The 50 Best Original Songs from Disney Animated Movies
25. “Friend Like Me” from Aladdin (1992)
“Friend Like Me” packs a punch; the frenzied visuals, inspired voice work from Robin Williams, and the big band sound makes the entire number feel like it would be at home on a Las Vegas stage.
The animators and Alan Menken kept up with Williams beat for beat when it comes to the energetic style of the entire endeavor, lending the whole song a spontaneous tone. Aladdin is jam packed with big ballsy musical sequences, but without a doubt “Friend Like Me” is the biggest, ballsiest and a staple of our childhood.
24. “The Mob Song” from Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Many consider “Gaston” the official villain song from Beauty and the Beast but we just can’t get behind that, not when the movie features this juggernaut of Shakespearean proportion,“The Mob Song” is one of the more overlooked songs from the musically glorious ‘90s Renaissance.
Narratively, the song fits flawlessly within the entire story and as the last musical number within the film, Ashman and Menken managed to create something genuinely inspirational yet at the same time horrifyingly suspenseful. Using Gaston’s powerful, masculine voice, accompanied with the village people’s oddly rehearsed and gorgeous chorus feels so appropriate to lead us into the final act.
23. “Friends on the Other Side / Reprise” from The Princess and the Frog (2009)
The true beauty of this song is hidden in the complex lyrics designed to not only manipulate Prince Naveen but also clue the audience in to what’s about to happen. Furthermore, when the “good” doctor refers to himself as a poor sinner, dissolving him of any responsibility for the heinous act about to ensue, he places the blame squarely on the shoulders of “his friends on the other side.”
Consequently, we aren’t surprised nor are we particularly sympathetic when the end finally comes for Facilier during the reprise, which turns the whole ordeal into a hauntingly complex case of tragic irony.
22. “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast (1991)
It’s worth nothing that many critics have hailed “Be Our Guest” as one of the best songs of the Renaissance, but that’s not why we have it this high on our list.
Its grandiose scale and cabaret style scope would make Bob Fosse himself sit up and take notice. Throw in Broadway royalty Jerry Orbach & Angela Lansbury and it all amounts to a musical theatre nerd’s wet dream.
21. “Out There” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Because “Out There” is essentially two tonally opposite songs in one, let’s start by breaking them down into their separate parts; “Frollo’s Refrain” and “Quasi’s Lament.” Fittingly, everything about Frollo’s Refrain is masterfully dark, from the tone of the music to the style, color and lighting of the animation. What makes Frollo’s Refrain work so well is the maturity of the lyrics coupled with Tony Jay’s superbly dedicated performance.
Quasi’s Lament not only shifts the tone to a much larger scale, but also gives us a beautiful window into a beautifully ordinary soul. A lyrical joyride over the rooftops of Paris, this portion of the hopeful song gives the titular character a chance to express himself the only way he knows how.
20. “Heaven’s Light/Hellfire” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Most consider “Hellfire” to be the much stronger of the two, but we feel that the maniacal overtones wouldn’t be nearly as emotionally resonant if not for the innocence of “Heaven’s Light.”
Both songs show Esmeralda being treated as an object of desire — and let’s not kid ourselves, this is totally a commentary on the subjugation of women — but “Heaven’s Light” does so in a very sweet way. They achieve the same end goal, but the difference lies in the intent and delivery.
“Hellfire” on the other hand has to be, hands down, the darkest song Disney has ever included in one of their animated films.
Notable for almost becoming the first PG rated movie in over ten years and only the second in history of the animation division, the song gets away with mentioning the word “hell” multiple times as well as provocative lyrics such as “but she will be mine / or she will burn.” When you stop to consider that all of this is found in a children’s animated movie, that is some heavy shit.
19. “Prince Ali / Reprise” from Aladdin (1992)
If we’re being fully honest, there’s slight bias at play with this Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade knock-off.
For guys now between the ages of 25 and 35, Aladdin premiered at the perfect time. Its impact was felt throughout the company — between TV shows, several sequels released shortly thereafter and even video games, there was a lot for young boys to enjoy.
So it should come as no surprise that for us, who fall within that demographic, “Prince Ali” holds a special place within our memories and is as much a delight to listen to today as it was over twenty years ago.
18. “When We’re Human” from The Princess and the Frog (2009)
Back to the Bayou and the brass band sensibility of New Orleans — yes, we are evidently big fans of the music in The Princess and the Frog.
But can we really be blamed? The wildly charming, almost improvisational style of the music and the showy nature of the roaring twenties make all of the musical numbers just so much fun. “When We’re Human” is definitely no exception and (dare we say) it might just be the most entertaining of all of Newman’s creations.
17. “Bella Notte” from Lady and the Tramp (1955)
A song like “Bella Notte” rides a fine line that makes it easy to fall into forceful saccharine territory, yet Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke make it feel natural. Disney had a lot of faith in the pop star and what blossomed from that relationship is the movie’s quintessential musical theme.
With its simple lyrics, the warm melody created by the accordion and mandolin as well as Tony and Joe’s operatic vibrato, “Bella Notte” is pushed to soaring heights of romanticism.
16. “Once Upon a Dream / Reprise” from Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Contrasting the catchy, lyrical simplicity of the song, the 70mm Technorama lengthens the frame beyond the characters in order to take in Eyvind Earle’s beautiful background work that feels as though it extends indefinitely.
And to give credit where credit is due, the entire movie (and especially this sequence) owes that aesthetic to Earle’s keen understanding of gothic and medieval art, which elevates “Once Upon a Dream” from just another Princess ballad to something sweeping and epic.
Even those moments in the song where Aurora and Prince Phillip simply dance in front of a pond are lent a large-scale intimacy from the grand balletic-style. Simply breathtaking.
15. “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid (1989)
This calypso ballad shows that, despite his disapproval of Ariel’s chosen path, Sebastian is willing to go quite far in order to protect the wayward young girl.
The simple islands beat, bayou-like setting, and smooth harmonizing voices combine to make it one of Disney’s most romantic songs and in that vein, “Kiss the Girl” couldn’t be more perfect.
14. “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas (1995)
Throughout their renaissance era, Disney continually managed to find ways to be entertaining while delivering a socially conscious message and this song is one of their prime examples.
Who would have thought the same production house that brought us racist vitriol like “What Made the Red Man Red” would have the capability to create lyrics that speak so vividly about exploring different cultures and respecting other’s beliefs.
13. “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio (1940)
Although “When You Wish Upon a Star” perfectly captures the dreamlike feeling of Pinocchio, and the spirit of Disney itself, the song really does nothing to further the plot of the film and in fact may be one of the most misleading messages ever relayed by the House of Mouse: don’t work hard for the things you want in life, wish upon a star and everything will work out fine!
Having said that capturing that feeling, that summer evening feeling, has always been what Disney is best at and nowhere else do they prove that better than with the song that became their unofficial anthem.