My original idea for today’s Top Ten was to compile a list of my favourite Disney songs, but then I thought, does the internet really need another article repeating just how good ‘Part Of Your World’, ‘Be Our Guest’, ‘The Bare Necessities’ and ‘A Whole New World’ are? I concluded that it did not, and therefore changed my goal to finding ten songs from Disney features that, whilst being wonderful, are perhaps underrated in the context of their own film or have failed to stand the test of time as others have. I do not mean to claim that these songs are unknown, merely overlooked in favour of others on most occasions. So, in no particular order:
1. When I See An Elephant Fly (Dumbo – 1941)
Look past the questionable racial stereotyping of a bunch of blackbirds being characterised as jive talking, pimp hat wearing, chain smoking vagrants, and what we eventually come to is a song that contains scatting to rival The Jungle Book’s ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ and a mighty toe tapping rhythm.
2. Out There (The Hunchback Of Notre Dame – 1996)
I firmly believe that The Hunchback Of Notre Dame is Disney’s most underrated film of all time. Its sinister tone has perhaps attributed to the fact that it has not become a sleepover or class room staple, but Alan Menken’s music and the film’s macabre themes produce a haunting and mesmerising tale that is truly one of my favourites. ‘Out There’ is Quasimodo’s big eleven o’clock number, and it gives me goosebumps every time.
3. Feed The Birds (Mary Poppins – 1964)
Undoubtedly eclipsed by songs such as ‘Spoonful Of Sugar’ and ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, ‘Feed The Birds’ is on record as being the favourite song of Walt Disney himself, allegedly remarking upon hearing it for the first time, “that is what it’s all about”. The song’s message of a little help going a long way is perhaps one of Disney’s more subtle lessons, but it hits home nonetheless.
4. He Lives In You (The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride – 1998)
Poor Simba’s Pride never made it to the big screen, instead being released straight to VHS (remember those?). Whilst the film itself lacks most of the magic of the unbeatable original, one thing they did get right was this song. Channeling the spirit of much wider known ‘Circle Of Life’, ‘He Lives In You’ takes Mufasa’s immortal message from The Lion King and beautifully opens the sequel, shame the rest of the film couldn’t keep up.
5. Substitutiary Locomotion (Bedknobs & Broomsticks – 1971)
Over the years, Bedknobs & Broomsticks has had the misfortune of being put up against Mary Poppins, a battle which few people would pick it to win. This has resulted in it becoming something more of cult favourite. Whilst I too prefer Poppins, I have infinite room for Bedknobs in my life, this song being pick of the bunch in my opinion.
6. Strangers Like Me (Tarzan – 1999)
So it turns out Phil Collins and Disney are a match made in heaven, weird huh? ‘Strangers Like Me’ is arguably the lesser known of the two big numbers in 1999’s Tarzan, with ‘You’ll Be In My Heart’ gaining more notoriety outside of the Disney bubble. Whilst the film is not one of my favourites, the song is inspirational and perfectly fitting.
7. When We’re Human (The Princess & The Frog – 2009)
The most recent entry on the list, 2009’s The Princess & The Frog restored some of my dwindling faith in the Disney machine. No 3D, no robot chickens or talking tractors, just a classic tale reminiscent of all the long ago animations that I love so dearly. Add Randy Newman to this mix and you have a brilliant musical treat as well, with ‘When We’re Human’ giving just enough flavour of jazzy New Orleans without ever losing it’s Mickey-esque charm.
8. When She Loved Me (Toy Story 2 – 1999)
No tears now, it’s not real after all. Bloody felt like it as a ten year old though. Jessie was real to us, therefore this scene represented nothing less than child abandonment. Not cool, Pixar, not cool. Add Sarah McLachlan’s haunting voice to the mix and you’ve got a sure fire heartbreaker on your hands, but beautiful nonetheless.
9. I Won’t Say (I’m In Love) (Hercules – 1997)
I feel that Hercules doesn’t get anywhere near as much credit and attention as it deserves. Probably the strongest musical soundtrack of any Disney animation in the last sixteen years. It’s centre piece ‘Go The Distance’ has been bandied about by the likes of Michael Bolton and some of it’s more gospel sounding songs such as ‘Zero To Hero’ are more well known, but heroine Meg’s big moment of romantic realisation is perfectly accompanied by this number, and I’d like to state here that I want those musical muses to follow and narrate my life from this day forth.
10. God Help The Outcasts (The Hunchback Of Notre Dame – 1996)
I tried, I really did try, to limit this list to one song per film, but in the case of Hunchback I found it impossible. I am positively baffled by the amount of people who claim to have never seen it. This is an absolutely beautiful song upholding of a perfect message of acceptance of flaws and exposing the hypocrisy and selfishness of some of us who like to think we are good and upstanding people. You go Esmerelda, you go girl.