Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Underrated Disney Songs: Part I

There are many Disney songs that everybody knows, like "When You Wish Upon a Star," "Bare Necessities," and "A Friend Like Me." Then there are other songs that you probably forgot even existed. What I compiled here could be one or the other for you, but I feel like they are more often forgotten by the general public. There are many other forgotten songs, I'm sure, but these are some of my favorite Disney songs, but they'll never make it on someone's top Disney songs list. The are in no particular order, so don't assume I like some of these more than others. I'm separating older Disney from newer, so it's not too much to read at once. All songs are from the Disney Canon. One last note is that I'm excluding all songs that were not exclusively written for the films, so no songs from Fantasia or any of the others like it will be present.

1. "The Three Caballeros" (The Three Caballeros)

Don't get me wrong, I love all the other songs in this movie, along with Saludos Amigos, but "The Three Caballeros" is a classic song. Honestly, I'd heard the song before I'd ever seen the movie, watching it on the "Heigh Ho" Disney Sing-Along VHS. This song is great fun, and best of all it has Donald Duck, who happens to be my favorite Disney character of all time. The song is great all by itself, but this one is best viewed through the movie where you can see all the sight gags. It's nice to every once in a while get a Disney song that doesn't sound like the rest, and this one is definitely unique. Also, you can learn some Spanish!

2. "Nowhere in Particular" (The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad)

This song stands as the only one in The Wind of the Willows segment of the package film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. That, along with the fact that Ichabod and Mr. Toad are very rarely brought up account for this song's inclusion. The song and movie are referenced only at Disneyland, where you can go on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. The ride was also at Disneyworld, and I was fortunate enough to have been able to go on it when it was still open, but closed in 1998 and replaced with a Winnie the Pooh ride. Anyway, this is a great song, sung by Mr. Toad and Cyril, his accomplice in all things mania. The duet takes place while Toad is in the throes of his "horse and carriage" mania and the song illustrates very well Toad's character. He's careless and just wants to have fun. What could go wrong?

3. "Never Smile at a Crocodile" (Peter Pan)

OK, so this song just makes a brief appearance, but there is the real version with words and everything. So I'm counting this one and there's nothing you can do about it. This was another one I got from Disney Sing-Alongs, and now that I think of it, I'm pretty glad we had those as kids, because otherwise I would probably not know any of these. One of the best parts of Peter Pan is the relationship between the Crocodile and Captain Hook. The Crocodile taunts Hook incessantly and you can hear this song starting up when he comes around. The song is honestly pretty silly. It's all about forgetting your manners around a crocodile and not smiling at it, bowing, or any of that stuff. It's a simple song, but it's still pretty catchy and funny to boot.

4. "That's What Makes the World Go Round" (The Sword in the Stone)

This is one of those songs that gets forgotten mostly because people forget that The Sword in the Stone actually had some music in it. It actually had quite a few songs, but this is my favorite. It lays out very plainly what Merlyn wants Wart to learn from his tutelage. Don't be a mediocrity, always learn new things. It's a great song and it's hidden inside this Disney gem which people barely take notice of anymore. The song leads right into the pike attack (my wife and I always thought it was a barracuda), which is pretty terrifying, so that kind of puts a damper on the whole song.

5. "That's What Friends Are For" (The Jungle Book)

This song takes place at the tail end of the movie, so it's easy to see how it is usually overlooked. Plus, this movie boasts the likes of "Bare Necessities" and "I Wanna Be Like You," which are among the most popular Disney songs of all time. The song is sung in the style of a Barbershop Quartet, something that the filmmakers wanted so they could lighten up the dark mood. The four vultures who sing to Mowgli were originally intended to be none other than the Beatles, but the deal fell through. What remains is four mop-topped crooners with Liverpool accents, but not the iconic Beatles. That's alright, the Beatles probably would have stolen the focus away from the movie. The song works for me on a lot of different levels. The song is pretty upbeat, but its being sung in the middle of a barren wasteland of the jungle with a storm looming. There are also double entendres alluding to how vultures devour other animals, so that's always fun. I think I may just like Barbershop Quartets, so that may explain this choice.

6. "Oo-De-Lally"/"Whistle Stop" (Robin Hood)

I've decided to put these together since they take place right next to each other, and they're both awesome. I know, "Whistle Stop" isn't technically a lyrical song, but it's too good to leave off. "Oo-De-Lally" is basically a folksy intro to Robin Hood and Little John. There's nothing spectacular about the song, but its just very chill and a great intro to the story. Speaking of intros, "Whistle Stop" is what plays over the opening credits, and when I say credits, I mean it. For whatever reason, they decided to put most of the credits at the beginning of the movie along with the song and a parade of the characters. I guess they had to make it a little interesting. This is one of my favorite openings to a Disney movie, all because of this song. It's so catchy that it's annoying, but then it isn't again. If you think you've heard this song somewhere, it's because it's also "The Hamster Dance Song." I personally like this version better. Both songs were written and performed by Roger Miller.

7. "Little April Shower" (Bambi)

Bambi is one of those movies that I really didn't care for when I was a kid. I thought Bambi was a girl, and it wasn't cool to watch a movie about a girl deer apparently. Of course Bambi is a boy and I was an idiot. Upon viewing Bambi now, I see what a masterpiece the whole movie is. It has probably some of the best animation Disney has ever produced, plus it's a great coming of age story. The songs, though you miss them the first couple times around, are actually one of the highlights for me. "Love is a Song That Never Ends" is a beautiful opening, but for the best song in this movie that nobody knows, I'd have to go with "Little April Shower." The song takes place early in the movie when Bambi is still young and hasn't been crushed by the weight of the world. It's a simple song sung by a choir, but it fits the mood perfectly. What is especially good about the song is it goes in stages. It starts out nice and cheerful with a little bit of rain, then as the light rain turns into a legitimate storm, the music becomes chaotic, punctuated by cymbal crashes. Just when we think it'll never end, the storm breaks and all goes calm again. It mirrors the movie pretty well, foreshadowing the storms Bambi will face later in life. It also reminds me a lot of the Silly Symphony The Old Mill.

8. "Casey Junior" (Dumbo)

It's mostly an instrumental, but this song and sequence were my favorite part of Dumbo as a child, and I still like it a ton. It's a big song that sounds more like the opening of a Disney cartoon, but it works really well in Dumbo. I can't hear this song and not think of trains or the circus. It helps that the song is pretty catchy. I had actually completely forgotten about this song until I did research for this post. "Everybody knows Baby Mine" and "When I See An Elephant Fly," but this song is easily missed. It shouldn't be that way, since this song isn't depressing or filled with racist caricatures. While the song may be largely forgotten, the character is not. Casey Jr. operates as the children's train at Disneyland and Disneyland Paris.

9. "The Headless Horseman" (The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad)

This song is great for many reasons. First and foremost, because Bing Crosby provides the vocals. I mean, who can argue with Bing Crosby? Second, it's a Halloween song, and I love Halloween. Third, it's just a fun and spooky song. I know that this is more of a seasonal song, but to me, it can be listened to anytime. Same goes for the movie. You can't just watch The Legend of Sleepy Hollow during October! I think part of the reason it's overlooked is simply because this is seen as a Halloween only movie. The other songs in the movie, "Ichabod Crane,"and "Katrina" are also great tunes, if only because of Bing Crosby. The song serves as the way Ichabod learns of the Headless Horseman, with Brom Bones trying to scare him more and more. It's really where the movie takes off, because before this everything has been pretty light and quiet. This song marks when things get spooky.

10. "Scales and Arpeggios" (The Aristocats)

I'm honestly not a huge fan of The Aristocats, but I like this song. The song is actually much better in context, so I would definitely rather watch the scene than listen to it, but it's still a cute song. The image of a paint splattered cat playing piano never gets old. This song kind of molds into the rest of the movie and isn't as stand out as "Ev'rybody Wants To Be a Cat" or even "Thomas O'Malley Cat."It's just a simple little song that shows the lives of Duchess and her kittens. Disney doesn't have very many songs with just piano, so it's just kind of different.

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