Mary Poppins: “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”
I’ve always loved flying kites. My grandparents used to take me to the park right across from their house outside of Brookings so I could fly my kite. As I grew older, kite-flying was still a favorite pastime. I was given a Lord of the Rings kite for my birthday one year, for crying out loud. That particular kite actually gave me a scar during one particularly windy flying session. Yes, I have a kite battle scar. Jealous? In any case, who can resist a song about flying kites, especially when it’s sung by a crotchety banker who has finally seen the error of his ways? Mary Poppins is a great movie, and it’s full of great songs: there are dancing chimney sweeps, and creepy old men singing about why you should invest your money. But “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” will always be my favorite, and I’m sure it’s because I’ll always be glad to accept the invitation.
The Great Mouse Detective: “Ratigan (The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind)”
I’ve mentioned before that The Great Mouse Detective is easily my favorite Disney movie of all time. But now we need to talk about the song. Unlike a great many Disney movies, The Great Mouse Detective doesn’t spend too much time on big musical numbers. “Ratigan” is one of the few, and it features none other than Ratigan (surprise), who is voiced by Vincent Price. Ratigan is having some kind of party, and his rodent minions sing him this song about how he’s awesome. He just eats it up… that is, until one mouse gets too drunk and calls Ratigan a rat. Sure, Ratigan is a rat, but calling him one is punishable by death. Seriously: the drunk mouse gets fed to a giant cat named Felicia. Disney had its dark days.
Beauty and the Beast: “Gaston”
Who doesn’t love Beauty and the Beast? The story itself is a little dubious: I know the moral is “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but the Beast really isn’t that nice until the very end. So stick with your emotionally abusive boyfriend, he only yells at you because he loves you? Come on, Disney. But questionable lessons aside, it’s a tale of magic and singing household objects. Plus, the heroine is a bookworm. That’s probably the only thing I had (or ever will have) in common with a Disney princess. I love the song “Gaston” because, of course, Gaston is a total idiot. The song is about how great he thinks he is, and it’s actually quite funny. Any song that includes the line “I use antlers in all of my decorating” is a-ok in my book.
The Lion King: “Be Prepared”
We discussed my obsession with The Lion King earlier: the books, clothes, action figures, etcetera. What I didn’t mention was that this was the first soundtrack I ever owned. My parents bought it for me right before a road trip to Colorado, so I spent all twelve hours of the trip listening to the tape on my bright yellow Walkman. There were only five songs on it, so it didn’t take long before I knew all of the words to every song. It took me a few cycles through the tape, but I started to really enjoy Scar’s song. In the movie, the song is accompanied by green flames and leagues of marching Nazi-esque hyenas. You know whatever happens next is going to be big.
Mulan: “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”
Remember how there has been a drag queen theme in many of my previous movie lists? Turns out that I don’t mind drag kings, either. Mulan is a relatively new Disney movie about a girl from China who takes her elderly father’s place in the army. How? By dressing as a man, of course! It’s a great story, and it’s got great music. “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” expresses the frustration of the commander at the ragtag group of soldiers he’s been given. And Donny Osmond sings it! Awesome! My friend Sarah and I once made up dance moves for this song. Yes, that’s right: we choreographed “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” We even put on a show for her family, complete with programs.
Robin Hood: “Not in Nottingham”
We’ve talked about Robin Hood before, too, but it’s worth revisiting. The film stars a sly fox (which is perfect) who robs the rich and gives to the poor. Robin Hood has a heart of gold, and he’s pitted against Prince John, the “phony king of England.” Prince John may be an easy target because of his incompetence, but he’s got an incredible mean streak. When the whole kingdom supports what Robin Hood is doing, Prince John responds by raising their taxes so high that most cannot afford to pay them. That’s how most of the kingdom ends up in debtors' prison, and the narrator sings this heartbreaking song about how bad things are: “Every town has its ups and downs/sometimes ups outnumber the downs/but not in Nottingham.” The song is performed over shots of sad little animals comforting each other and sharing bread crumbs while in shackles. Luckily, it all turns out in the end, but this song really makes you wonder if it will.
The Little Mermaid: “Poor Unfortunate Souls”
Like many little girls growing up in the early 90s, I wished I was a mermaid. Whenever we went to the lake in the summer, I’d pretend that I could just grow a tail and swim with the singing marine creatures down below. (Looking back, I’m not sure how pleasant the marine creatures of Lake Poinsett actually are.) My Great Grandma Shorty even sewed me a mermaid costume for one of my Barbies. Like Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid has an unfortunate message: give up whatever you have to in order to snag your man. You can blame Hans Christian Andersen for that, but Ariel DOESN’T get the prince in this tale. I digress. As I grew older, I still loved the movie, but I began to really love “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” Ursula is such a slimeball; she bullies Ariel right into signing away her voice with this little song and dance. Honestly, I can’t say I blame her: if some terrifying woman/octopus hybrid was singing this to me and waving her creepy tentacles around, I’d probably sign her contract, too.
The Jungle Book: “I Wanna Be Like You”
The Jungle Book was one off the first Disney VHSs that we owned, and we just loved it. My sister, in particular, loved Baloo, whereas I was a bigger fan of Bagheera. And Shere Khan was such a great villain: smooth and charming, yet diabolical, like all the best bad guys. “I Wanna Be Like You,” though, doesn’t really involve any of those characters. King Louie, ruler of the apes, has kidnapped Mowgli and is trying to gain more control over the jungle by getting Mowgli to spill the secret of fire. Baloo and Bagheera come to the rescue, but not before this fantastic song with all the ridiculous monkeys.
Cinderella: “Cinderelly, Cinderelly”
Cinderella is 100% a Disney classic: one part princess, one part evil stepmother, and many parts singing animals, and you’ve got a winner. Let’s not forget the hilariously inept stepsisters who are not only ugly but downright unpleasant. Cinderella, as we well know, is the pitiable girl who gets forced into manual labor. Thankfully, she has a bunch of singing animals to make her feel better and sew her dresses when she’s not looking. “Cinderelly, Cinderelly,” is the song they sing about how the stepmother and stepsisters never leave Cinderella alone. “Night and day, it’s Cinderelly,” they sing. Poor Cinderella is always being pulled in a million different directions to do the dirty work. I’m sure we’ve all felt this way at one time or another: especially at the office (but maybe that’s just me).
Aladdin: “Prince Ali”
When you’ve got Robin Williams voicing a cartoon genie and a fantastic villain named Jafar, you’ve got a great cartoon. Aladdin, of course, gets three wishes from the genie. He wants to win the heart of Princess Jasmine, but wishing to make someone fall in love with you is on the genie’s “no can do” list. Since Jasmine can only marry a prince, Aladdin wishes himself into one. The genie sings “Prince Ali” to convince the crowds (and the princess, of course) what a great catch Prince Ali/Aladdin is: he’s more handsome than everyone else, he’s richer than everyone else, and he’s got more crazy animals than everyone else. What’s not to love?
So those are my top ten Disney songs from ten of my favorite Disney movies. This was kind of a difficult list to put together (or, as difficult as writing about Disney songs can be). There are so many Disney movies that I love, but the songs in them are either super-lame or nonexistent. For example: Sleeping Beauty is easily one of my favorite Disney movies of all time EVER, but the only song in it is “Once Upon a Dream.” Gag. I also love Peter Pan, but all of those songs are forgettable or super racist. The Sword in the Stone is wonderful, and they do have a couple of songs, but nothing worth noting. 101 Dalmatians is another favorite, and they’ve got the little jingle about Cruella de Vil (“if she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will”), but that’s not quite enough to be a real Disney song. And then there are all the Pixar films, which I won’t even get into.
All other Disney movies aside, these ten all hold a special place in the “childhood memories” portion of my heart, and I’m sure they always will. But now I’ve got the same problem I did when I wrote about the musicals: I have this weird amalgamation of all of those songs stuck in my head. Oh well. I suppose I brought it on myself.