Baby Elephant Walk
"Baby Elephant Walk" is a piece of music written in 1961 by Henry Mancini, for the 1962 release of the movie Hatari! 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." Hal David composed lyrics to Mancini's tune, which appear in the printed sheet music but were never used. In 1962, the song earned Mancini a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement.
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".
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 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 by Lawrence Welk and the Miniature Men.
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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.
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.
Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra covered the song as "Tiny Elephant Parade" on their 1990 album Ska Para Toujou.
- Henry Mancini interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
- Baby Elephant Walk at AllMusic
- "Past Winners Search". Grammy.com. The Recording Academy. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- Mancini, Henry (2001), Did They Mention the Music?: The Autobiography of Henry Mancini, Cooper Square Press, p. 109, ISBN 978-0-8154-11758
- John Caps (2012), Henry Mancini: Reinventing Film Music, University of Illinois Press, p. 88, ISBN 978-0-2520-93845