Friday 28 July 2006


“When are you going to play ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ on your Disney radio programmes?” my friend Mandy demanded. “I’ve heard three shows so far and you haven’t once played what must be the most famous Disney song of all!”

If you, too, are wondering when this much-loved, much-recorded number from Disney’s 1940 animated classic Pinocchio gets an airing on my BBC Radio 2 series, Ain’t No Mickey Mouse Music, well, I can tell you: the wait is finally over! Tonight’s the night!

The topic of this, the final programme in the series, is ‘The Mouse and the Message’, looking at the way in which Disney movies have taught us to ‘give a little whistle’, ‘look for the bear necessities’ and take a ‘step in the right direction’: a shamelessly optimistic philosophy that dates back to Disney’s 1933 film Three Little Pigs and the song that became the anthem of the depression-era America, ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?’

However, no song better typifies Disney’s positive, upbeat approach to life than Leigh Harline and Ned Washinton’s ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’.

I still remember the first time I saw and heard that song: sitting in the front row of the circle in the Odeon, Bromley, sometime in the early ‘sixties, when Pinocchio was already on its umpteenth re-release.

Up on the screen, the diminutive figure of Jiminy Cricket (wearing a top hat, tail-coat and spats and looking nothing like any cricket I’d ever seen), bathed in a spotlight and crooning this exquisite melody prior to telling us the story of the “little puppet made of pine” who becomes a real boy because his maker/father, Geppetto, believed that…

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires

Will come to you

If your heart is in your dream

No request is too extreme

When you wish upon a star

As dreamers do

Fate is kind

She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of

Their secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue

Fate steps in and sees you through

When you wish upon a star

Your dreams come true…

Of course, cynics will say that is, literally just ‘wishful thinking’ but, in 1940, it was a sentiment that caught the imagination of everyone who saw the picture and pretty soon established itself as the Disney Company’s official theme-song.

The night I watched Pinocchio for the first time, I fell totally under the spell of Disney and his artists; so much so, I and went back to the Bromley Odeon six more times that week to see, again and again (this was in the days of 'continuous performances'), what I still consider the greatest masterpiece of film animation.

‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ has probably been 'covered' by more recording artists than any other Disney number - from Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby to Eternal and ‘N Sync - and a zillion others in between - but, for me, it will always be associated with the oh-so-high voice of Cliff Edwards (below) a popular 1930s recording artist who was better known as ‘Ukulele Ike’.

Edwards, who had earlier had the distinction of performing the very first screen rendition of the song, Singin' in the Rain', in The Hollywood Revue of 1929, made a unique contribution to Pinocchio, not just with his singing of 'Wish Upon a Star' and 'Give a Little Whistle', but through his unforgettable vocal characterization as Pinoke's ‘Official Conscience’!

Anyway, that’s the plug for tonight’s programme: BBC Radio 2, 88-91 FM; or, if you miss it, then you can alway ‘Listen Again' on line - at least for the next seven days. [NOTE: THIS FACILITY IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE]

And now here’s a plug for the artist who drew the image of JC and Pinoke at the top of this blog as a design for a 2004 US postage stamp.

His name is Peter Emmerich and he’s not only responsible for creating some terrific Disney-inspired images, he’s also a diversely talented draughtsman with a witty line in caricature and a gift for capturing the foibles of humankind.

You can check out his work at Peter Emmerich's Sketchbook.

All of which should keep you busy; and, if it doesn’t, just remember: keep out of mischief --- and “always let your conscience be your guide”!


Diva of Deception said...

Gosh - there was so mcy to think about, to remember conjured up by the things you had to say in this blog.

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? was practically the ONLY record my father's mum had at her home to be played on the vast wind up cabineted gramophone standing in the corner of her living room. I couldn't play it every week when we went for lunch but it was brought out now and again and we'd all sing it....

I am now trying to remember if it was a stand alone single or if this song was part of an audio version of the story of the Three Little Pigs. And now I come to think of it, it wasn't the only disc as there was also Spike Jones' version of the Nutcracker Suite - that's how I learned classical music!

I am not surprised Jiminy didn't look like any cricket you'd seen before - I'd never seen one apart from him! His head was the moulded plastic mugs that my brother and I used to drink our milk from - his blue and mine red. Oh yes, that Jiminy played a big part in my life.....

and watched films go round and round at the cinema? I did that for Mary Poppins, saw that six times!

My love of all things magical and Disney comes from my father - my mother was into drama and hammer horrors! Ukele Ike was a fascinating name to find on your blog - not someone I'd heard of but my paternal grandfather, who probably formed my dad's tastes and sense of humour (and who died when i was a babe in arms), yep my grandfather was called Ike!

So many memories in this single blog of yours.... conjuring up all sorts of emotions, including the really soppy ones felt when standing under the Disney Castle at Disneyland for the very first time (even though said castle was shrouded in scaffolding at the time!)

Yes - I cried! And I'm proud of it!!

Andy Latham said...

What a song...When you wish upon a star is direct from the heart of disney and not only speaks of hope throughout any of our lives, but encompases what animation is. We have become lost in a world of technological breakthroughs in computer animation, sometimes losing sight of what the medium is for. Personally, I look forward to the coming reprisal of hand drawn Disney movies, which by all accounts is just around the corner and I, as a fledgeling animator, want to be a part of bringing the old Disney magic to a new generation. Who knows...if I wish upon a star, my dream really may come true!

P.S. I really love the Radio 2 show, it has brought back so many memories and emotions, as well as teaching me a thing or two. If you have time, maybe you could spare a moment to look at my blog,