The Music of Disney

Today, November 25th, is a very important day. It’s the release of the soundtrack for Disney’s newest animated movie Frozen! “Do You Want To Build A Snowman”, “For The First Time In Forever”, “Let It Go”, and “Love Is An Open Door” are great songs that all deserve a place in the classic Disney repertoire. In the midst of all the Frozen excitement, I can’t help but reminisce about some of my favorite Disney songs. There are the obvious songs, the one that everyone has memorized—“A Whole New World”, “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You”, “Part Of Your World”, etc. Many of my favorite songs, however, are often overlooked because they aren’t the “anthem” song of the movie, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t just as beautiful, fun, and insightful. So, in honor of a new collection of songs joining my Disney playlist today, here are five under-appreciated Disney songs.

1. The Mob Song – Howard Ashman and Alan Menken from Beauty and the Beast

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There has never been (and I’m convinced there never will be again) a songwriter like Howard Ashman. His lyrics are poetry and convey some of the deepest themes in Disney movies. Gaston sings “The Mob Song” with the townspeople as they march off to attack Beast’s castle. “We don’t like what we don’t understand/ in fact it scares us/ and this monster is mysterious at least”, “Raise the flag!/ Sing the song!/ Here we come, we’re fifty strong/ and fifty Frenchmen can’t be wrong/ Let’s kill the Beast!”. The villagers are afraid of the Beast because he’s different and Gaston preys on that fear to make the villagers do something terrible and violent. How many times do we let the fear of something different convince us to do something wrong or unkind?

2. Savages – Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken from Pocahontas

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“Savages” is sung by both the Native Americans and the English as they prepare to fight each other in battle the next day. The parallels in this song are brilliant. The lyrics for the English and the Indians are very similar, and sometimes even the exact same: “They’re savages! Savages!/ Barely even human/ Savages! Savages!”. There is hate and misunderstanding on both sides. Rather than villainize one party, Stephen Schwartz shows us how we can all fall prey to prejudice and judgment. But through her courage Pocahontas reminds us that we can overcome our differences with love and understanding.

3. Hellfire – Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken from The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Image“Hellfire” is one of Disney’s darkest songs, which Frollo (Tony Jay) sings about his lust for Esmeralda as a desperate plea to the Holy Virgin Mary. “You know I’m so much purer than/ the common, vulgar, weak, licentious crowd/ Then tell me, Maria/ why I see her dancing there/ Why her smoldering eyes still scorch my soul/ I feel her/ I see her/ the sun caught in her raven hair/ is blazing in me out of all control/ like fire/ hellfire/ this fire in my skin/ this burning desire/ is turning me to sin”. In his pride Frollo believed himself to be above the common people, but no one is free of sin. A bonus gem to this song is the Latin incantation the supplements Frollo’s lyrics. Go look up the translation. Once you know what the chorus is saying, it adds that much more to the song.

4. One Jump (Reprise) – Howard Ashman, Alan Menken, and Tim Rice from Aladdin

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Aladdin (Brad Kane) sings this song after escaping from the guards and they call him a street rat repeatedly. In this very short song, Aladdin reminds the audience that he is so much more than just a street rat, if only someone would take the time to get to know him. Whether a ferocious looking Beast with a gentle heart, a group of people who look different than us, a pious-looking minister with a sinister heart, or a street rat with a kind and generous disposition, we never really understand anyone until we get to know them deeper.

5. Vanessa’s Song – Howard Ashman and Alan Menken

vanessaThis song is so under-appreciated that it isn’t even counted as a real song. I call it Vanessa’s Song because it’s the tidbit Ursula sings while disguised as Vanessa using Ariel’s voice. It is wickedly fun and teasingly short: “What a lovely bride I’ll make/ my dear I’ll look divine/ things are working out according to my ultimate design/ soon I’ll have that little mermaid/ and the ocean will be mine!”. Jodi Benson (Ariel) does such an amazing job with these three sung lines! I wish it was a full song. Jodi Benson would make an awesome villain, just saying.

Notice a theme in all these songs? Outward impressions of people are often incorrect. We can’t judge or understand someone without taking the time to get to know them. Sometimes, like Aladdin, they are so much more than they appear. Other times, like Vanessa, they are not what they seem. For better or for worse, there is always more to people than a first impression, which I believe will also be a theme in Frozen, which comes out this Wednesday! Go see it and let me and Emily know what you think!

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