The Meaning and Story Behind the Fairytale Song, “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

It’s an odd little song that many of us have caught ourselves singing. We might not even get the words right, but it’s a feeling, a bop.

“Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” is a well-known “nonsense” song from, of course, the Disney animated musical, Cinderella. It’s one of the most well-known songs from that movie, which came out 75 years ago. And it’s the subject of our inquiry here today.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the meaning and story behind the song.

Origin

Written in 1948 by Al Hoffman, Mack David, and Jerry Livingston, the song came out in the 1950 animated Disney movie, Cinderella. The movie, of course, is all about a forgotten stepsister, who, with the help of a little magic and a fairy godmother, charms a prince and escapes her fate.

Performed by actress Verna Felton, the song is sung as said fairy godmother transforms a pumpkin into a white carriage and four little mice into horses. Another horse becomes a coachman and a dog becomes a footman.

The tune was so beloved that it was nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1951, losing out to “Mona Lisa” from Captain Carey, U.S.A.

“Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” was later reprised for the 2015 remake of Cinderella, starring Lily James. It was performed then by actress Helena Bonham Carter, who played the fairy godmother.

The Recording

Ilene Woods and The Woodsmen with Harold Mooney and His Orchestra recorded the original version of the song in Hollywood on October 26, 1949. But there have been many versions since, including a popular offering by Perry Como and The Fontaine Sisters.

A version by Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae hit the Billboard charts on December 16, 1949, and lasted there for seven weeks, peaking at No. 19. Later, The Kings Men performed a version on the Fibber McGee and Molly radio show in 1950.

Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore also had their versions. Much later, the sports drink Gatorade used it in a commercial starring Sergio Ramos and Leo Messi to promote the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament.

Also, Louis Armstrong covered it. SpongeBob SquarePants used it. Dragon Ball Z references it. Pinky and The Brain parodied it. As did South Park and the movie Shrek 2. It’s even referenced in the later Disney movie, Return of Jafar.

Nonsense Song

The lyrics for the ditty are quizzical. One might know that just from the title, but taking a look (or listen) to the lyrics and it’s easy to tell: if there is a meaning, it’s all on the listener to decide.

After all, what do mere mortals know about fairy godmothers, anyway? Perhaps it’s her language and we can’t hope to parse it?

(One wonders how the writers of the tune came up with them. Maybe we shouldn’t ask.)

See the lyrics below:

Sala-gadoola-menchicka-boo-la bibbidi-bobbidi-boo
Put ’em together and what have you got?
Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo


Sala-gadoola-menchicka-boo-la bibbidi-bobbidi-boo
It’ll do magic believe it or not
Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.


Now, Sala-gadoola means menchicka-boolaroo
But the thing-a-ma-bob that does the job is
bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.


Sala-gadoola-menchicka-boo-la bibbidi-bobbidi-boo
Put ’em together and what have you got?
Bibbidi-bobbidi, bibbidi-bobbidi, bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.

Lyrics Additions and Subtractions

Disney apparently loved the nonsensical side to the song, because several more intelligible lyrics were omitted from the original 1949 recording when the 1950 animated film was released.

For example, the lines If your mind is in a dither, and your heart is in a haze, I’ll haze your dither, and dither your haze, with a magic phrase and if you’re chased around by trouble, and followed by a jinx, I’ll jinx your trouble, and trouble your jinx, in less than forty winks, were not incorporated in the movie.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes nonsense songs are the best songs. When hearing or viewing a piece of art, the observer generally always puts his or her understanding on the track, anyway. So why not cut out the middleman—remove any obvious meaning—and give it up to the gibberish?

That’s where the magic comes from.

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