It takes a special artist to be able to both unite people from all walks of life and endure the test of time. It takes an even more special artist to achieve these things… while also being a fictional character. Since its inception in the 1920s, The Walt Disney Company has created more culturally penetrative icons than almost any other brand, singing all the way to the bank from producing hit film after hit film.
Now this article went through one or two drafts. It was almost published last month, but the original picks sparked so much office outrage that we had to consider an alternative. As it turns out, Disney’s entire filmography is almost impossible to distill into a small fraction of songs.
The original contributor, Jasper Bruce, came to us with some of the best songs Disney has ever put out. We’ve now extrapolated the list to 15 songs grabbed from four members of the Happy team.
After almost a century of filmmaking, there are too many amazing Disney songs to count. After endless deliberation from the whole team, we’ve narrowed it down to a top 15.
Jasper Bruce – Writer
The Bare Necessities from The Jungle Book
When I googled The Bare Necessities, a website selling bras came up. Bouncy, supportive and enduring, this song has all the characteristics of a good bra, while also having a god-tier pun in the title.
The Bare Necessities has been re-recorded by music legends including Harry Connick Jr, Brian Wilson and Los Lobos, otherwise known as the band who recorded The Macarena. Unfortunately, the latter of these versions is very difficult to track down, but yes, you can dance to The Macarena in sync with The Bare Necessities. I tried.
Friend Like Me from Aladdin
The Genie’s iconic Friend Like Me from Aladdin was at first conceived as a Cab Calloway-style romp. While the track’s jazzy sass and muted trumpets are reminiscent of Calloway’s trademark moxie, the track was spruced up when Robin Williams was cast as the Genie.
Williams, who signed on to work on the film for just $75,000, is in full flight on the track. Now, two years since his passing, the track is as bittersweet and nostalgic as ever, as we continue to mourn the loss of one of the all-time greats.
Be Our Guest from Beauty and The Beast
Beauty and The Beast was the final film to which Howard Ashman wrote the complete lyrics, before his untimely passing in 1991. Tragically, Ashman was too ill to attend the film’s premiere, but the tongue-in-cheek lyrics of this song and its upbeat positivity are surviving reminders of the talent of one of Disney’s best-loved contributors.
The song has also been immortalised by the Simpsons parody, See My Vest.
Can You Feel The Love Tonight? from The Lion King
When lyricist Sir Tim Rice suggested that Sir Elton John should be hired to write the music for an upcoming Disney film about lions feeling the love tonight, perhaps it was only inevitable that the result of the pair’s collaboration would be iconic.
Can You Feel The Love Tonight? is the most soulful song in The Lion King, and was originally envisaged by John as building on Disney’s tradition of powerfully emotional love songs. John and Rice certainly delivered on that hope.
When You Wish Upon a Star from Pinocchio
When You Wish Upon A Star was released to massive popular acclaim in the early 40s, and quickly became a jazz standard. Among the most notable versions of the track are those performed by Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, The Manhattan Transfer and lots of really bad X Factor contestants.
The song is also thought to have inspired the melody to The Beach Boys hit, Surfer Girl. In fact, When You Wish Upon a Star has become so iconic that it has been used to accompany the Disney logo before films since the 1980s. No song epitomises the Disney values of imagination, creativity and dreams more than this one.
Nick Stillman – Sub-Editor
A Whole New World from Aladdin
Probably the most optimistic tune ever written. It also cracked the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 (#10 on the Aria charts) – a testament Disney’s knack for blurring the lines between showtunes and legitimate pop music in their film soundtracks.
You’ve Got a Friend in Me from Toy Story
Randy Newman’s You’ve Got a Friend in Me is the ultimate ode to mateship. It may have lost an academy award to Colours of the Wind from Pocahontas (another cracking Disney tune), but it’s definitely one of the most enduring Disney songs of all time.
Hakuna Matata from The Lion King
It means no worries…. At the darkest part of the Lion King this tune serves as the pick-me-up you desperately need. Try not to feel elated after listening to Hakuna Matata.
I Just Can’t Wait To Be King from The Lion King
Ridiculously catchy and buoyant, I Just Can’t Wait To be King could pull the darkest of listeners out their gloomy headspace.
Under The Sea – The Little Mermaid
Calypso vibes and Sebastian going full rasta, Under The Sea is the best – no wonder it was parodied by The Simpsons.
Tom Cameron – Sub-Editor
One Last Hope from Hercules
If It’s Always Sunny in Philadephia never hit the airwaves, this would have remained Danny Devito’s greatest acting role. The staunch, raggedy little half-breed named Phil was a highlight of the film next to James Woods’ Hades, and this track has a surprisingly Rocky-esque motivational feel to it.
Let It Go from Frozen
A guilty pleasure of the highest caliber. When Frozen came out, it had been years since I’d bothered with a new Disney release. Call it getting old, getting busier or cluing into the usual tropes, but I went into this film with no real expectations.
Obviously I’d forgotten the magic of Disney, because there’s a reason this cracker of a film was so successful. Strong female leads and a rejection of so many Disney stereotypes put it in another field, and this standout tune will probably be stuck in my head for the rest of my life.
Gaston from Beauty and the Beast
The man who ate four dozen eggs a day didn’t disappoint with his main number in 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, a bombastic and showy tune that exemplifies Gaston’s cockiness in the perfect way. Super keen to see Luke Evans take on the character in next year’s reboot.
“And I’m roughly the size of a BARGE!”
I’ll Make a Man Out of You from Mulan
Mulan was a treasure, a groundbreaking action drama that preached the values of family and honour while providing the world with a truly badass female lead. The defining song of the film, I’ll Make a Man Out of You is an absolute cracker, a humorous and inspiring work that easily carries the tone of the film across it’s shoulders.
Radi Safi – Editor
The Morning Report from The Lion King
“Do I get money now?”