By: Emily Miller, Alicia Christine, Allyssa Ellen, Renee Hecht and Alicia Whavers
Hi, Hello, Welcome. BE OUR GUEST.
ONCE UPON A DREAM, we Disney nerds created a list of the best songs. But now, we finally decided to GO THE DISTANCE. We went from ZEROS TO HEROES just like that, and made our list a reality.
BE PREPARED, for the greatest list ever. (Sorry if you think this intro is long winded. I promise you, you’re ALMOST THERE.)
50. “What’s This?” – The Nightmare Before Christmas
100% honest…I have sung this song while Christmas shopping at the mall before. Aloud. With people around. I was also 100% not embarrassed because what better song to sing while Christmas shopping?! I feel like I am in a winter wonderland anytime this song comes on my playlist. And it is so innocent. Here is Jack, the Pumpkin King, wandering around in the snow like a child. And he certainly does have a flair for the dramatic. A total kindred spirit to me. And if you are a fan of rock, I would suggest you listen to Flyleaf’s cover. – Alicia Whavers (A.W.)
49. “I Wan’na Be Like You” – The Jungle Book
I believe that The Jungle Book was the first “classic” Disney movie I ever watched, and it is actually my favorite animated Disney film predating the 70s. It is influenced by one of my favorite styles of jazz – New Orleans Jazz or it is sometimes known as “hot jazz” or “Dixieland jazz”. King Louie’s voice has that classic, raspy, almost nasal like timbre that makes you want to dance. It fits perfectly with the chorus, and the scatting battle at the end with Baloo is just so musically perfect. And of course, we cannot leave out the message of the song. I could probably write a whole article on it, but I will keep it short. It is as hilarious as it is sad. The King believes that this 1 thing, “man’s red flower”, will elevate him. He has created a society similar to that of humans, he can speak, dance, and lead just like a human. But what do humans have that he doesn’t? And his zealous obsession of it leads to his downfall. I feel like there is an Aesop’s Fable quote that is appropriate for this. -A.W.
48. “Heigh-Ho” – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
While Snow White now seems particularly dated, it laid the foundation for Disney as we know t today. Besides Snow White being the first animated full length movie, it sets many of Disney musical traditions. Like the catchy ensemble/side character song. HEIGH-ho! -Alicia Christine (A.C.)
47. “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” – Cinderella
Unpopular opinion, I really like Cinderella. She gets a lot of flack on the internet about throwing a fit because she doesn’t get what she wanted, only to be rewarded for her outbursts. Critics also are quick to point out that all she did was just get married. I however completely disagree. She proved that anyone, anywhere, regardless of class or circumstances could change their life. And she made it okay to dream. She taught all of us that a dream is a wish your heart makes, and more importantly she taught us the value of following that dream. -Emily Miller (E.M.)
46. “One Jump Ahead” – Aladdin
Anyone else swoon over Brad Kane’s voice in this voice? This is another Disney song that is fun to sing along to, thanks to all of the voices – “Still I think he’s rather tasty!” – that you definitely sing in the one-man musical version in your car while sitting in traffic. Right? – Allyssa Ellen (A.E.)
45. “I See the Light” – Tangled
Rapunzel and Flynn Rider are truly opposites that attract, but in ways not usually explored in Disney. She taught him to see the beauty in things, not cruelty. He taught her reality and grounded her. These two perfectly collide in this song, when they literally and figuratively ‘see the light’ and realize they are in love. Rapunzel has been dreaming of seeing the lights her entire life, yet suddenly, halfway through she looks up at Flynn. It’s the moment she realizes she has a new dream, and it’s him. Also, bonus points for A+ animation. -E.M.
44. “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” – Mary Poppins
In a simple act of play, there is reconciliation of the entire Banks family. A beautiful conclusion that deserves celebration. As the family fly their kite together, Mary Poppins flies home. It’s uplifting and fun. Also, my former daycare students LOVED it. -A.C.
43. “Someday” – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Not included in the movie (it was a replacement for “God Help the Outcasts” but then they went back to Outcasts), but part of the original soundtrack, “Someday” is the most important Disney song I have ever heard. As seems to be the trend with all of the Hunchback songs, I can’t listen to this without completely breaking down, especially in #TrumpsAmerica. The song is all about wishing for a world of tolerance, a world without greed, a wiser, more sympathetic world. All 4 One (hey hey, 90s!) sang the original recording for the end credits, and it’s very 90s soul, and very well done, but you can still hear original voice actress Heidi Mollenhauer’s version on YouTube. However, Ciara Renee and Andrew Samonsky had the best “Someday” recording of all time in the musical. I dare you not to cry, especially when both versions of the song talk about a wiser world, wishing on the moon, and letting people live and let live. Is that even possible? Dammit, Menken and Schwartz, you’ve created a masterpiece. Me, crying while writing this? No… “Change will come, one day, someday soon.” -A.E.
42. “A Whole New World” – Aladdin
Unbelievable sights, in absolutely stunning visuals by Disney. The animation made us feel like we were actually flying, and gave us a swift look at the rest of the world. Indescribable feelings, as we hear Aladdin and Jasmine fall in love while they sing this song. Tumbling, freewheeling, this song soars in so many ways. It’s a whole new world for kids movies, and even Disney. This song breaks the mold. -E.M.
41. “Cruella de Vil” – One Hundred and One Dalmatians
40. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” – Mary Poppins
Who doesn’t know this song? And who doesn’t know this word?! Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious. Mary Poppins was the babysitter we all wish we had. This song also helped me develop a 8-year-old size crush on Mr. Van Dyke, and made me wish I had a lacy parasol. Besides being catchy, and upbeat, it was just a silly song that had no meaning and sometimes, that is just what you need. – A.W.
39. “Seize the Day” – Newsies
Alan Menken, we meet again! Hey, America, now is the time to seize the day, just throwing that out there! I love this song. It’s upbeat, it’s men singing, it’s danceable, it’s meaningful, it’s funny New York accents. Need I go on? I feel as if we don’t get a lot of great men’s numbers in Disney (of course there are some on this list), and of course Newsies is all guys, which is a nice break from kids’ favorite Disney songs always being a girly ballad, or a lot of little boys feeling like Disney isn’t for them – well Disney is for everyone. Sing it loud, sing it proud, and carpe that diem! Neighbor to neighbor, nothing can break us! I love a good call to action song from Disney that I can sing along to, don’t you? -A.E.
38. “Chim Chim Cher-ee” – Mary Poppins
-Aw! My first (and only) tap dance song! Bert is the epitome of lovable sidekick, which is only solidified in this song. -A.C.
37. “Strangers Like Me” – Tarzan
I live for a good music montage! This one is glorious! Thank you, Phil Collins! This was well-done on Disney’s part also, for having Collins basically narrate the story, because I’m not sure if Tarzan would really sing? Would he? Music montages are also great for this, because we get to see Tarzan learning with Jane, and some great character development. Also, isn’t this song really about life? Everyone out there is a stranger, essentially, at first, and we grow to learn about them. Another A+ sing along song, especially if you have buddies to harmonize with you. I think the harmonies are a huge part of why I love the Tarzan soundtrack, to be honest! It’s very dimensional! -A.E.
36. “How Far I’ll Go” – Moana
“How Far I’ll Go” is Moana‘s anthem. It’s strong yet vulnerable. Truthful in her processing. Empowering and sensitive. Loving and doubtful. It is the song of a true hero. -A.C.
35. “The Tigger Song” – Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day
34. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” – The Lion King
This song brilliantly takes on the classic duet stereotype and turns it on it’s side. Instead of letting the two lovers be the narrators of their own journey, we get the lovable sidekicks, Timon and Pumba’s side to this story. They hilariously comment on the downside of love as only two people who aren’t in love can do. Yet the writers knew too when to rain them in and let Simba and Nala speak. It’s an incredible balance that they walk purrrrrrrfectly. (Get it, cause they’re cats. I’m funny.) -E.M.
33. “Hellfire” – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
32. “Once Upon a Dream” – Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty is my all time favorite film, because it’s the first film I can genuinely remember watching. It also happens to be the most beautifully animated film, and I’m prepared to fight anyone who disagrees. Naturally, I have a soft for this song. It’s just classic Disney. It’s a beautiful sweet melody, paired with a haunting chorus and stunning visuals. Everyone dreams of finding love, finding that perfect someone. This songs turns that fantasy into reality and it’s just lovely. Also, “But we’ve met before, you said so yourself. Once upon a dream!”is the most underrated pick up line. You go Phillip. -E.M.
31. “Prince Ali” – Aladdin
This song proves that Genie is the ultimate hype-man. I am not well versed in music genres enough to place the tone of this song exactly, but I find it to be a showtunes with a bluesy influence. And that is my kind of song! And what an impression it makes! While listening to it, you can hear and see all of the many wonders and riches Aladdin has acquired via Genie. And boy, don’t you wish you were him. I don’t care how much money Nicki Minaj, Kanye, Oprah, or Putin has. They will not come close to the va-va-voom, style, and wealth that Aladdin has in this 1 song. -A.W.
30. “Zero to Hero” – Hercules
29. “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” – Lilo & Stitch
I think this is just the sweetest, most mellow, relaxing Disney song. The sequence shows Lilo with her ohana! The song gets stuck in my head every so often and I can’t help but hum to it. It is just so bright and bubbly. I wish there was more I could say about this song beside it is one of my “feel good songs”, but that is okay, because that is what this song is! -A.W.
28. “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” – The Lion King
Lyricist Tim Rice, was hired in 1991 to write lyrics for a film which was then under the working title “King of the Jungle”. He suggested Elton John for the film’s music, and their joint efforts gave us a slew of some of the most memorable Disney songs to date. As a result, this movie is full of good music. “I just can’t wait to be King” in particular hits the Broadway highs with its chorus and its oddly well-choreographed animal dancing. (Which is less odd given Disney’s aptitude with animal animation.) The song hits on every kid’s desire to make it big and to do so your own way. This upbeat tune is immediately followed by the ominous “Be Prepared”, which talks about a very different kind of ambition. -R.H.
27. “Friend Like Me” – Aladdin
Dear Robin Williams, I will always love and miss you. Thank you for giving us smiles from performances such as this one. This is a great song and a Disney classic because it is chock full of the Disney magic we all look for in every movie. There are tricks and gags in every second of this song, and it showcases the brilliant skill of Williams, from accents and voices, to the fast pace. -A.E.
26. “Almost There” – The Princess and the Frog
A song from one of the newer Disney movies, “Almost There” maps out the dreams and ambitions of Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. I think this song is such a turn around from the beginning of Disney with Snow White’s “Some Day my Prince will Come”. Tiana is not waiting for anybody to come and save her; she is making her way downtown, walking fast. The new age jazzy tone of the song harkens back to that New Orleans flavor (which is where half of my family is from). And the animation for this piece is stunning; a nod to painters of the Harlem Renaissance. And the focus of it, Tiana in a gorgeous white gown, bob cut, and heels, still gliding about doing work. She is a woman who can do both! -A.W.
25. “Beauty and the Beast” – Beauty and the Beast
The “tale as old as time”! The reason why we’re writing this article in the first place. Beauty and the Beast. Romance, beautiful imagery, hope….and that’s just in the lyrics. The film’s soundtrack is powerful but the title song is well, enchanting. -A.C.
24. “The Bells of Notre Dame” – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Welcome to Alan Menken’s most epic, gorgeously orchestrated work, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Stephen Schwartz wrote uncomplicated lyrics that are also haunting. I mean, they even put a choir singing in Latin in the background. It’s intense. This movie, and this opening scene, are incredibly dark, and I can’t deny that the themes presented in Claude Frollo and the discrimination in general don’t make me weep for the relevance to today’s political climate. No, but literally, I actually get goosebumps and all teary eyed when I listen to this. Bonus points if you listen to the haunting, glorious musical cast version from the La Jolla/Papermill stage production in 2015. In both versions, I can’t help but to weep when the questioned is asked of monster versus man, and then the bells start ringing. Yo, this is real. -A.E.
23. “The Bare Necessities” –The Jungle Book
A real Disney classic, complete with obvious yet enjoyable puns. “Bare Necessities” has a good swing to it, and a nice message: to keep things simple and go with the flow. (It’s “Hakuna Matata” before The Lion King even existed.) The song was written by Terry Gilkyson for an earlier draft of The Jungle Book. Gilkyson was the first songwriter to bring several complete songs forward for the original draft of the film, but Walt Disney judged that most of them were ‘too dark’. When the film was re-written, “Bare Necessities” kept its spot at the request of the Sherman Brothers (who wrote the rest of the film’s original songs). -R.H.
22. “Be Our Guest” – Beauty and the Beast
Ah, the song that taught us all that food fixes everything. No but actually this song has so much more. A French candlestick and an uptight clock serve as our emcees as they and the animators delight us with a buffet of food and visuals. The dishes show the Rockettes how to really do a chorus line, with a special shout out to the spoons for their synchronized swimming. The song even has Angela Lansbury as a teapot who is low key rapping. I would say this song has everything except the kitchen sink, but I’m pretty sure they threw that in there too. -E.M.
21. “When You Wish Upon a Star” – Pinocchio
This song is the most innately Disney, so much so, that the organization still uses this song and Jiminy Cricket as their theme and mascot. It’s the song the empire was built on because it made the power to dream accessible to all, with the simple instructions of just wishing on a star, an object that everyone has access to. It argues that you should never give up hope. A moral that’s absolutely timeless, but even more important and beautiful knowing this film came out during World War II. -E.M.
20. “This is Halloween” – The Nightmare Before Christmas
I am 99% sure this song solidified Halloween as being my second favorite holiday (right after Christmas). The bass to this song is just so catchy. Paired with the imagery from the film, it rests just on this side of not being a complete and total nightmare for children. The lyrics invite you to come along for the ride; “Boys and girls of every age/ Wouldn’t you like to see something strange?/ Come with us and you will see/ This our town of Halloween”. The song builds as you are introduced to each of the characters, and culminates in basically a necromancer circle as the town folk see Jack Skellington rise. And at that point you wonder, if you were just a bystander, or an active participant by this time of the ritual. -A.W.
19. “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” – Cinderella
Dare I say, this is the song with the most important message of all. Anything rhymes if you make up words. But also, this song is pure fun. It’s one of, if not, the most infectious tunes Disney has ever created. It gave us a magical spell that not only could transform a pumpkin into a magical coach, but was also really really catchy. It’s hard to believe the animators didn’t put a real magical phrase or two in the song. -E.M.
18. “Feed the Birds” – Mary Poppins
“Usually after the hectic week, Walt would ask us how we were doing and we’d tell him what we had been working on. Then he’d ask us to play it, and I’d sit down and play, and he’d look out the window and get wistful. Then he’d turn around and say, ‘That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?’ “-Richard Sherman. I mean…..that says it all, right? -A.C.
17. “Belle” – Beauty and the Beast
Ashman really didn’t believe Disney would want a 7 minute long opening number. Obviously, he was wrong, and THANK GOODNESS. In those 7 minutes, the viewer learns everything they know about the story. It also establishes the theatricality of the story, which later became adapted on Broadway. -A.C.
16. “Be Prepared” – The Lion King
I’m not gonna lie, I love Scar. And Jeremy Irons’ voice gives me life in this role. His almost serpentine accent just makes Scar such a delectable and delightful villain. And not just any villain! A villain with voluptuous hair, wit, sidekicks, and entire squad that will roll up on you 100 deep, a lair that is located on sulfurous geysers that are basically makeshift hover-pads, and a British accent! And the sass in this song – “Its clear that your powers of retention/ Are as wet as a warthog’s backside”. The burn! It is a song I also know by heart, and sing about once a week in the shower whenever my hair has taken on Scar-like qualities. -A.W.
15. “Baby Mine” – Dumbo
“Baby Mine” is one of the most tender-hearted songs in the Disney repertoire. Nothing says “I’m already crying” like watching a mother separated from her only child. The song underlines the affection found in many familial relationships.”If they knew sweet little you, they’d end up loving you too.” The song was nominated for an Academy Award in 1942, and has unsurprisingly seen a large number of covers since its debut. Alison Krauss covered the song in 1996 and it earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Female Country Vocal performance in 1997. -R.H.
14. “Reflection” – Mulan
While “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” is the easier and more popular song to love, it was “Reflection” that seven year old Emily left the theatre obsessed with. To this day, I’m not quite sure what resonated with me that day, but it’s a huge testament to the song that it could impact me so young, and still influence me now. It’s emotional, raw and simply beautiful. Out of all the Disney Princesses, Mulan just might be the most human of them all. -E.M.
13. “God Help the Outcasts” – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of Disney’s most underrated films. A sweeping score, focus on social justice, and brilliant animation. “God Help the Outcasts” is translucent and vulnerable. Especially with the current political climate, this song rings true. And we need truth….not alternative facts. “God help the outcasts, or nobody will.” -A.C.
12. “I Can Go the Distance” – Hercules
Seeing young Hercules in “Go the Distance” and then years later in “Zero to Hero” make me wonder if my glo-up will ever happen. But in this song, our young, immortal, gawky protagonist just wants to belong. I love it because I know it relates to all of us in some way, because who doesn’t want to belong? Remember this: yes, Hercules will go almost anywhere and believes that every mile will be worth his while. But Herc says that he will to this to, “Feel like I belong”. And I do believe (no matter how much I want to say I don’t care what other people think), that most people will do things to find some sort of acceptance. We work hard for recognition (and raises), dress to impress (or unimpress), and a whole myriad of other reasons. Either way, every time I hear this song, I remember why I chose the life of an actress, instead of a marine biologist. -A.W.
11. “Part of Your World” – The Little Mermaid
This is a true “coming of age” type of song. Restless, curious, held down by an oppressive parent, many of us are out looking for our next opportunity that this world can offer to us. Hands up, all my bright young women (and anybody really) who are ready to stand! Ariel is also revealed to be a bit of a hoarder, but I guess when you don’t have much else to do, collecting interesting artifacts is the way to go. -A.E.
10. “I Won’t Say I’m in Love” – Hercules
I challenge you not to sing along to this one! Can’t all of us who have been crushing on someone relate to this? You’re lying if you say no! The refusal, the denials… the heart aching sighs and swoons. The addition of the muses is brilliant and fun, and reminiscent of a power pop ballad. In case you didn’t know, Allyssa LOVES Alan Menken’s music. I adore the animation and choreography of the muses during this scene too – Disney really thinks of everything! -A.E.
9. “Gaston” – Beauty and the Beast
What could easily have been a heroic ballad makes one of Disney’s most enjoyable villain songs. The song has a jaunty drinking song quality that truly suits the boastful, thick-headed stubbornness that is Gaston. The Beauty and the Beast soundtrack is, of course, rife with Broadway-worthy songs, and this I must attribute to the brilliant teamwork of Menken and Ashman. Unsurprisingly, Jesse Corti (LeFou) had featured on Broadway as Courfeyrac from Les Miserables. Richard White, the voice of Gaston, was an opera singer, and his large voice is perfect for Gaston’s barge-sized personality. -R.H.
8. “Everybody Wants to be a Cat” – The Aristocats
Yes, yes I do want to be a cat. Aside from that, this is a great party song. The jazz vibe makes this one stand out among some other Disney music. Cool cats know how to party, and I always wanted to be a part of this shindig whenever I watched the movie. This movie was from 1970, so let’s try to, as best as we can, gloss over the Siamese cat playing “chopsticks” and talking about egg foo young, because things were different back then, right? Instead, let’s just enjoy the rumpus of cats practically bringing the house down talking about how awesome it is to be them. -A.E.
7. “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” – Mulan
Disney’s equivalent of a workout montage. “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” is simply a good time, a song that encourages one to tap into their inner strength and become the best they can be. The song emphasizes the use of ‘masculine’ traits, (swiftness, strength… mysteriousness) which is, of course, ironic given Mulan’s status during the film. By the end of the montage it becomes clear that Mulan’s use of ingenuity is more important than her use of raw strength. The song gets a reprise later in the film when Mulan’s comrades dress as concubines in order to assist in saving the emperor. If you needed more convincing that this song is an eye of the tiger level ballad, just remember: there are Mandarin and Cantonese versions sung by Jackie Chan. -R.H.
6. “Under the Sea” – The Little Mermaid
Easily the most fun Disney Sing-A-Long! Disney’s renaissance began with The Little Mermaid. Unlike the music of its predecessors, “Under the Sea” branches out from a European style of music. The composers embraced a new style of music and did it pay off! -A.C.
5. “Out There” – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
This song starts with Frollo manipulating Quasimodo with fear and untruths. He tells him that he is deformed and unworthy of love or friends. The song that follows is Quasimodo imagining an uncomplicated life about town. I love this song because, as someone who has always been both bullied and introverted, I feel a certain level of kinship to his feelings in this song. What would it be like, even just for one day, to live a carefree life surrounded by people you know and love? Again, the orchestrations and instrumentals are epic. Check Michael Arden singing the song too and be prepared to go weak at the knees. -A.E.
4. “Hakuna Matata” – The Lion King
It means no worries. It’s simple and perfect. -E.M.
3. “Circle of Life” – The Lion King
I think The Lion King is the epitome of the Disney movie for all 90s kids. This song was the opening for one of the most timeless, relatable, awesome, epic, amazing Disney movies of all time. We all know we are in for a good time when you hear the classic “NAAAAAAAANTS INGONYAMAAAAAAA BAGITHI BABA” intro. I personally know every word to every song in this movie. But “The Circle of Life” will forever be a standout; not only for its quotable opening line, its rhythm, the melody, but for its lyrics. Hopeful but sad, inspiring and slightly defeating. It is a cycle (or circle!) that we will all complete, and reminds us that we are all living, breathing beings on this Earth. It is a message that I think the world really needs to remember. -A.W.
2. “Colors of the Wind” – Pocahontas
This song is so powerful that the trailer for “Pocahontas” found on The Lion King VHS was JUST this song. It was epic. Colors of the Wind taught its viewers to celebrate nature and one another. -A.C.
1. “Poor Unfortunate Souls” – The Little Mermaid
With a stunning vocal performance by Pat Carol, “Poor Unfortunate Souls” swims into the top spot of our list. The song combines the best of Broadway and burlesque, and tops it off with well animated body language. (Don’t underestimate the importance of body language.) The lyricist, Howard Ashman, recorded a version of the song with himself in the role of Ursula. This was sent to Pat Carol to convince her to take on the role. In the demo version, there are more verses, aimed at convincing Ariel that despite leaving her family behind, she would be happier marrying Prince Eric. “When a mermaid comes to Ursula, she always gets her man”. Howard Ashman and the composer, Alan Menken, have collaborated on several other songs that made our list… and on the Broadway Musical “Little Shop of Horrors”. As an easter egg (or some kind of egg, anyway) Ursula’s magic spell begins “beluga, sevruga” which are two types of expensive caviar. This baby-eating implication is perfectly in line with the song’s villainous mood. -R.H.