Why can’t life be a Disney production? If Walt’s folks had done the Persian Gulf war, it would have ended in three days, with no Allied casualties and only flesh wounds among the enemy. But Disney keeps trying: Not content to control our Dumbo-addicted preschoolers, it now sets its sights on our infants.
The baby-oriented collections Wake-Up, Playtime, and Lullaby offer 35 to 45 minutes each of morning songs, finger games, and bedtime songs, respectively. Marketing a musical accompaniment to life is not a new idea — the format here is identical to Discovery Music’s ”Magic” series — but Disney makes it uniquely Disneyesque: slick, sweet, synthetic.
Sometimes it works. The Playtime tune ”Wiggle Your Toes” turns ”This Little Piggy Went to Market” into a ballad, then into a cute version of the old toe game, complete with toddler shrieks. Singer Kenneth Williams has a bluesy style and good range. Here, Disneyesque production values mean high quality.
There are some lovely songs among the 55 on these three albums. Stephen Bishop’s wistful ”When You Wish Upon a Star” gives the lullaby adult implications; it’s gorgeous. The wake-up songs ”Get Outta Bed” and ”French Toast” make the most of four-part harmony. But these are exceptions. Mostly, this is music by committee: never one voice when a chorus will do, never an offbeat ad-lib when the common-denominator approach will turn a tune into baby Muzak.
Muzak’s okay in, say, ”Sleepytime Skies,” a song that was never anything but Muzak. However, this approach can ruin better songs. The Mary Poppins lullaby ”Stay Awake” is a clever study in reverse psychology — ”Don’t lie down upon your bed,” etc. — but it’s sung with such earnestness you could miss the point. But when the Wake-Up album turns George Harrison’s ”Here Comes the Sun” into Muzak it’s unforgivable — because it lets you hear how close the song was to Muzak already.
But then, it’s a Muzak world. People will buy these songs precisely because they are from Disney: a known quantity, always pleasant but never art.
Wake-Up: C; Playtime: C+; Lullaby: B