Disney Songs, Worst to Best - Cartoon Sara's Response
One of our faithful readers recently brought our attention to a massive list of Disney songs ranked from worst to best via our Facebook page. Guess which Lady with insomnia read the entire thing in one sitting and has opinions?
Before I dive into those opinions, let me make a few things clear. The sheer volume of Disney music means that just getting through such an undertaking is an accomplishment to be praised. Allison Shoemaker and Dominick Suzanne-Mayer have done an admirable job, even if I don't agree with all of their choices. Lists on the Internet are just about the most subjective things out there. There is no scientific formula for determining if one Disney song is better than another. They've listed their opinions, many of which I think are spot on. This is (mostly) a list of the ones I don't agree with.
Methodology - Theirs and Mine
Shoemaker and Suzanne-Mayer have wisely placed some limits on which songs are included, as ranking every piece of music remotely connected to Disney would be an even more massive project. All the songs in contention come from movies by Walt Disney Feature Animation. No shorts, no TV shows, no Pixar films, and no direct-to-home-market sequels that got bumped up to a theatrical release. The list is also limited to fully animated films, meaning a strong showing from Mary Poppins isn't going to happen. While there are restrictions on the films being considered, the list is also broader than some I've seen. Extremely short songs are included, as well as some choral pieces that are usually overlooked and songs that only play over the end credits. Some rules may have been intended to include certain songs and end up dragging in a few oddballs. Allowing for pre existing music where the Disney version includes some significant addition or alteration means Sleeping Beauty's songs are in, but also makes Timon and Pumbaa's take on Hawaiian War Chant a player.
Since 267 songs is a lot, I'm going to be limiting my comments to songs where I have something to say. Usually that means I'll be disagreeing with the song's placement on the list, but I might also offer some comments or corrections. Most songs that I don't mention will be ones whose placement on the list I have no major objection to. I'll also be skipping any songs from movies I haven't seen. (As of this writing, that's Meet the Robinsons, the most recent Winnie the Pooh, and Zootopia.)
267. Kanine Krunchies (101 Dalmatians)
I suspect this is a love it or hate it sort of thing. I get that the musical stylings of Lucille Bliss - best know as the voice of Smurfette, though she also plays Cinderella's stepsister Anastasia - may not be everyone's cup of tea. But I find the idea of a commercial aimed directly at dogs funny and the simple animation appealing. The real issue for me is that a brief, inoffensive jingle ends up below the likes of "What Makes The Red Man Red?", which the list itself admits is racist, sexist, and a bad song to boot. When things other than sheer musical appeal are clearly being taken into account, there's no way something so light should be at the bottom of the heap.
248. Higitus Figitus (The Sword in the Stone)
Yes, it's low on the list of Disney nonsense word songs, definitely under "Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo" and the not eligible for this list "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocius". It's still a fun song, and entertaining scene, and way better than some of the numbers that end up higher on the list.
236. Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum (Fun and Fancy Free)
Is it too nerdy of me to point out that the giant's name is Willie, not Wayne?
216. Son of Man (Tarzan)
I know Phil Collins is a divisive issue and I can't deny that some of the lyrics here are a little dull. But to my mind, it's still a catchy tune and a solid song to bridge together the lengthy montage of Tarzan's growth to manhood. And if we're counting the accompanying scenes, this is one of many gorgeous sequences from a film I absolutely love. Certainly it doesn't deserve to be under anything from Collins' lackluster offerings for the later Brother Bear.
206. Honor to us All (Mulan)
Is it too nerdy of me to point out that Mulan doesn't have a grandfather as far as we see in the film? Maybe they meant her dad?
202. You'll Be In My Heart (Tarzan)
This is a case where I wish the list ignored any end credits pop single versions in favor of the song in the movie. The longer version of this song can get a bit overbearing, but the briefer lullaby that Kala sings to her newly adopted son is much less so and has greater emotional sincerity.
198. On My Way (Brother Bear)
It's not the worst offering from Brother Bear, but it really doesn't add anything to the story and there are many more worthy songs placed below it on the list. This could easily be pushed below 200 and few people would miss it.
168. Rumbly in my Tumbly (The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh)
I have no strong opinions about this cute little Winnie the Pooh number, but how could a site dedicated to covering music not realize that the line split should be "time to munch an/early luncheon" for the sake to the rhyme?
154. Friends on the Other Side (The Princess and the Frog)
Okay, now they're just making me mad. The Princess and the Frog has a handful of good to mediocre songs and two great ones, of which this is one. It's consistently mentioned as one of the great Disney villain songs of the past decade. Between Keith David's always mesmerizing vocals and a tour de force of shadowy visuals, it's one of the highlights of the movie. There's no way it should be this low on the list.
141. Streets of Gold (Oliver and Company)
I keep forgetting that this song exists, which says something about how crucial is is - or isn't - to the movie. It's a fine song in a film that isn't loaded with great songs, but nothing to write home about.
140. The Siamese Cat Song (Lady and the Tramp)
I wish the blurb for this one offered some more explanation for why it ended up this high on the list. Sure, it can be a bit of an earworm, but the racist aspects mean you'll want it out of your head ASAP. Not the most dated of Disney songs, but definitely an odd entry this close to the top half.
132. Pink Elephants on Parade (Dumbo)
In this case, the blurb doesn't have much negative to say, so I can't figure out why this song isn't ranked higher. It's one of the most iconic scenes in Disney animation, the song has some great clever lyrics, and there's nothing else that looks quite like it. At worst, it's a little long.
128. I've Got No Strings (Pinocchio)
Another song I could easily see making the top 100. It's not the best song in the film and some of the lyrics are pretty light on meaning, but it's undeniably catchy and features some amazing animation, as does most of the movie. There are so many touches that cement the idea that Pincchio is still very new to the world, such as when he responds to the audience's applause by clapping back at them.
127. The Hula Song (The Lion King)
Yes, it's one of the biggest laughs in the movie and Nathan Lane turns in a great performance. But it's barely half a minute long and it's just new lyrics to Hawaiian War Chant. Fun, but not worth putting this far up.
117. Goodbye May Seem Forever (The Fox and the Hound)
I'm not complaining about its placement on the list. I just have something in my eye.
111. Gonna Take You There (The Princess and the Frog)
I like a good zydeco song and it'd be a shame not to have one in a film set in New Orleans. But did it have to be paired with such bland lyrics? Musically, it's entertaining, but putting it above "Friends On the Other Side" is nonsensical.
101. Mother Knows Best (Tangled)
I'm allowing myself one major tangent and this is it. I have no real issue with the placement of the song; it's a good number and an energetic performance. I just don't like Mother Gothel as a character. The idea of a woman who keeps Rapunzel locked away solely to prolong her own lifespan and beauty is great, but the writers don't seem to know which way to go with the character. She's neither so conniving and clever that she ranks with the truly diabolical Disney villains or convinces you that she'd still have Rapunzel fooled even if the girl had a little more experience of the world, nor so over the top that she's just fun to watch. This song lands mostly on the latter side, but there are still hints of the former in things like their "I love you," "I love you more," "I love you most" exchange. It's a shame, as I suspect she could have been a truly great villain if she just had a clear personality direction.
88. Trashin' the Camp (Tarzan)
Oh, did you want a longer explanation? Fine. This is easily the worst song in Tarzan and a totally pointless one to boot. It's reasonably catchy and the visuals include some fun animation, but there's nothing here that couldn't have been done without the song, or with a completely different song. It's not awful, but it ain't top 100 material. Leave the scat singing to Louis Prima and Phil Harris.
86. Following the Leader (Peter Pan)
Even without the more objectionable lines, there's nothing that makes this song any better than over 100 other Disney songs. Suzanne Mayer suggests that it can be seen as an allegory for the folly of putting your faith in an inept leader, but it's really just a cute marching song.
83. Sing Sweet Nightingale (Cinderella)
Cinderella has the gift of song. Her stepsisters do not, though should you ever be lucky enough to come across them at one of the Disney parks, you'll want to ask if they'll sing for you. While both the music and the visuals are lovely, I kind of want something more substantial than six words repeated over and over this high up on the list.
81. When I See an Elephant Fly (Dumbo)
I actually don't have much problem with the placement of this song. Granted I'm not the best person to talk about the racism in Dumbo as I'm not directly harmed by it. But I have long found it interesting that the crows are some of the few characters in the movie who don't treat Dumbo like garbage, at least after Timothy explains everything the poor pachyderm has been through.
I did want to point out that the lead crow's name is never mentioned in the film. I've seen some sources identify him as "Jim Crow" as the original list does, but an equal or greater number refer to him as "Big Daddy Crow."
74. Heaven's Light/Hellfire (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
This, "Trashin' the Camp," and "Friends on the Other Side" are my three biggest issues with the Consequence of Sound list. I happen to like "Heaven's Light," Quasimodo's sweetly sung hope that he might actually be worthy of love, but it's "Hellfire" that rightly gets remembered as a highlight of the movie. Most Disney villain songs fall into one of two categories: either the villain or the villain's cronies sing about how great the villain is, or the villain tries to sell the hero on buying into whatever he or she is selling. "Hellfire" is a unique case: a villain who spends most of the movie believing he is totally in the right singing about what keeps him up at night, the one thing he wants that even he can't deny is wrong. And like so many real world bad guys, his response to this realization's not to stop doing what he knows is wrong, but finding every excuse for why he's not to blame for being tempted by Esmerelda and why he should still make her his by any means necessary. A show-stopping performance by the late, great Tony Jay alone should make this an easy pick for the top 50, if not the top 20.
70. Barking at the Moon (Bolt)
Bolt is a perfectly nice little movie with some issues that prevent it from being great. "Barking at the Moon" is easily the best song it has (and it doesn't have many), but it's not amazing by any stretch. The lyrics, aside from the line that's also the title, are so generic that the song could easily be dropped into another movie without anyone noticing. The scenes of Bolt discovering the joys of being a dog are good and I still get choked up when he learns what a "play bow" means. But this isn't Disney classic material.
66. When We're Human (The Princess and the Frog)
One of the "good, but not great" numbers from The Princess and the Frog, this is a fine song that just never gets amazing in music, lyrics, or visuals. I don't hate it, but it's not one of the movie's big two.
51. Hi Diddle Dee Dee (An Actor's Life For Me) (Pinocchio)
There's no question that this is a Disney classic. It also deserves credit as the very first Disney villain song. (The evil queen in Snow White does not sing, thank you very much.) But when we're in spitting distance of the top 50, I'd like to see songs with a little less musical repetition and a little more lyrical substance.
50. Almost There (The Princess and the Frog)
The other great song to come out of one of Disney's final hand drawn animated movies gets backed by some incredibly stylish and unique visuals. It's not as criminally underpositioned as "Friends on the Other Side," but it could move up ten or more spaces without much problem.
45. He's a Tramp (Lady and the Tramp)
This is easily one of the two best songs in one of my all time favorite Disney films. Peggy Lee in canine form hits all the right notes as Lady learns that her new beau has "been around." There's absolutely no reason why this number shouldn't be in the top 20.
29. Why Should I Worry? (Oliver and Company)
I do have a soft spot for Oliver and Company and this is easily one of the film's best songs. But it's more of its time than many of the best Disney numbers. Like "Barking at the Moon" it lacks much specificity that truly ties it to the film or the scene.
25. Ev'rybody Wants to be a Cat (The Aristocats)
I've got no problem with this Disney standard landing high on the list. I'm just puzzled that there's no mention of the racial stereotypes populating Scat Cat's band. The Siamese drummer voiced by Paul Winchell - better known as Tigger's original voice - is particularly cringe inducing. It may have bumped the song from a higher rank, but with no comment on it, we'll likely never know.
12. Belle (Beauty and the Beast)
I've got no serious issue here. This masterpiece of an opening song could be a tad higher on the list and I'd like to see the reprise treated as a separate song, as it covers somewhat different ground. The real reason I mention it is because the list suggests that there are some people who call this song "Bonjour." I have never heard anyone do this. Have you?
8. A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes (Cinderella)
I can't complain too much about the top ten and this is unquestionably a great Disney song. But it is just a bit slight for something ranked this highly, with much of it's running time taken up by dialogue or lyrics no more substantial than "la da da, de de de." Plus, pushing it down a few spots could leave room for "Poor Unfortunate Souls" (or "Hellfire") to join a currently villainless top ten.
So that's my take on the list? Got your own? Agree with me? Think I'm insane? The comments are waiting for you to weigh in.