Oliver Wallace

Oliver George Wallace (August 6, 1887 – September 15, 1963) was an English-born American composer and conductor.[1] He was especially known for his film music compositions, which were written for many animation, documentary, and feature films from Walt Disney Studios.[2]

Oliver Wallace
Born(1887-08-06)August 6, 1887
London, England, United Kingdom
DiedSeptember 15, 1963(1963-09-15) (aged 76)
Los Angeles, California, United States
GenresFilm score, musical theatre
Years active1911–63


Wallace was born on August 6, 1887, in London. After completing his musical training, he went to the United States in 1904, becoming a US citizen ten years later.[1] He initially worked primarily on the West Coast in Seattle as a conductor of theater orchestras and as an organist accompanying silent films. At the same time, he also made a name as a songwriter, writing tunes such as the popular "Hindustan". With the advent of the talking film era, he worked increasingly for Hollywood film studios in the 1930s.

In 1936 he joined Disney Studios, and quickly became one of the most important composers in the studio for animated short films. Wallace provided the music for 139 of these shorts. One of his best-known pieces is the song "Der Fuehrer's Face" from the 1942 Donald Duck propaganda cartoon, though he was uncredited. This parody of a Horst Wessel song was, mainly through the version by Spike Jones and His City Slickers, one of the biggest hits during the Second World War. Other shorts Wallace scored include Ben and Me (1953), about Benjamin Franklin and a mouse, and the Oscar-winning Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953), the first cartoon to use the new Cinemascope process.

Walt Disney also had Wallace score full-length films for the studios, starting as a conductor and an orchestrator for Pinocchio, along with Leigh Harline and Paul J. Smith, though he had no screen credit. His first credited appearance was Dumbo (1941), for which he, together with Frank Churchill, won his first and only Oscar in 1942.[3] He went on to score Victory Through Air Power (1943), The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), Cinderella (1950) (Paul J. Smith also scored Cinderella), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), Lady and the Tramp (1955), and White Wilderness (1958). Wallace also voiced the villainous Mr. Winkie in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, though he was uncredited as the voice actor. He received four other Oscar nominations for the music to Victory Through Air Power (Losing to Alfred Newman for The Song of Bernadette), Cinderella (Losing to Adolph Deutsch and Roger Edens for Annie Get Your Gun), Alice in Wonderland (Losing to Johnny Green and Saul Chaplin for An American in Paris), and White Wilderness (Losing to Dimitri Tiomkin for The Old Man and the Sea). A common characteristic of all these productions was the cooperation of several composers in the creation of the music. Wallace understood this and integrated leitmotiv-like elements from the individual songs into the film scores.

When the Disney studios began to increasingly produce full-length feature films, Wallace also wrote scores for these. In Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959), Wallace wrote not only the score but also set the Lawrence Edward Watkin-penned popular songs "Pretty Irish Girl" and "The Wishing Song". In Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with the Circus (1959), he appeared as an actor, playing the conductor of the circus band.

Starting with Seal Island (1948), Wallace also specialized in musical accompaniments for Disney documentaries, including nearly all the films for the "People and Places" series and some of the "True Life Adventures". The music of White Wilderness (1958) was even nominated for an Oscar in 1959, a rare event for a documentary film.

Overall, Wallace contributed music to almost over 150 Walt Disney productions.[2] He worked for Disney studios for 27 years.[4] He remained active in the studio in Los Angeles until shortly before his death at a Burbank, California hospital on September 15, 1963 at the age of 76.[4] In 2008 he was honored with a Disney Legends award.[5]


Most of the films were scored in collaboration with other composers.



  1. Home Front Heroes: A Biographical Dictionary of Americans During Wartime, Volume 3, ed. Benjamin F. Shearer (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007), p. 836
  2. Thomas S. Hischak, The Encyclopedia of Film Composers (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), pp. 691–693
  3. "1941 (14th)". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  4. Associated Press (September 17, 1963). "Noted Composer Oliver Wallace Is Dead at Age 76". Sarasota Journal. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  5. "Barbara Walters And Frank Gifford Among 11 Honorees To Receive Prestigious Disney Legends Awards", US Fed News Service, Including US State News, The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd. (2008), HighBeam Research. June 4, 2015<http://www.highbeam.com Archived 2002-03-31 at the Wayback Machine>
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