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"When You Wish Upon A Star" is a song written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for Walt Disney's 1940 adaptation of Pinocchio. The original version was sung by Cliff Edwards in the character of Jiminy Cricket, and is heard over the opening credits and in the final scene of the film. The song has since become the representative song of The Walt Disney Company. The recording by Cliff Edwards and Chorus was released by Victor Records as catalogue number 26477A (in USA) and by EMI on the His Master's Voice Label as catalogue number BD 821.
Edwards recorded another version in 1940 for an American Decca Records "cover version" of the score of Pinocchio, conducted by Victor Young and featuring soprano Julietta Novis and The King's Men. It was first released on a 4-record 78-RPM album set, and years later as one side of an LP, backed by selections from The Wizard of Oz. A recording with Christian Rub (with Mister Geppetto's voice), Cliff Edwards and Chorus was released by Victor Records as catalogue number 26479B (in USA) and by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalogue number BD 823. "When You Wish Upon A Star" won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Original Song.
The American Film Institute ranked "When You Wish Upon A Star" seventh in their 100 Greatest Songs in Film History, the highest ranked Disney animated film song, and also one of only four Disney animated film songs to appear on the list, the others being "Some Day My Prince Will Come" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ranked at nineteenth, "Beauty and the Beast" from Beauty and the Beast ranked at #62, and "Hakuna Matata" from The Lion King, ranked at #99.
The song reached the top one in Billboard's Record Buying Guide, a predecessor of the retail sales chart. Popular versions included Glenn Miller, Guy Lombardo, Horace Heidt and of course, Cliff Edwards.
In Japan, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark, the song has become a Christmas song, often referring to the Star of Bethlehem. The Swedish language version is called Ser du stjärnan i det blå, roughly translated: "do you see the star in the blue(sky)", and the Danish title is "Når du ser et stjerneskud", which translates as "When you see a shooting star". In Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway the song is played on television every Christmas Eve in the traditional Disney one-hour Christmas cabaret, and the gathering of the entire family to watch this is considered a Scandinavian tradition.
The song was also covered by Dion and the Belmonts in 1960.
Billy Joel performed the song in the 1991 direct-to-video special Simply Mad About the Mouse: A Musical Celebration of Imagination and its soundtrack.
"When You Wish Upon A Star" is presented twice in Disney's RocketMan (1997). The first time it appears in the film, it is sung by Fred Z. Randall (played by Harland Williams) while looking at a star outside of a spaceship. Then at the end of the film, an abridged version of the original by Cliff Edwards plays as Randall and Julie Ford (Jessica Lundy) dance together on a spaceship.
'N Sync recorded a cover for Disneymania (2002), Ashley Gearing covered the song for Disneymania 2 (2003), Jesse McCartney covered it for Disneymania 3 (2005), and Kate Voegele performed it for Disneymania 6 (2008).
Brian Wilson admits that the melody of The Beach Boys hit song, "Surfer Girl", which has the same AABA form, is loosely based on the Dion and the Belmonts version of "When You Wish Upon A Star". Wilson also covered it on his album In the Key of Disney, which was released on October 25, 2011.
"When You Wish Upon A Star" along with Mickey Mouse has become an icon of The Walt Disney Company. In the 1950s and 1960s, Walt Disney used the song in the opening sequences of all the editions of the Walt Disney anthology television series. It has also been used to accompany the Walt Disney Pictures opening logos – including the present-day logo – since the 1980s. The ships of the Disney Cruise Line use the first seven notes of the song's melody as their horn signals. Additionally, many productions at Disney theme parks – particularly fireworks shows and parades – employ the song.
The owner of the rights to the song, Bourne Co. Music Publishers, sued Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., Fox Broadcasting Company, Fuzzy Door Productions, Cartoon Network, Walter Murphy and Seth MacFarlane to try to stop distribution of a 2003 Family Guy episode entitled "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein" that parodies the song in a version called I Need a Jew. A federal judge ruled against Bourne Co, stating that parodying the song did not infringe on the company's copyright.