Welcome back to our musical adventure, highlighting the works of Robert and Richard Sherman! If you haven’t already read Finding the Sherman Brothers in Disney Parks – Part One, go read that now. Today, we wrap up our look at the dynamic song writing duo known for so many Disney classics.
Before they skyrocketed to fame with “It’s a Small World” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” they wrote a little song for Walt’s first Audio-Animatronic attraction. Let’s fly over to the original tropical hideaway!
Walt Disney Enchanted Tiki Room
“The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room”
The Tiki Room was the first attraction for which the Sherman Brothers created music. It was also the first attraction to feature Audio Animatronics. Walt’s idea for the Tiki Room was so unique at the time that the brothers were baffled by what he was presenting. Richard Sherman recalls, “When we first saw this thing, we didn’t know what it was. We looked at each other and said, ‘What is this?’ Walt said, ‘You guys are going to write a song to explain it.’”
Explain it they did. The brothers quickly came up with a calypso-style song that introduced the four main characters of the show, macaws named Jose, Michael, Pierre, and Fritz. The upbeat style of the attraction’s opening act made it an instant hit.
When it came time to open Walt Disney World in 1971, the tiki birds were among the original inhabitants. The show’s name was changed to Tropical Serenade but it still featured the same title theme song. It ran as such until it was updated with a new version in 1998 entitled, The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management).
When Iago and Zazu, famous birds from Aladdin and The Lion King, took over the show they interrupted the well known Sherman Brothers’ theme song. The attempt to modernize the show for a new generation failed miserably. Without the charm of the Sherman Brothers’ music, the show was just annoying.
As fate (or the Tiki gods) would have it, a small fire broke out in the show in 2011. As a result, the show was closed for refurbishment and Iago was reported to be charred beyond salvation. When it reopened later that same year, the attraction had been restored to its original glory. The name outside read Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. More importantly though, the Sherman Brothers once again welcomed guests inside to “The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Room.”
Journey Into Imagination with Figment
“One Little Spark”
Two decades after writing their first song for a theme park attraction, the Sherman Brothers helped bring everyone’s favorite dragon, Figment, to life in Journey Into Imagination. The tiny purple side kick of Dreamfinder made his appearance at Epcot’s Imagination pavilion in 1983.
The attraction’s theme song was titled “One Little Spark.” It started with the lyrics, “One little spark of inspiration, is at the heart of all creation. Right at the start of everything that’s new, one little spark lights up for you.” If you are a child the 80’s (as I am) you probably can’t help read these lyrics without singing the rhythmic tune. The song’s light-hearted and fun-spirited nature paired perfectly with the attraction’s two main characters.
The Sherman Brothers music sparked the imagination for a new generation of park goers. Kids of all ages walked out of the Imagination Pavilion with a stuffed Figment under their arm and a song in their heart: “Imagination, imagination, a dream can be a dream come true, with just that spark in me and you.”
Like the Enchanted Tiki Room, Journey Into Imagination began to decline in popularity as the years passed by. Eventually, Disney closed the attraction and removed Figment, Dreamfinder, and “One Little Spark.” The new attraction, opened in 1999, was called Journey Into Your Imagination. Universally recognized as one of the biggest refurbishment flops in Disney history, the second version of the attraction closed after just 2 years.
If Disney hadn’t learned their lesson about removing Sherman Brothers’ music the first time around with The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management), they sure did with Journey Into Your Imagination. They quickly put together a new version of the attraction and added “One Little Spark” back into the ride. While Dreamfinder was left behind, Figment returned to the new attraction, now called “Journey Into Imagination With Figment.”
Flash forward a decade and a half, and now there are rumors “One Little Spark” and Figment could be going away again. The future of the Imagination Pavilion is uncertain, so be sure to discover the spark of creation in the brothers’ music before its too late!
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
“Winnie the Pooh”
“The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers”
“The Rain Rain Rain Came Down Down Down”
The last attraction is another kid favorite. Beginning in 1966, the Walt Disney Studios released a Winnie the Pooh animated short. It was joined by a second in 1968, and a third in 1974. All three contained music composed by the Sherman Brothers.
This music helped the studios win the 1968 Academy Award for Animated Short Film for Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. Segments of this short were combined with the other two and in 1977 the studio released its 22nd full length animated feature, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
Thanks to the success of the animated film, Winnie the Pooh and friends would eventually bring the Hundred Acre Wood to Disney parks. The first attraction opened in the Magic Kingdom in 1999, sharing the name of the animated classic, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The songs written by the Sherman Brothers 30 years prior, filled the attraction with the charm and character fans of Pooh had come to love.
Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Shanghai Disneyland have also added The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh to their attraction offerings. Tokyo Disneyland has the most unique version, running a trackless version of the ride called Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. While the different versions vary from one to the next, the familiar sound of the Sherman Brothers’ music can be found no matter where you are.
There are so many ways in which the Sherman Brothers have woven their unique talents into the Disney tapestry. We have merely scratched the surface in these two posts by looking at their direct influence on Disney parks. Hopefully, this has helped you know where to look for a few of their contributions.
Some would diminish the accomplishments of the brothers by saying their music was too juvenile. Of course these same people would probably say the same about the animated features that made Walt Disney so successful. Like Walt, the brothers never saw their work as something created exclusively for children. Richard Sherman once said, “Bob and I have never written down to kids. We’ve always written up to kids. We want them to find out, if they’re curious like we were, what things mean. If there was a double meaning within a statement, let the parent get it on one level and let the kid get it on a second level.”
What a great insight into their creative process! Their father told them the secret to successful song writing was the 3 S’s. Make it Simple, Singable, and Sincere. With Disney parks across the world playing the music of the Sherman Brothers, I think it is safe to say they have proven their father right. Next time you are in a Disney park, look, or more appropriately, listen for the Sherman Brothers in these attractions. Their simplicity, sincerity, and singability is sure to make your Disney vacation magical!