted as MC and “Head Mouseketeer”. An actor, singer, and songwriter, Dodd actually penned the Mickey Mouse March. A 2016 article from WCPO in Cincinnati noted, “Jimmie Dodd really was the leader of the club. He was its songwriter, its singer, its host, and its soul — the man Walt Disney rubber-stamped to emcee his variety show (1955-59) for kids after hearing just one composition by the Cincinnatian: ‘The Pencil Song.’”

Let’s get to know the wonderful Mr. Dodd a little better.

Hey There, Hi There, Ho There…

Jimmie Dodd Playing Guitar

Born on March 28, 1910, Dodd grew up in Cincinnati. His parents divorced while he was still young. After the split, Dodd’s father, who played the violin and sang on WLW-AM radio for a decade, moved a few houses away and began working at a music store. Against that backdrop, it seems inevitable that Jimmie would develop a passion for songwriting.

By high school, he was playing banjo, a skill he would put to use in a local dance band while attending the University of Cincinnati. During this time he also began performing on the radio. 

After spending time at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, he moved to Florida. His official biography on D23 notes, “His first professional job was playing guitar and singing his own songs for a St. Petersburg, Florida, radio station. He later appeared with bandleader Louis Prima.” As a fun side note, Prima would later perform his own piece of iconic Disney music in the song ‘I Wanna Be Like You.’ It was Prima who provided the voice of King Louie in The Jungle Book. 

Dodd eventually found his way to California in 1937. Three years later, he made his silver screen debut as Evans in the comedy “Those Were the Days!” starring William Holden and Bonita Granville. 

In 1940, he married Ruth Carroll who became his performing partner. They entertained frequently at USO shows. Beginning in 1943, they appeared in North Africa, before moving to the China/Burma/India Theater in late 1944.  

Over the next 15 years, he would appear in a staggering 77 films. Contacts made during the overseas tours helped him break into television, first with Arthur Godfrey and later with Jinx Falkenburg.

He was hospitalized in 1951 and the expense proved a significant burden on his and Ruth’s finances. By a stroke of luck, a songwriting contest was held to find an “official” song for Washington D.C. The local history site Boundary Stones, run by the D.C.-based public broadcasting station WETA, writes, “ James H. Simon, a TV and radio salesman native to Georgetown, related his plight of having to attend business conferences and feeling left out each time all the state songs were played. “It’s almost a contest. The Texans even bring guns to shoot off when they sing ‘The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You.’ On Jan. 17, 1951, his letter to the editor bemoaning the state of things was published in The Washington Post…Thus, Simon proposed a solution: a nationwide “Song for Washington” contest (sponsored by Motorola, Simon’s wholesale dealer) to find an anthem worthy of the Nation’s Capital. The Washington Post jumped on the idea the very same day with an editorial endorsement.”

Dodd entered the contest and his song was declared the winner. As the winner, he was awarded $1000, money that he sorely needed.

Sometime in the mid-50s, Dodd’s friend Bill Justice from Walt Disney Studios contacted him. He mentioned that Walt needed a song written about a pencil. D23 wrote of the incident, “So Jimmie wrote and personally performed a little “pencil” ditty for Walt, which won him his role on the Mickey Mouse Club. According to Santoli, Walt suddenly proclaimed, “Hey, Jim is the one who should be on the Mickey Mouse Club!”

The Leader of the Club

Dodd’s output was prolific during the Mickey Mouse Club’s four-year run. He penned 22 songs for the show before it even began filming, including We Are the Merry Mouseketeers, Here Comes The Circus, and of course, The Mickey Mouse March.

For Mouseketeers who may need a little refresher, the lyrics were as follows:

Who’s the leader of the club

That’s made for you and me?


Hey there, hi there, ho there

You’re as welcome as can be


Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse

Forever let us hold our banner high

High, high, high

Come along and sing a song

And join the jamboree


Mickey Mouse club

We’ll have fun, we’ll be new faces

High, high, high, high

We’ll do things and we’ll go places

All around the world

We’ll go marching

Who’s the leader of the club

That’s made for you and me


Hey there, hi there, ho there

You’re as welcome as can be


Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse

Forever let us hold our banner high

High, high, high

Come along and sing a song

And join the jamboree


The song, as originally written, was a simple march written in 2/4 time. Of course, numerous renditions have appeared over the years. A disco version was made for The New Mickey Mouse Club, which ran from 1977 to1979, and a pop version was used for The All-New Mickey Mouse Club (1989-1996). A variation on the song also appeared in the social media series dubbed Club Mickey Mouse (2017-2018). 

Through its longevity, it has become one of the most recognizable Disney melodies, instantly recognizable around the world.  It is simultaneously a symbol of the joy and laughter brought about by Mickey Mouse and the creativity, camaraderie, and charm of the Mickey Mouse Club. 

As the show’s host, Dodd quickly became a full-blown Disney celebrity. WCPO noted, “Dodd’s ride with the Mouseketeers lasted 10 years (1955-64), five on a live show on weekdays; two as a Disney promoter and leader of two live Mouse Club tours in Australia, and two as host of syndicated “Mouse Club” reruns.” In addition, he appeared in the brief-lived Mickey Mouse Club Circus at Disneyland, where he served as Ring Master. 

On the Mickey Mouse Club, he was known for performing on his four-string, tenor guitar (dubbed a Mousegetar), and for the brief messages he delivered at the end of each episode which served to impart a simple, moral lesson to the viewers. They became known as “Doddisms”, and one of his favorites came from the French philosopher Etienne de Grolier, who said, “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there by any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do, to any fellow being, let me do it now and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” 

Though he died in 1964, a few years after the show’s original run ended, he left behind a monumental amount of work. In addition to his 77 movie credits, he appeared in 332 episodes of The Mickey Mouse Club and wrote 525 songs. Most importantly, Dodd’s memory lives on in the hearts of Mouseketeers young and old around the world.  

An article on the page ‘The Original Mickey Mouse Club Show, states, “It was Mickey’s club and Walt’s studio, but it was Jimmie’s show. He was the indispensable cast member who tied everything together, day to day, season to season.”

For their part, D23 wrote, “ With his trusty “Mousegetar” in hand, the singer, songwriter, musician, dancer, and actor was a friend to children across the nation. He often transferred his infectious spirit through Doddisms, delightful instruction on the principles of good living, which he shared on each show to “help us all be better Mouseketeers.”

While both are fitting tributes to the man who brought music to the Mickey Mouse Club, it seems most fitting to pay tribute and end with his own words:

Now Mouseketeers

there’s one thing we want you

always to remember.

Come along and sing our song

and join our family




Through the years we’ll all

be friends

wherever we may be.




Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse

forever let us hold our

banner high.

Now its time to say goodbye

to all our company.



see you real soon



why? because we like you


Jimmie Dodd and the Mickey Mouse Club

Heart, We Did All That We Could: The Teddi Barra Story

Teddi Barra

A few names probably spring to mind when you think of the Queens of Country Music. Patsy Cline. Loretta Lynn. Dolly Parton. And, of course, the fabulous Teddi Barra. After all, she’s the last of the big-time swingers. 

As a world-famous Country Bears member, Teddi Barra has been entertaining Guests at Walt Disney World since the resort’s opening in 1971. A year later, she made her California debut, when the attraction opened at Disneyland, and in 1983 she went global when Country Bear Jamboree became part of Tokyo Disneyland. 

Her appearance is one of the most unforgettable moments of the attraction as she descends from the ceiling on a swing whose ropes are wrapped in roses. Her off-white fur makes a beautiful contrast to the bright pink boa draped around her shoulders. A parasol rests on one shoulder, and a hat that would be the envy of any debutante from the deep south. 

She doesn’t merely rest on her ursine good looks. She sings with a crystal clear voice that tugs at the heartstrings and captivates the audience, despite the fact that her entire performance lasts less than one minute. 

But just who is this enchanting chanteuse? The liner notes to the Country Bear Jamboree vinyl, released in 1972, offer this bit of background:

“Teddi Barra was discovered sitting on a soda fountain stool in an ice cream parlor three miles from Gentry, Arkansas. From there, her rise in show biz was meteoric, and the ravishing beauty is known as The Jewel of the Dakotas. Though she has always wanted to perform serious drama, her fans have never let her forget her feather boa and her parasol, both of which have been promised to the Daughters of Benton County Western Museum when they wear out. In Grizzly Hall she performs her famous “Heart, We Did All We Could” while descending from the ceiling on a swing. She has been called The Last of the Big Time Swingers.” 

The lyrics of her song are a tender lamentation of love gone wrong:

Well, there he goes

He hardly knows

The heart he’s breaking

I talked to him

But I don’t think

He understood

Oh, just forget

About the plans

That we were making

Heart, we did all that could…

While Make Mine Music doesn’t drift into the world of celebrity gossip, there’s also reason to believe that she is romantically linked to one of her co-stars. Teddi Barra and Henry, the MC of the Jamboree, flirt a bit near the end of her performance. Is it just playful banter, or are the two actually sweethearts? While we’ve reached out to both parties to try and get an answer, we received a polite, but firm response of, “No comment.”

Honky Tonk Blues

Okay. Okay. Obviously, we know that Teddi Barra is just an audio-animatronic and not an ACTUAL singing bear. It’s just that the Imagineers made her so darn convincing. But what about the story behind the bear? The creatives who brought her to life? 

Let’s start with the performer who first gave the world the song “Heart, We Did All That We Could”, a honey-voiced honky tonk woman from Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma.

Born in 1933, Ollie Imogene Shepard (known professionally as Jean Shepard) fell in love with country music by gathering around the old family radio.

“I had a hard life, but it was a good life,” she recalled. “I had a wonderful mother and daddy. I chopped corn and I picked cotton. And it didn’t hurt me a bit. But every Saturday night, we’d take an hour off and turn on an old radio and listen to the Grand Ole Opry. That’s how I come about country music – and loved the sounds that came out of that radio.”

She began her musical career as the bass player for an all-female band called the Melody Ranch Girls. At the age of 20, she scored her first hit with “A Dear John Letter”, before joining the ABC television show ‘Ozark Jubilee’ a few years later.

While a cast member on the show, she fell in love with co-star Harold “Hawkshaw” Hawkins. They married on stage in 1960, but tragedy soon followed. Hawkins was killed in the same plane crash that claimed the lives of Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, and Randy Hughes.

The birth of her second son and country music kept her going. By the next year, she scored a hit with “Second Fiddle (To An Old Guitar.)” In 1967, Shepard released the song “Heart, We Did All That We Could” on her album of the same name.  It reached #12 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.

By the end of her career, she had been a cast member for the Grand Ole Opry for 60 consecutive years, the longest of any female member. In 2011, she became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

From a Jack to a King

Ned Miller

While Teddi Barra’s mournful ballad was made famous by Jean Shepard, it was written by Ned Miller, a musician born in Rains, Utah in 1925. Growing up in Salt Lake City, he attended Murray High School and began writing songs at the age of 16 before becoming a United States Marine.

Though he did perform, Miller thought of himself primarily as a songwriter, and even suffered from severe stage fright. In fact, he was so afraid of performing in public that at times he would ask friends to appear and perform under his name. 

His song “From a Jack to a King” was released in 1957 but did not become a hit until five years later when Capitol Records re-released it. Over the years, it would be covered by performers ranging from Elvis Presley to Bobby Darrin. 

Though he had several other hits, he left the recording industry in 1970, and by all accounts, never longed to return. Ricky Van Shelton would later record his own version of “From a Jack to a King”, riding it all the way to the top of the country music charts.

Country Music Royalty

Patsy Stoneman

Of course, knowing who provided the tender lyrics for the song, leaves a vital question: Who brought them to life for Disney? It turns out that Teddi Barra’s voice was provided by one of country music’s true legends.

Patsy Stoneman was born to Ernest Van “Pop” Stoneman and Hattie Frost. Both Ernest and Hattie were musicians, and their children followed suit. Together, they went on to form a group known as “The Blue Grass Champs”, before eventually adopting the simpler name of “The Stonemans” or “The Stoneman Family.” 

According to an article in Blue Grass Today, Patsy’s life was always tied to music, with her father recording the songs, ‘The Dying Girls Lament’ and ‘Piney Woods Girl’ on the day she was born. 

Like singers Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, Stoneman’s life was one of great difficulty. Her mother and father had 23 children, only 13 of whom survived. Living through the Great Depression, she recalled, “There was always music in our home, even when there was little food, and at times the roof over our head was a tarpaulin.”

At the age of 17, she married Charles Streeks. Blue Grass today notes, “Through to mid-1963 her life was one of hardship, relationship difficulties, emotional turmoil, and illness; she became involved with another man, thinking that her husband had been killed in an automobile crash and underwent surgery for breast cancer.” Her next marriage lasted only a year, with this husband actually dying in a car wreck. 

Over the years she performed with the family band, playing autoharp and guitar, and later went on to start her own group. However, after the death of her father in 1968, she became the de facto leader of the Stoneman Family, making sure that they kept playing music together and working to preserve her father’s legacy. In 1987, after launching a weekly radio show called ‘At Home With the Stonemans’ she stated, “I am not ready to hang up any of our instruments yet. We have too much to offer the country music business to just throw up our hands and quit. Besides, we have been in the business longer than anybody else, and it just wouldn’t be fair to Daddy to stop.” 

Barry Mazor, who wrote the biography of her father’s musical partner Ralph Peer, noted of Patsy, “She had 10,000 vaudeville jokes and song lyrics in her head, and they’d come bubbling up. She was witty, she was funny, and she was sometimes more straight-talking than people wanted to hear.”

Sister Donna Stoneman reflected, “I’ve never seen a woman like her in all my life. She grew her own vegetables, cooked three meals a day, plowed and picked cotton.”

Perhaps the legendary Emmylou Harris put it best, when she declared, “Patsy Stoneman, you are the BOMB!”

Come Up and See Me Sometime

Mae West

It would be remiss to talk about Teddi Barra and not mention another influence on her character: the one and only Mae West. In the history of cinema, there are few figures who have carved out their place so memorably as West. In her life, she was an actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, and sex symbol. In addition to movies, she appeared on vaudeville and in theater and was known for her sharp tongue and witticisms. 

Without question, her most famous scene comes in the film ‘She Done Him Wrong’, co-starring Carey Grant. In it, she suggestively says to Grant, “Why don’t you come up some time and see me?” The line, with mild variation, would be repeated in her next film with Grant, ‘I’m No Angel’. 

As fans of the Country Bears will no doubt recall after she finishes singing, Teddi Barra says in a sultry voice, “Y’all come up and see me some time, ya hear?” 

Between West, Shepard, and Stoneman, it’s clear that Teddi Barra was always destined to be a dynamo of a character, strong-willed, charismatic, and with talent and sass to spare. Just the character to bring the shy Ned Miller’s lovely lyrics to vibrant life.