For over 75 years, the Walt Disney Company has not only enthralled us with visual delights, but has also treated us to some of the greatest aural pleasures ever put to the big screen. From big Broadway showstoppers to pop music favourites, Disney animation has historically taken us to some of the places that only the best music can.
The eligible songs are from the 55 theatrically released animated movies that Disney officially considers their canon.
We ranked the songs as objectively as we possibly could. That means particular tunes that may have been our personal favourites did not necessarily top the list. In short, we used a formula that took into account aspects such as music, lyrics, effect on history (both the company and popular culture), nostalgia, earworm factor, etc. Therefore, the songs are based on a point scale from 1 to 100 with an overall score determined by examining the above factors.
So, without further ado, we invite you to relax, pull up a chair as we proudly present. . . your songs.
50. “He’s a Tramp” from Lady and the Tramp (1955)
This jazz standard is not a very long song but it leaves a lasting impression on the audience and certainly lingers in the mind long after the last notes have been played.
49. “Someday My Prince Will Come / Reprise” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
In what became known as Walt’s Folly during its production, Snow White wrote the book on what feature length animation would become, while simultaneously inventing a new genre of film. “Someday My Prince Will Come” was the first and will forever be remembered as one of the most memorable of all Disney princess songs.
48. “Oo-de-lally” from Robin Hood (1973)
Though the song itself isn’t the most technically impressive from this list, it does have an immeasurably nostalgic feeling for those who grew up with the animated classic.
47. “Mother Knows Best / Reprise” from Tangled (2010)
Not since Pat Carroll tricked Ariel into signing her life away has any Disney villain orchestrated such a fun, bouncy and overly dramatic performance to contrast a downright evil plot point.
It also must be mentioned that the way Donna Murphy switches — with such ease — from lively and cheerful to admonishing Rapunzel to “never ask to leave this tower again” is truly chilling.
46. “Ev’rybody Wants to be a Cat / Reprise” from The Aristocats (1970)
This song occupies space and time in two different songs. One, a slow shuffle that sets up the action of the set piece, while the other is a jazz fueled polytechnic acid trip (befitting of the LSD soaked era when the film was released) that turns the manic up, allowing the characters to really let loose.
45. “Savages (Part 1 & 2)” from Pocahontas (1995)
One of the darker songs in Disney history, this call to war drowns in racial stereotypes on both sides of the fence.
Unlike Peter Pan, which uses this opportunity to segregate a particular (non-caucasian) race, “Savages” melodically shows us the ignorance and prejudice of those we perceive to be different from us. Because the film is based on ‘historical fact’ and not fairy tale fiction, Disney got away with saying things that could have been misconstrued as too risqué for young children.
In short, this song is racist as all get out, but succeeds because it holds the mirror up to our own face and reflects societal thoughts in both a modern and historical context.
44. “April Showers” from Bambi (1942)
On its own the song may not be the most enjoyable but within the context of the film, from the first few drops falling lightly on the leaves to the raging downpour midway through and the calming of the weather giving way to the rising sun, it brilliantly places the audience in that moment of being a young animal experiencing a spring thunder storm for the very first time.
43. “Heigh-Ho / Reprise” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Perhaps the most popular song from the legendary film as the song comes to a conclusion you are treated to those now iconic images of the dwarves making their way home from a day in the mines. “Heigh-ho” is the only song showcasing the dwarves’ musical talent and it really lets them show off their chops.
42. “Trust in Me” from The Jungle Book (1967)
Written by Disney favourites Robert & Richard Sherman, “Trust in Me” was originally a song composed for Mary Poppins going by the name “The Land of Sand.” The lyrics were dropped but the melody stayed unchanged as it so perfectly suited the sub-continental feel, but it’s the lyrics that push an otherwise superfluous song to something meaningful and unique.
41. “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan (1998)
Musically speaking, it feels more at home on an American military base but if one takes a moment to examine the lyrics of the chorus, they’ll find it peppered with quotes that could be straight from Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu’s treatise The Art of War: “swift as a coursing river / the force of a great typhoon / strength of a raging fire / mysterious as the dark side of the moon.”
40 “The Unbirthday Song” from Alice in Wonderland (1951)
There are numerous songs from “Alice in Wonderland” that could have landed on this list (after all it does have the most songs collectively — over 30), but ultimately we went with the most famous of them all.
From the opening strains of the calliope, this song announces itself to be as crazy as the world from which it came. It’s the song that introduces us to possibly the most popular character from the entire Lewis Carroll universe, The Mad Hatter, and his tea-slurping compatriots, The Door Mouse and The March Hare.
39. “Baby Mine” from Dumbo (1941)
As with the three films that came before it, Dumbo proved that Walt and co. weren’t just making cartoons, they were crafting a new art form, creating memories and capturing our childhood nostalgia.
“Baby Mine” might not pack the biggest punch when it comes to musicality but it still manages to hit us right in the feelings harder than virtually any other Disney song.