When discussing film music as in film scores, one does not ordinarily include movies that include songs, well I don’t any way. But, maybe we should, lets focus upon one composer who scored a number of animated movies for Disney, yep Disney, the films that Oliver Wallace was involved with in many peoples eyes are in essence musicals, I am talking of classics such as PINOCCHIO, DUMBO, PETER PAN, LADY AND THE TRAMP, BAMBI, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, CINDERELLA and ALICE IN WONDERLAND to name but a handful. Wallace also created serviceable soundtracks for Disney animated and live action projects, THE THREE CABALLEROS, DER FUEHRERS FACE. (aka-DONALD DUCK IN NUTZI LAND), MELODY TIME, SEAL ISLAND, BEN AND ME, and THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY amongst them. He was in demand during the 1930’s and throughout the war years and then into the 1950’s and 1960’s. Wallace, worked on shorts and also documentaries during his career, and after his death some of his music was utilised in movies such as OPERATION DUMBO DROP.
Although the composer is mainly associated with a studio that is considered American through and through Wallace was born in London, England on August 6th 1887. At the age of seventeen he completed his musical training and it was then in 1904 he decided to go to America, where he worked and reside for a decade before becoming an American citizen. Wallace began his musical career in the theatre, and worked mainly in Seattle, as a conductor and then as an organist accompanying silent movies. Whilst doing this and gaining experience Wallace began to write songs and soon became known for his lyrics and accompanying music. In the 1930.s with the introduction of Talkies, Wallace began to work in Hollywood, and in the early part of 1936 he started to work for Disney studios. At first, he was given small assignments for shorts which were animated pictures, but it was not long before Disney noticed and appreciate his versatility both as a composer of scores for films but also as a lyricist. His output in the area of scoring short animated films was at times unbelievable and he was said to have written the music for at least one hundred and thirty of these for the studio, his most famous being for the 1942 Donald Duck short, DER FUEHERS FACE which was a propaganda cartoon.
The song from the film was a parody of a song originally from Horst Wessel and became one of the biggest hit songs during the second world war when it was performed by Spike Jones and his City Slickers. Wallace was also assigned to full length features such as DUMBO and SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, his music becoming as iconic and timeless as the movies themselves. It was Wallace who also provided the APRIL SHOWERS cue for BAMBI which too has gone down in film music history as a classic.
The composer was a master at taking phrases from the songs in a movie and incorporating these into sections of the instrumental score, thus creating a real continuity throughout and enabling audiences to identify with specific characters. Wallace received four Oscar Nominations one of which was for the music to a documentary WHITE WILDERNESS in 1958, which was unheard of at that time. But each time he lost out. Over a period of twenty-seven years, Wallace worked on over one hundred and fifty productions for Disney and created the soundtrack of many children’s lives via his infectious lyrics and delightful melodies. He passed away on September 15th, 1963. He was awarded a special Disney Legends award in 2008. I suppose Wallace was in effect the Alan Menken of his time, his melodies live on and his lyrics are part of not only film history but are an essential ingredient in the growing up and development of any child, or any adult that is young at heart. Who can forget, YOU CAN FLY, YOU CAN FLY, or FOLLOWING THE LEADER or indeed any Disney song, with Wallace’s endearing and supportive musical style.