Dizney Rascal: when Disney meets ska at Edinburgh's Hogmanay

Chris Staunton on playing Disney songs: 'People know straight away that this is something they can have a good laugh with'

Frontman Chris Staunton talks to us about Disney-flavoured ska coming to Bairns Afore

As the Disney cover band prepares for this year's Hogmanay event for families, Bairns Afore, we talk to the band's co-founder about how ska is the perfect vehicle for Disney classics.

What came first, Disney or ska?
Definitely ska. I started the band with Olly Vallance the bass player and Matt Edwards the drummer when we were about 14 years old – and I'm nearly 30 now.

So how did the idea of covering Disney songs come about?
My little sister was always mad about Disney, and when she was learning the piano my parents bought her the Disney songbook. Our band used to practice at my house, and one day we were just flicking through the book and thought some of these tunes are absolutely brilliant.

Our local open mic night was on that evening, so we learned 'King of the Swingers' and 'Bear Necessities', and they went down better than anything we'd ever played before. Then later that night in the pub, Matt suggested the name Dizney Rascal – that was about eight years ago.

What is it about ska that lends itself so well to Disney songs?
I think ska and reggae songs of any kind are just very light-hearted. Its aim is to put a smile on your face, get people moving and have a good time without taking itself too seriously. And I think that goes well with the whole Disney thing - people know straight away that this is something they can have a good laugh with, bounce around and have fun.

There are a lot of songs in the Disney repertoire – how do you pick which ones to cover?
Playing them over the years, it's become clear that some songs go down better than others. And we're also a little bit restricted by the fact that some of them are incredibly hard to learn and transpose into a ska style.

So which ones have emerged as the favourites?
'I Just Can't Wait to be King' from The Lion King always goes down a treat, as does 'Under the Sea' from The Little Mermaid. They're always the last ones we perform in a set, along with 'King of the Swingers' from The Jungle Book – they're the fan favourites. And of course, at this time of year, we have to put something from Frozen in there – so we'll do 'Let It Go'.

The Disney corporation is very strict on what people can and can't do with their creations – how have you got round this?
We ran it past my aunt, who's a solicitor – and because we don't sell merchandise or CDs, everything we do comes under the usual performance licence you need to play music. I'm sure we're pushing it a bit – but I think that's why we haven't drawn huge attention from them, because we don't try to sell anything under the guise of us being something to do with Disney.

Bairns Afore, a gig and firework display for families on 31 December that gives them their 'Midnight moment' six hours early, is a brand new event for Edinburgh's Hogmanay – how do you feel about being part of it?
We're looking forward to it and think it will be a lot of fun. When we started out playing Disney songs, it was all for adults. It's only been in the last couple of years that we've been asked to do more of the family stuff, and it's always a lot of fun. All we've had to do is clean up some of the jokes, that's the only difference.

This being a family event, do you anticipate the audience joining in?
Absolutely! I'd consider it a failure on my part if we don't have people dancing and singing along.

Bairns Afore, Princes Street, Gardens, Sun 31 Dec.

Bairns Afore

New family-friendly Hogmanay event. Celebrate with the kids and enjoy a spectacular fireworks display and entertainment, all afore bedtime.

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