"Walt called us over to a meeting at WED," remembered Richard Sherman, half of the song-writing tandem known as the Sherman Brothers (then staff writers for Disney). "He wanted us to come over and look at a mock-up of the Carousel of Progress." Robert Sherman illuminates, "He wanted a song, something that was a certain amount of seconds, so when they moved the audience to a different stage it would coincide with the time in between the move -- it was a technical job."
Walt had a great deal of confidence in his two song writers. He knew that they could create the kind of song he wanted. Richard discusses Walt's request, "He wanted a song that would fit in each style of the show -- a ragtime for the 1920s, swing for the 1940s, and a sweet Mantovani sound for the 1960s. Another challenge was that he wanted it to talk about progress. You know, G.E. is always looking for new ways to make life better -- but a soft sell. A singing commercial without mentioning the product. We kind of understood what he wanted, because we felt the same way about things. We always believed in what we were doing."
The Sherman brothers set out to accomplish Walt's assignment. "First, we worked back and forth with the writers of the script -- there was a lot of give and take -- but our job was to give Walt this theme song," recalled Richard. "Then we went away for a couple of weeks, and we thought, and we played, and we finally got something that we really liked -- the title. And then we wrote the song. We devised a way of talking about the idea of man looking for new and better ways to live, and it was just a dream away -- you know the idea of dreamers being the ones that dream up these things."
The now famous "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow," was the result of this creative collaboration. "We finished it, but we would play it for Walt first," remembered Robert. Richard continued, " He came down to our office on the third floor of the animation building, and said 'What do you got?' We played it for him and he said 'That will work fine. Can you play it like ragtime?' So I played it like ragtime, and then I played it like a swing, and he said 'Okay, we'll get the orchestraters in and that will be fine.' That was his reaction." What may appear as a vague response on Walt's part, was anything but. Robert explains, "He was not one with superlatives. Once he said, 'That will work,' that was a big compliment coming from Walt Disney.
-- Just a Dream Away --
Walt assigned Disney staff writers Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman to write a tune that told the story of the Carousel without giving away what was to happen. The first music to be completed for G.E.'s Carousel was a song entitled "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow." Written in late February, 1963, this jaunty tune was quickly arranged by staff composer Buddy Baker into the variety of styles called for by the Carousel of Progress script. Though it seemed impossible to isolate audio within each of the six sections, or theaters, of the carousel as it rotated, Buddy Baker turned this hurdle into an advantage. Working with the Sherman Brothers, he planned the five musical transitions required to cover each rotation of the carousel to start simultaneously, play in the same key, and be exactly the same length. They were based on "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow," and each variation reflected the time period, or purpose, to which the carousel was turning, i.e.: 1890s, 1920s, 1940s, 1960s, and Finale. On March 6, 1963, several of these were recorded using eleven musicians. The Overture interpolating "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow," was followed by arrangements in musical styles of the 1890s, 1920s, 1940s, and 1960s, as well as in Waltz, Marching Band, Swing, Future and Dixieland versions. Rex Allen recorded the vocal for "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow," and the patter for the carousel show. With music and dialog edited together into a rough cut, this early version of the Carousel of Progress provided the Disney creative team with the basic idea of the show's timing and sound, and gave Walt a "dog and pony show" to pitch to G.E. The show continued to evolve with Walt and his Imagineers focused on the script and technology of the carousel, leaving any required musical changes until the show was closer to being locked. Although music budgeting continued non-stop as changes were made to the G.E. Pavilion, no further music was recorded until November 11, 1963.
-Alexander Rannie, Author