"I came to Disney to help out for two weeks and I ended up staying 29 years."
Those words were spoken by composer, arranger, conductor & Disney Legend Norman 'Buddy' Baker, who on this day in 2002 passed at the age of 84.
Born in 1918 in Missouri, Baker's love of music started at the age of 4 when he began playing the piano. After earning a degree in music from Southwest Baptist College, he moved to California where he became the musical director for Bob Hope's radio show. (Hope would later host TV's opening of Walt Disney World.) Baker also began arranging for big bands and one of his first successes - "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine" became a hit for the Stan Kenton Orchestra. (Kenton would later perform at Disneyland - as many big bands did - during the 1960s.)
By the early 1950s, Baker was a professor at L.A. City College teaching music. Among his students was Jerry Goldsmith, who would go on to become an award-winning film score composer. (Among Goldsmith's scores ... Disney's Mulan and the park attraction Soarin'.)
In 1953 Baker's friend composer George Bruns asked him to write some music for Disney's television show Davy Crockett and the River Pirates. This began Baker's wonderful career at the House of Mouse where he wrote, conducted, and arranged music for TV, film, and theme parks (Baker was the musical director for EPCOT Center).
Baker's theme park work included:
Adventure Thru Inner Space
America the Beautiful
Carousel of Progress (World Fair 1964)
Country Bear Jamboree
Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
If You Had Wings
Impressions de France
It's Fun To Be Free
It's A Small World (additional scoring)
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Listen to the Land
Magic Carpet 'Round the World
Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Sindbad's Seven Voyages
Swiss Family Tree House
Universe of Energy
Winnie the Pooh
Wonders of China
World of Motion
Baker's feature film work included:
Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus
The Misadventures of Merlin Jones
The Monkey's Uncle
Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day
Napoleon and Samantha (in which he was nominated for an Academy Award)
Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too
The Apple Dumpling Gang
No Deposit, No Return
The Shaggy D.A.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Hot Lead and Cold Feet
The Fox and the Hound
After retiring from Disney in 1983, Baker went on to teach at the University of Southern California, coming out of "retirement" briefly to provide music for new attractions at Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Tokyo DisneySea. He was honored as a Disney Legend in 1998 and the following year was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from ASCAP.
It's a pretty safe bet that his 200 plus musical scores (written in a wide range of styles) will be heard by generations of Disney fans for many years to come.
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