We’ve all heard it said that it’s a small world. But nobody has said it in as many languages as Richard and Robert Sherman.
They penned the seemingly immortal Disney song “It’s a Small World (After All),” said to be the most translated and most performed song ever. They first came to Walt Disney’s attention with their hit “Tall Paul,” which was a Top Ten hit for Mouseketeer Annette Funicello.
Disney commissioned them to write a song for his 1965 New York World’s Fair Pavilion; that song became the theme of the Disneyland attraction “It’s a Small World.” Their long list of film music credits includes “The Parent Trap,” “The Jungle Book,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “The Aristocats.” But the Sherman brothers are probably best known for their Oscar-winning music for Disney’s 1965 film “Mary Poppins.”
Nearly forty years later the film was reimagined as a musical, using the Sherman brothers’ original songs, which premiered in London’s West End, went on to Broadway, and is currently playing at the Ahmanson. The brothers continued working together up until Robert’s death earlier this year.
Richard Sherman joins Larry to talk about seeing Mary Poppins fly on Broadway and what it’s like to write songs for Mouseketeers, cartoon orangutans and dancing chimney sweeps.
On the new stage production of Mary Poppins:
“I never cease to be moved when I see the audience go rapturizing about the whole thing. It’s just a fabulous feeling.”
On the song ‘Feed the Birds’ from Mary Poppins:
“There was one little song, we had a sketch of the song, called ‘Feed the Birds, Tuppence a Bag’ and I played it for him. And he [Walt Disney] said afterwards, ‘Play that bird lady thing again’ so I played the song for him. And he said ‘That’s what the whole story’s about, isn’t it.’ Mary Poppins comes in and teaches the father how to give love to his kids.”
“Let’s give them [the kids] a crazy word like the kind of words we made up when we were kids...So basically all we did is want to come up with a super colossal word.”
On Walt Disney as a boss:
“Walt was very, very wonderful about his creative people because he would let them have their head and then he would steer it afterwards. He would give us something and say ‘how do you feel about it?’, he didn’t tell us what to do.”
On casting Julie Andrews:
“A lot of people said oh she’s too lantern drawed, she’s not photographic, she’s very good for stage but Walt was unafraid of that. He said she’s perfect. She has a terrific attitude, she’s gorgeous, she’s right.”
On the partnership with his brother, Robert Sherman:
“He’d come in from one direction and I from another. I was the exhuberant outward person, Bob was more interior. But he had a lot of gravitas, depth to things and I had a lot of the fun. We sort of blended together. It was a very warm combination of things.”
On the song ‘It’s A Small World’:
“People either want to kiss us or kill us with this one.”
Richard Sherman, award-winning songwriter who, along with his brother Robert Sherman wrote the music for Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and many others