Year Inducted: 2001
George Bruns burst onto Disney’s musical scene in 1953 when he was personally hired by Walt Disney to score the animated feature Sleeping Beauty. At the same time, Walt asked the newly-hired composer and conductor to “make up a little something” for a three-part television series that was later edited into the hit feature Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier.
Soon, George’s catchy “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” was on the lips of young and old alike. The down-home ditty soared to the top of the Hit Parade for six months and sold more than eight million records; meanwhile, the music he developed for Sleeping Beauty received an Academy Award® nomination. It was the first of three he received during his 22-year career with The Walt Disney Studios.
Born in Sandy, Oregon, on July 3, 1914, George began piano lessons at six. He mastered the tuba and trombone by high school, and later added another 12 instruments to his mind-boggling repertoire. In 1934, he cut short his engineering education at Oregon State to play with popular bands of the day, including Jack Teagarden’s, and later worked as a musical director and conductor of live bands at radio stations in Portland, including KOIN and KEX.
George moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1950, where he began arranging and conducting for Capitol Records and UPA Studios. He also played with bands, including that of Tennessee Ernie Ford. Three years later he landed at Disney, where he contributed to such hit films as The Absent-Minded Professor, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, The Love Bug, and more. George received additional Oscar® nods for his work on Disney’s first live-action musical Babes in Toyland, based on the Victor Herbert operetta, followed by the 1963 animated feature The Sword in the Stone.
Beginning in the 1950s, George also contributed to Disney’s pioneering television series Disneyland, Mickey Mouse Club, and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, while his theme song for the popular Zorro series sold another one million records. In all, he contributed to more than 200 motion pictures, television shows, and more.
As legendary animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston recalled in their book Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, “George Bruns worked equally well in either medium, writing ‘Davy Crockett’ for the live TV show at the same time he was adapting Tchaikovsky’s ballet score for Sleeping Beauty to our animated version of the classic fairy tale. George was big and easy-going, but he worked very hard and produced a seemingly endless string of fresh melodies and haunting scores.”
In 1975, George retired from The Walt Disney Studios, returning to his Oregon hometown where he continued conducting and playing in bands, composing and arranging music, as well as teaching at nearby Lewis and Clark College.
George Bruns passed away on May 23, 1983, in Portland, Oregon.