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Buddy_Baker2.jpg  George_Bruns2.jpg
Buddy Baker (left) and George Bruns (right).


COMMENT - Buddy Baker and George Bruns - Disney's Underscore Geniuses
by B.J. Major
12/24/11


Anyone who has followed Disney music knows these two names; they are legion in the field.  Together, they provided music for Disney feature-length films, tv shows, Disney park promotional films and park attractions.  Their styles are sometimes close in sound; other times, you can easily tell them apart.

George Bruns was at the Disney studio first and is perhaps most famously known for composing the top hit "The Ballad of Davy Crockett".  Among his work is also the song "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" (which he co-wrote with X. Atencio), used in the Disney theme park attraction Pirates of the Caribbean.  But he did so much more, writing a lot of the underscore for The Mickey Mouse Club tv show, and adapting the classical Sleeping Beauty for Walt's animated feature in the late 50s, among writing other underscores (Robin Hood, The Aristocats, The Sword in the Stone).  But my favorite of all is the underscore he wrote for Disney's The Jungle Book.  This underscore is just packed with mood music that really does sound like the jungle, with its beat, bass flute and lush strings throughout.   I could listen to it forever and never tire of it.  Ironically, one of the first pieces used in the film was written before the rest of the underscore, a piece used in the 1964-65 New York World's Fair called "Serengeti Serenade".  It definitely set the tone and mood for what was to come in the 1966 Jungle Book film.  George was also an accomplished brass player (trombone and tuba) and is seen playing trombone on camera in the "Back Stage Party" episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color.  George arranged and conducted the music for Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, and conducted The Country Bear Jamboree soundtrack as well.  For the World's Fair in New York, he also wrote the underscore for Ford's Magic Skyway.

At the time George Bruns was the studio's main composer, some assistance was definitely needed with the workload.  George and Buddy Baker knew each other professionally and George contacted Buddy about coming to work for the Disney studio.  In Buddy's words, he went to assist "for two and a half weeks and wound up staying 28 years."  Buddy's work for the studio is so memorable on so many levels.  For Disney park attractions, he was responsible for the underscoring of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (which also premiered at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair) and later on for Walt Disney World, The Hall of Presidents.   Other park attractions to which he contributed underscores and/or arrangements were It's A Small World, Adventure thru Inner Space, Carousel of Progress and America Sings.  The famous theme of The Haunted Mansion, "Grim Grinning Ghosts" was written by Buddy and X. Atencio.  Buddy was also the musical director for EPCOT Center.  He arranged a wonderful medley of classical French themes to make a magnificent soundtrack for the French pavilion's movie, Impressions of France.  Buddy also wrote much of the underscore for many episodes of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color.   One of my very favorite Buddy Baker works is the underscore he wrote for the 1972 promo film The Magic of Walt Disney World which few people seem to have seen and even fewer remember today.  But I remember it very well and the music for this film just jumped out at me and took me along for the ride on the monorail and gave me a guided tour of the Magic Kingdom, hotels, campground, and even some thrilling water skiing.

What is probably the most memorable for me personally (and another favorite, very high on my list) is the work both George Bruns and Buddy Baker did which wound up being used in Walt Disney's final tv appearance; the one where he talks about "the Florida project" (a/k/a The EPCOT film) in late 1966.  These individual pieces of underscore music were mostly written for other projects (most noteably The World's Fair in 1964 and Disneyland tv episodes), but putting them all together as the background for the narration of Walt's dream for the future was nothing short of genius - and really adds to the presentation in a most meaningful way.  Here is one place where it's hard to tell where George ends and Buddy begins.  Or vice versa!  Their themes weave almost interchangeably with each other and compliment each other perfectly.  There is something about these pieces of music that just screams "future", "optimism", "hope" and "great living".  It's a future I so wanted to be a part of!  The individual pieces of music I am referring to are titled: 
Mysteries of the Atom (Baker), The Skydome Spectacular (Baker), Medallion City (Baker/Sherman Brothers), Progress City (Baker/Sherman Brothers), Progressland Spectacular (Baker/Sherman Brothers), Mirror Maze (Baker/Sherman Brothers), Join the Swing (Bruns), Nation on Wheels (Bruns), World of Tomorrow (Bruns), Disneyland '61 (Bruns).

I would have liked to thank these two musicians in person for all their many contributions to Disney music - but since they have passed on, I'll have to do it here.  Thank you, George and Buddy, for some of the most enjoyable and inspirational music that I have had the privilege to listen to in my life.


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