Thursday, September 22, 2011

10 FAVORITES (44) - Musical Mouse

As a follow-up to last week's Best Movie Songs, this week I want to focus on the one studio that has perfectly combined the art of movies and the beauty of music for over 80 years: The Walt Disney Company.  Ever since 1928's Steamboat Willie (with Mickey Mouse whistling a merry tune), Disney and music have been combined in an artistic marriage that has been extremely fruitful.  So, in traditional 10 FAVORITES fashion, I would like to discuss:


HONORABLE MENTION"A Spoonful of Sugar" from Mary Poppins (1964)
The only song from a live-action Disney film on this list (hence, it being Honorable Mention!), with the lovely voice of Oscar-winner Julie Andrews, every kid truly believed that "a spoonful of sugar helped the medicine go down."  What made this song more memorable were the scene's visuals that the magic-makers in Disney's effects department were able to design (which were truly groundbreaking at the time!).  I know I always wanted my room to suddenly clean itself with the snap of my fingers (and so did my mom!).

SONG #10
"Bella Notte" from Lady and the Tramp (1956)
When you think of iconic Disney scenes, one cannot forget one of the most romantic scenes in film history (you know, when Tramp nuzzles the meatball towards Lady and they accidentally kiss after sharing a noodle!).  And when you think of this clever scene, you cannot forget the song accompanying it, "Bella Notte" (you know, where the two stereotypical Italian waiters are singing to the canine couple!).  Just watch the scene below (and ignore Disney's inherent ethnic insensitivity!).

"Heigh-Ho" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938)
Kids love it when songs have repeating choruses and verses, so of course I loved this cute Dwarf number from Disney's inaugural feature film.  Plus, Dopey makes anything hilarious!

"Once Upon a Dream" from Sleeping Beauty (1959)
When Disney music maestro George Bruns was adapting Piotr Ilyich Tchaicovsky's haunting themes from the Sleeping Beauty ballet for Disney's adaptation of the fairy tale, he recruited top songwriters Jack Lawrence and Sammy Fain to churn out lyrics that would make the central waltz a chart-topping hit.  What resulted was the gorgeous "Once Upon a Dream," which was beautifully sung by the voices of the leading lovebirds, Mary Costa and Bill Shirley.  (NOTE ON THE VIDEO: The video is of the entire scene in which the song appears, the song does not officially begin until about 4 1/2 minutes into the video!)

"You've Got a Friend In Me" from Toy Story (1995)
Randy Newman has done quite well for PIXAR (winning two Oscars in the process!).  But it is with PIXAR's first feature film that Newman gave us a song that has stuck with us.  In a way, it has become the computer animation giant's unofficial theme song.

"The Bare Necessities" from The Jungle Book (1967)
Since I mentioned my appreciation for Phil Harris' work in this film previously, you cannot be surprised that this song makes it onto this list.  The cleverness of the song involves mixing delightful wordplay with a jazzy tune.  Also, it's about relaxing, which every kid loves to do!

"Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid (1989)
The first of four songs on this list to come from that era in Disney's history known as "The Musical Renaissance," this song is the perfect "I Want" Song (see a previous 10 FAVORITES for info!).  I know everybody loves the Oscar-winning showstopper "Under the Sea" or the deliciously villainous "Poor Unfortunate Souls" that Ursula sings to our heroine, but my personal favorite from this film has to be Ariel's yearning for a life above the ocean (and the gorgeous Reprise when she meets the prince of her dreams!).

"A Whole New World" from Aladdin (1992)
When it comes to love duets, Aladdin followed the true musical form and let the hero give the princess what she wanted: To see the world (No dirty jokes people!).  The "soaring" duet won an Academy Award for songwriters Alan Menken and Tim Rice and was the first song the pair wrote together after Menken's previous songwriting partner, Howard Ashman, passed away in the middle of production on Aladdin.  The song is perfectly sung by the characters' singing voices, Broadway stars Brad Kane and Tony-winner Lea Salonga.

"Circle of Life" from The Lion King (1994)
In the Rodgers and Hammerstein tradition of musical songwriting, the opening number of a musical has to set up the world.  What Elton John and Tim Rice did with this song (with the help of Hans Zimmer and South African songwriter Lebo M), was nothing short of amazing.  In the first four minutes of the movie, you get the different types of animals that live in Pride Rock, the way in which these animals live and feel about each other and the momentous occasion that sets the events of the film in motion.  In the stage production, this is one of those opening numbers that is so phenomenally done that once over, you can read the phone book and the show would still be worth the ticket price! (It's also the reason Julie Taymor's ego blew up to the size of the Spider-Man musical's budget!)

"Beauty and the Beast" from Beauty and the Beast (1991)
I've mentioned how I love this film and how I love Angela Lansbury's work as Mrs. Potts in this film.  So, once again, this song and its placement on this list cannot be that much of a surprise.  The Oscar-winning song says it all: "Tale as old as time, True as it can be..."

"When You Wish Upon a Star" from Pinocchio (1940)
Only one song could rise above "Beauty and the Beast" and that is the iconic song that opens up Disney's classic Pinocchio.  The song, with its beautiful melody and its hopeful lyrics, have become such a part of Disney that the tune is practically the unofficial-yet-official theme song of the studio.

Next week, a brand new GOLDEN PLACES and tomorrow, a very special IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS.

1 comment:

  1. Great selections. I love them all.