|Randy Erwin's yodeling skills are showcased in the Disney animated feature Home on the Range
Yodeling for Disney
Randy Erwin takes his talent to the big screen
By NICK ROGERS
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT WRITER
In Disney's animated film
"Home on the Range," Alameda Slim is a self-described pioneer Pied Piper in 10-gallon underpants who speaks with
the dusty, dusky voice of actor Randy Quaid.
But the sound of Slim's yodeling, which the evil land-grabber
uses to steal cattle away from their ranches, fell to a different Randy.
Randy Erwin, who moved with his family
to Springfield about a year and a half ago, has been a professional yodeler for more than 20 years. And his work in "Home
on the Range" won't be confined to the song "Yodle-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Oo" and the incidental off-screen yodel.
"There'll be the soundtrack, the sing-along-karaoke, read-along CDs," Erwin says. "All that they
can come up with."
And Erwin's yodeling will go global as the film premieres worldwide throughout the
year. Because he spoke no English in the film, he was allowed to re-record for the film's 32 different foreign releases,
unlike other featured vocal talent such as Quaid, Judi Dench and Cuba Gooding Jr.
"It's almost never done,
but I guess they tried to find other people in other countries and they couldn't match it up," says the 46-year-old
of his yodeling. "When your adrenaline's going, it's real easy to redo 32 takes. It's the benefit of speaking
In 1980, Erwin graduated with a radio, television and film degree from the University of Texas
at Austin, with a specialization in music and effects for radio and film. He worked at a radio station and TV station there
for a couple of years before deciding it wasn't for him.
A Texas native, Erwin often heard yodeling recordings
when growing up in the state's Gulf Coast area, but didn't sing much until he was in his 20s.
wasn't until then that my voice had matured into a yodeling voice," he says.
Moving to Dallas to yodel
professionally, Erwin played business conventions for several years before joining Cafe Noir, "a classical gypsy"
band that sang songs inspired by Django Reinhardt.
Erwin recorded two solo CDs, as well as two with Cafe Noir,
and also had a cameo in "True Stories," the 1986 film directed by Talking Heads front man David Byrne. He also lent
his voice to several television commercials, including Home Depot ads. For the past seven years, he has performed shows for
children as Cowboy Randy, combining his yodeling with trick roping at libraries, schools and parties in Texas and Illinois.
He got wind of the "Home on the Range" job through an Austin agent who recommended him to the film's
producers. They flew him to Los Angeles to record a demo at Disney's animation division. A few weeks later, he was hired
for the job.
"They really needed the right kind of voice to match Randy Quaid's," Erwin says. "He
was born in Houston, and I was born about 80 miles south."
Over the course of four recording sessions, Erwin
got his tracks finalized. The most memorable moment came early, when he went straight through "Yodle-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Oo"
in one take, with its Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken on hand.
"Right in the middle, I could see through
the glass, and Alan starts doing this jig," Erwin says. "Everybody's clapping and jumping up and down. At that
moment, my life had just kind of flipped around from being a bottom-feeder to being one step above a bottom-feeder."
(This moment is part of behind-the-scenes footage from the film, which can be viewed through Erwin's Web site at http://web2.iadfw.net/a0027072/gettingthere.html.)
Erwin laughs a bit, calling Disney's "pay better than scale."
"Since it's a real
specialty thing, they were kind," Erwin says. "They gave me a premium price to do it. And the residuals will be
nice when the DVDs come out. I'm kind of at the top of the food chain."
He says taking his family to the
film's premiere in L.A. was probably the best thing he's ever been able to do with them.
throws a party, it's 100 percent the best thing you've ever seen," says Erwin, who got to walk down the red carpet
in front of the El Capitan Theatre along with Gooding Jr. and actress Estelle Harris.
It has been said that "Home
on the Range" will be Disney's final hand-drawn animated film. If that's true, Disney will end its animation
run as it came in, with a midmovie round of yodeling.
"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' (Disney's
first full-length animated feature) had yodeling right in the middle of it, too," says Erwin. "It's kind of
odd that things would turn out that way."
And even if Disney doesn't require Erwin's yodeling services,
he's confident it will be a good calling card.
"I'm not sure how much demand there is in Hollywood,"
he says. "But if they need more yodeling, here I am."
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