Baby Elephant Walk

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"Baby Elephant Walk" is a piece of music written in 1961 by composer Henry Mancini, for the 1962 release of the movie Hatari![1] The composer combines brass instruments (including repeated blasts from the tuba) and woodwind elements to convey the sense of a toddler that is large and plodding, but nonetheless filled with the exuberance of youth. The catchy, jazzy simplicity of the tune has made it one of Mancini's most popular works, prompting its appearance on nearly twenty later compilation and best of/greatest hits albums. As the allmusic.com album review states, "if Hatari! is memorable for anything, it's for the incredibly goofy 'Baby Elephant Walk,' which has gone on to be musical shorthand for kookiness of any stripe. Get this tune in your head and it sticks."[2] Hal David reportedly composed lyrics to Mancini's tune, which were never used.

The tune was written for an impromptu scene in Hatari! in which Elsa Martinelli led three baby elephants to a pool to bathe. Mancini used a calliope introduction to suggest the sound of a circus. A cheeky melody was then played over this on a clarinet. The overall style was that of boogie-woogie as Mancini explained, "I looked at the scene several times [and] I thought, 'Yeah, they're walking eight to the bar', and that brought something to mind, an old Will Bradley boogie-woogie number called 'Down the Road a Piece' ... Those little elephants were definitely walking boogie-woogie, eight to the bar. I wrote 'Baby Elephant Walk' as a result".[3][4]

In 1963, Brazilian pré-Jovem Guarda group Trio Esperança recorded a vocal version of this song, titled "O Passo do Elefantinho", with lyrics written by Ruth Blanco. This version was a great hit in national radio performances in Brazil. But the original song by Henry Mancini is popularly recognized by common Brazilian listeners as the Brazilian version title.

The cheerful tone, like that of Mancini's "The Pink Panther Theme", presents a stark contrast to more melancholy Mancini standards such as "Moon River". Due to its "goofy" sound, it is often used in a humorous context. It was also covered by a number of performers in the 1960s, including The Fabulous Echoes on their LP album Those Fabulous Echoes with the Hong Kong-based Diamond Records in 1963 and Bill Haley & His Comets who recorded a version for Orfeon Records in 1964. It was the closing song at the end of The Lemonwheel, the August 1998 music festival that ended the summer tour of jam band Phish. Mancini's version was not released as a single. The Billboard Top 100 singles were Lawrence Welk, and the Miniature Men.

The Nickelodeon animated series The Angry Beavers features a sped-up version of "Baby Elephant Walk" for the show's end credits. For a period of time, it was used as the theme song to The Ramblin' Rod Show, a children's morning cartoon show. The first few notes were used at the start of play in the video game Crazy Climber. The tune is commonly heard throughout Philadelphia Phillies games at Citizens Bank Park. In The Simpsons, it is used by Homer Simpson in the season 2 episode "Dancin' Homer" where he dances as a mascot for the Springfield Isotopes baseball team. During an episode of Minor Adjustments, Darcy (Sara Rue) observes that the cadence of the song allows one to hum it while watching Dr. Hampton pace nervously. In an episode of Friends (episode 7 of season 3, "The One with the Race Car Bed"), Joey hums the song in his head.

The song is currently used as the theme for the character The Virus, played by senior producer Erik "E-Rock" Nagel, on the Opie and Anthony show. The song serves as the musical bed for The Virus as he attempts futilely to come up with just one punchline; hilarity ensues because he is, admittedly, "not very good at this."

The song was prominently featured in the pilot episode of 2012 NBC sitcom, The New Normal.

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra covered the song as "Tiny Elephant Parade" on their 1990 album Ska Para Toujou.

The Earwolf podcast Who Charted? uses the song underneath their live commercial reads; the song is also frequently used on the Nerdist podcast The Todd Glass Show.

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ Henry Mancini interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969).
  2. ^ Baby Elephant Walk at AllMusic
  3. ^ Mancini, Henry (2001), Did They Mention the Music?: The Autobiography of Henry Mancini, Cooper Square Press, p. 109, ISBN 978-0-8154-11758 
  4. ^ John Caps (2012), Henry Mancini: Reinventing Film Music, University of Illinois Press, p. 88, ISBN 978-0-2520-93845