Audio Adventures at Disney

Audio Adventures at Disney

I recently read an excellent but scary article about how our audio recordings are in danger, not from earthquakes, fires, and other disasters, but from the always-changing, ever-improving methods of saving them.

Here are just a few of those methods: wax cylinders, wire recordings, magnetic tape, shellac records, vinyl records, audio cassettes, 8-track cartridges, LaserDiscs, compact discs, digital audio tape (DAT), DVDs, Blue-Ray, MP3s, and countless other file formats, each purportedly better than the last.

With every new method, more recordings go out of date, and playback becomes increasingly problematic. Read the fascinating article here.

I had my own encounters with audio formats when I was with Walt Disney Records. During my five years there, we created read-along book and audio products first with records, then cassettes, then CD-ROMs.

When audio CDs came along, I was asked to produce Disney’s first CD—a soundtrack album of a new, digitally recorded version of Fantasia, arranged and conducted by Irwin Kostal, which had been released theatrically in 1982, barely five years earlier. 

But digital recording had advanced so quickly during those years that we had trouble locating the particular type of recording machine that had been used. So we had the original digital tapes but nothing to play them on. Endless phone calls later, we managed to locate one of the by-then obsolete machines in Nashville, where I now live, and the project was able to be completed.

There were at least two happy by-products of the Fantasia search: receiving a kind note from Irwin Kostal, and meeting Shawn Murphy, the recording engineer who had worked with Kostal on the project. Shawn has gone on to a distinguished career recording film composers such as John Williams and James Horner, and orchestras such as the Boston Symphony, winning an Oscar and a Grammy among many other awards.

A few months after Fantasia, Shawn and I collaborated on Disney’s second and third CDs, two volumes of remastered Disney favorites called The Disney Collection. Our work on that project turned into another audio adventure, which I’ll describe in an upcoming post.