Brian Wilson the former Beach Boys leader, will release his new album, In the Key of Disney in October. This is his second project for Disney Pearl Records, Wilson lends his distinctive vocals and arrangements to 11 songs from Disney's film catalog.
"The Beach Boys sound and the Disney people make a fantastic collaboration," says Wilson, 69. "I tried to do justice to all their songs."
The tracks include songs from Disney's early animated classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs all the way to last year's Toy Story 3. Working with co-arranger Paul Von Mertens, Wilson imbues the songs with complex falsettos and an innocence associated with the Beach Boys sound.
Dumbo lullaby, Baby Mine features harmonies that might have fit on Wilson's In My Room. An instrumental medley of Snow White's Heigh-Ho and Whistle While You Work also incorporates a line from Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me), the theme song of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean attractions.
Wilson believes he took Tim Rice and Elton John's I Just Can't Wait to Be King, from The Lion King, furthest from its source, transforming it into a rock number with a Bo Diddley beat. "We took it to the max," he says.
Disney initially approached Wilson about recording an album of its movie tunes in 2009. However, Wilson wanted to record a set of songs by George and Ira Gershwin first. That album, last year's Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin, has sold 53,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Though Wilson has not previously covered Disney, the songs' writers have played roles in his career. Robert and Richard Sherman, who wrote Mary Poppins' Stay Awake, also penned the Four Freshmen hit Graduation Day, which the Beach Boys covered in 1965. And When You Wish Upon a Star, from Pinocchio, inspired one of Wilson's most famous hits.
"I heard it while I was driving my car, and I started humming a melody in my head," Wilson says. "I went home and finished it, and it was called Surfer Girl."
For Wilson, the goal of the project was twofold: to make an album that his grandchildren could enjoy while bringing attention to those who penned many Disney classics, among them Frank Churchill, Ned Washington and the Shermans.