The one-two whammy of audience and critical indifference to “Pinocchio” and “Fantasia” killed Walt Disney’s desire to experiment with the limits of animation in the 1940s. From then on, play it safe was his motto. This may be one of the greatest tragedies to beset popular American culture in the 20th century; despite the depths of pretension and kitch in “Fantasia,” it was at least evidence of a spirited mind in pursuit of the unattained — but “Pinocchio” must have broken old Walt’s heart. There are visual effects in this movie that remained unchallenged until the digital age, and it’s worth recalling that every single one of them was drawn by hand. It has one of the most beautiful and exciting musical scores in the history of the movies (I can’t hear Cliff Edwards’ high, pure falsetto holding that final note of “When You Wish Upon a Star” without chills), a deeply plangent sense of emotion that never tips over into bathos, and a wealth of detail that is still staggering after 65 years. But it may be too dark a movie to attain the popularity of more cheerful Disney cartoons like “Snow White” — although even that one can frighten the tots.
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“When You Wish upon a Star” is a song written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for Walt Disney’s 1940 adaptation of Pinocchio. The original version of the song was sung by Cliff Edwards in the character of Jiminy Cricket and is heard over the opening credits and again in the final scene of the film. The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song that year and has since become an icon of The Walt Disney Company.
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The American Film Institute ranked “When You Wish Upon A Star” seventh in their 100 Greatest Songs in Film History, the highest ranked Disney animated film song, and also one of only four Disney animated film songs to appear on the list, the others being “Some Day My Prince Will Come” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs peaked at nineteenth, “Beauty and the Beast” from Beauty and the Beast peaked at #62, and “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King, which peaked at #99.
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The song reached the top five in Billboard’s Record Buying Guide, a predecessor of the retail sales chart. Popular versions included Glenn Miller, Guy Lombardo, Horace Heidt and of course, Cliff Edwards. In Japan, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark, the song has become a Christmas song, often referring to the Star of Bethlehem. The Swedish language version is called Ser du stjärnan i det blå, roughly translated: “do you see the star in the blue(sky)”, and the Danish title is “Når du ser et stjerneskud”, which roughly translates as “When you see a shooting star.” In Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway the song is played on television every Christmas Eve’s day in the traditional Disney one-hour christmas cabaret, and the gathering of the entire family for the watching of this, is considered major Scandinavian tradition.
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In 2005, Julie Andrews selected the original Cliff Edwards recording for the album Julie Andrews Selects Her Favorite Disney Songs. The song has — along with Mickey Mouse — become an icon of The Walt Disney Company. In the 1950s and 60s, Walt Disney used the song in the opening sequences of Walt Disney anthology television series. It has also been used in multiple versions of Walt Disney Pictures’ opening logos — including the present-day logo — since the 1980s. The ships of the Disney Cruise Line use the first seven notes of the song’s melody as their horn signals. Additionally, many productions at Disney theme parks — particularly fireworks shows and parades — employ the song.
(Above review is from Pinocchio: Disney Gold Classic Collection)
(Above comment from Robert to the YouTube post of the song above)
2 thoughts on “When You Wish Upon A Star”
I can’t remember the TV show of about 30 years ago, but it was an amateur talent show of sorts. A little guy in tennis shoes from Oklahoma named something like Sam Harris won the contest by singing this song. I’ve heard many renditions of thousands of songs over my lifespan, but this young man’s dynamic rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star” remains in my top five.
PS to Robert: 1945 was a great year for me, and clearly it was a great year for you, too. Memories …
As a little girl, I too saw Pinocchio with Jiminy Cricket …just loved Pinocchio and Jiminy and my mother must
have been a great one, because I know we sat through the movie a couple times and later we went back and saw it again. To this day, I still love that song, and I imagine as a child I thought maybe your wish would come true as the song said…Thanks for reminding us of those carefree wonderful days long ago. I needed this after yesterday going to the Community Market, the isles were marked with arrows to tell you where to walk, to stop, the clerks wore masks and there was plastic between me and the cashiers who had on masks as I checked out…how depressing and awful, I felt I was in a communist country and no longer in the country of America where your freedom prevails. Barbara