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Tracks Unwrapped

When You Wish Upon A Star



When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you.


When you wish upon a star ... Well, of course nobody really believes it will make any difference. Why should it? It is a fairy tale fantasy. Or is it? Are you sure? Are there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy? Before we go Poinocchiodown that road, let's spend a minute or two unwrapping the song.

When You Wish Upon A Star was written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for Walt Disney's 1940 film, Pinocchio. It won the 1940 Academy Award for 'Best Original Song', was the first Disney song to win an Oscar and was subsequently adopted as the theme song of the Walt Disney Company.

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 song reached the top in Billboard's Record Buying Guide, a predecessor of the retail sales chart. Popular versions included those by Glenn Miller, Guy Lombardo, Horace Heidt and Cliff Edwards.

Sung by Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards) and a chorus, it plays over the opening credits and in the movie's final scene.


Here is the original trailer for the film:





If your heart is in your dreams
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do.


Pinoccio was only the second full-length animated film from Disney after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Initially, it bombed at the box office but when it was re-issued in 1945 things changed - it went into profit and secured its long-term popularity; now it has a rare 100% rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes.

From our childhood we all know Carlo Collodi's story of Pinocchio. The concept has a striking similarity to modern day film and television dramas such as Humans and Westworld in which robots develop consciousness. In the movie, Jiminy Cricket is the narrator of the story in which a woodworker, Geppetto, makes a puppet who he names Pinocchio. Before falling asleep, Geppetto makes a wish on a star that Pinocchio would be a real boy. During the night, a Blue Fairy visits the workshop and brings Pinocchio to life, although he still remains a puppet. She informs him that if he proves himself brave, truthful, and unselfish, he will become a real boy, and assigns Jiminy to be his conscience.

On waking, Geppetto finds his dream has come true. He sends Pinocchio to school but on the way, the boy meets Honest John (a fox) and Gideon (a cat) who entice him to join a puppet show run by Stromboli. Of course, Pinocchio becomes the star attraction and Stromboli keeps him locked up to stop him returning home.


A scene with Pinocchio and Stromboli.




The Blue Fairy reappears and wants to know why Pinocchio is not at school? As Pinocchio makes excuses, his nose grows longer and longer as he lies. In the end, he tells the truth and the Fairy sets him free, but that bad Honest John and Gideon soon catch up with him and sell him to a coachman who is recruiting foolish little boys to take to Pleasure Island (NB. Not 'Treasure Island' and I am not at all sure of the connotations here).


Here's the scene where the coachman takes the boys to Pleasure Island.




We now enter Lord Of The Flies territory. Without rules or authority to enforce their activity, Pinocchio and the other boys soon engage in smoking, gambling, vandalizing, and getting drunk, much to Jiminy Cricket's dismay. Jiminy discovers that the island hides a curse: the boys brought to Pleasure Island are literally transformed into donkeys and sold into slave labour. Pinocchio manages to escape, only partially transformed into a donkey. When they arrive back at Geppetto's workshop they find that he has gone in search of Pinocchio, only to have been swallowed by a giant whale and is now living in his belly. Pinocchio jumps into the sea accompanied by Jiminy to rescue Geppetto and is swallowed by the whale as well. Pinocchio works out a plan to make the whale sneeze. The plan works, they are sneezed free, the whale chases them, smashes their raft, giving them a chance to escape, and everyone survives - except Pinocchio.

Luckily, the Blue Fairy decides that Pinocchio has proven himself brave, truthful, and unselfish and he is reborn as a real human boy. Jiminy is given a gold badge that certifies him as an official conscience. 'Always let your conscience be your guide.'


Here is the final scene and a return to our song.





Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true


So what has jazz got to do with it? Well, the song has been covered by many jazz musicians over the years. Let's start with Louis Armstrong's version from the album Disney Songs The Satchmo Way. I have chosen this particular YouTube track because of the excellent selection of pictures of Louis and children that go with the song.




While we are still talking 'Disney', did you know that during the 1950s the Disney Studios had their own jazz band? The Firehouse Five Plus Two was a popular band with a number of successful recordings to their name. The band was formed from members of the Disney animation department. Initially, the personnel were: Danny Alguire (cornet) [Fingerprint expert formerly with L.A. police department]; Harper Goff (banjo) [Illustrator at Warner Brothers and Colliers Magazine, Disney designer and Imagineer]; Ward Kimball (trombone, siren, tambourine, sound effects, leader) [Lead Animator], Clarke Mallery (clarinet); Monte Mountjoy (drums); Erdman (Ed) Penner (soprano saxophone, bass saxophone on early recordings, later switching to tuba) [Writing department] and Frank Thomas (piano) [Animator]. Others joined in over the course of time and also played with other bands including George Probert (clarinet and saxophone - Bob Scobey, Kid Ory); Dick Roberts (banjo - The Banjo Kings) and George Bruns (trombone - Turk Murphy). The band existed from 1949 to 1972.


The Firehouse Five Plus Two playing Everybody Loves My Baby. Animated Animators.





Now, is there something special about stars? The song says:


When a star is born
They possess a gift or two.
One of them is this.
They have the power to make a wish come true.


Why would a star have any influence over us at all? Why do we check our Horoscopes? Why do we have star signs? I guess most people know their star signs (mine is Scorpio). Generally speaking we accept that people born under star signs have certain attributes in common. I once went to a talk where the speaker argued that people, again generally, have certain physical features and that you can Full moonrelate these to their star sings. She claimed she could indentify a person's star sign from their features and even produced pictures to prove her point.

We accept that the sun and moon have an effect on our planet, on the tides, on our moods. There are those who believe strongly that planting seeds should take place at certain phases of the moon to achieve the best result. The website argues: 'Planting by the moon is an idea as old as agriculture, based both in folklore and superstition, but there are scientific ideas to back it up. The Earth is in a large gravitational field, influenced by both the sun and moon. The tides are highest at the time of the new and the full moon, when sun and moon are lined up with earth. Just as the moon pulls the tides in the oceans, it also pulls upon the subtle bodies of water, causing moisture to rise in the earth, which encourages growth. The highest amount of moisture is in the soil at this time, and tests have proven that seeds will absorb the most water at the time of the full moon.'

The word 'lunatic' comes from a belief that the moon (from the Latin word luna, meaning "moon") had an effect on people's mental health. Studies appear to have been inconclusive, but the theory still exists, and certainly evidence has been found in other species - fish, insects - and marine iguanas (which live in the Galápagos Islands) time their trips to the sea in order to arrive at low tide. So do stars have an influence too?

Perhaps that doesn't warrant 'wishing on a star'. Not that that bothers pianist Keith Jarrett whose trio plays the number in this video:




This lovely arrangement was filmed in Tokyo in 1986. The trio: Keith Jarrett (piano), Gary Peacock (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums). Gary Peacock takes a fine early solo, Keith Jarrett is as inventive as ever and the three musicians are as together as you would wish. As the camera pulls away at the end the stage lighting even allows us one or two off-stage stars.

Wikipedia tells us: 'Astrology, in its broadest sense, is the search for human meaning in the sky; it seeks to understand general and specific human behavior through the influence of planets and other celestial objects. It has been argued that astrology began as a study as soon as human beings made conscious attempts to measure, record, and predict seasonal changes by reference to astronomical cycles, appears as markings on bones and cave walls, which show that lunar cycles were being noted as early as 25,000 years ago. This was a first step towards recording the Moon's influence upon tides and rivers, and towards organising a communal calendar ... The system of Chinese astrology was elaborated during the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BCE) and flourished during the Han Dynasty (2nd century BCE to 2nd century CE), during which all the familiar elements of traditional Chinese culture – the Yin-Yang philosophy, theory of the five elements, Heaven and Earth, Confucian morality – were brought together to formalise the philosophical principles of Chinese medicine and divination, astrology and alchemy.'


Here's guitarist Joe Pass playing his solo arrangement of When You Wish Upon A Star in Vienna in 1988.




When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you,

If your heart is in your dreams
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do.

So is it worth wishing on a star? I guess you have to let your conscience be your guide. But always remember: If your heart is in your dreams No request is too extreme When you wish upon a star As dreamers do. Evidence for that is Jacob Collier, one of today's brilliant jazz stars. If you have not yet discovered Jacob, seek him out. We leave this unwrapping with Jacob and his mum, Suzie, playing When You Wish Upon A Star:





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More Tracks Unwrapped:

The Water Is Wide
Jumpin With Symphony Sid

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