Monday, February 27, 2012

Disneyland Records: The Cowardly Lion of Oz

For the uninformed: you might be thinking "Disney adapted a Ruth Plumy Thompson book?" Well... No. It says on the inside "Based on the book by Ruth Plumly Thompson," but there's Notta sign of Thompson's plot anywhere.

So, this album was the only one in which we had an entirely original story by the folks at Disneyland Records. Oz fans also seek this one out because some of the songs were originally intended for The Rainbow Road to Oz. Those wanting just the songs can also look for them on The Songs from the Wizard of Oz (Plus Songs About the Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion) album, in which they appear on the B side, albeit in a different order.

This was the hardest of the four Story and Songs albums for me to track down. I'd only once seen it on eBay and had had to pass on it then. Their Wizard of Oz and Tin Woodman (next time!) seem to be easy to find, while Scarecrow (which one fan told me he considered the rarest), I saw a copy at the Winkie Silent Auction last year and found two different copies online when I bought mine. I managed to find Cowardly Lion through an Amazon seller who had a really low price for it. Not only was the low price a draw for me, but I seriously couldn't find it anywhere else. Well, if any are rare, I'm glad to say I own one copy of each in my collection!

Now, onto the story. The Cowardly Lion lives in his palace, which he sings about in "Living A Lovely Life," which seems to have been one of the Rainbow Road songs. Then one day, he hears the Oz-alarm go off, alerting him that there's "Trouble in Oz" (another song), so he heads to Glinda's palace, where she tells him that Duke Grimwald of the Prattling Country (a neighboring country of Oz, I may have gotten the name wrong) has had Prince Paul turned into a puppet by Smarmy the Witch. The prince is prisoner of a puppeteer named Glarm, and Glinda wants the Cowardly Lion to find and rescue the Prince before Grimwald declares war on Oz so he can discredit the Prattling King Maydor and become king himself when he "rescues" Paul.

The Cowardly Lion sets out and meets a girl named Forget-Me-Not who forgets everything, including her own name. She's puzzling over an Ozphabet book, which the Cowardly Lion explains to her in the song "The Ozphabet." H is for Scarecrow, because he's hay-filled (which we know is inaccurate because the Scarecrow thinks hay is an inferior stuffing material); T is for Woodman, because he's made of tin; G is for Tea, because it's green; C is for Lion, because he's cowardly (or cute).

Forget-Me-Not is reminded that she saw a puppet show in a nearby town, so she joins the Cowardly Lion in his search. However, Smarmy pops up and defies the Lion, making him fall into a pit, and she sings "Just Call Smarmy." But Forget-Me-Not helps the Lion out when the witch leaves, and they soon enter the town.

They find the puppet show (which is performing a song called "The Puppet Polka"), and identify the puppeteer as Glarm. They make a tree outside the town their base and sneak back at night to find the Prince. Using a puppet-scope (one of many tools Glinda provided), they are able to identify the Prince and take him back to the tree.

At the tree, Forget-Me-Not discovers the doll she's been carrying with her and left at the tree to mark it as her base has had sap dripping on it. However, the doll begins to talk and says it's an enchanted Princess Flora, Prince Paul's fiancee. She further identifies Forget-Me-Not as a daughter of a Prattling courtier.

So, they decide they need to get the antidote for the enchantments from Smarmy, so they go back to Glarm, who tells them Smarmy is in his wagon. But when they foolishly enter, they are locked in and are told by an outside Smarmy that they will all be turned to puppets. However, the Lion whips out an Ozmagnatron that pulls Smarmy and Glarm through a hole into the wagon, knocking them out cold. A bottle marked "Antidote" falls out of Smarmy's pocket and is used to restore Paul and Flora.

Tying up the two villains, they head to Glinda's. Paul, Flora, and Forget-Me-Not are returned home, but not before King Maydor declares an Oziday, which is a holiday anywhere else. (In the Ozphabet, you find it under J for "joyous.") The Lion tells Glinda he wasn't so sure of himself at times, but she assures him with the song "If You'll Just Believe" (another Rainbow Road song) that she believed in him all the time.

If you remember my blog about Thompson's actual book The Cowardly Lion of Oz, I didn't like it that much. So, I think Disneyland Records did all right by opting not to adapt it.

Still, I do have to wonder if they licensed it as Thompson's name is on the record. While it's true anyone could title a story The Cowardly Lion of Oz, they would have no problems using it as long as they didn't use Thompson's material. But her name is on there! Still, Thompson had long thought Disney would find Oz a perfect venue, so if they did do any rights handling with her, she probably would have been thrilled. However, this is just speculation here.

The songs are pretty fun and enjoyable, but I think Side 1 has too many. "Living a Lovely Life" is too quickly followed by "Trouble in Oz." In fact, Side 1 doesn't have much of the plot, either. In the 11-page picture book the album opens into, the entire plot of the first side is told on the first two pages.

But overall, it's a pretty good story, Disney's The Cowardly Lion of Oz. Though it does beg the question, what on earth is the Cowardly Lion going to do with a lifetime pass to Disneyland?

(Sorry for the image quality. Since my scanner is not large enough to scan a record album, I had to photograph instead.)


Eric said...

Can I add a little more insight into the "authorship" of the "original" story that this was "adapted" from? Many years ago, the late, great Rob Roy MacVeigh shared with me the two copies of The Cowardly Lion of Oz that he had in his collection, both of which he'd probably bought new, or used from a local record shop. One has the original story properly attributed to Ruth Plumly Thompson, and the other to L. Frank Baum! Rob speculated that the Baum one was an earlier printing, and that later printings were corrected to Thompson. Of course, the real reason Disney did a record called The Cowardly Lion of Oz is that Dorothy's original three friends on the Yellow Brick Road were the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion...

Sam A M said...

Forget-Me-Not must have some sort of fascination with flowers, because nearly every picture I've seen of her has her smelling a flower . . . and just as how "Scarecrow" had Blinkie voiced by Madame Mim, I guess it's appropriate that Smarmy LOOKS more like her too.

I see Glinda has her same costume (well, on closer examination, ALMOST Identical) from Disney's "Wizard" record story album BUT now the gown is colourful instead of white (and has different patterning and placements). She looks a bit younger, though . . .

Anonymous said...

I am THRILLED to have finally found this album!!! I am 45 years old and have not seen or heard this album since my childhood because this must have been lost in our moves overseas (or my Father passed it on :(. I have often thought of this album wishing to see it again or at least remember it's title--I was too young, could barely read. All I remembered was it was a big record (33), had lots of white on the cover, was about a mean witch and something with a tree and it was a scary story to me but obviously it drew me in! So last night after 3 hours searching on the internet, I finally came across the Just call Smarmy song and could listen on utube to the original recording--yes, that was what I remembered!! Thank you for posting some pages from the book--the tree part was of course the crying doll propped up on the tree trunk. Funny but I totally did not remember the lion but I now totally recognize the witches funny shoes, the crying doll consoled by Forget-me-not, the wooden trailer, how Smarmy gets sucked out the window (that may have been traumatizing part) and the villains tied up on the chair at the end). It would be such a treat to hear and see all of it again! I'm just thankful for my sanity I finally solved this annoying little mystery in my life!! Thanks again--I can now resume my life!!