Choosing Mr. Holloway

You’ve probably heard this story before because I’ve told it often. A little kid was taken to the movies by his mom to see Walt Disney’s “Dumbo.” It was the first time he had heard the rather odd, yet distinctive voice of actor, Sterling Holloway. Holloway provided the voice of the stork in the film’s opening sequence. Remember the delightful opening song? It was entitled, “Look Out for Mr. Stork.” It was the perfect way to begin the enchanting, charming Disney motion picture.

Always a favorite with the Old Maestro, Sterling Holloway was a regular voice actor at the Walt Disney Studios and had voiced the characters in many a Disney movie. But, this was the nineteen sixties, and the boss had a new idea on his radar. Walt had decided to bring Winnie the Pooh to the screen and had his artists hard at work developing the new property. I think Walt had already decided that Sterling Holloway would provide the voice of the silly old bear. Mr. Holloway was on the Disney studio lot along with a handful of other actors who were auditioning for voice roles in the film. However, something unusual happened during those days back in the sixties. We were upstairs developing a movie of our own. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It was called, “The Jungle Book,” and we needed a voice for one of our characters. Who would have thought that the very same actor voicing Winnie the Pooh would be the perfect match for our crafty reptile who would play a funny role in the Walt Disney feature film.

Our timing was perfect. After all, Sterling Holloway was already recording at the studio anyway. Now, he would be doing double duty playing Winnie the Pooh as well as doing the voice for Kaa the sneaky python. Even though the two characters were very different, Sterling Holloway seemed to be the perfect voice for both. When something works, you simply have to go with it.

Let’s go back to the little kid watching Walt Disney’s “Dumbo” with his mom in a Santa Barbara movie theater. That was back in the forties, but now we move forward to the sixties, and the little kid was now a story artist in Walt Disney’s story department. Naturally, I still regret I don’t have a photograph of Sterling Holloway on stage A where we recorded the song, “Trust in Me.” The sequence was storyboarded by Disney veteran, Vance Gerry and myself and it proved to be a hit in the classic Walt Disney motion picture. Even better, it provides proof that dreams do come true. You see, the little kid who wanted to work for Walt Disney eventually did just that. I know this because that little kid happens to be me.