Beginning in 1937 with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” Disney animated films have tended to be musicals.

Although musical tastes have come and gone over the years, the studio's musical extravaganzas have adapted accordingly and become huge box office successes. Many, including “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin” and, most recently, “Frozen,” have become long-running, live-action Broadway stage re-imaginings of these animated films.

In his upcoming presentation at the Beck Center of the Arts in Lakewood, Daniel Goldmark, a professor and musicologist who serves as director of the Center for Popular Music Studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, will explore the ups and downs of the Disney musical, from screen to stage.

The event – a talk complemented by the sights and sounds of cartoon music – is being presented in association with CWRU's Laura and Alvin Siegal Lifelong Learning Program.

Siegal Lifelong Learning Program Executive Director Brian Amkraut said, “We do a lot of programming on the East side and we were looking for an effective partner on the West side. When we were brainstorming, it seemed that Daniel’s expertise in cartoon music was a perfect and timely fit with the Beck Center in Lakewood,” which is currently staging the Disney musical “The Little Mermaid.”

The Cleveland Jewish News caught up with Goldmark to discuss his passion and his presentation.

CJN: When did you first become interested in cartoon music?

Goldmark: When I was 5, a piano sonata by Mozart – No. 16 in C major, K. 545 – was stuck in my head and I had no idea how that happened or where it came from. I came to realize that it and other classic and operatic tunes I could hum came from the cartoons I was watching on local TV channels on Saturday mornings.

CJN: I first learned of Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-sharp minor from a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Goldmark: A lot of children were first introduced to serious music from cartoons.

CJN: When did you turn this revelation into a lifelong passion?

Goldmark: I convinced my Mother to get me piano lessons.  I became a music major in college, worked for an animation studio before going to graduate school, and revolved my graduate studies in musicology at UCLA around cartoon music.  There wasn’t much done in this area but the school had a very well-known animation program as part of its film school, so I was able to take classes in animation as well as in music history.

CJN: What kind of work did you do in the animation industry?

Goldmark: I was an archivist at Spümcø Animation in Hollywood, where I served as music coordinator on the short cartoons “Boo-Boo Runs Wild” and “A Day in the Life of Ranger Smith.” I was research editor at Rhino Entertainment in Los Angeles, where I produced or co-produced several collections and anthologies, including a two-CD set of the music of Tom & Jerry composer Scott Bradley.

CJN: Why have you focused on the music in Disney films, which is the subject of your upcoming presentation?

Goldmark: Because of its long and illustrious history. Disney started incorporating original music by contract composers into feature-length animated films eighty years ago. After World War II, Disney hired professional New York songwriters for its films, which take a very different turn in terms of musicality with “Cinderella” and “Lady and the Tramp.” In the 1980s, it hired a new breed of composers who produced incredible works like “Beauty and the Beast.” Disney’s animated musicals and their stage equivalents have reached generations of audiences and become a familiar and incredibly successful brand.

CJN: The history of the studio seems grounded in these animated works and their music.

Goldmark: There will be no shortage of things to talk about at the Beck Center. And everyone in attendance will have their own memories to bring to the conversation.

Bob Abelman covers professional theater and cultural arts for the Cleveland Jewish News. Follow Bob at  2017 Ohio AP Media Editor’s best columnist.

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