Shall we play a game? Start mentally naming Disney animated films, and see how long you can go before you start singing. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
…You back? Okay.
If you’re anything like me, you probably went five seconds before singing. In fact, I’m not sure it’s possible to think about Disney Animation for more than a few seconds before belting out a few bars. Disney Animation and great music are so closely bound that it’s impossible to think of one without the other.
Let me ask you another question: what songs did you think of first? Again, if you’re anything like me, your mind wandered into the realm of what I call the ‘Disney Standards.’ The Standards are the Disney songs that everybody knows, whether they’re animation addicts or not. The list of Disney Standards includes such songs as “The Bare Necessities,” “Under The Sea,” and “A Whole New World.”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with the Disney Standards. Each is great, and, if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to have Disney sing-offs with non-animation-addict friends. (Other people do that, right?) However, Disney music has much more to offer than its Standards. Just take the tiniest step into the world of Disney deep cuts and you’ll find a treasure trove of beautiful, funny, heartfelt songs.
In this article, we’ll take a brief journey into the back of the Disney record vault and take a look at seven underrated Disney tunes!
“After Today” – A Goofy Movie
Ah, the last day of school before summer vacation. Rich with excitement, anticipation, and promise. It’s undoubtedly the best day of any school year, and the memories of it can stay with a person forever. No song captures that last-day-of-school feeling better than “After Today.” (Not even “School’s Out For Summer.”) In less than three minutes, the song sweeps us across the full spectrum of Max’s school, showing us how each clique and personality plans to spend their three months of freedom. The exuberance radiates off this song, and it’s contagious!
(Also, not to brag, but I do a pretty awesome one-man version of this song. All the different voices and everything. It’s a talent I’m quite proud of!)
“O’Malley The Alley Cat” – The Aristocats
Out of all Disney’s stock voice actors, Phil Harris is my favorite. He has a unique kind of cockiness that gives each character he voiced an amazingly fun personality. Not only that, but the man could turn a tune beautifully! All of Harris’s Disney songs are great, but “O’Malley The Alley Cat” tops my list. Harris brings his signature swagger to his rendition of the lyrics, helping us to know right away that Thomas O’Malley is a cocky, suave, charming rogue. Of course, the Sherman Brothers also deserve lots of credit for crafting a swinging, Sinatra-esque song and a strong set of sweet-talking lyrics!
“Out There” – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
An opening number may introduce us to the main character, but it’s the “I Want” song that really makes us care. In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo is hinted at immediately, but, at first, we know him only as the mythic figure who lives in the belfry of Notre Dame. We get to see Quasimodo and Judge Frollo together briefly, but we don’t really know much about their relationship until “Out There” starts. The song begins by showing us how Frollo keeps Quasimodo obedient through insults, discouragement, and threats. That part is hard to watch, but it gets even more poignant as Quasi enters his solo section of the song. By the end of the tune, we know that all Quasi wants is to feel like everyone else, to be able to live like everyone else, even if just for one day. By the end of the song, we really love Quasi, and we want to see him win out over Frollo.
“Goodbye So Soon” – The Great Mouse Detective
Here it is: the goofy, quirky favorite that I MUST fit onto every list! Really, I don’t have a lot to say about “Goodbye So Soon” beyond the fact that I love it! Vincent Price really throws himself into the vocals, filling his performance with a wicked glee at finally having the famed Basil Of Baker Street in his grasp. There’s also a very campy feel to this song; it almost sounds like something a James Bond villain might sing at an open mic night. “Goodbye So Soon” is extremely weird, and that’s why it makes the list!
“I Won’t Say I’m In Love” – Hercules
Hercules goes out of its way to do everything differently, and that’s what I find endearing about it! Everything in the film, from the characters to the plot to the style of comedy, is of the sort that we rarely see from Disney Animation. Nowhere does that newness shine through more than in the soundtrack! We get a taste of all kinds of music throughout the film, and every one of the songs is a gem. However, when push comes to shove, I have to say that “I Won’t Say I’m In Love” is my favorite song from the film! Alan Menken and David Zippel delve heavily into ’60s pop music for Meg’s “anti-love” song, sampling everything from Motown records to girl-group tunes to show tunes from Promises, Promises. The oldies collage fuses together to create something wonderfully unique, much like Hercules itself.
“So Close” – Enchanted
There are so many great moments in Enchanted, but the “So Close” waltz is definitely my favorite. There’s so much being said in that scene, even though there are only a few lines of dialogue. Every one of the major characters is struggling with a revelation about who really loves whom, and each character feels that they can’t be with the one they truly love. All this is done with only a few lines. This is possible because “So Close” does all the heavy lifting. Stephen Schwartz’s lyrics are a beautiful description of what it feels like to be in love with someone, but knowing that the relationship will never work out. It says everything that the characters can’t.
“If I Never Knew You” – Pocahontas
I hope I don’t short my laptop out, because “If I Never Knew You” always gets me crying. I love this song because it’s a love song that both encompasses and transcends romantic love. The lyrics do a magnificent job of detailing how one relationship can affect two people’s lives for the better. It’s been obvious through all of Pocahontas that Pocahontas and John Smith have affected each other very deeply, and “If I Never Knew You” allows them to vocalize their affection for each other. What’s beautiful about this song, though, is that it can apply to any kind of relationship, be it parent-child, husband-wife, friend-friend, or, yes, even boyfriend-girlfriend. It’s that universality that makes “If I Never Knew You” a masterpiece.
Disney music is so much more than a handful of Disney Standards. There are so many different vibes, musical styles, and themes to be found among the more obscure tunes. A trip into the Disney song vault is most definitely one worth taking!
What are your favorite obscure Disney songs? What do you love about them?
AJ's love of movies began when his mom took him to see The Lion King on a warm California day in 1994. He left the theater with his mind blown and with a strong desire to become a filmmaker. AJ's fascinated with films of all kinds, but animated films have always held a special place in his heart, particularly Disney animation, the work of Chuck Jones, and Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson's Peanuts specials. His favorite animated films include (but aren't limited to) Frozen, Beauty And The Beast, Surf's Up, The Bugs Bunny/RoadRunner Movie, and Toy Story 3. Along with films, AJ also loves pop and rock music, hiking, the beach, comic books, traveling, writing, acting, and baseball.