Songs have always been important in Disney animated films — even live-action/animated films such as “Song of the South,” “Mary Poppins” and “Enchanted.” The studio scored a big commercial hit back in 1933 with “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” from its Oscar-winning short, “The Three Little Pigs,” and has continued the song tradition in its feature-length animated films beginning with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937 to the Disney/Pixar productions such as “Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “WALL-E,” which opens Friday.
Here’s a look at some of the great songs from Disney’s animated films.
Though the latest Disney/Pixar film does feature a new song, “Down to Earth” by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman over the end credits, the two pivotal songs in the film — the bouncy “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” and the uber-romantic “It Only Takes a Moment” — were penned by Jerry Herman for his classic 1964 Broadway musical “Hello, Dolly!” The versions seen and heard in “WALL-E” are from the 1969 movie version.
Director Andrew Stanton says he was originally hoping to have 1930s French swing music for the opening scene in the film about a robot left alone on an abandoned Earth who falls in love when a sleek new research robot named EVE is sent to Earth. But when he was coming up with the concept for “WALL-E” in 2003, the French animated hit “The Triplets of Belleville” was released with a ’30s swing score.
“I didn’t want them to think I was being derivative,” says Stanton. “So it made me look a little harder at old-fashioned songs. I got a lot of standards, and standards to led to music and I just went down the list of staple musicals. It was literally like putting a swatch against the wall. I would take the song and put it at the beginning of the movie and just play it and see what happened to me.”
When he heard the lyric “out there” from “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” it “kicked” in for Stanton. “I was just hooked. I didn’t show it to a lot of people for a while because it was an odd choice. But after a while I started to get comfortable with it. The song is about these two naive guys who had never left their small town and are going to go to the big city for one night and hopefully kiss a girl, and that’s my main character.”
“ Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”
Disney’s first full-length animated film, released in 1937, features numerous classic tunes penned by Frank Churchill, Larry Morey, Paul J. Smith and Leigh Harline, including “I’m Wishing,” “Whistle While You Work,” “Some Day My Prince Will Come,” “Heigh Ho” and “The Dwarf’s Yodel Song.”
Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline and Ned Washington penned the tunes for this 1940 Disney classic about a wooden puppet transformed into a little boy, including the first song from an animated film to win the best song Oscar “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which is performed by Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards). The haunting tune is heard over the Disney logo in animated films. Other beloved tunes from the film include “Give a Little Whistle,” “Hi-Diddle-Dee Dee (An Actor’s Life for Me)” and “I’ve Got No Strings.”
Frank Churchill was the George Gershwin of Disney studios, joining in 1930 and gaining his first success with “Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.” With lyricist Ned Washington, he wrote one most memorable songs about the love between a child and its mother — the Oscar-nominated “Baby Mine” — for this beloved 1941 animated film about the darling little elephant with the jumbo ears. Other songs include “Casey Junior,” “Pink Elephants on Parade” and “When I See An Elephant Fly.” He also received an Oscar nomination with Oliver Wallace for scoring of a motion picture.
The last film he worked on was the 1942 masterwork “Bambi,” for which he earned an Oscar nomination with lyricist Larry Morey for “Love is a Song,” as well as for co-writing the score with Edward Plumb. Both nominations were posthumous because he committed suicide on May 14, 1942, at the age of 40.
Disney went to Tin Pan Alley for its composers of this enchanting 1950 animated film based on the enduring fairy tale. Mack David, Jerry Livingston and Al Hoffman penned the sprightly tunes including the Oscar-nominated “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo,” as well as “So This is Love” and “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” Mike Douglas, who later became a popular daytime TV talk show host, supplies the singing voice of Prince Charming.
'Lady and the Tramp'
Disney’s 15th animated feature, released in 1955, revolving around the love affair between a high-bred cocker spaniel named Lady and a street mutt named Tramp features a delectable selection of tunes penned by singer Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke, including “He’s a Tramp,” the romantic “Bella Notte,” which is played when the canines share spaghetti outside an Italian restaurant, and the hilarious “Siamese Cat Song” performed by Si and Am (both voiced by Lee). The same year she wrote the music for this film, Lee was nominated for an Oscar for supporting actress in “Pete Kelly’s Blues.”
The lavish 1959 adaptation of the fairy tale features songs that were adapted from the 1890 “Sleeping Beauty” ballet by Tchaikovsky including “Once Upon a Dream” penned by Sammy Fain and Jack Lawrence.
This 1961 romp has less music than previous Disney animated features. But it does include Mel Leven’s “Cruella de Ville,” the rollicking salute to the comedy’s colorful villain.
'The Jungle Book'
Released in 1967, this beautifully animated adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling novel was the last to be produced personally by Walt Disney who died during production. The film switched composers in midstream. Longtime Disney collaborator Terry Gilkyson was brought in to write the songs. But Disney felt they were too dark and “too Kipling.” The only song that remains in the film is the upbeat “The Bare Necessities,” which was nominated for an Oscar. Richard and Robert Sherman, who had penned the award-winning score to “Mary Poppins,” were brought in to compose new songs which include the toe-tapping “I Wanna Be Like You.”
The Disney Renaissance (1989-1999)
Though Disney continued to make animated films after Walt’s death in 1966, the studio didn’t really hit its stride again until 1989’s “The Little Mermaid.” Not only did that blockbuster usher in a whole new crop of talented animators and directors, it also heralded the arrival at the studio of Broadway and pop composers. No wonder four of the films from this period — “Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” and “Tarzan” — were transformed into Broadway musicals.
“Little Shop of Horrors” composers Alan Menken and Howard Ashman first supplied the tunes to “Mermaid,” which included the Oscar-winning “Under the Sea,” and then segued to 1991’s “Beauty and the Beast,” winning another Oscar for the title tune and also being nominated for “Belle” and “Be Our Guest.”
Sadly, Ashman died from complications of AIDS in 1991, so he wasn’t able to complete all the songs for 1992’s “Aladdin,” though three of his collaborations with Menken are in the comedy including “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali.” Lyricist Tim Rice was brought in to work with Menken — the new team won the Oscar for “A Whole New World.”
Rice continued working in the Disney universe teaming up with pop legend Elton John for 1994’s “The Lion King,” winning an Oscar for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” Other hit tunes include the soaring “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata.”
Menken returned to the Disney fold teaming up with lyricist Stephen Schwartz for 1995’s “Pocahontas,” which featured the Academy Award-winning tune “Colors of the Wind.’
And for 1999’s “Tarzan,” pop star Phil Collins wrote the songs about the legendary swinger including the Academy Award winner “You’ll Be in My Heart.”
The Pixar Pics
Though songs have been important in Disney’s Pixar films, they haven’t been as integral to the plots as in the traditional Disney animated films. Randy Newman, though, has been Pixar’s go-to guy since “Toy Story” back in 1995. Newman received Oscar nominations for “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from “Toy Story,” as well as for “When She Loved Me” from 1999’s “Toy Story 2” and “Our Town” from 2006’s “Cars.” Newman finally picked up his Oscar for “If I Didn’t Have You” from 2001’s “Monsters, Inc.”
That is a tough one! I think that it would have to be Life is a Highway by Rascal Flatts from the Cars movie. My son used to take his toy guitar and sing the chorus of this over and over. It was so Funny to watch.
I like Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride from Lilo & Stitch.
Disney music though, has always been particularly powerful. Some of my favorites I guess would be like "Second Star to the Right" from Peter Pan and "Reflection" from Mulan. Even the songs written for High School Musical are powerful in their own right. "We're All In This Together", "Bet on it" and "Right Here, Right Now" are some of the better ones in my opinion. I guess that's why I dig Phillharmagic so much...I feel like it showcases some of the most memorable songs.
"When I hear my favorite song, I know that we belong. You are the music in me. It's living in all of us, and it's brought us here because, you are the music in me.
"You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality." ~ Walt Disney
I am completely drawn to the Tarzan soundtrack (which is often overlooked). I really love "You'll Be In My Heart", but all of them are good. I probably should buy the soundtrack . . . just not enough funds to get all the Disney stuff I want.