On this day in 1941, "When You Wish Upon a Star" won the Academy Award for Best Song. Written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, it was introduced in Disney's animated Pinocchio where it was sung by Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket! (Along with Paul J. Smith, Harline and Washington also received the Oscar for Best Original Score on this day.)
Lyricist Ned Washington was born in Pennsylvania in 1901. One of the most prolific of the Tin Pan Alley writers, he collaborated on several Broadway scores. In 1934, Washington moved to Hollywood where he first worked for MGM and then Disney by 1938. Eventually he began writing with many composers - one in particular being Leigh Harline.
Composer Harline was born in Utah in 1907. He majored in music at the University of Utah and by 1928 moved to California. Leigh first joined Disney in 1932 and wrote tunes for some 50 animated shorts before scoring Walt's first feature-length animated feature Snow White. It has often been reported that Walt didn't actually like the musical score to Pinocchio ... until it won 2 Oscars. Unfortunately this caused Harline to leave the Disney Studio and never work for Walt again. Ironically the tune has become the "theme" of Disney!
Pinocchio's most famous melody was later used in opening sequences of Disney's anthology TV series and in Walt Disney Picture's opening logos.
Even Disney's cruise line ships use the iconic first seven notes of "When You Wish Upon a Star" as their horn signals.
Some music experts believe the first seven notes of the tune are borrowed from Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune."
The American Film Institute has ranked "When You Wish" seventh in their 100 Greatest Songs in Film History.
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