The new albums "The Disney Afternoon" and "Disney's Sebastian" (both on Walt Disney Records, of course) have a magical effect on 3-year-olds that Uncle Walt would surely have appreciated . . . that is, if Angela's any kind of mini-barometer. And she probably is.
Angela, my niece, agreed to help us consumer test the two discs. She's the expert; I'm just a record reviewer of advanced years (comparatively speaking), and could in no way adequately critique music like this on my very own.The first time we put on "The Disney Afternoon," a melody-filled companion to the block of syndicated TV cartoons, Angela listened with concentrated interest to the introductory "Disney Afternoon Theme" - until a little light sparked in her eyes and she began singing along. The next number, on the other hand, brought instantaneous recognition.
"That's `Rescue Rangers!' " she exclaimed, slightly shocked at hearing the familiar cartoon-prime-time refrain without Chip 'n Dale 'n friends cavorting on the color TV screen. So she provided the get-up-and-go on her own, dancing, twirling, jumping, singing and giggling as the song continued.
She kept up the impromptu aerobics through ditties like the "DuckTales" ("WOO-ooo!") and "Tale Spin" themes ("Hey! It's Baloo!" she said - Angela's fond of the basso bear from "The Jungle Book," who's found a new career on the little screen). She enjoys "The Disney Afternoon" all the way through now, but that first time she wanted to stop the album after each and every song to hear the just-concluded melody again. Immediately.
The lively prancing is now part of the repeat-listening pleasure for Angela. You see, "The Disney Afternoon" is aural kin to Gummiberry Juice, the energizing elixir that gives Disney's Gummi Bears the vim to "bounce like kangaroos" in times of emergency.
Angela's not old enough to entirely appreciate the variety, cleverness and polish of the collection. Most of the songs are by pop veterans like Tom Snow and Dean Pitchford, contributors to soundtracks like the one for the film "Footloose," for which Pitchford wrote the screenplay, among others; Mark Mueller; and Michael and Patty Silversher. The performers include the likes of The Jets ("Chip 'n Dale's Rescue Rangers Theme Song") and Melissa Manchester (the gentle "Home Is Where the Heart Is," from a "Tale Spin" episode).
And while the 3-year-old may only barely appreciate the delightful doo-wop a cappella of "Monkey in Your Tank," from "Tale Spin," it might bring a smile to Mom and Dad - especially during the uncountable replays these albums are bound to inspire.
"Disney's Sebastian" stars the uncrabby Caribbean crab from "The Little Mermaid," as portrayed by Sam Wright, and also features Ariel (Jodi Benson) and, as Angela is quick to point out, "Flounder!"
Reggae- and calypso-flavored songs like "Arise," "Three Little Birds" (a Bob Marley tune), "Hot, Hot, Hot," "Under the Sea" (from "The Little Mermaid") and the indispensable "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)," Harry Belafonte's signature, sprinkle a set that's close to being a musical, with dialogue and a bit of story line. Sebastian wants to "put some motion in this ocean," stirring the sleepy denizens of his watery neighborhood into action for a "Jamaican jamboree." (Memo to the Disney folk: a companion book might be a good idea.)
"Disney's Sebastian," while full of bounce, is slower paced and definitely quieter overall than the adrenalin-laced "Disney Afternoon" - which shouldn't at all deter "Little Mermaid" fans and will probably recommend it to tranquility-loving parents.