Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Jungle Cruise and AWOL Airwaves

Updated on July 4, 2020. Thanks to TheMellowPumpkin for helping pin some of these down.

Today's post lies a bit outside our usual focus on this blog on the very early Magic Kingdom music loops, but by now our subject is widely considered a classic of its kind and it's been around for about half of the lifetime of the park. It's also subject to some widely-repeated misinformation, so it's time to crack open the Jungle Cruise queue music, also known as the A.W.O.L. Airwaves loop.

Prior to the 1990s, the Magic Kingdom Jungle Cruise did not have anything even vaguely resembling a "themed" queue. Much like the two Disneyland queues which came before it, the Jungle Cruise boathouse dock offered the promise of not standing in the sun, and that was about it. Closely patterned on the 1955 boathouse from Disneyland in everything but scale, the Magic Kingdom boathouse was a long trek past bare walls with little but the sounds of the jungle, passing boats, and the echoed sounds from "Downtown Adventureland" to amuse.

In 1991, the first wave of props arrived, and with it came the A.W.O.L. Airwaves track, supported by a new show scene in the far corner of the queue, a messy dispatch office. The new music loop, a peppy collection of early 1930s jazz and swing tunes is interspersed with various puns, quips, and announcements by Albert AWOL, "The Voice of the Jungle", went a long way towards establishing the just-left-of-serious tone of the adventure to follow.

A great deal of these musical selections are now in what could be called the "grey market".  Those who enjoy vintage music will be very familiar with this market segment. Music which no longer has any formal copyright holder to honor eventually will be released by any number of companies whom specialize in digitally scrubbing the recordings and releasing them on low-cost CDs of varying quality.

This means that the "source" for a lot of these tracks is impossible to conclusively pin down. WDI could have purchased any number of CDs of, say, the Coon Sanders Nighthawks to use in compiling their loop. As a result I've listed not only the title, but the year, length, and whenever possible the  serial number of the original 78 RPM shellac disc the song came from.

As is obvious from the list below, not all of the recordings can yet be traced to a specific disc release. More on this below.

Walt Disney World - Magic Kingdom
Adventureland - Jungle Cruise - Queue - 1991

01 "Here Comes My Ball and Chain" - The Coon Sanders Nighthawks - 1928 - 3:20 Victor 21812B 
02 "With Plenty of Money and You" - Dick Powell - 1937 - 2:30  
03 "Jeepers Creepers" - Louis Armstrong - 1939 - 2:39 Decca 2267
04 "Yes Yes" - Ambrose with Sam Brown and the Carlyle Cousins - 1931 - 2:48 Bluebird B-6818-B 
05 "Song of India" - Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra - 1926 - 2:53 Victor 18777-B 
06 "Its the Girl" - Boswell Sisters - 1931 - 3:10 Brunswick 6151 
07 "Rhythm King" - The Coon Sanders Orchestra - 1928 - 3:17 Victor 21891-B 
08 "Love Is Good For Anything That Ails You" - Ida Sue McCune - 1981 - 2:36 
09 "Harlem River Quiver" - Duke Ellington - 1927 - 2:46 Victor 21284-A 
10 "What A Girl, What A Night" - The Coon Sanders Nighthawks - 1928 - 2:59 Victor 21803-B
11 "Diga Diga Doo" - Duke Ellington - 1928 - 3:18 Okeh Electric 8602 
12 "Anything Goes Selections" - Paul Whiteman Orchestra / Ramona Healy & Hauser Laurence - 1934 - 4:18 Victor 36141-A 
14 "Let's Misbehave" - Irving Aaronson - 1928 - 2:56 Victor 21260-A
15 "Painting The Clouds With Sunshine" - Jack Hylton Orchestra - 1929 - 2:55 Victor 5722-B
16 "The Mooche" - Duke Ellington - 1928 - 3:13 Victor 24486-B
17 "The King's Horses and the King's Men" - Jack Hylton Orchestra - 1930 - 2:48 Victor 5875-B

The WDI-created loop is widely available and runs 47:30. In order to create the loop, WDI had to get very creative in editing the music. Certain songs had slow sections which had to be removed, while others had their vocal sections entirely omitted. The Cole Porter song "I Get A Kick Out Of You" had an entire verse dropped to exclude a reference to cocaine. As a result, the entire AWOL loop as it appears in park, with narration and breaks in the music for announcements every few minutes, has a shorter run time than all of the selected pieces of music played together. Certain songs were compressed, others extended. It's a very elaborate effort.

Since the "final WDI edit" is widely available, here are the songs as they appeared on the original 78 disc releases, unrestored. The "WDI mix" versions of these songs often includes a bit of ambient reverb, which changes the sound of the some of the songs considerably, and made identifying the Dick Powell track particularly challenging.

Now, let's get down to discussing some sources. I believe the following two LP releases form the "core sound" of the loop which WDI expanded out with further releases. Most of the selections seem informed by the sound of these vintage music collections:

"Pennies From Heaven", Dennis Potter's BBC series, and its American remake starring Steve Martin used Depression-era songs to counterpoint the down-and-out lives of its characters. The BBC original has gone on to become something of a classic while the American release was a boondoggle, so much so that I've never seen a single copy of the LP set without its' "Loaned for Promotion Only" foil stamp.

It's the American version which provides the heart of the loop, contributing "Yes, Yes!", "It's the Girl", and "Let's Misbehave". The British 3 LP set, which was released in 1990 and is now something of a collector's item, contributes the Jack Hylton "Painting The Clouds with Sunshine".

Ida Sue McCune on "Love Is Good For Anything That Ails You" I had previously believed to be a vintage recording, but I'm now convinced it was produced especially for the 1981 American film. It's one of only two tracks on the LP set that were not licensed from another studio, and both it and "Life Is Just A Bowl of Cherries" were arranged by Billy May, who we know for sure worked on the film. Ida Sue McCune's IMDb page lists her in the chorus for a number of TV shows in the 70s and 80s, so she was definitely active at this time. I wonder if she knows her voice is heard every day at Disney World?

Nate Grigg on Flickr
As for the rest, WDI could have worked off this 1972 LP compilation to get the three Coon Sanders Nighthawks tracks and this 1969 LP compilation for the early Duke Ellington tracks. "The King's Horses and the King's Men" seems totally obscure outside of this loop.

"With Plenty of Money and You", from Gold Diggers of 1937, could have come from any number of Dick Powell compilations released since the 1960s. The DAHR lists a release as Decca 1067, as does the Library of Congress, but I can't find any evidence that anybody actually owns one of these discs as a 78.

What's interesting to consider is that this loop and the associated propping and detail constitutes, as far as I know, the very first claim that the Jungle Cruise is set in a specific time period. Certainly the design of the boats and costumes are sufficiently vague as to be timeless; khaki looks pretty much the same no matter when you are. Certainly there's no reason why it couldn't be contemporary except for possibly the red fezes worn by the safari company trapped up a pole and a general attitude of cheerful superiority. And although the flipped vehicle at the safari camp site is a fantasy model produced by WED for the scene, the first Jeeps were not manufactured until 1941.

Is Adventureland, in general, supposed to be vintage or contemporary (meaning 1971 contemporary)? The Jungle Cruise itself was always of a vague era and skippers have been inserting contemporary pop references into their spiel since the earliest days. And then there's the fact that Clyde and Claude toucan across the street in the Sunshine Pavilion express knowledge of the Jungle Cruise, and their friends inside the show provide impersonations of Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong and Maurice Chevalier. And, yes, you could split hairs and claim that all three of those men were performing in the 1930s, but come on, they are digs at the circa-1963 personas of these performers.

Regardless, Jungle Cruise was clearly always a borderline case, and although the ride hasn't changed much, cultural attitudes have, so setting it "back" into an era of primitive adventures like King Kong makes scenes like black guys throwing spears at a boat slightly more palatable.

In 1993 and 1994, Disneyland also got the vintage treatment, plus a new boathouse and a specific date: June 1938, chosen to support the story of the nearby and complimentary Indiana Jones Adventure. Appropriate for the rougher and rambling queue and greater familiarity of the local audience with the tone of the ride, Disneyland's radio loop is much more contemplative and occasionally mysterious, with a stronger emphasis on swing instead of jazz.

Together, the two radio loops are two of the best placesetting pieces of music in any Disney park. And while the slow, leisurely Disneyland version is a masterpiece, it's the raucous Albert AWOL loop that I heard for years working the Jungle Cruise and it makes my heart sing. But then again, I'm sure some Disneyland skippers would disagree with me.

Ready for more? Visit the Passport to Dreams Theme Park Music Hub.
Or, hop a monorail to the past and spend a full "day" at the Walt Disney World of the 1970s by downloading Another Musical Souvenir of Walt Disney World.