Walt Disney Productions in 1971by Jim Korkis, contributing writer
The primary focus in 1971 for Walt Disney Productions was to get Walt Disney World up and running in October, and work out all the challenges by the holiday season.
As a result, changes and additions to Disneyland were generally ignored, although the park welcomed its 100-millionth guest on June 17, Valerie Suldo of New Jersey. In 1972, Bear Country would open, as well as the premiere of the Main Street Electrical Parade.
However despite the concentration on Walt Disney World, Roy O. Disney and his team did manage to continue to produce TV shows, a few films, and more, although when it came to theatrical animated shorts, they were all reissues.
The Wonderful World of Color weekly Disney television series was retitled The Wonderful World of Disney on September 14, 1969, as the previous title was no longer needed to attract viewers or to get them to buy RCA color television sets (most programs were now broadcast in color and most homes had color televisions). It still was aired on Sunday nights on NBC.
The show continued to maintain solid ratings, often ranking in the Top 20 although that would drop off by the mid-1970s. The memorable Sherman Brothers theme song was replaced with orchestral medleys of various Disney songs from movies and the Disneyland theme park.
Here are the episodes that people watched in 1971:
- January 3: Three Without Fear (Part 1)
- January 10: Three Without Fear (Part 2)
- January 17: The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (Part 1)
- January 24: The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (Part 2)
- January 31: The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (Part 3)
- February 7: Bayou Boy (Part 1)
- February 14: Bayou Boy (Part 2)
- March 7: Hamad and the Pirates (Part 1)
- March 14: Hamad and the Pirates (Part 2)
Reruns and summer hiatus:
- September 19: Charlie Crowfoot and the Coati Mundi
- September 26: Hacksaw (Part 1)
- October 3: Hacksaw (Part 2)
- October 31: The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove (Part 1)
- November 7: The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove (Part 2)
- November 14: The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (Part 1)
- November 21: The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (Part 2)
- November 28: Lefty, the Dingaling Lynx (Part 1)
- December 5: Lefty, the Dingaling Lynx (Part 2)
- December 19: Disney on Parade (Videotaped performance in Western Australia of the Australasian tour)
- January 8, 1972: Mountain Born (The show received an Emmy in 1971 for Special Classification of Outstanding Program and Individual Achievement – Programs, with Ron Miller as executive producer. It was also nominated in 1970 and 1972 but did not win.)
- January 20: The Wild Country
- March 17: The Barefoot Executive
- May 26: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (originally released in 1954; first reissue 1963)
- June 22: Scandalous John
- June 30: The Million Dollar Duck
- July 7: Pinocchio (originally released in 1940; reissued 1945, 1954, 1962)
- December 13: Bedknobs and Broomsticks
- December 17: Lady and the Tramp (originally released 1955; first reissue 1962)
- January 19, 1972: Song of the South (originally released 1946; first reissue 1956)
Two True Life Adventures films were reissued: The Living Desert and The Vanishing Prairie on a double bill (October 5). The People and Places short Switzerland was reissued December 17.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. The Sherman Brothers song "The Age of Not Believing" was nominated for Best Song, but lost to the theme song from Shaft. The Sherman Brothers were also nominated for Best Original Score, but lost to John Williams' score for Fiddler on the Roof.
The film was also nominated in the categories of Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction, but did not win either category. Actress Angela Lansbury was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical but did not win.
No new shorts were released in 1971 but several older ones were reissued for the first time:
- March 17: Cow Dog (1956 live-action short)
- May 12: Bearly Asleep
- May 12: Beezy Bear
- May 12: The Big Wash
- July 4: Pluto's Purchase
- July 7: Symphony Hour
- July 7: Daddy Duck
- July 7: Three for Breakfast
- July 13: Trick or Treat
- July 14: Double Dribble
- July 14: Primitive Pluto
- July 22: Mickey's Trailer
- July 22: How to Ride a Horse (second reissue)
- October 5: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (second reissue)
- October 22: Rugged Bear
The cartoon Bongo, which was originally part of the compilation feature Fun and Fancy Free (1947) was released as a short January 20.
Western Printing and Lithographing is often just referred to as Western Publishing and was based in Racine, Wisconsin. Western had a successful, long-standing relationship with Walt Disney Productions, beginning in 1933. They put together the stories and artwork for the Disney related comic books, but Dell Publishing actually financed and distributed the books so they were referred to as Dell Comics.
When Walt Disney Productions bought out Western Publishing's 13.8% investment share of Disneyland Park, Western used those significant profits to break off from Dell Publishing and start their own imprint called Gold Key in 1962. Western was also publishing Little Golden Books so that might have influenced the choice of the name.
After breaking from Dell, Gold Key maintained the rights to several licensed properties, including Disney, and continued to publish Disney-related comic books. In fact, Western entered an arrangement to prepare Disney comic book stories using the same writers and artists for foreign publications and these stories never appeared in the United States.
The following list is the Disney Gold Key comic books available on sale from September 1971 through January 1972. The comic books cost $0.15 cents and were 32 pages long. The Comics Digest cost $0.50 cents.
- Walt Disney's Comics and Stories No. 373
- Donald Duck No. 140
- Walt Disney's Comics and Stories No. 374
- Chip'n'Dale No. 13
- Walt Disney Huey, Dewey and Louie Junior Woodchucks No. 12
- Mickey Mouse No. 133
- Uncle Scrooge No. 96
- Walt Disney Showcase $6 (Bedknobs and Broomsticks)
- Walt Disney's Comics and Stories No. 375
- Walt Disney's Christmas Parade No. 9
- Super Goof No. 20
- Donald Duck No. 141
- Walt Disney's Comics and Stories No. 376
- Mickey Mouse No. 134
- Uncle Scrooge No. 97
- Walt Disney Comics Digest No. 32
- Walt Disney's Comics and Stories No. 377
- Lady and the Tramp No. 2
- Chip'n'Dale No. 14
- Huey, Dewey and Louie Junior Woodchucks No. 13
- Walt Disney Productions Presents The Aristokittens No. 2
- Donald Duck No. 142
- Walt Disney's Comics and Stories No. 378
At the time, comic books (because of their small profit to retailers compared with magazines) were having difficulties finding distribution outlets. Gold Key tried several different formats, including oversized comics, three comics bundled in a plastic bag, square bound paperback comic book collections, and the digest format.
The digest format had proven a gold mine for Archie Publications since the smaller size could be displayed near the checkout cash register at supermarkets, like issues of TV Guide magazine, for an impulse purchase and primarily, the contents relied on reprinted material saving on production costs.
Walt Disney Comics Digest was published for 57 issues from 1968 to 1976. The contents consisted (with few exceptions) mainly of reprints from the various previously published licensed Disney comics. Issue No. 32 is the only comic book that has the Disney characters exploring the newly opened Magic Kingdom in Florida and is 164 pages long.
For the collection of reprinted stories (re-using a Fantasyland story from a previous Disneyland comic book for instance) a new opening splash page was drawn by well-known Disney comics artist Tony Strobl (with the realistic backgrounds most likely done by artist Dan Spiegle, who drew some of the more realistic live action Disney comic book adaptations).
The book is filled with new and reprinted game pages and puzzles, as well. However, there were two original stories. One featured Scrooge McDuck going back to the Main Street of his youth drawn by Disney comics artist Pete Alvarado.
Alvarado also drew a 19-page Frontierland story where Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck go to enjoy the Country Bear Jamboree, except three of the bears (Ernest, Big Al and Teddi Barra) have disappeared and must be found for the show to go on. This is the only comic book appearance of these beloved Audio-Animatronics characters.
- Mickey Mouse (daily and Sunday) (Floyd Gottfredson and Manuel Gonzales artist; Del Connell writer)
- Donald Duck (daily and Sunday) (Frank Grundeen artist; Bob Karp writer)
- Scamp (daily and Sunday) (Mike Arens artist; Bill Berg writer)
- True Life Adventures (daily panel) (George Wheeler artist; Dick Huemer writer)
- Walt Disney's Treasury of Classic Tales (Sunday only): The Barefoot Executive (January 3-March 28); The Million Dollar Duck (April 4-June 27), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (July 4-October 31), The Living Desert (November 7-December 26)
Besides comic books, Western published Little Golden Books, coloring books, sticker books, paper doll books and more. Here is a Disney selection that appeared in 1971. Of course, the big film release that year was Bedknobs and Broomsticks so those were the majority of the publications.
Little Golden Books:
- Bedknobs and Broomsticks (D93)
- Surprise for Mickey Mouse (D105) (Has vintage WDW logo with a "Florida" pennant in upper left on cover): Mickey gets a telegram that he will be conducting the orchestra for the Mickey Mouse Revue at the Magic Kingdom so makes arrangements to travel there despite his friends seeming to be disinterested. When he arrives, he finds that all his friends are in the orchestra. That's the big surprise.
- Disneyland Parade with Donald Duck (D123)
- Bedknobs and Broomsticks: Big Golden Book (9"x 12")
- Bedknobs and Broomsticks: A Visit to Naboombu (Whitman Tell-A-Tale Book)
- Bedknobs and Broomsticks Paper Doll book (No. 1999-69): 6 pages of clothes, plus 2 pages of dolls, plus the London Village pop-out.
- Bedknobs and Broomsticks (Hardcover Whitman Adventure)
- Bedknobs and Broomsticks Disneyland Record and Book (LLP-364)
- A Visit to Walt Disney World coloring book (No. 1078): Mickey and Donald on cover rushing to Cinderella Castle
- A Visit to Walt Disney World coloring book (No. 1005-2): Five members of the Country Bear Jamboree band in an old fashioned convertible car with Henry driving.
- Pluto coloring book
- Mickey and Pluto coloring book
- The Million Dollar Duck coloring book
- The Million Dollar Duck paperback novelization
- Walt Disney World: Big Albert Moves In (Whitman Tell-A-Tale Book)
- Walt Disney World 4 Posters Book (Each Poster measures 20 3/4 Inches x 24 Inches. Posters Include: MICKEY MOUSE REVUE, WALT DISNEY WORLD, THE COUNTRY BEAR BAND & WALT DISNEY WORLD GAME)
- Mickey Mouse Revue Press Out Book
- Charlie the Lonesome Cougar (Scholastic Books)
- Disney's Wonderful World of Knowledge (Danbury Press)
- Walt Disney's Strange Animals of Australia (Golden Press)
Disneyland Records was started in 1956 by Jimmy Johnson and would be renamed Walt Disney Records in 1988. In 1971, the records division was proudly celebrating its 15th anniversary.
For Billboard magazine March 27, 1971, there was a multipage section of congratulatory advertisements, as well as an article by Johnson titled "It's A Walt Disney World 1971: The Disneyland Records Story" promoting the opening of Walt Disney World as well as the record releases for that year that primarily were connected to the film releases.
"Many of Disneyland Records all time best selling records are based on the Walt Disney time honored classics. Disneyland Records from these productions sell steadily year in and year out in America and around the world. When the Disney classics are re-released to theaters and television, a new or rekindled interest in the recorded versions results in a sharp rise in the sale of Disneyland records.
"We expect 1971 to be the biggest year we have ever enjoyed. Aristocats is already off and running at a pace much faster than Jungle Book. Scandalous John will have songs composed and performed by Rod McKuen with the soundtrack album on Vista. This summer will see the release of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, a new musical in the Mary Poppins tradition and, of course, in October, we'll be the opening of Disney World in Florida. More than 600,000 guests have visited the site to see a preview of the new 'Vacation Kingdom.'
"When Walt Disney World opens in October 1971, a new kind of vacation experience will be offered to families and visitors from around the world. Whether guests come for the day or plan to stay for their entire vacation, they'll find a whole new 'world' of recreation, entertainment and relaxation….they'll be in Walt Disney World, The Vacation Kingdom of the World."
Some of the Disney records released in 1971 include the following:
- Walt Disney World's Country Bear Jamboree (The first WDW attraction soundtrack containing the complete audio but with references to the corporate sponsors Pepsi-Cola and Frito-Lay deleted. Side Two contained the background music from Frontierland's Mile Long Bar.)
- The Hall of Presidents (Soundtrack of the attraction with original narration by Lawrence Dobkin, including the roll call ending with Richard Nixon. Includes an 11-page booklet.)
- Walt Disney World Band (Selections under the direction of WDW band director James Christensen)
- Mickey Mouse: This Is My Life (While marketed as a companion to the Mickey Mouse Revue attraction, the record actually features a long interview with Mickey Mouse performed by Jimmy Macdonald and songs from existing Disney albums rather than the show's soundtrack. It included an eleven page booklet on the history of Mickey Mouse.)
- The Story of Black Beauty (narrated by Robie Lester)
- Louis Armstrong: The Wonderful World of Walt Disney
- The Mouse Factory Presents Mickey and His Friends (Previously released material from various Mickey Mouse Club and Disney Character albums)
- The Orange Bird (Anita Bryant and the Mike Sammes Singers)
- Scandalous John (soundtrack, Rod McKuen)
- Bedknobs and Broomsticks (soundtrack)
- The Story and Songs from Bedknobs and Broomsticks (Dal McKennon narrates)
- Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies (Oddly, this record included no songs from the Silly Symphonies, series but re-used newly recorded versions of songs for the Disney Read-Along versions, including Lambert the Sheepish Lion, Susie the Little Blue Coupe, Willie the Whale, and nine more.)
Disney on Parade
This show was the second edition of the traveling arena stage show Disney on Parade and the theme was Snow White. Carolyn Stahl portrays Snow White on the cover of the program book.
The segments included Welcome to Our Laughing Place (all the Disney characters), Mickey's Band Concert (Mickey conducting "the world's most unusual instruments right out of the world of fantasy"), Pinocchio, Goofy and the Love Bug, Necessary Evil (the Disney villains), Barnyard Bash (Clara Cluck hosts "a farm jamboree set to rock'n'roll"), Fantasia (focusing on the Nutcracker Suite and Dance of the Hours), Goofy on the High Wire, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Small World, and the Finale.
Onna White (who had done Broadway's Music Man, Gigi and Mame) was listed as choreographer and "stager." Costumes were by Bill Justice and Bill Campbell and lighting by Bill Young. Michel M. Grilikhes was the primary producer and director for the show. While performed in the United States beginning with Madison Square Garden in New York, the show also toured overseas.
Australian television mogul Brian Treasure convinced the Disney organization that he could produce and mount, with their cooperation, a Disney on Parade arena show which would tour Australia in 1971.
Michael Edgley, the Bullen Brothers (who operated a circus) and many other smaller investors joined in to finance the project, as well as Western Australia's Channel 7 television. Many Australians were used in key roles joining the American cast and crew.
The opening show of the tour was housed in a giant tent on the Perry Lakes Rugby field and accommodated roughly 10,000 people and featured a huge thrust stage. Using an Australian crew, the show was filmed using videotape for a presentation on the Wonderful World of Disney television show hosted by Kurt Russell.
There were four editions of the show beginning in December 1969 and ending in 1973. Those who worked on the show jokingly referred to it as "Disney On Wood" after Feld Entertainment took over and produced Disney on Ice arena shows that were similar in concept.
So, even though the focus was on Walt Disney World, Walt Disney Productions still produced some interesting things.