Cool Cats and a Hot Mouse explores the history of Disney and Jazz and how they’re related. Why was this an important book for you to write?
I thought this was an important book to write because I noticed through my personal studies and fascinations with Disney and jazz music that they had an incredible history together. Both worlds were vastly different, yet had decades of historic interactions that were inspiring, surprising, and even controversial at times. I describe it in the book as “two ships continually passing each other while sailing the same sea (or at times even crashing into each other).” I also noticed that although there were multiple books with specific sections highlighting these interactions, there was not one complete book that was entirely dedicated to these fascinating historic intertwinements. So, I decided to write one!
I loved all the bits of history and insider knowledge you provided. What kind of research did you undertake for this book?
As a professor and scholarly writer, I put a lot of emphasis on research. All of my writings for various academic books and journals are heavily researched and well-cited. And although I wanted this book to be more of a casual entertaining read (as opposed to the more formal textbook-style writings I frequently publish) I wanted the book to be just as thoroughly researched — hence the 18 pages of referenced research listed at the end of the book. Additionally, I knew Disney had interesting histories with not just artists from the ‘pure’ jazz world, but also from musical worlds that I refer to in the book as “jazz adjacent”. I knew some music purists might argue my discussions of these artists and genres that aren’t on the surface ‘pure’ jazz, so I make the case in the book to explain and defend why these “jazz-adjacent” stories should be included in the book.
What is one thing that stands out in your mind as the best marriage of Disney and Jazz?
Although there were times in history that these two worlds collided with friction and controversy (which this book does not shy away from discussing), the overwhelming thing that became evident through my research was how much affection was shared between the pioneering artists in the Disney and jazz (and jazz-adjacent) worlds. Some of the most successful and memorable Disney works were because of these musical artists, and many of these musical artists described their Disney partnerships as among their most creatively-fulfilling and personal favorite works. I found it inspiring how these two worlds consistently inspired each other.
What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your book?
I hope readers take away a fresh way of looking at America’s history. Because these two worlds became quintessential entertainment for 20th-century America, their stories reflected the successes (and failures) of a nation. I describe them in the book as “two forever connected entertainment empires that helped define a country, to both its own people and to the rest of the world.” As readers learn entertaining and fascinating stories about the rise of Disney’s empire and significant music pioneers, I hope they take away a fresh perspective of American culture.