May 25, 2024, 4:43 PM ·

Disney Legend and Academy Award winning composer Richard Sherman passed away today. He was 95.Sherman, along with his brother Robert, wrote some of the most enduing songs in Disney theme park history, including the theme to “It’s a Small World” as well as “The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room” and “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” from Carousel of Progress.The Sherman Brothers in 1965 won Oscars for Best Original Song (“Chim Chim Cher-ee”) and Best Score for their work on “Mary Poppins.” The brothers later received an addition seven Academy Award nominations for other films, including “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “Bedknobs and Broomsticks.”But it is in the Disney theme parks that the Shermans’ work has been most widely heard. “It’s a Small World After All” has endured since its 1964 debut at the New York World’s Fair as one of the world’s most popular earworms and the defining melody for countless Disneyland and Walt Disney World visits.
The piano in Walt Disney’s office, where the Sherman Brothers often would play “Feed the Birds” – Walt’s favorite song. Photo by Robert NilesRichard Sherman continued to compose for Disney after his brother’s death in 2012. Most recently, Richard wrote the “Kiss Goodnight” exit music for the Disneyland Forever fireworks. You can hear Richard Sherman’s recollections about his Disney theme parks career – including a very different, hymm-like redition of “Small World” – in my recording from the 2009 IAAPA Expo Disney Legends panel.But my favorite personal memory of Richard Sherman came around the time that “Kiss Goodnight” debuted. I was sitting in the lobby of the Grand Californian, writing a post for the site and listening to the pianist playing on the lobby’s grand piano.I noticed Richard walking with a Disney handler across the far side of the lobby. When he heard the piano, he stopped his attendant, turned and made a beeline for the pianist. He waited, respectfully, a few feet away until the song was finished, then walked forward to offer a handshake and thanks to the performer.They gratefully accepted the acknowledgement, then, after Richard went back on his way, turned to me with an expression that I would now describe as being like a Swiftie who just got the “22” hat.Richard Sherman was a pro’s pro among musicians. “Richard Sherman was the embodiment of what it means to be a Disney Legend, creating along with his brother Robert the beloved classics that have become a cherished part of the soundtrack of our lives,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said. “From films like Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book to attractions like ‘it’s a small world,’ the music of the Sherman Brothers has captured the hearts of generations of audiences. We are forever grateful for the mark Richard left on the world, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family.”* * *
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