After almost a century of making musicals, Disney has a lot to offer when it comes to great songs. It’s easy to say that Disney’s music is one of the secrets to its success. Many of the Mouse House movies, shows, and animated shorts are as popular for their soundtracks as they are for their exciting stories or memorable characters.
The best songs in movies don’t always come with the characters singing them, although it’s quite common, the best Disney music is also found in theme songs, as introductions or even intended to make the audience laugh or horrify. Browsing through Uncle Walt’s vast library and finding the best songs can take a while, but it’s worth it.
10 Le Poissons – The Little Mermaid
One thing the sea witch Ursula didn’t tell Ariel about might be the most dangerous place in the land – the kitchen. Chef Louis sings a happy song about murder and prepares all kinds of seafood for the next meal, while Sebastian the crab watches in horror.
Rene Auberjonois also sings the song with manic perfection, which makes it even more fun. In a movie where the entire soundtrack is great, this song is one of the best.
9 This is love – Cinderella
Such a stunning improvement over that high operatic falsetto we heard from Snow White over a decade earlier. This steamy duet might be a little too much for a Disney movie, but singing was new at the time, so this beautiful number became Cinderella’s love theme.
Ilene Woods sings the song alongside Mike Douglas, and her voice is also behind the equally punchy tunes “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” and “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”
8 Circle of Life – The Lion King
Gospel and inspirational music can give a scene spiritual and emotional weight, so everyone remembers the song that started The Lion King. Combined with some of the most advanced blends of CGI and hand-drawn animation attempted at the time, the effect marked the height of Disney’s renaissance.
Elton John joined songwriter Tim Rice and composer Alan Menken in creating this soundtrack and contributed to this song, along with many other iconic favorites such as “Be Prepared” and “Hakuna Matata”.
7 Portobello Road – Bed knobs and brooms
A fantastic little waltz by the Sherman Brothers, this song fits nicely with the sequence that follows Eglantine Price, Professor Brown and their three oddball forays in search of the other half of an old magic book in a busy open market.
There is a version on the official soundtrack that includes more dialogue and less dancing. The lyrics include some subtle but biting quips from Professor Brown about the authenticity of the various products on sale.
6 Herbie’s theme – The Love Bug
This is the song a happy little car would sing if it were a sentient racecar in 1960s California. This all-instrumental track is probably meant to do just that, as Herbie has no words, so he has to sing.
This cheerful song was written by composer George Bruns. It was used in nearly every film in what became a sprawling franchise.
5 When you wish on a star – Pinocchio
The song that became a Disney anthem is still one of the most captivating songs in any movie. Since it was composed by Leigh Harline and songwriter Ned Washington, it has been reworked and adapted many times, and you’ll hear it played randomly at most Disney theme parks for atmosphere.
In the film, the song is sung by Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket’s character during the opening credits.
4 Sword in the Stone – Sword in the Stone
Disney’s take on the Arthurian legend doesn’t get enough attention, one example being this catchy tune in which Merlin prepares to pack his things for a trip to Wart’s humble castle. This incarnation of Merlin is quite clumsy and although the song is chaotic, it gets the job done.
The Sherman brothers are also credited with this tune, which is sung by Karl Swenson as the voice of Merlin.
3 Baby Mine – Dumbo
As heartbreaking as it is, Dumbo’s mother cradles him through the prison window with her torso. This lullaby resonates so deeply with everyone who hears it that it was one of the few musical scores from the original film to make it into a modern live-action remake.
Three artists came together to create Baby Mine. It was composed by Frank Churchill, lyrics were written by Ned Washington, and the song was originally sung by Betty Noyes.
2 I’ll make a man out of you – Mulan
A fan favorite for so many reasons, not the least of which are clever lyrics and smart interpretation, the lesson to be learned comes full circle when replayed at the climax of the plot when the “manly” men disguise themselves as female concubines .
A Lesson in Discipline and Strength was composed by Matthew Wilder and lyricist David Zippel and sung by Donnie Osmond, who played Li Shang’s singing voice.
1 Brazzle Dazzle Day – Pete’s Dragon
Disney was at the cutting edge of mixing live action and animation, and given the scale of these effects when they were new, nobody could have handled it better at the time. It wasn’t Disney’s greatest film and fell into obscurity for a long time, but this song was one of the reasons for its return to popularity.
Who knew cleaning and painting a lighthouse could be so much fun and inspire such a happy song? Written by Irwin Kostal, composed by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, the song is sung by the three main characters.
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