Saturday, December 25, 2010
A Merry Christmas in Walt Disney's Wonderland
60 years ago today, Christmas Day, the world was introduced to Walt Disney's first television production, a Christmas special on NBC (not ABC, as is sometimes reported) entitled One Hour in Wonderland, co-starring the wonderfully gifted Edger Bergen and his ventriloquist dummies Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. Much has been made of the fact that Walt was friends with Edger Bergen and that friendship being the reason Bergen and his characters appeared on the special (Disney producer/writer Bill Walsh who produced this special had at one time written for Edger Bergen as well) but it was more likely Bergen & McCarthy's association with Coca-Cola that led to their guesting on the show; The Charlie McCarthy Show radio program broadcast on Sunday evenings over CBS starting in October 1949 was sponsored by Coca-Cola, and earlier in 1950, Bergen and his dummies had headlined at least one TV special for Coke. (By the way, the guests on the December 24, 1950 broadcast of The Charlie McCarthy Show were Disney stars Bobby Driscoll and Kathryn Beaumont, who were to appear with Edgar and Charlie the next day on the Disney TV special.) The Coke influence is seen not only in the Coca-Cola announcements at the beginning and end of the special and the commercial break halfway through (Walt insisted there only be one commercial) but in One Hour in Wonderland's main title music, which incorporates Coke's theme song. Although it really didn't have a title (it was usually called The Coca-Cola Theme Song although was sometimes known as "Coca-Cola Signature"), this tune would have been quite familiar to 1950 audiences as Coke had been using the theme since 1930 when it was composed by orchestra leader Leonard Joy. (The song continued on as the theme for the soda's very popular TV program Coke Time starring Eddie Fisher). The colorful detail shown above is from a grand poster, given to Coca-Cola distributors and bottlers. The full poster overflows with Disney art (I agree with those who think it looks like the style of Disney artist Al Dempster who illustrated the Alice in Wonderland Golden Books around this time) and is from the collection of Matt who just published the poster in all its glory on his awesome blog all about Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland. Hurry on over and you'll also see a lot more about that amazing Disney first, Walt's original TV production One Hour in Wonderland, broadcast on Christmas Day 1950.