Unlike my previous Disney post, Best Disney Princesses, this one is all about my personal taste. That’s why I’m calling it my favourite Disney songs, and not the greatest. With that said, most of these are strong contenders for the best Disney songs in history. Also some of my Disney posts have been a bit long, so let’s try to keep this post relatively short.
My main rule is there can only be one song per movie. Otherwise this list would be completely dominated by the 90’s. In fact it’s kind of dominated by the 90’s as it is. This rule includes both the honorable mentions and the dishonorable mentions. You’re not going to see both Frozen’s “Let It Go” on the top 10 list and “Fixer Upper” on my dishonorable mentions list, as tempted as I am to mention both.
The Tigger Song from The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – The video below is a later rendition that’s not from the original feature, but I picked it because it’s an extended version.
The Tigger Song encompasses everything that makes Tigger a great character.
Disney’s Hercules is the weakest of the Disney Renaissance movies, but this one song is brilliant. It’s inspirational, it sounds like it belongs in a Greek Mythology musical and it does a great job at expanding on Hercules’s mindset at that point in the movie. So just watch/listen to this song and skip the rest of the movie.
Of all the jingles throughout the Disney cannon, this is my favourite. It’s a fun and catchy jingle all the way back from 1940 that still sounds kind of modern. For the fun of it, here’s the version from the Muppets show in the 70’s and 80’s.
For the last of the Honorable Mentions, let’s look at the song that just barely missed out on the top 10. How Far I’ll Go is another one of Disney’s inspirational songs. It’s also catchy and a touch dramatic at the same time. That’s not an easy accomplishment.
The whole premise of this song is how bears express their romantic love by slapping each other. The song is as dumb as that description makes it sound.
Yodel-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Oo from Home On The Range (I hate that movie)
That’s right, the mid-2000’s were so bad for Disney that they turned a villain song into a yodeling number. To make matters worse, this yodeling song butchers several famous classical masterpieces, like the William Tell Overture. It doesn’t help that the visuals also rip off the Pink Elephants scene from Dumbo with none of the creativity. Did I mention how I hated Home On The Range?
And with that out of the way, let’s talk about my 10 favourite Disney songs.
10 Under The Sea from The Little Mermaid
This was the first of many Disney Renaissance songs to win the Academy Award for best original song, and for good reason. It’s a pure celebratory Caribbean number talking about how awesome life in the ocean is. It’s groovy, it’s fun and the lyrics are wonderfully crafted.
For the fun of it, here’s Collegehumor’s parody
9 Be Our Guest from Beauty and the Beast
It was actually really hard to pick a favourite from Beauty And The Beast. This is when the Renaissance really started to take off, and pretty much every song in this movie is a masterpiece in its own way. When it came down to it, my choice was between this and “Beauty And The Beast”. The fun angle of “Be Our Guest”, the increasingly bombastic backing choir and the increasingly over the top visuals just edged it out for me.
Here’s a video that compares the original to the live action remake.
8 The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met from Make Mine Music
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This isn’t just a classy opera inspired number, but it’s an entire story contained in a 15 minute epic. This segment alone makes Melody Time worth watching – or you could just watch the story of the Operatic Whale on its own. It’s classy, it’s entertaining and the ending is equally tragic and happy. Because this is 15 minutes long, it’s the only top 10 song I won’t be posting an alternate version of.
7 Once Upon A Dream from Sleeping Beauty
Of all the songs in this top 10 list, this is the classiest. It’s directly based off of the Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Sleeping Beauty ballet, something I forgot to mention in my original Sleeping Beauty. I hope I’ve made up for that since. Disney added lyrics to the classical masterpiece that are strong enough to sell the otherwise underdeveloped romance between Aurora and Prince Phillip. It helps that Aurora’s voice actress was a professional opera singer. The movie ends with a chorus of the song that’s arguably even better than the duet.
Lana Del Ray sung a version for Maleficent. I really didn’t like the movie, but this version of the song is dark and creepy in all the right ways.
6 Let It Go from Frozen
I argued in my Tangled vs. Frozen post that because Frozen mostly relies on pop music, it’ll age poorly. In fact I’d argue that “Love Is An Open Door” is already starting to age. That said, “Let It Go” is such a monster hit that it would be an injustice to not include it on the list somewhere. It’s an anthem song that’s both catchy and epic. Let It Go is, in a way, a declaration of independence. It’s an anthem song that if you pay attention, also exposes some of Elsa’s greatest character flaws.
And for the fun of it, here’s a hardcore cover.
5 I’ll Make a Man out of You from Mulan
And yet I prefer “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” over “Let It Go” any day. It’s an anthem song in the same capacity, but it’s both funnier and more inspirational. The song is a call to action of sorts for everyone to toughen up. The backing music builds throughout most of the song as the training sessions toughen up, but when everyone starts succeeding in their training, the backing music shuts down and it turns into a male choir. Somehow the song sounds bigger without the backing music.
For the fun of it, here’s the Google Translate Sings version. There’s a Google Translate Sings version of almost all of these songs, but I’m posting this one because it’s also a duet between two YouTube stars that are both worth following.
4 Prince Ali from Aladdin
Like Beauty And the Beast before this, it was very difficult to pick a favourite song from Aladdin. In the end this barely edged out A Whole New World for me. It sounds glorious as it should, it’s catchy, and Robin Williams throws in the occasional humour to make it funny as well.
And here’s Jafar’s reprise from later in the movie that completely flips the emotion of the song.
3 I See The Light from Tangled
Of all the love songs in the Disney Animation cannon, I find this one the most moving. That’s saying a lot. “A Whole New World” is great, but it could apply to almost any romantic movie. The Lion King’s “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” isn’t quite as romantic, but it plants in character development within the song to make it deeper. “Beauty And The Beast” comes close to “I See The Light” for me – it’s a great romantic song that explores the movie’s themes and it’s a very soft song compared to the movie’s generally bombastic soundtrack. But it’s sung by an outside observer of the movie’s central romance.
“I See The Light” is a soft, romantic number like Beauty And The Beast that also encompasses plot elements like “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”. It captures not only Rapunzel and Eugene’s individual character development, but highlights how close they’ve grown as a couple. It’s a duet by the new lovebirds in the same style as “A Whole New World”. It encompasses elements from all three of those love numbers from the 90’s, accompanied by the most visually breathtaking moment in Disney Animation Studios history. And it’s one of the movie’s several moments that brings me to tears.
Here’s a beautiful cover sung by husband and wife, Peter and Evynne Hollins
2 Circle of Life from The Lion King
Of all the Disney Animation Studios anthem songs, this is the most recognizable. Many movies, even including Frozen, have since ripped it off with some sort of folk music intro. It starts off a bit soft, but slowly builds into an epic celebration of life and death. It explores the movie’s central themes without giving away the plot. This is the “Let It Go” of the 90’s, and because of its African folk song roots, it will age better than “Let It Go” could ever hope to.
I might as well include the Elton John version that’s played after the credits. It’s a softer rendition that sounds a bit more modern, but loses none of the sophistication.
And that leads me to my favourite Disney Animation Studios song of all time.
1 Hellfire from Hunchback of Notre Dame
Before I get into why Hellfire is my favourite Disney song, I should mention that it’s actually part of a pair of songs, the other being “Heaven’s Light”. The two songs sound very similar in melody, but completely different in scale and tone. As brilliant as Hellfire is, it’s even more effective if you listen to Heaven’s Light first.
Hellfire is the villain song from Hunchback of Notre Dame, and it may just be the greatest villain song in the history of fiction. It’s the perfect blend of epic, dark and moderately frightening. It delves deep into Judge Claude Frodo’s struggles between his strict drive to remain sexually pure and his intense desire for the gypsy Esmeralda. This song alone proves how Claude Frodo is the deepest, most complex villain in Disney history. It highlights the movie’s darker themes that the studio believed would earn the movie a PG-13 rating. They’re still bewildered that it earned a G rating.
Seriously, this song is epic.
Also for the fun of it, here’s a metal cover.
I hope you enjoyed, and feel free to let me know what your favourite Disney songs are. My next Disney post will be villain related one way or another. After that, I’ll likely post my list of all the Disney Animation Studios movies organized from least to most favourite.