My Top 5 Disney Scores

I don’t know much about music, but I know what I like, and there are several Disney scores that have stuck in my mind long after the film has finished. Unfortunately, these pieces usually get shafted in favour of the catchy songs, but I would advise you to check out the following. I’m cheating slightly as there were too many for the “official” list, but with this in mind are there any that you would have included?

Honourable Mentions

Beauty and the Beast

Composer: Alan Menken

Stand out trackWest Wing, where Belle goes poking about in the Beast’s quarters and is later pursued by a pack of wolves.

Have I heard of his stuff? I imagine yes: The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas and Aladdin sit happily on his C.V.

Comments: I’ll probably get lambasted for not putting this one on the list, at which point I kindly refer you to the first word of the post title. When the sombre strings of the film title suddenly give way to that delicate piano, you know you’re in for something special, so it’s no surprise that this score won a Golden Globe back in the day.

Can I buy it? Yup. Both the original and Special Edition versions are also on iTunes, for all you crazy kids.

The Rescuers Down Under

Composer: Bruce Broughton

Stand out trackCody’s Flight, where Cody frees the eagle Marahute from a trap before flying with her over the Australian outback.

Have I heard of his stuff? If you’re an 80s kid, probably, such as Harry and the Hendersons and Baby’s Day Out, and he’s also created music for some of the Florida and Paris Disney rides.

Comments: This film seems to fly under the radar, but the score is quite exhilarating (apt for riding on the back of a massive eagle). Also, it has some native percussion bits going on here and there, so if you like the Lion King, you might like this too.

Can I buy it? Yup.  Again, it’s also on iTunes for the princely sum of £9.99. Fun fact: a couple of years after the film came out, before the internet existed (let that sink in a moment), a C.D. copy of this soundtrack would have cost you £200.  I like to think I had expensive tastes rather than awkward.

#5: Brother Bear

Composer: Mark Mancina

Stand out track: Transformation, when Kenai is transformed into a bear by a spirit. It sounds a bit like a (far less annoying) group of ewoks singing on a starry night.

Have I heard of his stuff? Speed, Twister, and Tarzan were some of his tinkerings, and he also helped out with the production of the Lion King stage score.

Comments: This is another score that tries to incorporate some native instruments or music; the stand out track is sung in the Inuit language Inuktitut (by the Bulgarian Women’s Choir for some reason). The orchestral pieces are more conventional, but there is enough twinkling percussion and soft voices to give it an air of mystery too.

Can I buy it? Yup. Again it can also be found languishing on iTunes.

#4: The Little Mermaid

Composer: Alan Menken (again)

Stand out track: the Main Titles, where a surviving fish leads us down into the mer kingdom. Also, have a chuckle at some of the O.T.T. YouTube comments further along; it’s a nice piece of music guys, but really?

Have I heard of his stuff? Yep, see Beauty and the Beast; he has many a Disney score under his belt.

Comments: I remember being blown away by this score at the cinema (then again I was about 7), as it immediately took you to this amazing undersea fantasy world where mermaids still had an aura of mystery. You also got a sense of the manly sailors and the twee royal subjects milling about in the nearby villages in other parts of the score.

Can I buy it? Yup. Also on iTunes, but ixnay on stealing the title track, it’s all or nothing here people!

#3: Mulan

Composer: The late, great Jerry Goldsmith

Stand out track: Suite from Mulan, as this weaves all the main musical themes together and gives a good idea of what you can expect from the rest of the soundtrack.

Have I heard of his stuff? Most definitely. Secret of Nimh, The Omen, L.A. Confidential, Star Trek the Motion Picture, Alien, First Knight, Gremlins, I could go on all day. His best and most underrated work is said to be the music for Ridley Scott’s director’s cut of Legend.

Comments: There’s something about the brass instruments in this score that show how much Mulan is on a mission of defiance as well as survival, and how desperate her situation is, while still remembering it’s supposed to be a score for a children’s film. Also,  we’re simply aware that this story takes place in China, so the music isn’t going “look look Mulan is Chinese!!” every five minutes.

Can I buy it? Yup. Also on iTunes.

#2: Dinosaur

Composer: James Newton Howard

Stand out track: The Egg Travels, where Aladar’s egg is deposed from his mother’s nest and manhandled by various creatures before being dropped on an island (good thing it has air bags then).

Have I heard of his stuff? Probably – if you’ve watched the three decent M. Night Shyamalan films you would have heard some of his music, and he also co-write The Dark Knight as well as King Kong and others.

Comments: I know this isn’t a traditional Disney film, but the music is so fantastic I couldn’t leave this out. It’s as if the scores from Jurassic Park and The Lion King had a baby, which wasn’t quite as legendary by comparison but still awesome. A few Brits reading this may also recognise elements of the Walking With Dinosaurs series that was on BBC back in the late 90s.

Can I buy it? Yup. You’d obviously go for the used version though! Unfortunately, it’s “dinosaur” by name as well as by nature – it’s not on iTunes anywhere.

#1:The Lion King

Composer: Hans Zimmer

Stand out track: We Are All Connected (From the Legacy Collection).It takes place when Rafiki is painting young Simba’s picture on the wall and continues until Mufasa is leading his son on a tour of the kingdom.

Have I heard of his stuff? Tsk, you had to ask? How about Gladiator, The Dark Knight, Inception, The Game of Thrones (season 2), and so on unto infinity.

Comments: Well, I’ve mentioned this one so many times that you probably guessed it already. Much like The Little Mermaid, the music for The Lion King transports you straight to an expansive and magical Africa, and even the incidental parts of the score are strong enough to work as extra songs in the stage version (see Shadowlands and Endless Night).

Can I buy it? The official score? Yup. Also on iTunes. No sign of the full score yet though (sniff).

UPDATE (31st May 2014): I stand corrected. Huzzah!

Thanks again for indulging me with another post not entirely related to the blog.

Which Disney scores struck a chord with you, and why?

5 thoughts on “My Top 5 Disney Scores

  1. I would have to say my favorite Disney score is Tarzan. No doubt, it’s like the best thing ever. And of course lion king is fabulous but I feel like Tarzan is more emotional and I’m in love with the music, Two Worlds, You’ll be in my Heart, and Trashing the Camp. I feel like Tarzan gets overlooked because the characters arn’t singing, but the music is a perfect match to the story 🙂

    • Hi Kristen,

      I have to say there are some parts of Tarzan’s score that are quite emotional – I almost always reach for a tissue when Tarzan and Kala explore the cabin years later. I only recently watched Tarzan (as part of this blog in fact) so perhaps if I were more familiar with it or grew up with it I would have added it. Funnily enough, I quite like Strangers Like Me! Thanks for taking the time to comment on here!

  2. I remember I used to have an old “best disney songs” album, which I played to death in my early teens ;P I hadn’t actually seen Dinosaur, but remembered The Egg Travels being probably my favourite track on the CD, thanks for reminding me about it!

    It’s actually Dreamworks, not Disney, but one of my favourite animation scores has to be Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, which is another Hans Zimmer one that I always enjoyed a lot! (although there are a few awkward Bryan Adams tracks on the soundtrack… fun but a sometimes a little but cheesy.. “Sound the Bugle” was really nice, however) It has a great sense of adventure and youth in it!

    As for actual disney soundtracks I agree about the Lion king, and Shadow Land is actually one of my favourite themes from the movie, and song from the stage show. I also enjoyed Wall-e’s soundtrack very much, I think it really got just the right tone for the movie… innocent and quirky at times, contrasted with the massiveness of the universe, it’s quite haunting…

    • Hi Amy,

      I couldn’t agree more about Spirit:Stallion of the Cimarron, it’s one of my all time favourites too, so no doubt I would have included it if it wasn’t Dreamworks. I have WALL-E but am not quite so familiar with the score so may have to check it out. Thanks a lot for your comment, and glad the note reminded you about Dinosaur!

      • Yes, it’s a great movie ;D I really enjoyed Wall-e, well the first half particularly, I found the lonely atmosphere very beautiful..

        By the way, If you remember, I’m the same student who mentioned that I was going to write an essay about the various legends of Mulan. I don’t know yet if I will directly be quoting you in the essay, as I’m just drafting it out now, but I was just going to put your blog on my source list since its given me quite a few ideas for areas to look into~~ However, what would you like me to list your name as, as I cannot find one on your site? 🙂

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