One of Disney’s most prolific music men, Buddy Baker composed more than 200 scores for Disney motion pictures, television, and theme parks. Among his vast contributions, the multi-talented artist scored the live-action movie Napoleon and Samantha, which garnered the Studio an Academy Award® nomination for Best Original Dramatic Score in 1973, television’s Mickey Mouse Club,” and the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland.
Buddy later recalled what it was like working with Walt Disney:
“During the 28 years I worked at the Studio,” he said, “Walt never came to a recording. He had confidence in me and in everybody else. He trusted his people. He also knew what kind of music worked—not the notes, the kind.”
Born Norman Baker on January 4, 1918, in Springfield, Missouri, Buddy studied music at Southwest Baptist University, where he earned his doctorate. He began his career in the late 1930s, playing trumpet with such bandleaders as Harry James, Kay Kyser, and Stan Kenton, and composed music for television programs including The Jack Benny Show.
In 1954, Disney staff composer George Bruns brought him on board to help with the Davy Crockett series. From there, Buddy went on to score more than 50 films, including Toby Tyler, The Gnome-Mobile, and The Fox and the Hound. He also scored such animated featurettes as the Oscar®-winning Donald in Mathmagic Land and the original three Winnie the Pooh films.
As the Studio ventured into television, Buddy contributed to such series as Walt Disney Presents and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. He then moved into the theme park arena, beginning with the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, scoring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and the Carousel of Progress. Buddy later wrote “Grim Grinning Ghosts” with fellow Legend X Atencio for the Haunted Mansion.
As musical director for Epcot Center, Buddy supervised and composed music for the Future World pavilions and World Showcase. Among the attractions he scored were Universe of Energy, the American Adventure, and Impressions de France, for which he wove a tapestry of original music and classical works by French composers such as Debussy, Ravel, and Satie. The digital score, which was recorded in London, featured Buddy conducting a 100-piece philharmonic orchestra.
In 1983, Buddy retired as the last staff composer at a major Hollywood studio. He went on to direct the University of Southern California film scoring program, widely considered the best in the nation. Buddy even continued to score Disney theme park attractions, including Innoventions at Disneyland, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction at Walt Disney World, and Sindbad’s Seven Voyages for Tokyo DisneySea.
Buddy Baker passed away on July 26, 2002 in Sherman Oaks, California.