Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Mysterious "Bridge" Loops

Today, we're going to go on something of a side-quest from our usual BGM music discussions here, to cover some ground we've trod before. But it's such an odd topic, and so little is known about it, that I thought it'd be useful here to combine everything I know into one easy to reference post. I'm speaking of those mysterious "Bridge" music loops used at Magic Kingdom in the very early days.

It seems that at one point, Magic Kingdom used specially created pieces of music to play in very specific areas to "bridge" the themed areas of the park. Very little is known about these, except that they existed, and a handful have come to light in the last few years.

That's the kind of generalities that send histotrically minded folks like me running for our salt shakers, and indeed my first reaction to the idea of bridge loops was a similar "very interesting, but only if I could prove it!". I believe Mike Cozart was the first to point these out to me, although it took a long time for me to understand exactly what they were. Well, here's everything I know.

One of the frustrating aspects of these loops is that they were more of a feature than a rule - it seems as if Tomorrowland had no music playing around its entrance, which perhaps makes sense given that area's huge waterfalls which should have been the focus of everyone's attention. However, here as everywhere, it's worth pointing out that even had music been playing, it's possible that it would have been very hard to hear anyway. I dig into this problem a bit deeper in my Early Music of Tomorrowland post, but it's important to remember that we are not dealing with absolutes here.

One piece of the puzzle that began to change my thinking about these mysterious "bridge music" pieces was the revelation that Disneyland had the same thing, as far back possibly as Walt's era. If you think about it carefully, there's one very famous "bridge loop" attributed to Walt - the recording of "When You Wish Upon A Star" that plays inside Sleeping Beauty Castle. What is this but a piece of music that "bridges" two areas?

And if we accept that Sleeping Beauty Castle played music around its main entrance, then it's not too unreasonable to assume that other areas did, too. Disneyland music historian Chris Lyndon has recreated several of these minute long snippets at his website, and both his recollection of them and the music used for them definitely passes the 'smell test' in terms of arguing for a vintage date.

If we go deeper down the rabbit hole, we can even find remnants of these loops still in use at Disneyland today. Those who purchased the 2005 "A Musical History of Disneyland" set may remember an inexplicable version of "Battle Cry of Freedom" attributed to Frontierland that even the liner notes seem to be at a loss to explain. As it turns out, this was part of a loop which replaced the original Frontierland bridge loop recreated by Chris Lyndon - composed entirely of music recorded for Ken Burns' The Civil War documentary series!

So, what can we say about Magic Kingdom's bridge loops? Well, if you think about it carefully, there's still three of them in use at the park today. There's the music that plays inside Cinderella Castle, the music that plays outside the Mad Tea Party, and the music that plays under the Columbia Harbour House between Liberty Square and Fantasyland.

It's this last one that's most instructive in terms of setting expectations here. Modern theme park music is pervasive, properly balanced, and enveloping; the very early park music tracks were not. Very often they just played out of a few randomly placed speakers in case anybody happened to notice them. Disney was still inventing this as they went along; the first theme parks with really consistent musical backgrounds were EPCOT Center and Tokyo Disneyland.

Here's the Magic Kingdom bridge loops we know (a little) about.

Adventureland Bridge - This was a Jack Wagner loop comprised of Exotica music with the sounds of exotic bird calls layered in. I was able to confirm this during the creation of Another Musical Souvenir of Walt Disney World thanks to a live recording provided by Dave McCormick and track assistance by John Charles Watson on TikiCentral.Com. As it stands, we have just the single track I was able to identify from Dave's live recordings - we have no idea how long the loop was.

This track was seemingly suggested by Imagineer Randy Bright and would have been installed sometime in 1972. It played at the bridge to Adventureland, and also in the exterior seating areas of the Adventureland Veranda.

Liberty Square Bridge - We do have what I believe is a portion of the authentic Liberty Square music from 1971, thanks to Mike Cozart - for lots of information on this, check out my post here.

What is not known is where this music played. I've heard live recording taken in Liberty Square in the 70s, and I can't hear any background music at all - it's possible there simply was none until the Buddy Baker general BGM was installed in 1980. As a result, it's possible that the 1971 "fife and drum" music played only at the entrance to the area, where it would have been easy enough to hide in a few speakers. I make no claims as to the accuracy of this - it's just a guess.

Columbia Harbour House Bridge - has presumably played the music that plays inside the Harbour House since the loop was installed. The current Harbour House loop is an expansion of the original with a now stupidly expensive CD entitled The Wind in the Rigging: A New England Voyage.

I believe that the original version of the Harbour House loop was simply the music recorded for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in Fantasyland, i.e., the current loop minus the "Wind in the Rigging" tracks. The hour-long version of the CHH loop, still used today, was created for the exterior of Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland Paris in 1992.

Fantasyland Side Entrance - This short loop played along those side entrances to Fantasyland from Tomorrowland and Liberty Square that lead up alongside Cinderella Castle. The castle interior played a vocal version of "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" from the Cinderella soundtrack LP. Up until this year (!) it was not known that this short 5 minute loop even existed.

As it turns out, it was captured by How Bowers in 1994. By the time How got to it, it was playing from only one speaker, over on the Tomorrowland side. Composed entirely of instrumental tracks from Cinderella, the extreme brevity of this loop strongly suggests it was there from the start before slowly being forgotten and fading out in the 90s. No music plays in these areas today.

Unknown / Likely Lost Tracks
Frontierland - may have had its own bridge loop, or may not. Jack Wagner's early Frontierland loop has survived, and a later loop has not, although Michael Sweeney has reconstructed at least some of it.

Crystal Palace - supposedly played its music in the walkway surrounding the restaurant entrance, which also qualifies it as the "bridge" track. Sadly, the Crystal Palace music of the era seems to be entirely lost.

Plaza Pavilion - also known as the Tomorrowland Noodle Station, this restaurant presumably had its own interior music loop which would have acted as a "bridge" between Tomorrowland and Main Street on the south side.

The transition between Caribbean Plaza and Frontierland, and the transition between the Hub and Tomorrowland, seem to have not had their own "bridge" loops for whatever reason.

It's little scraps of evidence, little sub-sub pieces of stories, but then again that's what's always interested me about Magic Kingdom - it's a big, and old, place. Did you know that the Tomorrowland Speedway used to play F1 engine noises from speakers hidden in bushes around the track? Did you know that many of the Main Street shops used to have their own cassette tape of music? What happened to those creaky floorboard sounds that used to play in Haunted Mansion?

It's not all recoverable, but sometimes it's in the little touches that point us towards what designers were after. These weird little transitional loops should be remembered, too.

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.