Disney and the Beatles
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!
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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”:
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.
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.
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.
In the mid-seventies, Ringo took his kids to Disneyland.
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.