In the tradition of Disney’s rich storytelling legacy, Lucien Adés pioneered the first “read-along” record album for Disney Consumer Products in 1953. His idea for record albums with beautifully illustrated companion books, which combined a Disney story with music in a medium other than film, spread from France to the United States. Over the years, Lucien’s idea has inspired many different forms of Disney recorded merchandise including “storyteller” albums and “sing-along” videos.
Former vice president of product development for Walt Disney Records Ted Kryczko once explained: “Read-alongs are a very important part of Disney. They’ve carved out their own unique niche in entertainment because they’re interactive, imaginative and fun for children to use, while parents appreciate read-alongs because they’re designed specifically for their children; there’s great educational value in that.”
Born on January 20, 1920, in Constantine, Algeria, Lucien studied arts at the nearby University of Algiers. After graduation, he served for a short time as a professor of French and Latin at a college preparatory school. In 1942, he entered the French Liberated Armed Forces. During World War II, Lucien was stationed with British troops in the Middle East.
After the war, Lucien arrived in Paris and opened a bookstore in the Parc Monceau district. His lifelong passion for children’s literature inspired him to develop his first read-along record album, which was well-received by his customers. Not long after entering the music publishing business, Lucien sold his bookshop and, with product in hand, contacted the French offices of Walt Disney Productions. There, he established a friendship and collaborative partnership with fellow Legend Armand Bigle.
Bigle recalled, “Lucien’s ‘read-along’ concept was a brilliant addition to Disney’s line of merchandise. He was a very good licensee—one of our best!”
In 1957, four years after Lucien published his first read-along album in France, a version of his concept premiered in the United States when Disney merchandising produced its first “storyteller” albums. These featured songs and story narration from such films as Bambi, Dumbo, and Pinocchio.
Lucien’s record company, Adés Editions, produced countless read-along books for Disney in France. Besides acting as publisher, Lucien composed the scripts and hired gifted artists to develop the illustrations. Famous French actors of the era were brought on to perform the roles. Although his priority was to publish children’s read-alongs, his company also edited classical and contemporary records.
In 1988, after conducting business with Disney for more than thirty years, Lucien sold Adés Editions to long-time Disney licensee Hachette Publishing; he continued to work with the company for the next two years.
Lucien passed away on July 17, 1992, in Paris.