Disney and the Beatles

We have noticed that a number of our readers are frowning upon the fact that it’s the Walt Disney Company who is taking care of the distribution of The Beatles’ “Get Back” documentary film.

But Disney and the Beatles go back a long time. From Ringo Starr saying that he didn’t like Donald Duck (he couldn’t understand a word of what Donald says in the cartoons), through talks of featuring The Beatles as the vultures in the animated feature “The Jungle Book” to John Lennon ending the Beatles while staying at a Disney resort, Paul and Linda McCartney hosting a Disney Special on TV in the seventies and the latest news from Disneyland Paris is that Stella McCartney has designed Minnie Mouse’s new clothes!

So the connections are many. On their very first album in the U.K., George Harrison sang the McCartney-Lennon number “Do You Want To Know A Secret”, where John’s opening lyrics was inspired by a song from Walt Disney’s “Snow White”, “Wishing well”. “Do you promise not to tell? When you’re standing by a wishing well, make a wish into the well, that’s all you have to do, and if you hear it echoing, your wish will soon come true.”

In a questionnaire about likes and hates back in 1963, Ringo named Donald Duck as a “hate”, because he couldn’t understand what the duck was saying. Still, Ringo did a good impression of Donald’s voice in an episode of “Ready Steady Go”:

Someone also sent Ringo a Donald Duck gift, and received a Thank You note from the drummer:

We haven’t been able to locate a photo of Ringo with Donald Duck, but he also had a Pluto figure at home.

1968: Ringo Starr at home, a house called “Sunny Heights”, in Weybridge, Surrey, England.

Speaking of Pluto, it was in 1973 that Paul and Linda McCartney appeared on a BBC children’s slot called “Disney Time”. Paul was always a fan of comic books and cartoons since childhood, and the animated films he has produced on his own are made to match the standards of Disney’s cartoons.

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During “The Jungle Book” production, the development staff had thought of the famous band to voice the four vultures: Buzzie, Flaps, Ziggy, and Dizzy. The band’s manager, Brian Epstein, was in talks with the Disney studios about The Beatles appearing in the film, and Disney had his animators create the Vultures specifically to be voiced by the band. Supposedly, it was Lennon who vetoed the appearance and retorted to Epstein that he should tell Disney they’d be better off hiring Elvis Presley instead. The final film instead features the vultures with moptops and in mock-Liverpudlian accents, voiced by J. Pat O’Malley, Digby Wolfe, Lord Tim Hudson, and Chat Stuart.

Buzzie, Flaps, Ziggy, and Dizzy. © Walt Disney Productions

John Lennon visited Disneyland in California in 1973 and Disney World in Florida in 1974. He signed the paperwork that officially dissolved the Beatles at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort on December 29, 1974.
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Visiting one or other Disney resort is, of course, something they all have done – one or more times. Here is a rare photo of George Harrison visiting Disneyland, together with Eric Idle of Monty Python and Derek Taylor with his family in 1979.

Eric Idle and George Harrison with Derek Taylor’s family in Disneyland in 1979. Photo by Derek Taylor, we think.

In the mid-seventies, Ringo took his kids to Disneyland.

Ringo Starr in Disneyland, with his children.

In 1988, Ringo Starr was one of the artists participating in the album “Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films”, where contemporary artists sang well known songs from Disney Films. Ringo and Herb Alpert contributed with “When You Wish Upon A Star”, from Pinocchio and later known from Disney’s Christmas specials.

In the nineties, both Paul and Ringo featured in a couple of TV specials which were distributed by the Disney Channel in USA, under the title “Going Home”. Paul’s self-produced MPL film “From Rio to Liverpool” (1990) followed his then world tour between those cities, and Ringo’s special (1993) featured him walking the streets of Liverpool with his son Jason and his stepdad Harry Graves, intercut with clips from his performance with the All-Starr Band at the Liverpool Empire.

In between these, in 1992 a Southbank Show Special about the making of “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” aired on the Disney Channel in USA, but the drug references were removed from that airing by Disney.

In 2009, Disney took major steps toward remaking the 1968 Beatles film “Yellow Submarine”. Disney and Apple Corps announced an animated CGI motion capture remake of the film, to be directed by Robert Zemeckis through his studio, ImageMovers Digital. Motion capture performance of the Beatles was planned to be performed by a California-based Beatles tribute band The Fab Four, which regularly performed at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland Terrace in the early 2000s. But due to the box office failures of two ImageMovers films – “A Christmas Carol” and “Mars Needs Moms” – ImageMovers closed, and the film project was cancelled shortly thereafter, in 2011.

Paul McCartney again tried his hand at acting in the Disney produced “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” in 2017, singing “Maggie May” from a prison cell.

Apart from the current collaboration about “The Beatles Get Back”, Paul McCartney also appeared in another Disney+ production in 2021, “McCartney 3, 2, 1” where he was interviewed by record producer Rick Rubin.

50 Responses

  1. PHILIP says:

    I think you made your point !

  2. G.D. Wilde says:

    The point being that despite a few brushes in the past, The Beatles generally avoided doing anything of importance wirh Disney? 🙂

  3. Ronald says:

    The point is that Disney is not doing what the fans want – a release on DVD of as much of Peter Jackson’s compilation as possible, as well as the separate release of the rooftop concert on a CD. The audio of the concert released yesterday only had 7 of the 9 songs, at least via YouTube. Disney is probably also not helping the release of the original 1970 film. That (eventual) release seems to be the only way we will ever get to see the 31 January performances of three of the songs. So ironic that Norah Jones sang Let It Be on the Empire State Building roof! In the U.K. we are also still waiting to hear whether there will be a DVD of the new film. I’m not sure if a release of anything has yet been confirmed anywhere. I have seen France was due to have a release on about the same day as the USA, while U.K. would probably be delayed until the end of the month, and then only on Blu-ray for some obscure reason.

    • G. E. Lewis says:

      Exactly. I’d gladly purchase a hard copy, but when the only way to view a show is to subscribe to the producers’ “streaming service” they can keep it.

    • admin says:

      A dvd and blu-ray will be released in the States in February. On blu-ray only in Europe and elsewhere. It’s the full 3 part series. My guess is that the reason why it’s on dvd in USA only is because most people in Europe and elsewhere have upgraded their home video entertainment systems to blu-ray, not so in the USA. The release of the rooftop concert on disc is not up to Disney but Universal Music.

      • Ronald says:

        Your comments may apply to France, Germany and Italy – maybe – but I don’t think the U.K. is at present effectively leading the USA which is what your surprising comment would seem to indicate. I thought Disney had stopped the rooftop concert from being included in the Let It Be box set. Very confusing. Are you saying Get Back now has a definite date for release in U.K.? Are you also indicating that there might be a rooftop concert CD? And what about the Let It Be film? Is that also up to Universal?

        • admin says:

          Fans speculate that Disney stopped the rooftop disc in the Let It Be boxed set. We have no indication that they did, so far it’s just speculations. And now it’s out there, from Universal Music as a streaming album. Whether or not a physical release is going to happen, we don’t know. The Let It Be film is ready for release, they just haven’t decided how to do it. I think it belongs to Apple. It will happen after all the Get Back stuff is over and done with, according to Michael Lindsay-Hogg.

          • Ronald says:

            It seems the spirit of Alan Klein is alive and well and Universal and Disney are solely concerned with making money. As much of this is speculation, why can’t someone who actually loves the music make a positive statement? We are talking about a group who broke up 52 years ago.

          • Uncle George says:

            That’s why the 5th CD is only an EP.

          • Rick says:

            Hopefully by Christmas time of 2022

          • Win Corr says:

            The Beatles stopped it. Because it is a separate project….As you can plainly see. Smart and common sense in todays era. Here we are in February and Get back is still on fire since October! Brilliant!

    • Winn Corr says:

      Disney is doing an incredible job. The documentary is great and the dedication to the roll out is top notch. Disney is all in. That is the key….and so are The Beatles/AppleCorps

  4. Nørd says:

    Great stuff, Roger! It’s worth mentioning that Paul, in Anthology while talking about Yellow Submarine, said that «we» (The Beatles, I assume) loved the old Disney cartoons.

  5. Uncle George says:

    No sympathy for disney who buys and destroys everything.

  6. Terry says:

    Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse and even Pluto too…

    This is a well researched article and raises some curious trivia. However I don’t see the point of it. It reads like Disney PR, as if they are desparate for Beatles fans to believe in them.

    Stripping away the gush, we learn that while the Beatles were together (ie, up to 1970) Ringo said he hated Donald Duck and Lennon refused to work with them. That’s it. No “connections”, much less “many” of them.

    It bothers me a little that Disney are involved in the Get Back project, but hey it was a triumph and so fair enough. Cannot complain at the product itself – so credit where it’s due.

    • Ronald says:

      It is Disney PR. It has nothing to do with Peter Jackson’s film. I do feel sorry for Ringo. It seems he may have never read the Donald Duck of the comic books, especially Carl Barks’s Uncle Scrooge stories! I don’t believe Get Back is a complete triumph, as it has left out the last day of the recording sessions. The videos of Let It Be and The Long And Winding Road may be available on 1+, but Two Of Us is the last true duet that John and Paul did, as much a true duet as Baby’s In Black. It may be available on the1970 film, but there has still been no indication that it will finally be released again.

    • admin says:

      I was just taken by surprise about the hostility towards Disney and blaming them for whatever people felt was wrong with the Get Back series.

      • Ronald says:

        I have no hostility towards Disney. I do wonder why Universal didn’t release Peter Jackson’s film, especially if it is the case that we are waiting for them finally to release the 1970 film. It is becoming almost as bad as waiting for Mark Lewisohn to publish part 2 of his “definitive biography”. I remember him saying at the Beatles convention in Liverpool in 2005 he anticipated he would finish his 3 part biography by 2018 which caused highbrows to be raised then…..

        • admin says:

          Apple funded the Get Back film project and then sold the distribution rights. They chose Disney.

          • Ronald says:

            Does that mean a rooftop concert CD would have to be released by Disney? I am still in the dark about the 1970 film, and whether “extras” might be possible. Or would those extras be controlled by Disney who have already prevented any extras being included in the Get Back package?

          • Win Corr says:

            Great decision too. Us fans are lucky. NBC Universal couldn’t do it. Are they going to stream it on Peacock! or Paramount!? ??? They can barely get a movie on IMAX properly. Plus they got the Spider-Verse to worry about executing. Universal Music Group and NBC Universal are separate entities under different management anyways.

      • Winn Corr says:

        No hostility. Those who are blinded and do not see the potential of this marriage; do not understand why it has to be done. Sure a couple of more places could do it with The Beatles. But the Disney relationship covers all the bases on what The Beatles AppleCorps is all about from top to bottom…. Don’t worry The Beatles do control their product.

  7. Will says:

    Excellent piece. Genuinely do not understand the anger towards Disney. If Apple hadn’t partnered with a streaming platform, we’d have had a 3 hour film, at best. Instead we have an 8-hour masterpiece.
    And all this talk of Apple/Disney/Universal being all about money. When was it that the Beatles gave away LPs and cinema tickets?
    On the other hand, if you want some free Beatles, the Ringo Going Home Disney special can be found free of charge on YouTube, is only 30 years old and is well worth a watch. As is the Macca one.

    • Ronald says:

      I admit I still regard a stream as something that eventually flows into a river. I understand that the audio of the rooftop concert has been streamed this weekend by Universal, not by Disney. The version I had access to, via YouTube, only had 7 of the 9 songs. One of the missing songs, the first version of Don’t Let Me Down, is the one song previously released by Universal, on the Let It Be box set. The other is the first version of Get Back, which I realise was originally intended to be more of a rehearsal. I am still a little surprised that a major film studio, Universal, could not stream the Get Back film. Is it because of the length or “depth” of the stream? I can’t help but speculate whether Disney is not really the Fairy Godmother which has allowed Cinderella to go to the ball – for as long as 8 hours. I know it’s not speculation that Walt Disney had to release his films until the 1950s through RKO. 1969 is also a long time ago.

  8. Michael says:

    How does Disney destroy everything? Disney plus is great for the simple fact of all seasons of the Simpsons lol
    If they had released get back on Hulu would you be so angry? Did you get fired from Disney or something wtf
    You’re right ,it was 52 years ago the band broke up so get over it. They chose Disney because Disney is a huge brand around the world that everyone know .just like the Beatles. As a younger gen fan I think going with Disney was a great choice. Also you’re commenting on a blog post yelling about a physical product when on the same blog there’s full posts about the dvd blu ray coming
    Also as far as the rooftop capture convert burn boom a physical product.theres only 7 tracks on YouTube because the full concert isn’t on YouTube guess you didn’t read the press releases either.

    • Ronald says:

      No, I didn’t see a press release since I heard there was going to be yet another delay. I would have preferred a DVD to a Blu-ray, and don’t understand why the U.K. release is being delayed until after many other countries in the world. Perhaps it’s something to do with brexit. I am an older generation fan who used to live opposite the dance hall where the Beatles played on the day that John married Cynthia. I told the late Jackie Lomax at a Liverpool convention a few years ago that I had seen many of the groups unloading their equipment but the one I remembered most was Jackie’s group because I saw their stage coffin being unloaded, Jackie being the leader of the Undertakers. He had previously told the appreciative audience at the Cavern how he had contributed to the recording of Dear Prudence in August 1968, as well as how George gave him his song Sour Milk Sea which he then recorded being backed by three of the Beatles. Those were the days……

    • Blakey says:

      Nah, they chose Disney because they offered them the most money. So, Disney is a huge worldwide brand. If that’s all that counts, Apple might as well have given the the rights to Get Back to McDonald’s or Coca Cola and have done with it.

      • admin says:

        Yes, Apple Corps Ltd isn’t a distribution company, they have no outlets. So they showed a taster of “Get Back” at a film and television industry event for distributors and filmmakers and chose a distributor. They went with Disney – a company with worldwide distribution. Originally intended to be just an hour and a half cinematic release, the documentary then evolved into a six hour television documentary series. But Peter Jackson wanted to include more stuff, and asked Disney for an extended cut edition for their blu-ray and dvd release. Disney said no thanks, extended cuts don’t sell, so Jackson snuck in an extra hour and 45 minutes into the finished documentary series without telling them. But he still has more stuff he wants to include. His team has been interviewing people who were on the rooftop, hoping to include that in an upcoming release of Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s restored and remixed “Let It be” film, which Apple has planned for some sort of release after the market for Jackson’s “Get Back” is saturated.

    • Win Corr says:

      Disney is great for this and a lot of other things….Oh yes, the artist of the Simpson’s drew the Yellow Submarine book that came out a few years ago. 😉 Maybe the Beatles Cartoon Series will end up on Hulu? That would be cool. Disney owns most of Hulu.

  9. Will says:

    The music is licenced to Universal Music Group, and all 10 tracks can be streamed, at no cost, on YouTube or Spotify, or for subscribers to Apple Music or Deezer. Just go to Beatles.com and follow the links.

    The film is currently licenced to Disney, and can be streamed, for £8 for a month’s subscription.

    Universal Music Group is no longer part of the same organisation as Universal Pictures and hasn’t been for decades – UMG is itself a publicly listed company – so references to Universal releasing the film are a red herring – releasing films just isn’t something UMG does.

    • Ronald says:

      Thank you. I tried YouTube again. This time it was only the first version of Get Back that wasn’t there. So I tried Spotify, and exactly 53 years to the day after the concert, I have heard the entire concert legally for the first time. I’m not interested in streaming. I feel more comfortable with a physical disc, and do miss the art work on an LP. I didn’t realise Universal had split up.

      • Win Corr says:

        They first split in 2004. It is only because of Peter Jackson and Disney that we are seeing what we have seen and heard so far. Because they like The Beatles and everybody can earn a living….Just to please fans as best as possible. It’s really a gift. But you have to pay to get it. It shouldn’t be free and needs to be very modern so it can keep going into the future.

  10. Dan says:

    Then there’s the original lyrics to “Steel and Glass”: https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/candlebox/steelandglass.html

  11. Arno says:

    Strange that so many blame Disney for doing this and not doing that. Disney does what Apple Corps asks them to do!

    If you think Disney destroy everything please contact Apple Corps, 27 Ovington Square, London, SW3 1LJ, England and complain to their secretary Jeffrey Vaughan Jones and their four directors John Lindner Eastman, Bruce Victor Grakal, Olivia Trinidad Harrison and Sean Ono Lennon.

    Have a look at the Apple Corps deal with the Universal Music subsidiary Calderstone Productions shown in the annual turnover of 2015 page 18. They have a contract lasting 15 years to distribute controcated rights by The Beatles, individuals who were part of The Beatles and other Apple Corps label artists. Calderstone started as Beatles Holdco Limited 15. november 2012, so looks like their deal with Apple Corps will end 15. november 2027.

    Apple has given permission to Disney to make the film though they have an exclusive contract with Universal Music/Calderstone, so I’m sure that Universal gets a royalty from the Disney project for leasing the music.

    Have a look at Apple Corps. They have a complete new contract of how to run the company, that permits. Ringos wife Barbaras daughter Francesca Gregorini to take over as a managing director of Apple if Ringo choose to do so.

    Calderstone link find 2015 full acounts https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/08295507/filing-history and Apple Corps contract search Memorandum and Articles of Association for 2020 here https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/00764797/filing-history.

    And have a look at Group of companies’ accounts for 2020 on the same page. The covid has cost a lot to Apple Corps. No new release in 2020 and no Love in Las Vegas made the turnover drop from 29,7 mio £ to 19,6 mio £.

    Apple spent a fortune on making the Get Back film and Let It Be audio box but didn’t sell anything and moved their projects to 2021.

  12. Terry says:

    It’s not hostile to say that DIsney are only interested in money. It’s just a fact – they are a massive business and their aim is to maximise their profits. What else do the shareholders want? What else would you expect them to? That’s not hostile, it’s an observation of fact. Does anyone expect them to do things which aim to lose them money? Of course not. That’s what a business does – make proift.

    The unfortunate consequence is that in controlling Beatles “product” to a global market, they act in whichever way is beneficial to them. What else would they do?

    If you think what’s beneficial for you is the same as what’s beneficial for them, sure, sign up, stream, subscribe, give them your bank details, whatever. But be under no illusion that they are after the contents of your wallet, and that is all they are interested in.

    It’s no biggie for me, but like when ATV owned Northern Songs, or ABKCO took a slice of Imagine, it just sticks in the throat somehow that business execs are calculating how to get themselves richer off JPG&R’s work. It’s a fact of life, but not something which makes me happy.

    • Win Corr says:

      I think Disney likes to make a good product just like The Beatles and Wingnut and they need to earn money doing it, right. Pretty basic economics and they are bound by agreements they made with each other. Global is key and Disney can do that for sure. he fact that you can even get rich on The Beatles in this era is phenomenal and fans can reap some rewards.

  13. Blakey says:

    At least Apple can do deals with Disney or UMG, and we are lucky there have been the deluxe reissue box sets and the Get Back film. The Rolling Stones have been criminally underrepresented in the modern reissue age because of a stand off between Jagger and Richards and ABKCO. There are no deluxe box sets, no outtakes or bonus tracks and a wealth of live, film and TV material remains unreleased. The Stones most celebrated period – the 1960s – is virtually ignored. Beatles fans have a lot to be thankful for.

    • Win Corr says:

      …very good point. Stones reissues have been very poor. Goat’s Head Soup and Tattoo You are the decent ones and they are not as good as Beatles solo reissues, let alone Beatles.

  14. Ian says:

    > We have noticed that a number of our readers are frowning upon the fact that it’s the Walt Disney Company who is taking care of the distribution of The Beatles’ “Get Back” documentary film. But Disney and the Beatles go back a long time.<

    Straw Man Argument [if indeed, a position it is].

    The Beatles and Hunter Davies go back a long time, perhaps he should be responsible for the distribution?

    How about the FBI? A long association with John, and they even get name-checked in LIB.

    Better yet, in fact best – Pete Best. If length of association counts for anything, clearly he is the man for job.

    Let's be clear. Apple and Disney have effed this up from the beginning. And it just gets worse.

  15. Win Corr says:

    This Beatles and Disney relationship is the best thing that has every happened to the band in recent years. Now they have a partner that can distribute and finance projects worthy of the Beatles potential. Those who cannot respect this capability are not thinking this through business-wise. Disney Plus viewership is up to 1/2 of Netflix right now and it’s directly related to the Beatles. Hopefully there is a lot more to come. ‘New Animation Projects’ and more remastering of film and music projects to boot.

    • Henry Gibson says:

      If DIsney is so happy with the Beatles Get Back arrangement then why is it so hard to find on my Disney TV App and you end up having to do a “search” for it?

      • Win Corr. says:

        I see the image on my TV… But probably, because it’s been out for 5 Months and they are going to sell the hard units now.

  16. Pete Best says:

    How much Beatle stuff do I want to keep seeing. Same things revised over and over. I’d rather fill up my motorhome at a full serve pump

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