Mickey's Music Box: The Tragic Tale Of Frank Churchill - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Mickey's Music Box: The Tragic Tale Of Frank Churchill

Chris Morley opens up Mickey's Music Box once again...

In our first foray into the world of the composers who have supplied the magic element for many a Disney production we looked at the work of Walt's original musical maestro, Carl W. Stalling. Hot on his heels joining the fledgling company was Frank Churchill.

Similarly to Stalling, Churchill had started out playing piano in cinemas around California as well as studying medicine at the state's university before dropping out to pursue music full time after securing a job as an accompanist for radio at KNX AM in 1924. By 1930 he was a Disney man, three years later he scored his first big chart hit, and gave Disney another award win, with Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf, as featured in Three Little Pigs.

The peak of Churchill's career arguably came when he was picked to compose the score for Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs, the studio's first feature length animation. Churchill's catchy, artfully written songs played a large part in the film's initial success and continuing popularity, securing him the post of music supervisor at Disney.

Churchill wrote music for other Disney movies, like The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad and Peter Pan, he also shared co-writing credit with Jack Lawrence for the deleted song "Never Smile at a Crocodile" from the latter.

In 1942, Churchill and fellow composer Oliver Wallace won an Oscar in the category "Scoring of a Musical Picture" for cowriting the score for Dumbo. He also shared an Oscar nomination with Ned Washington for the song "Baby Mine" from Dumbo for Best Song.

After this accolade, on paper 1942 should've been a good year for Frank. Sadly his story doesn't end anywhere near as happily as you may think - battles with drink & depression following the deaths of two friends & colleagues in Disney's orchestra contributed to an eventual suicide by gunshot at his piano on May 14th 1942.

An urban myth persisted that the tragic turn of events in Frank's life was prompted by disputes with Walt Disney himself over the score for Bambi. Walt, it seems, was not initially a fan of Churchill's proposed work for the film, but clearly many other people were and 1943 would see Frank receive two posthumous Oscar nominations; the first for cowriting the score to Bambi with Edward Plumb, and the second for cowriting the song "Love is a Song" with lyricist Larry Morey.

Next time we tune into Fantasia.

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