Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Playlist: Song Origins of Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room

The Original 1963 Attraction Poster for Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room
Image Courtesy of Gorillas Don't Blog
© Disney

Last year I wrote about the Hawaiian tiki craze that swept the continental United States during the 1950s and 1960s in a post on Disneyland's Tahitian Terrace. The Polynesian dining and show space opened in 1962, providing just a hint of the South Seas culture to come to the park one year later. On June 23, 1963 Disneyland presented their first full Audio-Animatronic show directly adjacent to the Tahitian Terrace: Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room. The original Disneyland musical show has stood the test of time, and remains a must-see attraction for many visitors to Walt's original park.

Detail of 1963 Disneyland Front Gate Brochure for The Enchanted Tiki Room
Image Courtesy of Critiki
© Disney

There are generous resources in print and online regarding the history and influence of the attraction itself, so this post will focus on the origins of the songs performed in the original 1963 Enchanted Tiki Room show. Like the other playlist entries on I Can Break Away, there is a set of links to audio of all the songs at the end of the post and a FREE direct download to an MP3 for readers to enjoy. We'll begin with a breakdown of each song in the show, and the story behind themlet's dive in!

United Air Lines Sponsored Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room From 1963 to 1976
Image Courtesy of Vintage European Posters
Advertisement Illustration by Stan Galli (Circa 1960)
© United Air Lines, Inc.

The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room

As guests file into Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room from the outdoor lanai, they await the arrival of a hostess who lightly nudges José, one of four colorful host parrots who sit stationary on bamboo perches. The bird comes to miraculous life, muttering "My siestas are getting 'chorter and 'chorter!" With that, he calls upon his fellow emcees and the bird cast is introduced in the rollicking theme song of the Audio-Animatronic show.

This signature song "The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room" was included rather late in the development of the Enchanted Tiki Room show: it has since become a signature tune within the berm of Disneyland and other Disney theme parks around the globe. The song came into being simply because the show required a reason to explain just what the Tiki Room actually is.

June 20, 1963 Article From The Los Angeles Times: Walt Disney and Hostess Diana Lai Start the Show at a Press Preview of The Enchanted Tiki Room
Image Courtesy of Kevin Kidney on Tiki Central

In 1962, Walt Disney asked several members of his creative staff to report to Stage 2 of the Burbank Studio. There, a full mock-up of a new project for Disneyland had been assembled: the theme was a tropical hut in a South Seas setting. Standard tropical trappings of bamboo and rattan matting were accented by stuffed birds on perches, exotic plants, and comically carved tiki totems. When all in attendance settled down on folding bridge chairs, the presentation began... the once stationary decor suddenly came to life as birds chirped, flowers sang, and tiki totems chanted.

Walt Disney Chats With Juan, the Enchanted Tiki Room's "Barker Bird"
Photo Courtesy of Disney Dispatch
© Disney

When the presentation concluded, everyone agreed the show was unique, but came across as a non-sequitur performance. There was nothing established to encapsulate what they had just witnessed. Walt clarified that was the very reason he'd gathered them, stating: "It's a great show, but nobody knows what the damn thing is all about."

He then turned to the Sherman Brothers, who had been requested to attend, and asked "Any ideas, boys?" Ever quick on their feet, the songwriting duo cooked up the germs of what would become the signature framework of the new show:

The Sherman Brothers
Photo Courtesy of Examiner.com
© Disney
"[W]e suggested that an articulate parrot could sing a song to set up the show. In fact, we continued, he could even act as the emcee! The song could be done in a calypso beat'The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room.' It has a sound you could remember. And Walt bought the idea, just like that, adding: 'Instead of one parrot emcee, we'll have four, with French, Spanish, German, and Irish accents.' He always had a way of plusing a good idea."
– Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman,
Walt's Time
From Before to Beyond

The new presentation format of four host birds, and the Sherman's rhythmic chant of the work "Tiki" worked perfectly to gel the show's unusual elements. They established the lyrics and basic melody of "The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room," with a memorable calypso beat. The orchestrations for the song was provided by Walt Disney Productions musical stalwart, George Bruns. Bruns had a remarkable way of squeezing energy and emotion out of musicians from the smallest combo to the full orchestra.
George Bruns
Photo Courtesy of The CinemaScore & Soundtrack Archives
© Disney

Those familiar with the scores for Walt's animated films of that era will recognize signature trademarks and cues that pure Bruns. In fact, Bruns utilized several music cues in Walt Disney's The Sword in the Stone (1964) that mimic his orchestration from The Enchanted Tiki Room—both were in production at the same time.

Jacket Art for Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room Original Soundtrack LP From Disneyland Records (1968)
Image Courtesy of DisneylandRecords.com
© Disney

The first track listed at the end of the post is the original version of "The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room," and the only audio from the actual show (since it was an original composition.)

The "Offenbach Number"

As the roisterous opening song is completed, an angelic bird's whistling signals the start of the infamous "Offenbach Number"—an opera selection performed completely in whistles and chirps. This portion of the show has been cut from the The Enchanted Tiki Room since the 1980s. 

Tiki Bird Michael's Famous Cut Dialogue:
"You Stay Off'n My Bach and I'll Stay Off'n Yours!"
Photo © by Dan Cunningham

The Offenbach song was considered a dramatic slow-down in energy: a two-and-a-half minute downshift which longtime W.E.D. Designer John Hench simply labeled as "boring." Hench noted that he often witnessed audience members losing interest and walking out of the show during that particular sequence. Luckily, the origin of the song has a bit more character than that!

Jacques Offenbach Composed Nearly 100 Operettas in His Lifetime
Image © & Courtesy of Offenbach Portraits

The song was composed by Jacques Offenbach, a prolific impresario of the romantic period. Originally written for his 1864 opera Die Rheinnixen (The Rhine Nixies or The Rhine Fairies) the tune was featured in Act 3 as "Elfenchor" ("The Elves Song") played against a flurry of elves and spirits in a forest setting.

The same melody resurfaced in Offenbach's final opera: Les contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann) in 1881, this time as the song "Barcarolle." The title comes from the Italian word barcarola, defined as a folk song sung by Venetian gondoliers, or a song written in the same style of meter, resembling the rhythmic oar strokes of the gondolier.

A Modern-Day Production of Jacques Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffman
Image © & Courtesy of Kollectium

The official track listing from the 1968 Enchanted Tiki Room LP album is listed as "Elfenchor from Die Rheinnixen." I've provided links to two Offenbach tracks at the end of the post: "Overture" from Die Rheinnixen and "Barcarolle" from The Tales of Hoffman... it's basically the same melody, but both are offered for the sake of context.

Let's All Sing Like The Birdies Sing

"Look! Here Come the Girls!"
Photo © by Dan Cunningham

In the next act, José and the host birds draw attention to the center of the room, where the magic fountain's water spout rises to beckon the descent of an elaborate "birdmobile"a chandelier-like carriage featuring a flock of lovely, white female cockatoos. The introduction of the girls signal the next number, an old favorite which encourages the audience to join in and sing along.

English Sheet Music for "Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing" (1932)

Pianist Tolchard Evans had already experienced tremendous success as a songwriter by 1926 with the song "Barcelona," and in 1931 for the accordion standard "Lady of Spain," in a collaborative effort with Stanley J. Damerell and Robert Hargreaves.

Evans, Damerell and Hargreaves, along with Harry Tilsley struck gold again in 1932 with "Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing." Bearing no romantic, national or religious associations, "Birdies" is an early example of a hit novelty song, preceding Bob Merrill's chart-topping "(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?" by twenty years.

Their bird song became a favorite in English pubs and taverns thanks to it's playful melody and interactive sensibilityit's certain that the song was also performed within traditional English Music Halls (England's equivalent of Vaudeville.)

Sing-Alongs Have Always Been Wildly Popular in English Taverns and Pubs
Image © & Courtesy of Early Blues

Once heard, "Birdies" is easy to remember, so it's understandable how it caught on so well in a pub or theater setting. Due to the sheer simplicity and singability, the popular song quickly found it's way west, receiving it's first recording in the United States by radio personality Ben Bernie and His Orchestra in 1933.

A Vintage Recording of "Let's All Sing Like The Birdies Sing" by Bert Ambrose and His Orchestra is the Free MP3 on This Playlist
Photo Courtesy of Kicking the Moon Around

The recording of "Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing" included in the link below is a FREE MP3 courtesy of archive.org, performed by (Bert) Ambrose and his Orchestra. This version is a early English recording, with a playful stuffiness that makes the song even more fun.

Hawaiian War Chant

As our avian chorus chirps and warbles the finish of their last number, ornate canoe-shaped baskets slowly drop from the thatched ceiling. Within the containers are bunches of singing Hawaiian orchidstheir melody is backed up by several stalks of clacking Bird of Paradise plants in each corner of the Tiki Room. The botanicals build from a soothing lullaby to a buoyant rendition of the famous "Hawaiian War Chant."

Colorful Baskets of Singing Orchids Begin "Hawaiian War Chant"
Photo Courtesy of Daveland
© Dave DeCaro

The original rendition of the "Hawaiian War Chant" wasn't composed as a chant at all. In fact, the song had an entirely different name and context: the original melody and lyrics were written in 1860 by Hawaiian Prince William Pitt Leleiohoku II as "Kaua i ka Huahua'i" ("We Two in the Spray.") Leleiohoku's song centered around a surreptitious meeting between two lovers, a composition with no connection to conflict or war (beyond the fact that the lovers are in the throes of an adulterous affair.)

Prince William Pitt Leleiohoku II's Original Composition of "Hawaiian War Chant" Had Nothing to Do With War
Photo © & Courtesy of Hawaii Alive

In the early 1930s, English lyrics were written by Ralph Freed, with a slight melody and tempo rearrangement by Johnny Noble, the band leader at Honolulu's Moana Hotel. Noble's faster pace and jazz beat rendition lent to the notion of becoming a chant—his version helped popularize the song via radio broadcasts and recordings. "Hawaiian War Chant" became cemented in popular culture when it was performed by Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra in the 1942 MGM musical comedy Ship Ahoy.
"Hawaiian War Chant" Was Performed by Tommy Dorsey in MGM's Ship Ahoy (1942)
Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
Poster Art © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

As the Tiki Craze of the 1950s and 1960s permeated pop culture, "War Chant" could be heard frequently on the mainland, from exotic bars to episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. The song remain as one of the most iconic representations of Hawaiian culture today—it is still regularly performed at resorts and live performances throughout the 50th state. 

Bora Bora (Tahitian Drums)
Tikis Play The Drums
Photo © by Dan Cunningham

The singing flowers are interrupted by a change of lighting, the mood shifts with a sudden beating of tribal drums, as four trios of tiki drummers in the recessed corners of the Tiki Room begin to furiously play, calling forth the totems that flank them to begin their imposing incantation of the "Hawaiian War Chant" lyrics. The tiki totems recite with shifting eyeballs and blink with convincing realism (with both eyelids!) as the tempo builds ever faster.

The entire room builds to a stunning climax of "Chant," summoning sudden thunder, lightning and a heavy rainstorm as seen through the bamboo window shades of the Enchanted Tiki Room: all of it's inhabitants now fully alive. Fulton Burley as Tiki Bird Michael sums up the freak change in weather best, by uttering: "The Gods have been angered by all the celebratin'!"
Simple Movements Breathe Life Into the Enchanted Tiki Room Totems
Photo © and Courtesy of Flickr User Leslie K.

There are three selections listed below as inspirations for this sequence. First is the traditional "Hawaiian War Chant" by Andy Iona, which reflects Leleiohoku's original romantic rendition. The second is traditional island drumming by The Polynesians to mark the transition to the rainstorm. The third is an Ella Fitzgerald's cover of "Hawaiian War Chant" to provide a swinging example of Ralph Freed's English lyrics and Johnny Noble's pacing.

Aloha 'Oe (Farewell to Thee)

The sudden storm heads out to sea and calm is restored to the Tiki Room. Right before the "Farewell and Aloha" conclusion song written by the Sherman Brothers (which is a quick wrap-up of what guests have just seen)—another Hawaiian standard glides in beneath the dialogue of the birds. In fact, it's likely the most iconic musical example of Hawaiian culture: "Aloha 'Oe (Farewell to Thee)"

"Aloha 'Oe (Farewell to Thee)"
Image Courtey of Authentic History

The composition of "Aloha 'Oe" was a accidental, yet serendipitous one, by Queen Liliʻuokalani, the last Hawaiian monarch. There are varying accounts as to the origin of the song, but the most widely accepted rendition of the story is as follows:

In 1878, Queen Lili'uokalani visited the Maunawili Ranch in Oahu, where Colonel James Harbottle Boyd resided. As she departed for home on horseback, she turned to admire the view of Kaneohe Bay only to catch a glimpse of Boyd and a young lady affectionately bid each other farewell. The sight struck an emotional chord with Lili'uokalani who began softly humming on the trip back to Honolulu. By the end of their journey, the entire horseback party was humming the tune.

Queen Liliʻuokalani, the Last Hawaiian Monarch
Photo Courtesy of Hawaii For Visitors

Lili'uokalani was no stranger to writing or song compositions, she had composed over 150 songs, including "He Mele Lahui Hawaii" ("The Song of the Hawaiian Nation") which served as one of Hawaii's early national anthems. The Queen drafted a manuscript for "Aloha 'Oe" containing the score, lyrics and English translation, including a note stating "Composed at Maunawili, 1878. Played by the Royal Hawaiian Band in San Francisco August 1883 and became very popular."

Updated English lyrics were written in 1923 by J. WIll Callahan, who extended the title with the parenthetical "Farewell to Thee." Since then, "Aloha 'Oe" has become a signature song of the state of Hawaii, used in countless live performances and recorded for radio, film and television productions. The original sentiment remains as a fond embrace "until we meet again."
Mokoli'i Island (a.k.a. Chinaman's Hat) Lies Just Off of Kaneohe Bay, the Setting for the Original Farewell That inspired "Aloha 'Oe"
Photo Courtesy of Flickr User LeAnne Kilman

The track listed below is by George Kulokahai and His Island Serenaders, theirs serves as an exemplary rendition of Lili'uokalani's first impression of the tender interaction off Kaneohe Bay.

The Tiki Birds compel their audience to stand up and applaud, guiding them to the exit doors by singing a familiar tune from the Walt Disney songbook. Some clever re-tooled lyrics to the beloved Seven Dwarfs marching song "Heigh-Ho" leads guests out the door as the inhabitants of the Enchanted Tiki Room reset for their next show.

This is an early example of Disney's staff winking to the audience by being self-aware, which was as uncommon in 1963 as it is common in 2014. "Heigh-Ho" was composed by Frank Churchill and written by Larry Morey for Walt Disney's first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937.

Much like "Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing" it is deceptively simple, and one of Disney's best known. The prelude to the tune is the "Dig-a-Dig Dig" introduction, which leads into "Heigh-Ho" signaling the end of the Dwarf's workday in the jewel-rich mine.

Heigh-Ho: The Seven Dwarfs Marching Home Remains One of Most Memorable Sequences in Animation History
Image Courtesy of Disney Theory
© Disney

The animated sequence is a beautiful thing to witness, both artistically and as a perfect introduction to the characters: it remains just as memorable as the song itself. "Heigh-Ho" appeared as recently as June 2014 when The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train attraction opened in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

The track listed is from the 2001 re-mastered soundtrack of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, containing the original "Dig-a-Dig Dig" leading into "Heigh-Ho" as it appeared in the 1937 film.
Album Art for Song Origins of Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room Playlist

Each song listed below is available on Amazon.com and iTunes. As usual, direct links to albums for both stores are provided below the description of each song, where you can listen to audio samples and purchase those that you might like to create your own South Seas/Tiki playlist. As usual, I don't get a piece of the profits if you make a purchasethe links are there to make things easy. While sampling, you might discover some new favorites for your music library.

The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room
Artist: Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman
Album: The Official Album of the Disneyland Resort (2013 Edition)
Amazon  |  iTunes

Die Rheinnixen: Overture
Artist: Gulbenkian Orchestra
Album: Offenbach: Music From the Operettas
Amazon  |  iTunes

Offenbach: Les Contes d'Hoffman/Act 4Entr'acte (Barcarolle)
Artist: Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Album: Barcarolle—Favorite Opera Intermezzi
Amazon  |  iTunes

Let's All Sing Like The Birdies Sing
Artist: Ambrose and His Orchestra 

Hawaiian War Chant
Artist: Andy Iona
Album: Hawaiian Memories
Amazon  |  iTunes 

Bora Bora (Tahitian Drums)
Artist: The Polynesians
Album: Hawaiian Serenade
Amazon  |  iTunes

Hawaiian War Chant (Ta-Hu-Wa-Hu-Wai)English Version
Artist: Ella Fitzgerald
Album: Ultra-Lounge Vol. 15-Wild, Cool, & Swingin' Too!
Amazon  |  iTunes

Aloha 'Oe (Farewell to Thee)
Artist: George Kulokahai and His Island Serenaders
Album: The Music of Hawaii
Amazon  |  iTunes

Artist: The Dwarf Chorus
Album: Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Amazon  |  iTunes 

Song Origins of Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room LINKS

A Portrait of Tolchard Evans and Stanley Damerell

The Comprehensive Site on Disneyland Records

"Hawaiian War Chant" Lyrics

Hawaiian Nobility Portraits via Hawaii Alive (Downloadable PDF)

Los Angeles Travel Art of the Golden Age—United Air Lines

If you've enjoyed this look at the origins of the songs behind The Enchanted Tiki Room, I recommend a visit to FoxxFur's Passport to Dreams Old & New—her 2013 three-part series on the musical history of The Country Bear Jamboree is a comprehensive look at the songs and artists behind the 1971 Audio-Animatronic show designed for Walt Disney World.

Read all about it here:
The Music of Country Bear Jamboree: Part I 

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