What’s your favorite Disney song of all time?
That may be tricky to answer, given just how prolific Disney music has become through the decades. Even some of our favorite attractions at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and Disney World in Orlando, Florida, feature timeless musical scores that have gone on to make it big. Two well-known examples are “A Pirates Life For Me” for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and “it’s a small world”, written by the legendary Sherman Brothers when the attraction debuted at the New York World’s Fair in 1964.
Yet, it is the iconic music from Disney movies, specifically, that consistently garners the most universal popularity. In fact, some of the most famous breakout hits that have gone on to become individual pop favorites first made their debut in Disney films. Here at Inside the Magic, we’re sharing some of the most popular timeless songs that came straight from Disney movies.
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Released in 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was Disney’s first animated full-length feature film. It also established the groundwork for Disney musicals in general and featured many songs that have since gone on to become well-known classics, including “Whistle While You Work” and “Someday My Prince Will Come.” But what is arguably the most favored song from the movie is “Heigh-Ho,” sung by the film’s titular dwarf characters.
“When You Wish Upon A Star”
First presented in the 1940 animated classic Pinocchio, this hauntingly beautiful ballad, sung by Cliff Edwards, was the first-ever Disney musical number to win an Oscar for “Best Original Song.” It’s also one of the most recognizable classic Disney melodies of all time.
Related: Idina Menzel Sings ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’
“A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”
Here’s another iconic classic that’s forever linked to Disney entertainment, and has been reused repeatedly throughout the years. Composed by Mack David, Al Hoffman, and Jerry Livingston, the song appeared in Disney’s 1950 animated classic Cinderella, where it was sung by the title character. Another popular song from the film is that well-tuned “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo” number by the Fairy Godmother.
“Once Upon A Dream”
As a true testament to Disney’s widespread influence on the world, this song will forever be associated with Disney’s classic animated film Sleeping Beauty from 1959. While it’s true that the lyrics, written by Jack Lawrence and Sammy Fain, custom-crafted the movie’s soundtrack, so to speak, the actual melody is really much older. It is based on the “Grande valse villageoise” (“The Garland Waltz”) from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Ballet from 1890.
“Chim Chim Cher-ee”
The live-action musical Mary Poppins, from 1964, introduced us to many beloved earworms we can’t help singing along to, including “Spoonful of Sugar,” “Let’s Go Fly A Kite,” and the irresistible “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” It’s also a well-known fact that the featured “Feed the Birds,” number was Walt Disney’s personal favorite. But it was none other than “Chim Chim Cher-ee” that went on to win an Oscar for “Best Original Song” in 1965.
It’s both interesting and funny how this jazzy song from Disney’s animated adaptation of The Jungle Book from 1967 was the only number in the film not written by the famed Sherman Brothers. Yet it’s unquestionably the most popular song and often gets incorrectly attributed to the Shermans just the same, despite being written by Terry Gilkyson.
“Under the Sea”
Disney’s animated adaptation of The Little Mermaid in 1989 presented many standout songs, including “Part of Your World,” “Kiss the Girl,” and several others. But it’s the famed calypso/reggae-inspired Academy Award-winning hit “Under the Sea” that’s often considered the ultimate favorite. Named “Best Original Song” in 1989, it also earned a Grammy for “Best Song Written for Visual Media” in 1991.
Related: Disney Actor Axed After ‘The Little Mermaid’ Goes Wrong
“Beauty and the Beast”
The beloved animated classic Beauty and the Beast (1991) produced at least two highly regarded songs. You have “Be Our Guest,” of course, and the title number, “Beauty and the Beast.” While the latter was performed in the film by the legendary Angela Lansbury, who provided the voice of Mrs. Potts, a pop version of the song by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson played during the movie credits. And that version, in particular, became a 1990s radio hit, even making it to Number 9 on the Billboard Hits in 1992.
“A Whole New World”
Disney’s Aladdin (1993) also featured an in-movie song that was done as an alternate pop version duet featuring Peabo Bryson, this time along with Regina Belle. It was “A Whole New World,” and for a time, it held the status of being the only animated Disney movie song to top the Billboard Hot 100.
“Can You Feel the Love Tonight”
When The Lion King came out in 1994, it featured original music composed by Elton John. And from it came so many great songs, including the ever-popular “Circle of Life” and fun-loving “Hakuna Matata.” But it was “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” that stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for 26 weeks and even peaked at Number 4.
“Colors of the Wind”
The animated adaptation of Pocahontas (1995) also featured a couple of memorable songs, but none as famous as “Colors of the Wind,” which even went on to win an Academy Award for “Best Original Song.” It also won a Grammy Award for “Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media,” and the Golden Globe Award for “Best Original Song.” The film version featured Judy Kuhn, while Vanessa Williams provided an alternate pop version. It became a Top 10 Hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
Related: “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s “Pocahontas” is Now a Platinum Record
“You’ve Got a Friend in Me”
Contending with the aforementioned “Colors of the Wind” in 1995, this Randy Newman hit was featured in the first installment of what would eventually evolve into the popular Disney/Pixar animated Toy Story franchise. The song was nominated for both an Academy Award for “Best Original Song” and as well as a Golden Globe for “Best Original Song” but lost on both accounts to “Colors of the Wind.”
“I Could Go the Distance”
The animated adaptation of Hercules in 1997 may not have been one of Disney’s more popular features, but it did produce the hit song “I Could Go the Distance.” The featured pop version of this song by Michael Bolton can still be heard on the radio to this day, although many folks don’t even realize its Disney origins.
This is, hands down, the very first song most people think of when they think about Disney’s animated 1998 version of Mulan. While the in-movie version was done by Tony Award-winning singer/actress Lea Salonga, the alternate pop version that’s been commonly featured on the radio was done by Christina Aguilera when she was only 17. It is considered her debut single.
“You’ll Be in My Heart”
Disney’s animated adaptation of Tarzan in 1999 is a sadly underrated film that features so many outstanding original songs by Phil Collins. But the one that garnered the most popularity across the airwaves is, of course, “You’ll Be in My Heart.” Not only did it win an Academy Award for “Best Original Song,” but it was also Collins’ last U.S. Top 40 single.
“Let It Go”
You must have known this one would be on the list. Not only has Disney’s Frozen (2013) been declared one of the most popular animated films in recent decades, but pretty much every featured musical number makes you want to jump in and sing along. But the biggest earworm of all is unquestionably “Let It Go.” The version that everyone knows and loves most is the one that appeared directly in the film, sung by actress/singer Idina Menzel, who voiced Elsa. In addition to winning an Academy Award for “Best Original Song,” it also earned a Golden Globe Award nomination.
“How Far I’ll Go”
When Moana came out in 2016, so did a whole slew of new catchy feel-good songs. While fun tunes like “You’re Welcome” and “Shiny” are great for laughs and smiles, there’s just something alluring and undeniably catchy about “How Far I’ll Go,” and its metered structure. And that’s perhaps why it earned Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for “Best Original Song.” It won a Grammy in the category of “Best Song Written for Visual Media.”
“We Don’t Talk About Bruno”
This catchy chorus-style song featured in Disney’s Encanto (2021) is still the latest song craze. And it’s truly a one-of-a-kind original structured song at that, featuring multiple singers, dialogs, and well-choreographed chaos, so to speak. To date, it remains the longest-reigning chart-topper from Disney in Billboard Hot 100 history. And anyone who hears it can easily understand why.
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Disney film and entertainment has presented many other iconic musical numbers in addition to the examples we just covered. Do you have a favorite song you’d like to add to this list? Let us know in the comments.