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Feed the Birds: Its Significance for Us and Walt Disney

ancient architecture black and white building

(Editor’s note: This article uses affiliate links. If you click on a link and it takes you to an Amazon page, you may purchase the book or song there. It won’t cost you any more than going directly to Amazon, and it will help our blog prosper. Thank you.) According to Robert Sherman, as recounted in “The Musical World of Walt Disney,” Walt Disney’s favorite song was the ballad “Feed the Birds.” Walt would invite the Sherman Brothers to his office for a scotch and a chat, then he would ask Richard Sherman to play the song that he would later call “the most beautiful song written for me.”

Mary Poppins sings “Feed the Birds” to the children as she puts them to bed, the evening before they are supposed to go with their father to the bank.

 Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul's
 The little old bird woman comes.
 In her own special way to the people
 She calls, "Come, buy my bags full of crumbs." 

This old bird woman is coming to a place of worship, a place where people are supposed to remember the love and charity of their religion, and she’s there to help remind them of what it means to be human. Her call for tuppence is a direct contrast to the bank’s call. The Fidelity Fiduciary Bank wants you to invest your tuppence, so you’ll get rich and make others rich in the process. The little old bird woman wants your tuppence to:

 "Come feed the little birds, show them you care,
 And you'll be glad if you do.
 Their young ones are hungry; their nests are so bare.
 All it takes is tuppence from you."

If this song were really just about birds, you may think yourself worldly for rejecting the old woman’s plea. She’s asking for your money, after all. However, that misses the point of the song entirely. The birds are both literal – there are birds on the steps of St. Paul – and metaphorical: The birds represent the poor people that Christians are supposed to take care of. Children of those in need are the “young ones” and their nests are their homes that are so bare and empty.

But in that second verse, don’t overlook what happens if you simply feed the birds. “You’ll be glad if you do.” Charity for animals, people, and birds comes with its own reward. Contrast the little old bird woman sitting on the steps of St. Paul and those who are helping her feed the birds with the men of industry in the bank. The bank is living in the future expounding the principles of conquest and conflict. While the little old woman lives in harmony with her birds, the bank is driving:

 Railways through Africa,
 Dams across the Nile, fleets of ocean Greyhounds,
 Majestic, self-amortizing canals,
 Plantations of ripening tea...

It is also proposing the damaging actions of:

 Purchas[ing] first and second trust deeds,
 … foreclosures
 Bonds! Chattels! Dividends! Shares!
 Bankruptcies! Debtor sales! Opportunities!
 All manner of private enterprise!
 Shipyards! The mercantile
 Collieries! Tanneries!
 Incorporations! Amalgamations! Banks!

Not only does the “Fidelity Fiduciary Bank” not mention anything about being happy, but it also denies the individual the opportunity to develop him- or herself. The bank directors are in charge of the future; the individual just has to give up his or her money to the bank. This disempowerment leads to people who aren’t able to make their own financial decisions. By focusing on the future, the bank is denying its customers the opportunity to experience the here and now, which is the key to being happier.

 "Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
 Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag
 Feed the birds", that's what she cries.
 While overhead, her birds fill the skies

 All around the cathedral, the saints and apostles
 Look down as she sells her wares.
 Although you can't see it, you know they are smiling
 Each time someone shows that he cares.

 Though her words are simple and few
 Listen, listen, she's calling to you.
 "Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
 Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag."

 Though her words are simple and few
 Listen, listen, she's calling to you.
 "Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
 Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag."

Showing you care is part of being human. People are naturally compassionate. It is only through years of being worn down by traumatic experiences and cultural values that human beings begin to see the darkness more than the light. Walt Disney was someone who saw the light. He wanted to bring what was good into the world. “Feed the Birds” is a simple tune that reminded him of what he wanted in the world. People who cared for each other and who would choose to do the right thing with their tuppence. So, go out and feed the birds. By doing so, you’ll be taking care of others and yourself.

Or you could go with the bank…

This is part of our Disneycember coverage. Disneycember appears to have been coined by Doug Walker, the Nostalgia Critic, and Channel Awesome. Come back every day during December and read a new Disney article.

If you want to read more about Disney and creativity, check out “Disneyland Is Creativity” and “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” Read more about the Disney Company in “Penguinate! The Disney Company.” Check out other Disney stories at www.penguinate.weebly.com.

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