My Favorite Disney Songs

Many people may be aware that I’m a big fan of all things Disney.  I love Disney films, Disney music, Disneyland, Disney Stores, and once considered naming my first born son Walt.  (I didn’t.)

I love songs from the Disney films.  My collection of Disney music and Disneyland songs is more than 10 GB in size, meaning i have nearly six whole days’ worth of music to listen to on my iPod.  It’s a lot of fun and many of the songs and music bring back a lot of memories from my own childhood and from memories I’ve created with my own kids.

Here are my current top 20 favorite Disney film songs.  (Some of these change from year to year, but the number one song has been the number one song for a long time.)

20. “That’s How You Know” from Enchanted
(Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz)

Enchanted was a great film that took the Disney animated princess and put her into the real world.  Played with great charm (and a great singing voice) by Amy Adams, who was radiant in the film, it had great songs by the team that had created Oscar-winning songs for Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  This is the best production number in a musical in years, and it’s easily the most charming song from the film.  (It was also my ringtone for my wife–a great reminder to make sure she knows I love her.)

19. “My Funny Friend and Me” from The Emperor’s New Groove
(Music and Lyrics by Sting)

It’s easily the funniest Disney animated film, sadly underrated at the end of a great run of Disney films in the 1990’s.  The film went through several changes in its production, eventually becoming the witty and quite funny story of a spoiled king who gets transformed into a llama.  It was originally a musical, with songs by Sting.  Only a few songs remained in the final movie, with the highlight being this Oscar-nominated song, a celebration of friendship.

18. “On the Open Road” from A Goofy Movie
(Music by Tom Snow, Lyrics by Jack Feldman)

A Goofy Movie is a “slight” Disney film, inspired by the 1990’s TV cartoon, Goof Troop.  All about a road trip Goofy and his son Max take on the road to see the rock star Powerline perform in Los Angeles, it’s a cute–albeit somewhat forgettable–film.  It does feature some great songs (including “Lester’s Possum Park,” a spoof of Disneyland’s “Country Bear Jamboree”), especially this celebration of “getting out on the open road.”  (I like Goofy’s keychain.)

17. “Family” from James and the Giant Peach
(Music and Lyrics by Randy Newman)

A stop-motion animated version of Roald Dahl’s classic book, with character designs by Caldecott Medal winner William Joyce (whose book A Day With Wilbur Robinson would inspire a later Disney film), James is a wonderfully sweet film.  Great vocal performances by Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon, Jane Leeves, and others–along with some wonderfully catchy songs by Randy Newman–only add to the charm.  This is the best song from the film.

16. “Little Wonders” from Meet the Robinsons
(Music and Lyrics by Rob Thomas)

Easily one of my favorite pop songs of the past several years, Rob Thomas’ song for a truly underrated Disney film, is one with many personal connections.  Several years ago, one of our best friends passed away and the words to this song were quite comforting.  A year ago, my mother-in-law passed away, and I realized this song would be perfect for her memorial video.  Coming where it does in the film, it’s a perfect reminder to keep moving forward–to realize that where you are now is not where you will be in the future.  This song should have been nominated for an Oscar.  (If you haven’t seen Meet the Robinsons, you need to.  Easily one of Disney’s best films.)

15.  “Prince Ali” from Aladdin
(Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Howard Ashman)

One of the great films from Disney’s third Golden Age, Aladdin is funny, sweet, and full of great songs (3 were nominated as Best Song that year) with Alan Menken and writing parnter Howard Ashman at the top of their game.  My favorite song from the film is the catchiest of all, performed memorably by the amazing Robin Williams in his greatest film performance.  “Make way for Prince Ali!”

14. “Jolly Holiday” from Mary Poppins
(Music and Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert H. Sherman)

It was easily Walt’s greatest film achievement, which should have beat the inferior My Fair Lady for Best Picture.  Better acting, better songs, and a sheer joy from start to finish, Mary Poppins is a film that only gets better with time.  The performances of Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke (even with his horrible Cockney accent) are top notch, supporting performances by David Tomlinson and Glynis Johns are spot on–and the music is perfect.  Practically every song has become a Disney classic, and for good reason.  This is one of my favorites, because it combines all the elements that make it a Disney classic.  (Fun side note, Ub Iwerks, who was the first animator of Mickey Mouse, developed the process that allowed Bert and Mary to interact with the animated characters).

13. “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid
(Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Howard Ashman)

I still remember watching this film at the Cinerama theater in Hollywood when it opened in 1989.  After the “Under the Sea” song finished, the audience burst into applause, as if watching a Broadway musical.  It was surprising, beautiful, wonderful–a moment of Disney magic that we hadn’t seen in a film since the animated musicals of the 1950’s.  But as great as that song was, my favorite song from Mermaid is this one.  The calypso beat, great visuals, and a wonderful performance by Samuel E. Wright as Sebastian, make this a true classic.

12. “Heigh Ho (The Dwarfs’ Marching Song)” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
(Music by Frank Churchill, Lyrics by Larry Morey)

Walt’s first animated feature was the first film musical to integrate story and song seamlessly.  Every song flowed out of the action and helped the story along.  Not a single song was there “just because.”  There’s a reason many of the songs are classics today–they are memorable, beautiful songs (“Someday My Prince Will Come,” “Whistle While You Work,” “With a Smile and a Song” are a few others).  This is my favorite song from this masterpiece.  It introduces the film’s best characters in a great, fun, and truly beautiful sequence.

11. “Jack’s Lament” from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas
(Music and Lyrics by Danny Elfman)

A film that Disney had no idea what to do with when first released in 1993, Nightmare was a box-office disappointment.  In the years since, it has obviously become considered a Disney classic, with its macabre characters becoming as loved as Mickey and Tinker Bell.  It’s also a great musical, with every song advancing the story beautifully.  The main character, Jack Skellington, has most of the songs, including this one–his “Hamlet’s Soliloquy” moment–sung with great aplomb by composer Elfman.  Who hasn’t felt like Jack at least once in his life?

10. “You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly!” from Peter Pan
( Music by Sammy Cahn, Lyrics by Sammy Fain)

Disney’s version of Peter Pan was the first film version of the story to actually have a boy play the title character.  It’s a wonderful Disney classic with great characters, beautiful animation, and very memorable songs–especially this one–written by Tin Pan Alley masters of popular song Cahn and Fain.  The story-song portrayed in this song is wonderful (I love the bit when Michael sprinkles pixie dust on Nana), and it is beautifully sung by the Jud Conlon Chorus.  A great “old school” Disney song.

9. “Down in New Orleans” from The Princess and the Frog
(Music and Lyrics by Randy Newman)

Disney’s first hand-drawn animated film since Home on the Range, this was Disney’s first great film musical in years, featuring a wonderful jazz and bayou flavored scored by Randy Newman.  The title song, sung by Dr. John, introduces the main characters and also one of the main themes (‘get what you want but lose what you have’) of the film.  It didn’t do as well in theatres as it should have, but it’s a Disney masterpiece, directed by the great John Musker and Ron Clements.

8. “Not in Nottingham” from Robin Hood
(Music and Lyrics by Roger Miller)

One of Disney’s “worst” animated films yields one of its greatest songs.  Robin Hood is notorious for its recycled animation from other films, but it was my favorite movie as a kid.  I loved the animals as the main characters (great design work by Disney Legend Ken Anderson), and the songs by country-folk legend Roger Miller are all memorable.  This song, highlighting the depression of life under the rule of dictator, is sad, melancholy, and beautiful.  Not one of the ones most people choose, I loved when Los Lobos recorded it on their “Los Lobos Does Disney” album.

7. “I See the Light” from Tangled
(Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Glenn Slater)

Another great song from a recent Disney film, this was deservedly nominated for an Oscar.  Tangled is a poorly named masterpiece, hearkening back to the wonderful Disney films of the early 1990’s, and the songs, animation, story–all are top notch.  Disney’s highest grossing non-Pixar animated film in years, it was a well-deserved box office smash.  There are lots of great songs, but this one is easily my favorite, beautifully sung by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi.

6. “Baia” from The Three Caballeros
(Music and Lyrics by Dorival Caymmi)

One of the best musical features from Disney, The Three Cabaellros featured songs from great South American composers.  Many of the songs, including “You Belong to My Heart” and this one, become Top 10 hits in the 1940’s.  I love the movie for its inventiveness and sometimes stream of consciousness animation sequences, but also for moments like this.  Baia is a beautiful song, sung by the Brazillian parrott, Joe Carioca (who continues to be a huge Disney character in South America), with art and animation inspired by the art direction of Mary Blair, a Disney legend whose work inspired the design of Cinderella, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and the Disney attraction It’s a Small World.

Bonus: “Have You Been to Baia” which comes right after that song.  I like this one, too.

5. “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio
(Music by Ned Washington, Lyrics by Leigh Harline)

Easily one of the greatest Disney songs, it’s been the company’s “theme song” since the Disneyland television show of the 1950’s.  It’s also from my favorite Disney film (and one of my favorite films of all time).  It’s sung over the opening credits of the film by Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket, and his performance of the song is perfection.  It’s been recorded and sung by lots of people, but it’s never better than when performed by that cricket.  (This was also the song sung at my wedding.  At Disneyland.)

4. “Our Town” from Cars
(Music and Lyrics by Randy Newman)

James Taylor’s performance of Randy Newman’s tender tribute to small town America made this one of the great moments in one of my favorite Pixar films.  The year Cars was released, we took a road trip across Route 66 and drove through many such towns.  The song made me cry then, and it makes me cry still.  A great song, a great scene, from a great film.

3. “Barking at the Moon” from Bolt
(Music and Lyrics by Jenny Lewis and John Powell)

Bolt may not be considered one of Disney’s greats, but it’s a charming and fun film with a great theme.  I loved the vocal performances, characters, and even the story of this movie (I’ve even blogged about it here before), but one of the things I love most is this song sequence.  It’s a great “road trip” song with a reminder that sometimes what makes home most is who we are with.  Yes, it may not be as great as “Part of Your World” or even “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes’ to many people, but I think this is one great Disney classic.

2. “God Help the Outcasts” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame
(Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz)

One of Disney’s most beautiful songs, “God Help the Outcasts” is also one of its most haunting.  From a film that should have had more moments like this–and perhaps should have fully embraced its darker story of pain and redemption–it’s a beautifully sung and animated moment.  The dust in the light shining from the Rose Window is one of those under appreciated moments in animation.  Hunchback is one of my favorite Disney films of all time, and there are so many great songs (“Out There,” “Topsy Turvy” “Heaven’s Light/Hellfire”).  This is just one of them.

And, my favorite Disney song of all time:

1. “Little April Shower” from Bambi
(Music by Frank Churchill, Lyrics by Larry Morey)

It’s a beautiful moment in a film full of them.  Bambi lays down with his mother and a gentle rain begins.  The animation detail in the rain shower is simply amazing and as the storm progresses, the song and animation work hand in hand to bring it to beautifully to life.  Bambi is a film celebrating nature and showcases the Disney studio at the height of its genius in the 1940’s.  Within a two year period, Disney released Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, and Dumbo.  Four masterpieces–any other studio would dream of having just one of these films.  “Little April Shower” is simply one of the greatest moments in Disney history, combining the masters of animation with a song worthy of their talents.

So…what are yours?



5 responses to “My Favorite Disney Songs

  1. Pingback: Mandy Moore Inspired Oscar·

  2. 1 – Feed the Birds – Mary Poppins
    2 – When You Wish Upon a Star – Pinocchio
    3 – Colors of the Wind – Pocohontas
    A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes – Cinderella
    Baby Mine – Dumbo
    Little April Showers – Bambi
    God Help the Outcasts – Hunchback of Notre Dame
    Little Wonders – Meet the Robinsons
    You’ll be in My Heart – Tarzan
    Let’s Go Fly a Kite – Mary Poppins
    Part of Your World – Little Mermaid
    Just Around the Riverbend – Pocohontas
    Under the Sea – Little Mermaid
    Go the Distance – Hercules
    Circle of Life – Lion King
    Kiss the Girl – Little Mermaid
    Candle on the Water – Pete’s Dragon
    Beauty and the Beast – Beauty and the Beast
    The Bear Necessities – Jungle Book
    Can You Feel the Love Tonight – Lion King
    Reflection – Mulan
    You Can Fly – Peter Pan
    Toyland – Babes in Toyland
    Winnie the Pooh – Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

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