Composer behind Disney hits dies at 86

By Jennifer Lipman, March 6, 2012

The composer behind It's a Small World After All and the song Supercalifragilistic from the Disney musical Mary Poppins has died.

Robert B Sherman, the London-based songwriter who with his brother Richard composed music for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Aristocats, The Jungle Book and The Parent Trap, was 86.

The Sherman brothers won two Oscars and two Grammy awards during their colourful career, which took off in 1958 after they composed the hit song Tall Paul for a Disney Mouseketeer.

The son of a Ukrainian immigrant songwriter and a silent actress, Robert was born in New York in 1925. He served in the army during the Second World War and in April 1945 was part of the troop that liberated the Dachau concentration camp. Later, he was awarded a Purple Heart.

Mr Sherman, who is survived by his brother, told the JC that the idea for supercalifragilistic came from a moment on a summer camp many years earlier. "There was a competition for who could write a longer word than 'antidisestablishmentarianism.' So we made up a word - it wasn't exactly 'supercali' but it was close.

"So 36 years later when we needed something magical for Mary Poppins to say, we said, hey, what about that word? Walt liked it."

The brothers were both inducted into the Disney Hall of Fame in 1990 in honour of their work.

Last updated: 4:54pm, March 6 2012