When I was little, Mom took me to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi. Everything about these animated films enthralled me—the characters, the story line, the art, but especially the songs.
We caught a streetcar both going and coming back. For the whole of the return ride, I’d sing the songs from the movie we’d just seen. My favorite from Snow White was “Heigh-Ho.” For Pinocchio I seesawed between “I’ve Got No Strings” and “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee.” Bambi gave me “Little April Shower,” my birthday month.
Not only did I shrilly sing those songs, I danced up and down the streetcar’s aisle, acting out the words.
I was Doc marching off to the mines to the beat of “Heigh-Ho.”
I was Pinocchio gleefully waving my flesh-and-blood arms and proclaiming “I’ve Got No Strings” or proudly announcing to the world that I was an actor who could “Hi-Diddle-Dee.”
I was Bambi lifting my sweet face to the “Little April Shower.”
I danced and sang and acted—and giggled—while the other riders clapped and sang along. They, too, had heard the songs on the radio. Some of them had probably taken their own children to the movies. I discovered that my delight delighted them.
Because of that, I think I became a real ham. I can’t just tell a story, I have to act it out with body language, twitching eyebrows, and an accompanying song and dance.
Still, today, I can remember those songs and that time in my life. Daily, I hold one of the cats against my shoulder and dance around the kitchen, singing those songs. The cats stare, long-suffering, into the distance. I pretend to be a working dwarf or a wooden puppet or a woodland rabbit.
I owe Walt and his movies gratitude for encouraging me to imagine. I probably also owe him my thirty-year commitment to being a vegetarian and my life-long love of animals.
Moreover, Fantasia opened for me the world of classical music. Since first seeing that film, I’ve never listened to music without imagining an entire story complete with characters, setting, and plot. Movies and music have taken me to a world beyond myself.