Roundtable: What is the Best Disney Song Ever?

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Alex Beene: Disney’s latest animated feature is one of their biggest hits ever. “Frozen” has made more than $1 billion worldwide, has merchandise selling out in stores nationwide and has kids lining – and parents paying – up to get in on the fun (the wait to see the “Frozen” princesses at Disney World runs an average of two hours!).

One of the strongest features of the film is its soundtrack. “Let It Go” is a phenomenon, winning an Oscar and remaining constantly near the top of the billboard charts. Is it the best song to ever come out of the House of Mouse, though? What’s your favorite song in a Disney animated feature? Maybe you’ll go with something from the Renaissance era of our youth (“Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” etc.) or maybe you sing-a-long to the classical period (“When You Wish Upon a Star,” “Heigh-ho,” etc.). Choose carefully, though. This decision is a difficult one.

Palmer Williams: I would have originally said something like “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” from Cinderella, which was definitely the defining movie of my childhood. However, after recently watching “Saving Mr. Banks” I have to go with “Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins.  It was Walt Disney’s favorite song and when he was depressed he would have his music team come into his office and play it for him.  Its beautiful and slightly haunting, and although its not the topic bubbly disney ballad, it is pretty addictive. I dare you not to emote while listening to it 🙂

Gillian Polsky: This one was easy for me: “Pete’s Dragon – Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You Too).”

Palmer: P.S. Am I shamefully listening to the Frozen soundtrack right now?  Yep!

Gillian: No shame girl, it’s an amazing score.

Clayton Martin: I’m going “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio. No YouTube link necessary. Its sappy, sentimental and embodies all that classic Disney movies stand for.

Sutter Vaught: This might be the toughest one yet.  Since Alex specified ‘animated,’ I’m going to do myself a favor and eliminate Bedknobs and Broomsticks, although it’s got some strong contenders (“Substituary Locomotion” FTW).  Also, I think Aladdin‘s got the deepest bench (“One Jump Ahead,” “Arabian Nights,” “Prince Ali,” “Friend Like Me,” “A Whole New World,” etc.), but none stand out individually as my favorite.  This still leaves at least a baker’s dozen of potential candidates.  “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” and “Strangers Like Me” both elicit impassioned singing along.  And there’s “Gaston”–out of the many Disney songs, nothing hits like “Gaston,” matches wits with “Gaston,” or even spits [mad rhymes] like “Gaston.”

But even “Gaston” can’t match one song: “Go the Distance” from Hercules.

It’s like someone figured out a way to perfectly synthesize inspirational cheesiness and distribute it in aural form.  Moment of honesty: I can’t count the number of times where I’ve been up at 4 AM, desperately trying to finish some project, crashing and burning, and listening to this song (sometimes multiple times in a row) has helped me to power through.  I AM ON MY WAY!  I CAN GO THE DISTANCE!  I DON’T CARE HOW FAR!  SOMEHOW I’LL BE STRONG!  I KNOW EVERY MILE WILL BE WORTH MY WHILE!  I WILL GO MOST ANYWHERE TO FIND WHERE IIIIIIII BEEEEEELOOOOOONNNNG!

PS/ I’d also highly recommend the Spanish version, “No Importa la Distancia,” sung by the one and only Ricky Martin.

PPS/ Wait, I just remembered the “I use antlers in all of my decorating” line from Gaston, is it too late to change my answer?

Tyler Huckabee: I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I think I’ve got it figured out.

I think Lion King might be – front to back –  stacked the deepest, and Aladdin’s “Whole New World” is the most timeless. But I’m thinking in terms of actual narrative value—a classic song that actually moves the story forward and delivers great character moments without losing any momentum as a great song. 

And for that, I think you have to go with the opening number to Beauty & the Beast’s opening number, “Little Town.”

Now, full disclosure, I think Beauty & the Beast is Disney’s finest animated film. And I think “Little Town” actually goes miles towards making it the best. After that beautiful stained class prologue, you get this charming introduction to all our main players. We meet our protagonist (Belle, a pretty, bookish girl aching to get out of town), our antagonist (Gaston, an arrogant, dimwited dork), the setting (a small-minded town) and et a read on Belle’s character arc (she’s unsatisfied with her “provincial life”). You even get the foreshadowing of “she won’t discover that it’s him till chapter 3.”

Dark horse candidate, I’ll admit, but I think it’s about as smart and sophisticated as Disney’s ever gotten. Add to the fact that it was never adapted into a vapid Billboard pop song and I really can’t find a weak point.

Colin Stovall: I nominate the Jungle Book’s “Bear Necessities”…I struggled with these nominees too… Mulan’s “I’ll make a man out of you”….a close runner up was Lady and the Tramp’s “We are Siamese” and The Aristocats “Everybody wants to be a Cat”…tell me you weren’t singing along with each one…

Grant Oster: As “When You Wish Upon a Star” has already been taken, I’m going to choose the second Disney song to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song–Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah. While this song is certainly well known, I’m hard-pressed to find people who actually know from where the song originated.

Give up?

“Song of the South.”

Never heard of it, have you?

This controversial, 1946 film was the first Disney feature film to use live actors, but has been referred to as “one of Hollywood’s most resiliently offensive racist texts.” Furthermore, Walter Francis White, the former-executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), praised the music and acting, however, the ‘merit in the music’ was overshadowed by the rest of her not-so-glowing review:

“The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recognizes in “Song of the South” remarkable artistic merit in the music and in the combination of living actors and the cartoon technique. It regrets, however, that in an effort neither to offend audiences in the north or south, the production helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery. Making use of the beautiful Uncle Remus folklore, “Song of the South” unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts.”

Seen as insensitive, Song of the South was never released on home video, in its entirety, within the United States.

Claire Gibson: Colin—I’ll help you out. I had to go through the long list of my favorites before landing at the best of all: Mulan’s I’ll make a man out of you. It’s the quintessential musical montage, an interlude that starts with Mulan fumbling and unsure, but ends displaying her newfound strength and confidence. It’s like the scene in Remember the Titans when they finally become a team, or the one in Silver Linings Playbook when Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper finally learn to dance together. Moving, poignant… and in Mulan… she’s not just trying to get the guy. She’s trying to save her father from dishonor. That’s a montage worth watching.

Sutter: WE MUST BE SWIFT AS A COURSING RIVER

(BE A MAN)

WITH ALL THE FORCE OF A GREAT TYPHOON

(BE A MAN)

WITH ALL THE STRENGTH OF A RAGING FIRE

(BE A MAN)

MYSTERIOUS AS THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON

Another excellent choice.  I think we can agree that with this roundtable, we’re ALL winners.  Unless anyone picks anything from Hunchback, because I think we can all agree that movie’s better off left in the trash pile.

Joseph Williams: All great choices so far. What a wonderful roundtable discussion.

It mirrors many debates you had at 3 a.m. in the morning in college sitting around with friends. And whenever that debate would come our way, I always sided with the ultimate dark horse Disney song. While I have a hard time arguing with my beautiful wife AND Walt himself with Feed the Birds, my choice is the one I’ve always made. The Lion King is the best overall film with the best overall songs (although Beauty and the Beast is a close second)… but the best song… the one always forgotten along with the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement….

“Best of Friends” from The Fox and the Hound.

It’s the tune that naturally comes from your heart and you find yourself humming it right now. Fond memories come flooding into your mind about a time of innocence and friendship… probably around the same time when you first watched all the Disney classics. You remember sitting with your brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends… singing along to Disney songs.

When you’re the best of friends. Having so much fun together.

John Love: This is difficult because every Disney movie has 2 or 3 songs I love but I decided to dig deep into my personal Disney vault and choose a lovely song from the very often overlooked Disney animated feature Oliver & Company. The song is “Good Company.”

The song is a heartfelt celebration of friendship and family and it is one of the best.

Colin: Can we make a bracket?!

Seth Wiedemann: So many great perspectives. Unfortunately, they’re all crap- because BAAAAAAAAAAAAA SOWENYAAAAAAAAAA MAMABEATSEBABAH!!! While I respect the Beauty and the Beast opener, the Lion King’s blank screen jump right into the Circle of Life cannot be surpassed. The song not only sets up the movie and introduces the characters, but it also takes a second to explain the entire meaning of existence.

Ten seconds in, you already know this is the greatest film of all time. The artistry. The cinematography. It’s all perfect. Sprinkle in the greatest score of all time, written by Hans Zimmer and Sir Elton John, and that’s all you need to know.

While “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” won the Oscar for best song, “Circle of Life” is by far the most important song in the film. Everything hinges on it. It opens the movie showing us the world as it should be: The mass gathering of the animal kingdom, Mufasa in his element as king, Simba getting recognized as the future king, and as a bonus you see the other animals bow to Rafiki (contrasted with his humorous side later in the film, its important not to forget that this is a creature other animals bow to). Fast forward to the end, and you hear the refrain while Simba’s son is raised up. At this point, you realize that the circle has been completed, and the movie gets tied up into a perfect bow.

Greatest song of all time, in the greatest film of all time.

Joseph: Well done, Seth. Although it’s arguable that the best piece of music from The Lion King (albeit without lyrics) is this:

Sutter: “Circle of Life” featured far too few sharks.  To exclude earth’s greatest predators from a song about the food chain?  That’s pretty galling.

John: Joseph, I hear ya, Hans always kills it. You have to go with the end version of that song though when Simba reclaims the throne. Also, we should definitely make a bracket. The four divisions can be Princess movies, Animal movies, Pixar Movies, and Live Action.

Seth: No arguments from me on the “This Land” piece- except that it’s not technically a song. In the ending video, I think it provides the perfect into into the COL to end out the movie.

Sharks???? We all know how a contest between Mufasa and a shark would go. Just look at the bumbling animals:

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Jay Salato: Inspired by Palmer’s choice of a Mary Poppins song, I’m going with another blast from the past and another Poppins tune.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

How many of us struggled to spell that word as children?

How many of us had the argument over which one was longer: that word or antidisestablishmentarianism?

How many of us have counted the syllables in this word?

How many of us have thought ridiculous things to rhyme with it?

How many of us tried to say it backwards?

You’re all welcome for this delightful bit of nostalgia.

I rest my case with this:


Warner Russell: Well folks,I would have to break this into two categories for myself.

The first being the song I enjoyed most as a kid. Which comes from a film actually produced by DisneyToon Studios, so it might not technically be eligible. But nonetheless, this song was and still is a RADICAL JAM! From the very underrated 1995 gem, A Goofy Movie, this is “Stand Out”:

The second category would be a song I actually will go out of my way to listen to as an adult, and all you really need to know about this one is Phil Collins. From Tarzan, “You’ll be in My Heart”:

Grant: God I love Phil Collins…

Andrew: OH WOW, so ashamed I didn’t think of A Goofy Movie.  For shame.  I change my answer to ‘Eye 2 Eye.’  It’s like fourth on my Most Played list on iTunes.

Alex: “You think you own whatever land you land on,

the Earth is just a dead thing you can claim,

but I know every rock, tree and creature,

has a life, has a spirit, has a name.”

Warner: This obviously would be disqualified as the piece was written well before the movie it appears in came out, but regardless, it is featured in one of the greatest scenes of the early Disney years.

Joshua Smith: Alan Menken was the genius behind the music of my childhood, Aladdin, the Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast, as well as for Tangled. A common theme in most of these scores is the use of the reprise to revisit an the earlier big introductory number after a scene that has placed the new character squarely in the midst of an empathetic situation. The result is a classic variation on the theme that helps you identify with the character through a familiar musical milieu. If all that was worthless jargon to you, consider this: how did you feel after Aladdin had been humiliated by the visiting suitor at the Palace Gate and he begins to sing, Riffraff, street rat, I don’t buy that. If only they’d look closer…” Or what about Those moments were powerful even to me, and I’m a borderline sociopath.

I was also going to mention Belle’s quiet moment on the hilltop for her Provincial Life reprise and Rapunzel’s first experience with grass. They aren’t full length songs, but these little musical moments make the movies the emotional powerhouses they are.

Or ditch it and tell them I thought “Wanna Be Like You” from Jungle Book is one of the more original and memorable numbers. I also fin. Myself humming Tiana’s “Almost There” pretty frequently.

Then there’s the guy who decided he’d try to monkey with the great Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet and gave us “Once Upon A Dream,” which I’ve sung to my wife and daughters continually for seven or so years.

And who could forget the non-omniscient temporally bound rooster narrator’s “Oodallaly” theme in Robin Hood? Who doesn’t like an avian bard?

Next time let’s recap the derivative Don Bluth’s career. American Tale and Rockadoodle were game changers, and I thought they were Disney movies for my entire jaunt through the 20th century.

Andrew Henson: Mulan’s “Be a Man” is a joke. Coursing water can be damned. Raging Fire can be extinguished. And we have seen the dark side of the moon and it sucks. Also, it was written for a movie about girl power. Spice Girls did it better with Spice World! “Gaston” has my vote hands down. Can you name a better song to convey manliness? NO. Gaston is a bro, he knows what bro life is like. Therefore, he made the best song ever! The man swallows like five dozen eggs a day to stay barge size. Let that sink in, A BARGE! You think Gerard Butler eats five dozen eggs? Gerard is a canoe at most.

The song is as catchy as can be, hands down the winner here. Imagine a bar full of muscled out guys drunkenly singing this song. I can’t think of anything manlier. Lyrics like these speak for themselves.

“No one’s slick as Gaston

No one’s quick as Gaston

No one’s neck’s as incredibly thick as Gaston’s”

I can feel his bulging biceps in this melody, son!

And if we are doing Live-Action. I vote for “Supernova Girl” by Protozoa from Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century.

John Nesbitt: I’ve given this no thought (as none is needed here): the Jungle Book soundtrack. Every song is a gem, yes including the Baby Elephant Walk.

Alex: And as great as all these are, I’m listening to “Let It Go.” Again. I need help. We all do, really.

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Posted on by Alex Beene in Entertainment, Featured, Movies, Music, Roundtables

4 Responses to Roundtable: What is the Best Disney Song Ever?

  1. chris

    Anything mentioned outside of The Lion King is a lie. Honorable mention to Kelly Clarkson singing Breakaway for The Princess Diaries, anything sung by Julie Andrews and all of you stuck singing, “It’s a small world” the rest of the day.

  2. Taylor

    Where is Snow White, “the first full-length animated feature ever made”? I’m Wishing/One Song, Someday My Prince Will Come, and With a Smile and a Song surely rank among the Disney greats. Also, the Bambi opening song, Love is a Song That Never Ends, as well as The Rescuers opening, The Journey, rank among my favorites.

  3. Bennett Mercer

    I’d have to agree with Seth that Circle of Life is the best Disney song, both for its importance within the film and its emotional appeal outside it. Also, it’s the one everyone always inserts in social situations. Every time someone holds something above their head, it will invariably be followed by someone’s belting out their own grossly inaccurate interpretation of the opening Swahili.

    On the subject of the reprise, I don’t think it’s fair that y’all excluded the First Time In Forever reprise. Not only is it a stirring piece in its own right, it plays the duel role of both advancing the plot and giving deeper insight into the characters. Elsa and Anna’s relationship is advanced leaps and bounds by their interactions within that song. Elsa discovers that, even though Anna knows about her powers, and despite her shutting Anna out of her life for almost their entire formative childhood years, Anna still loves her and wants to help her. Aside from Anna’s sacrifice for Elsa at the climax of the film, this scene more than any other drives the sisterly love theme of the movie

  4. Kaitlyn Walker

    Little Town from Beauty and the Beast

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