Learn about Disney Legend Robert Sherman, born 12/19/1925.
You may not recognize Robert Sherman’s name, but you’d definitely recognize his work if you heard it. Chances are you’ve hummed one of his numerous songs sometime over the past week!
The prolific songwriter worked with his brother Richard to create more motion picture songs than any other songwriting team in history—including many for The Walt Disney Company. Their work on films like Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and The Jungle Book earned them a place in the Disney Legends hall of fame. The brothers were both inducted in 1990.
Sure, we know the Sherman brothers are famous for the “it’s a small world” and Enchanted Tiki Room songs, but they contributed so much more to Disney and beyond. Want to learn more about this talented artist? Let’s look back on his career and learn five facts about Disney Legend Robert Sherman.
Lead photo courtesy of D23.
1. A Real American Hero
Robert Bernard Sherman was born on December 19, 1925, in New York. The elder son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Robert enlisted to serve in World War II when he was 17 years old.
During the global conflict, Robert served in an infantry combat unit and was shot in the knee, which resulted in the need for a walking cane for the rest of his life.
Just two weeks after his injury, Robert was one of the first Allied troops to enter the Dachau concentration camp—mere hours after the German military abandoned it. He received multiple medals for his service in WWII, including a Purple Heart.
Robert spent time recovering from his injury in England, where he fell in love with British culture—so it’s no surprise that Robert eventually moved to the UK to retire.
Want more insights into the Sherman brothers? We sat down with Jeffrey Sherman, oldest son of Robert Sherman, to talk music, Walt, Mary Poppins, and the legacy of his father and uncle. Get our exclusive interview by ordering a copy of our collectible Music issue of WDW Magazine or becoming a digital subscriber to unlock all our exclusive content (just $4.99/month!).
2. It Runs in the Family
After graduating from Bard College in 1949, Robert and his brother began writing songs together at the behest of their father, who had been a successful Tin Pan Alley songwriter. Finding that they they too possessed the songwriting gene, the brothers pursued that vocation and established the publishing company Music World Corporation in 1958.
Around that time, the brothers had their big break with the song “Tall Paul,” which they wrote for Mouseketeer Judy Harriet. It was later sung by Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, whose rendition made it into the top 10 on the music charts—and caught Walt’s attention.
What followed for the duo was a full-time gig as staff songwriters for the Walt Disney Company in California until Walt passed away in 1966.
3. A “Chitty Chitty” Banger
After Walt passed, the Sherman brothers returned to being freelance songwriters, and luckily their renowned work for Disney had made them famous in Hollywood, so work was easy to find.
They began freelancing in 1966 and shortly after received their first non-Disney gig in a very long time: writing songs for Albert R. Broccoli’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie for United Artists in 1968. The job earned the brothers their third Academy Award nomination.
Decades later, when Robert moved to London, he and his brother wrote a handful of new songs for the stage musical adaptation of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang being produced in England.
4. An Award-Worthy Career
The best evidence of how talented Robert was as a songwriter is to look at the numerous awards he and his brother earned over the years.
Foremost on the mantle would be the Academy Awards they received for their work on Mary Poppins, including “Best Original Song” for “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” which was iconically crooned by Dick Van Dyke in his chimney sweep garb. The duo received Oscar nominations five subsequent years for other films.
In addition to that prestige, Robert won three Grammy awards with his brother, and the duo were the only Americans to win First Prize at the Moscow Film Festival (in 1973 for Tom Sawyer).
Before passing away in 2012, Robert was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and given a National Medal of the Arts by President George W. Bush.
5. In His Own Words
If you want to learn more about Robert’s life and accomplishments, his acclaimed autobiography, Moose: Chapters from My Life, is a great read—packed with everything you’d want to know. His son Robert J. Sherman edited the book and helped publish it in 2013, a year after Robert’s death.
Before Robert passed away, he shared an early portion of his memoir with Alison Owen, who went on to guide the production of Disney’s 2013 film Saving Mr. Banks. She and her crew drew from his account to fill in some details surrounding the development of Mary Poppins in 1961 and credited Moose as an important resource.
In the film, Robert is portrayed by B.J. Novak, whom you may know as a writer, director, and actor for NBC’s The Office.
Remembering Disney Legend Robert Sherman
What’s your favorite Disney song that Robert and Richard wrote? I have trouble deciding, but “The Spectrum Song” from Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color is definitely a top contender. I still get it stuck in my head whenever someone starts naming colors.