George Edward Bruns (July 3, 1914 – May 23, 1983) was an American composer of music for film and television who worked on many Disney films, was nominated for four Academy Awards for his work, and was also a proficient musician, playing and recording on trombone, tuba and string bass. Bruns was born on July 3, 1914 in Sandy, Oregon, the son of a sawmill worker. He took music lessons as a child, becoming proficient on the piano, tuba and trombone. He attended Oregon State Agricultural College, and in order to pay tuition he played in the ROTC band. Deciding on a musical career, he went to college at Oregon State University, where he was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, graduating in 1936. In the 1930s he worked as a musician with various groups in the Portland, Oregon, area, including the likes of Jack Teagarden.
After World War II, Bruns began playing with various swing and jazz bands, then formed his own group (among whom was a trumpet player named Doc Severinsen). In addition to having his own band, he was also musical director at several Portland (OR) radio stations. In 1946 he was appointed musical director at radio station KEX in Portland, Oregon, and also was the bandleader for the Rose Bowl room of the Multnomah Hotel. From 1947 to 1949 he performed and recorded on trombone with Portland’s Castle Jazz Band, led by banjoist Monte Ballou. In the late 1940s he moved to Los Angeles, where he did studio work, performed, and recorded with orchestras such as trombonist Turk Murphy’s Jazz Band. In 1953 he was hired by UPA Studios as the composer for a cartoon called Little Boy with a Big Horn (1953). The award-winning short launched his career, and over the next few years he composed music for a dozen more pictures.
Later in 1953 Bruns was hired by Walt Disney as an arranger, eventually becoming Disney’s musical director. He was asked to come up with a song to fill a 3.5-minute gap in a multi-part TV series the studio was shooting and co-wrote “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” with Tom W. Blackburn for the film Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (1955), as well as the song “Love” for the Disney animated film Robin Hood. Bruns was then assigned by Disney to write songs for its upcoming children’s show, The Mickey Mouse Club (1955). He spent nearly 20 years at the studio, working on the scores of nearly 40 films and several TV series and specials. During the mid-1950s, he adapted the music from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet for use as background score in the 1959 Disney film version. He also composed the score for The Jungle Book, and provided Herbie the Love Bug with his sprightly theme song, featured prominently throughout the series.
During his tenure with Disney Studios, Bruns continued to play dixieland jazz, leading his Wonderland Jazz Band on two recording sessions, and playing and recording occasionally with the Disney “house” band, the Firehouse Five Plus Two. He remained at Disney until his retirement in 1976. Despite his retirement he continued to work on Disney projects. In 1973, Bruns and Buddy Baker composed and conducted the musical score for films combining live-action and animation. Among his work is the song “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)” (which he co-wrote with Xavier Atencio), used in the Disney theme park attraction Pirates of the Caribbean and the movies based on that ride.
After he retired from Disney, Bruns moved back to Sandy, Oregon. He taught part-time at Lewis & Clark College and continued to play and compose music, including recording at least one locally distributed album of jazz. His four Academy Award nominations were for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture Sleeping Beauty (1959); Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture Babes in Toyland (1961); Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment for The Sword in the Stone (1963); and Best Music, Original Song Robin Hood (1973), with Floyd Huddleston (lyrics) for the song “Love.” Bruns died of a myocardial infarction (heart attack) on May 23, 1983, in Portland, Oregon. He was named a Disney Legend in 2001.
My collection includes the following work by George Bruns:
Robin Hood (1973): Medley.