by Guest Blogger: Jeremy Marx
On March 11, 2010, two of the most recognized musicians from the 20th century were recognized by the Walt Disney Company when they were given a window on Main Street USA in Disneyland.
While many might not recognize the name of Richard and Robert Sherman, their music is known by all. From the Annette Funicello’s 1959 #7 hit “Tall Paul”, to their two Oscar wins for their music in Mary Poppins, and the countless songs written for Disney attractions, television shows and movies, just about anyone will recognize a few of their songs.
I arrived later then I wanted that morning, and thus, I was at the back of the group closest to Town Square. Since the area closed off for the presentation was focused around the Music Store, the only way for guest traffic to get through to the rest of the park was on the west side of the street on the sidewalk, or up until 10 minutes prior to it starting, a roped off 6 foot wide path next to that on the street. The remainder of the road and the east side sidewalk was for guests and cast members to stand for the ceremony. As we waited, we could see a piano to one side a small band on the other, with quite a few rows of chairs setup for Richard Sherman and his family and guests. Looking around the corner to the right, we could see Richard sitting in the back seat of Walt’s electric car awaiting the start of the celebration.
Bert, in full chimney sweep attire, kicked it off with some modified wording to a few songs from “Mary Poppins” to bring out Richard Sherman and then introduced Disneyland Resorts President George Kalogridis.
George shared how the Sherman Brothers meet Walt Disney in 1960, where Walt asked the brothers to write a song for his upcoming movie, “The Parent Trap”. He mentioned that Richard and Robert wrote more musical scores then any other songwriters in the history of film. George then introduced us to two people that worked with the Sherman Brothers on “Carousel of Progress”, Mother and Father.
The crowd loved seeing these two characters! And to be honest, they stole the show! Mother and Father shared their history and story of their interactions with the Sherman Brothers, but there was no mention of their move to Walt Disney World. They sang several songs from attractions such as “it’s a small world”, “Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room”, “Journey into Imagination”, theme from “Wonderful World of Color”, “Voyage in Inner Space”, and even from their own “Carousel of Progress”, while acting out parts from them which had Mother dancing like she was in it’s a small world, and then floating around like a loose molecule. Their singing was light hearted and full of excitement. Everyone in attendance has having a good time enjoying the memories as they changed from song to song.
And yes Father, the robins are out again, and Mother still believes things can’t get any better then they are today!
When George Kalogridis stepped back up to the podium, he spoke about the Academy Awards that Richard and Robert won in 1964’s Mary Poppins for Best Score and Best Song. And this gave him the practically perfect opportunity to introduce Thomas Schumacher.
Thomas Schumacher summed up how so many of use feel about the Sherman Brothers music and how that over the years it has been woven into our collective DNA. Thomas said that as he was coming home from the premiere of Mary Poppins with “Feed the Birds”, which left an impression on him. He never thought he would get the chance to work with these men, but as luck would turn out, when he and a few others pitched the idea if bringing Mary Poppins to Broadway, Richard loved the idea. Ideas and projects like this will always bring the Sherman Brothers music to the forefront.
At the conclusion of his speech, Thomas introduced Marty Sklar as a Disney Legend who acts as if he hasn’t retired! He also mentioned that Marty has been a part of the opening of every Disney Park in the world, and that he has his own window on City Hall.
Marty Sklar wished he didn’t have to follow “Mr. Entertainment”, Thomas Schumacher, as he considers him to be even larger then himself. Marty spoke about his history working with the Sherman Brothers and what they have done for Disney and for what they have done for the parks and everyone around. He had a great way of summing it all up when it comes to Richard and Robert. “All the birds sing words and the flowers crone, (that) there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow because one little spark of imagination has been making memories and creating miracles from molecules in a world of laughter a world of tears wheres there’s just one moon and one golden sun and a smile means friendship to everyone”. Marty Sklar also believed that we could hear it just as he does, and I think he’s right!
Marty also spoke about a couple of other songs. His favorite, “Magic Journeys” from “Journey into Imagination”, and one that he believes Robert and Richard Sherman would like to forget, “The Astuter Computer Revue” in Epcot. He spoke about Richard and Robert being the words and songs for Walt’s dreams, and that as long as there are Disney Parks some where on earth, the Sherman Brothers music will always be heard.
Tom Staggs was welcomed to the podium by Marty, in which Tom wondered what Marty was talking about since he, Tom, had to follow two Disney Legends. “I figured they needed two legends and a suit… guess which one I am!”, said Tom. He spoke about the tradition that Walt started in 1955, in which people who were influential in Disney would be honored with a window on Main Street USA. Since Tom was the suit, he felt he needed help with presenting the window, so he brought out Mickey Mouse who brought up Richard Sherman.
This is where I was mistaken, believing the empty window, with no glass mind you, above the music store was where it would be located. I was surprised and very happy to see that not only did they get their window, but their window was in the door to the music store. The inscription reads, “Two Brothers Tunemakers, Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman Proprietors. We’ll write your tunes for a song”.
Tom then made a special announcement that we were going to get a surprise broadcast from London England and hear a message from Robert B. Sherman.
Mother and Father came out and thanked “Progress” for giving us something called a radio. As they turned the dial on a early 1900’s radio to find the broadcast they wanted, each time they stopped another Sherman Brothers song was playing. When they finally found Robert’s station we got to hear him say, “It is such a feeling to be honored this way with a window on Main Street Disneyland. It’s an enduring legacy and an acknowledgement that my bother Richard and I have contributed, and it is a testament to the notion that when we ,(scrambled), inspiration and a lot of perspiration your dreams can become like this. Fifty years ago, my brother and I were welcomed into the greater Disney family with Walt himself. Today would not be complete with out thanking Walt for giving two young songwriters their first big break. Thanks Walt. Lastly, I want to thank and acknowledge my brother, Richard. I can think of no greater collaborator. Thank you Richard…”
Richard was finally brought up to share a few words with everyone. Richard was at a loss for just a moment, and then preceded by talking about his friend Milt Larsen. Milt was the kind of friend that wanted Richard to have a good day, so he took him to Disneyland. This was about three months after it opened in 1955. He said that when he walked through the gates, the pressures and problems of the world just slipped away. It was the most wonderful day he had ever spent up to that time. (I will agree with Richard here. This is exactly why I love coming to the parks!) There was a scene in Mary Poppins where Mr. Banks was saying, “A man has dreams of walking with giants. To carve his niche in the edifice of time”. Richard believes that he and Robert have now done that, and we all completely agree.
Richard then said that he wanted to play Walt’s favorite song, “Feed the Birds”. What a wonderful way for him to finish.
To close it all out, Mary Poppins and Bert came out and sang “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”. When the song was completed George Kalogridis came back up and thanked everyone for coming and wished the park could be opened like that every day.
Having the incredible experience to be in Disneyland on this day is so hard to describe. I had only heard about it the night before as I was leaving the D23 1st Anniversary Event from a friend of mine. The music they wrote, whether you know their names are not, has been around us for over forty years. “it’s a small world” has been heard, or is at least known by people from every corner of the world. Mary Poppins is a house hold name, and the songs have been sung by adults and children alike since 1964.
Marty was right when he said the Sherman Brothers let us know, “All the birds sing words and the flowers crone, (that) there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow because one little spark of imagination has been making memories and creating miracles from molecules in a world of laughter a world of tears wheres there’s just one moon and one golden sun and a smile means friendship to everyone”. Thank you Richard and Robert Sherman for the memories, the songs, and the joy that you have given all of us for so many years.