Mickey at the microphone
In 1938, Walt Disney had his own NBC musical variety radio series, The Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air
. Sponsored by Pepsodent with a weekly budget of $10,000 to $12,000, it was broadcast from the Disney Little Theater on the RKO lot, airing on Sunday afternoons from January 2 to May 21, 1938. Disney was both the host and the voice of Mickey Mouse, along with Donald Duck (Clarence Nash), Goofy (Stuart Buchanan), Clarabelle Cow (Florence Gill) and Minnie Mouse (Thelma Boardman). Scripted by comedy writer Bill Demling and radio actor Eddie Holden, the series also featured Old King Cole (Billy Bletcher), Clara Cluck (Florence Gill) and other Disney characters. Others heard on the series were Mel Blanc and Walter Tetley (later famed as nephew Leroy on The Great Gildersleeve
and grocery boy Julius on The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show
The opening theme was "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?", and the Felix Mills Orchestra (with 33 musicians) supplied the music. Also heard was Donald Duck's Swing Band and Donald Duck's Webfoot Sextet (with cowbells, bottles, a car horn and a meat grinder creating Spike Jones-like effects), plus a 12-voice female choir (with four members who supplied the whistling for Minnie Mouse's Woodland Bird Choir) and an eight-voice male choir. John Hiestan was the announcer. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
opened February 4, 1938, and this radio series was created to promote the film. So after the debut "Robin Hood" episode, "Snow White Day" was heard January 9. The 20 episodes included "Ancient China," "Sleeping Beauty," "Who Killed Cock Robin?" and "William Tell".
Click below to hear seven episodes, beginning with ''Snow White", followed by "Mother Goose Land," "Cinderella," "King Neptune" (with Bea Benaderet as Miriam the Mermaid), "The Pied Piper" (with Hans Conried), "The Old Woman in the Shoe" and "Old MacDonald" (with Cliff Arquette in the title role and Mel Blanc as the hiccuping farmer's daughter). From the fourth episode on, the voice of Mickey was not Disney but was supplied by comedian Joe Twerp. And when Walt was too busy to host, he was impersonated by announcer Hiestan!
When I was a child, I regularly bought three magazines, Dell's 1000 Jokes
(edited by Bill Yates), Radio Mirror
(which later became Radio and Television Mirror
and then TV Radio Mirror
) and Radio Best
(in a large bedsheet size, as I recall). In the 1920s, MacFadden published Radio Stories
. During the 1930s, listeners could choose between Radioland, Radio Mirror, Radio Guide
and Radio Stars.
The Radio Mirror
at top is the April 1938 issue. The Radio Best
here is dated April 1948.
The monthly radio magazines made it possible to see what the radio performers looked like. But their program listings were frustrating because the magazines went to the printer so far in advance, they could not list specific episodes. General listings in magazines just could not compare with the daily newspaper radio listings, and some newspapers ran entire pages about radio with photos, columns, features and extensive listings.
Because Walter Annenberg published newspapers, he was aware that daily radio logs brought many readers, so in the early 1940s he did publish a weekly, Movie-Radio Guide
, with a 21-page program guide (just titles, but it did give playlists on some classical music programs). It even included a short wave page with "War News in English" (times and stations in Mexico City, Berlin and many other cities) and "Programs for Our Troops Overseas". ("Clip out this column and send it to a soldier friend abroad.") By early 1943, he gave it up and went to a monthly schedule, but a decade later, this weekly magazine became the forerunner of TV Guide,
which Annenberg started in 1953.
Labels: clarence nash, disney, radio, radio best, radio mirror