Soundtracking is a regular column that appears on Cineplex.com looking at the music featured in the biggest new releases both in theatre and on home video. Shane McNeil counts down the 10 greatest Disney animation songs of all-time on the 25th anniversary of The Little Mermaid.
Originally published on Cineplex.com – November 17, 2014.
It was 25 years ago today that Disney’s The Little Mermaid hit theatres, rejuvenating a slumbering animation giant and igniting a new era for the studio that would produce some of its greatest and most beloved hits. The Little Mermaid — on sale at the Cineplex Store for its anniversary! — also featured dazzling songs from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, helping set a high musical bar for the films that would follow in its wake.
In honour of the film’s anniversary, we are pleased to present a list of the Top 10 Disney songs of all-time.
In the interest of fairness, only one song was chosen per film and the list is restricted to films from Disney Animation Studios.
10. “Heigh-Ho” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Disney’s very first ear-worm, the end-of-the-workday sing-along from the Snow White’s mining companions was one of the earliest examples that Disney’s features could not only keep the kids entertained but produce timeless musical moments. Our apologies if this gets stuck in your head, but at the end of the day, it might just be the song that springs to mind.
9. “Why Should I Worry?” from Oliver and Company (1988)
Released just before the Disney renaissance launched by The Little Mermaid
, this Billy Joel
performance helped the studio realize that there was added value in star power when it came time for characters to raise their voices in song. The legacy of this song can easily be seen in the 1990s trend of releasing pop versions from the films’ respective soundtracks that took the studio from Celine Dion
, to Elton John
to the likes of Sting
and 98 Degrees
8. “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” from Cinderella (1950)
Another ear-worm from the golden age, this working song from Cinderella’s fairy godmother helped illustrate to the studio that there was extreme power in gibberish. Its screen time was brief but its legacy can still be felt in live-action features like Mary Poppins
7. “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King (1994)
Speaking of creative turns of phrase, Elton John
and Tim Rice
took a simple Swahili phrase and turned it into a lasting cultural phenomenon. Sure, “Circle of Life” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” wound up being bigger pop hits, but when you look at the lasting memories left by The Lion King
on the generation it helped raise, it was Timon and Pumbaa’s message to an independent young Simba that resonated the most. Little-known fact: the pop version of this song was performed by reggae legend Jimmy Cliff
6. “Beauty and the Beast” from Beauty and the Beast (1991)
If we’re going to talk about hits, however, the title track from Beauty and the Beast
helped set the bar for the studio. Recorded on the soundtrack by Peabo Bryson
and emerging superstar Celine Dion
, the track not only captured the studio’s second Best Song Oscar in three years, but also reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.
5. “Let It Go” from Frozen (2013)
A little over a year ago, this very column wondered what it would take to revive the studio’s animation wing after it had seemingly been lapped in the 21st Century by the likes of Pixar and Dreamworks. The answer was Frozen. This tune, by Broadway genius/EGOT prodigy Robert Lopez and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez was the musical centrepiece that made a smash out of the 2013 film and its soundtrack, and helped put the Mouse House back on its feet.
4. “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book (1967)
Consider this a shared placement alongside The Jungle Book
’s other classic; “The Bare Necessities”. Both have emerged as classics from the Disney library and help mark the end of Disney’s Golden Age, the film being the final one that Walt Disney
himself would work on. The joy of hearing one of the greatest voices of the early 20th
Century lend his talents to a children’s classic is what gives King Louie’s song the edge over Baloo’s. Listen to the above clip and get engrossed in the sheer joy coming from Louis Prima
3. “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid (1989)
It’s tough to pick just one song from the film that helped restore the magic, but Sebastian’s “grass – or, seaweed – is always greener” cautionary tale to Ariel was probably the catchiest. It’s a great character song and a huge production number for the film that would kick-start a new generation of classics.
2. “When you Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio (1940)
The importance of this song to the Disney brand is obvious. After all, try to think of the last time you saw the company logo without hearing it. The song expresses everything the studio wanted to convey to its young audience: there is no shortage of magic in the world and that your dreams – even if only on film – can come true.
1. “Friend Like Me” from Aladdin (1992)
Maybe it’s the lingering emotions of having lost Robin Williams this year, or that this song was one of the last that Ashman would write with Menken before succumbing to the AIDS virus at just 40 years of age, but this one song conveys all that is good about the Disney canon. While demonstrating it in an extreme setting, the Genie was going to the greatest lengths to tell Aladdin that he had his back. It’s a notion that resonates to the entirety of Disney’s audience whether they grew up with Snow White or with Frozen’s Anna and Elsa and for that reason, it takes the top spot on this list.