The first soundtrack: Snow White

The first soundtrack to be commercially released was Disney’s 1938 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The songs were written by Frank Churchill (music) and Lary Morey (lyrics). The score was written by Churchill and Leigh Harline, with some additional music by Paul Smith.

Although Churchill and Morey originally wrote 25 songs for the film, it was typical of Walt Disney’s critical process of film making process to include only a selection in the final product: I’m Wishing, One Song, With a Smile and a Song, Whistle While You Work, Heigh-Ho, Bluddle-Uddle-Um-Dum (The Washing Song), The Silly Song (The Dwarf’s Yodel Song), Some Day My Prince Will Come, Music in Your Soup,and You’re Never to Old to be Young.

Walt Disney was adamant that music should serve as an integral part of the plot rather than an accessory to the film. He said: “It still can be good music and not follow the same pattern everybody in the country has followed. We still haven’t hit in any of these songs. … It’s still the influence from the musicals they have been doing for years. Really, we should set a new pattern, a new way to use music – weave it into the story so somebody doesn’t just burst into song.” (1)

Some other interesting facts about this soundtrack:

  • In one scene, Grumpy plays a weasy old organ. To produce this effect, Jim Macdonald (the sound effects creator) had studio personnel blow into large jugs. Animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston recalled: “With considerable ingenuity and a great deal of blowing and accompanying dizziness, a track had been recorded for the organ that Grumpy played in the dwarf’s house. It was only a first test, but it involved everyone in the studio who could read music, plus a handful of competent musicians and all the sound effects men, some thirty of us in all, blowing on bottles and jugs and strange homemade instruments. The most demanding part was for the man who blew over the giant jug for the lowest bass notes. That part had gone to Jim.” (2)
  • The score was nominated for an Academy Award.
  • Although the film cost around $1.5 million to make, it grossed more than $8 million at the box office.

(1) Tietyen, David (1990) The Musical World of Walt Disney. Wisconsin: Hal Leonard, p.37.
(2) Ibid., p.41.