Audio Adventures at Disney - Part 2
In a recent post, I described an encounter with audio recording formats during my time at Walt Disney Records, when I produced Disney’s first audio compact disc, the Fantasia digital soundtrack, released in 1986. Read about it here.
With the success of that first CD, we moved ahead with plans for more. The obvious choice was a collection of Disney’s all-time greatest songs. Several previous collections were available on record and audio cassette, but we decided to wipe the slate clean and produce brand-new versions of the songs, going back to the earliest masters we could locate, many of them optical sound elements from early films.
The beginning stages of the project were handled by Ted Kryczko and Randy Thornton, both of whom went on to become legendary producers at Disney. We planned our source materials and edits, at which point audio recording formats entered the picture again.
With the advent of digital sound, it had become possible not only to edit more efficiently but to “clean up” old recordings, eliminating or minimizing hiss, pops, and scratches, of which our recordings had many. One of the earliest systems, developed by LucasFilm, was spun off (along with another division called Pixar) to form Sonic Solutions, a new company owned by former LucasFilm employees. They worked out of a modest house in San Francisco.
Eager to spruce up our songs, I called Shawn Murphy, who had recorded the Fantasia digital soundtrack, and asked if he’d like to take a trip. We packed the digital transfers of our songs and flew to the Bay Area one morning.
I remember drinking coffee and watching with Shawn as a Sonic Solutions engineer cleaned up those songs on his computer. The monitor clearly showed the waveforms along with pops and other audio imperfections, many of which could be deleted without affecting sound quality. It seemed like a miracle, though by today’s standards that software was primitive.
Back in Burbank with the improved recordings, we prepared the CD masters. Randy did some great work researching and writing histories of the songs, which we paired with archival photos and stills in the liner notes. Over the next two years, we released The Disney Collection, Volume One (1987) and Volume Two (1988).
Pleased with the results, we perused the Disney soundtracks with an eye to improving and reissuing some of them. That led to yet another audio adventure at Disney, the Mary Poppins soundtrack album. I’ll tell you about that in an upcoming post.