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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

First Quality, Second Cast

It's enough to make one crazy; a vivid memory of Alice from Alice in Wonderland with a different voice or thinking Sleeping Beauty's Aurora was voiced by Darlene Gillespie from The Mickey Mouse Club. A quick Google search reveals that Aurora's voice was provided by Mary Costa, so any memory of a different Aurora must be wrong. Right?

Actually, anyone of a certain age who was a kid before VHS can be excused for this confusion. While Alice and Aurora were voiced by Kathryn Beaumont and Mary Costa in the classic animated films, Darlene Gillespie provided their voices on DISNEYLAND Records' "Second Cast Albums" which is probably the source of confusion. After all, before kids could watch their favorite movies at home, they often had just one opportunity to see the film in theaters. If a family member purchased the "Second Cast Album" for them, that recording became their only way to relive the film, becoming more ingrained in their memories than the actual film itself. 

So what were these faux soundtracks and why did Disney release them? The exact reasons were complicated and varied. It could be that the studio didn't tie down the recording rights from the voice actors, but the public still begged for a release. Sometimes the songs from the original soundtrack were choppy or unsuitable for a recording; after all, Mr. Disney insisted that music suit the action on the screen and sometimes that didn't translate well to a recording. In any case, the studio still wanted to meet demand, therefore a "Second Cast Album" was commissioned. Walt Disney insisted on top quality in everything the studio produced, so rather than throw out cheaply produced recordings, he commissioned the immensely talented Salvatore "Tutti" Camarata to produce these albums.

Mr. Camarata was known for his lush orchestrations and ability to draw the best from the singers and musicians he worked with. He never skimped on the talent he hired to make these albums and often experimented with different techniques to get the results he sought.

It was this dedication to quality that made these albums so beloved. To many, Mr. Camarata's orchestrations were better than those from the film and what could have been cheap quickie cash ins became classics in and of themselves. 

Sadly, the company didn't treat these recordings with the same reverence it did the original soundtracks. Dismissed as "copies" that had been created to solve legal issues, these recordings were stuck in the vault for many years. When a CD on demand system that had been setup at DISNEYLAND to produce personalized soundtracks of theme parks sounds was due to be removed, an enterprising Walt Disney Records producer named Randy Thornton decided to save it by proposing that the machines be used to create CDs on demand featuring hard to find catalog selections- like Mr. Camarata's almost-forgotten second cast albums. The response was huge.

The archive titles eventually overwhelmed the system and the music was transferred over to iTunes, where they are still available. The greatest part of this story is that Mr. Camarata was alive to see his Disney works get the recognition they deserved. By a strange coincidence, he passed away exactly ten years ago yesterday- something that we here at RetlawYensid.Com didn't realize until we began writing this article. Perhaps we received some heavenly guidance for today's article; in any case, thank you Mr. Camarata for sharing your talent with the world.