A Musical-Countdown Tribute to James Horner

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In the days since the death of acclaimed Hollywood (Titanic, Avatar, and Braveheart) and animation composer, James Horner, I have come to pay tribute to the man whose own melodies made us both happy and sad while we grew up with him.

Here are the top seven animated films he scored that I consider the best.

7) Once Upon a Forest (1993)

Even though I liked the music in some “happy” parts, such as the building of the “flapper-wing-a-ma-thing” and the “big-lipped alligator” moment with the birds, the score’s sad moments are gut-wrenching because thy make me want to go bawl my eyes out. This is especially true of the end credits song, “Once Upon a Time With Me.”

6) Balto (1995)

Out of all the three Amblimation films for which Mr. Horner composed, this one is the most forgettable. As a kid, and now as an adult, I can’t remember a single melody from the score that is supposed to give you chills. But, it did have some nice moments with Boris, Muk, and Luk.

5) The Pagemaster (1994)

Although this score has some nice moments, such as the opening title sequence and some parts with the book characters of Adventure and Fantasy, much like Balto its melodies and score are forgettable.


4) An American Tail (1986)

Enough with the “mediocre-ness”… now we’re getting into the good stuff.

This score, being Mr. Horner’s first animated score, is just so beautiful. It just makes you wanna realize that there is more than the Oscar-nominated song, “Somewhere Out There.” From happy song moments (“No Cats in America” and “A Duo”) to thrilling, chilling moments (the Cossack Cats sequence and the storm sequence) and, above all, some sad yet beautiful moments. Particularly moving is the opening title sequence. Listen to those chords! They make you wanna invite your mother to join you and watch this movie.

3) An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991)

This is a perfect example of how the composer of the original film can update his melodies for a sequel. With that, Mr. Horner brings back not only his sweet melodies from the original American Tail film but also one of the best, and one of my favorite, Western scores ever. If you’re a classical music aficionado, then listen very closely in the score, especially in the training sequence, as you can hear several homages to Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo.”

2) We’re Back: A Dinosaur’s Story (1993)

Despite being a critical and financial failure, this film, for me, is a guilty pleasure. This is not only because of the design and animation, but also because of Mr. Horner’s musical score. I mean, come on. Who doesn’t remember “Roll Back the Rock” with John Goodman singing? The rest of the score is quite catchy and wondrous to listen to. Think of the moments when they’re in Captain Neweyes’ aircraft or when the children think about the past. These light moments are juxtaposed in the score with Professor Screweyes’ incredibly dark and scary circus, which is terribly frightening.

And the #1 best animated James Horner soundtrack is…

1) The Land Before Time (1988)

Yes, folks. My favorite animated James Horner score is from one of Don Bluth’s great films. I mean, even compared to Titanic, the musical score in this movie is so epic! This can be seen from the opening title sequence in the ocean to the Sharptooth attack, the whispering winds, and the entrance of the Great Valley. It ranges from happy to sad, scary, and touching all at the same time. And, saving the best for last, the ending credits song, “If We Hold On Together,” is the cherry on top to this great musical score from James Horner.

So, if we still hold on together, since James Horner is no longer with us, I know the dreams he gave us will never die. Rest in peace, Maestro Horner.

**This is a reader-submitted post by Dan Siciliano.**

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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