Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Top 10 Saddest Moments in Animation

I've decided that people aren't nearly sad enough, so I created this list! Hooray! Selections from this list are from varying animation companies, though mostly from Disney. Disney apparently knows how to pull on people's heartstrings. The only rule I made for this list was that there could only be one selection from one franchise. I have a ton of honorable mentions, but this list has all the scenes that have always affected me. If you haven't seen any of these movies, then you may not want to read the entry. Also, make sure you click the links in each of the titles!

10. "Mother Earth and Father Time" (Charlotte's Web)

This movie was a mainstay of my childhood, but I haven't had the pleasure of watching it since. That being said, it doesn't mean that I have forgotten about Charlotte's death at the end of Charlotte's Web. Charlotte has saved Wilbur from certain destruction by spinning messages of Wilbur's worth into her web for the world to see. He pays her back by protecting her egg sac which contains her unborn children. She tells a crestfallen Wilbur that she will pass away soon, and indeed she does, leaving behind her eggs. Adding insult to injury, after all the spiders hatch, they all fly away in the wind, much to Wilbur's dismay. Luckily for him, three stay behind to keep him company. The whole scene is sad of course, but it's Wilbur's reaction at the end that always gets me.

9. "Baby Mine" (Dumbo)

This movie moment is notorious in my house because my wife is literally unable to watch it. She has a good point, as this is a terribly sad moment. It's not higher on the list because everything get's better. Mrs. Jumbo has been locked up because she is believed to be a "mad elephant." Dumbo comes to see his mother and she rocks him back and forth with her trunk while the song "Baby Mine" plays. The song makes the whole scene worse. It was bad enough seeing the two elephants hesitant to leave each other, but the song just hits you. Like I said though, everything turns out alright in the end with the two being reunited.

8. "Kitty!" (Monster's, Inc.)

This scene takes place at the end of the movie when Sulley and Mike finally take Boo back to her room. There is a true friendship between Boo and Sulley, so the goodbye between them is a hard one to bear. The worst part is after Sulley leaves, Boo attempts to see him again by opening up her closet,  only to find clothes and toys. Boo's door is destroyed and it's assured that Sulley will never see Boo again. Luckily, Mike gets all the pieces of the door back and put them together for Sulley. The closing moment of the movie is Sulley stepping back into Boo's bedroom and hearing a familiar name. Happy tears.

7. "An Empty Chair" (Mickey's Christmas Carol)

This is another favorite animated feature from my childhood, and it has one of the rare moments that made me sad a child. For whatever reason, I didn't get sad during traumatic scenes when I was a child. Now that I'm older, these moments hit me harder than I could ever imagine. This scene has always made me sad. Scrooge meets the third spirit and learns that Tiny Tim has in fact passed away. You see Bob Cratchit walking up to Tim's grave with a crutch, tears flowing and everything. He sets the crutch onto the grave and slowly walks away with his family. Seeing Mickey Mouse cry is not cool. It's not something that I had ever experienced as a child so it was a complete shock. This scene still gets me today. I could only find this video on dailymotion so you will have to skip to the twenty minute mark to see the scene in question.

6. "Goodbye May Seem Like Forever" (The Fox and the Hound)

The Fox and the Hound is not a bright and happy story. In fact, it's pretty depressing. There's one moment in particular that breaks your heart, though. Widow Tweed adopts the orphaned fox, Tod, and cares for it until he reaches adulthood. Tensions mount between Tweed and her hunter neighbor, so she sees no other recourse than to take Tod to a game preserve, where she feels Tod with be safe. The movie may be about Tod and Copper's friendship, but the relationship between Tweed and Tod is a strong one, so it hurts to see her leave Tod behind. She loves Tod more than anything, and tries to put him out of harm's way, even if it means that she doesn't have his company anymore. People saying goodbye to pets in movies is hard as it is, but seeing an old woman force an animal that loves her from following her back home is heartbreaking.

5. "When She Loved Me" (Toy Story 2)

Seeing that I can't put moments from the same group of movies, I chose this one over any other Toy Story moment. A close second was Andy giving his toys away at the end of Toy Story 3. That moment stung (I felt like I got punched in the gut when Andy pulled Woody back toward him), but Jessie's song about her owner that eventually left her gets me every time. The whole thing is sad enough, but the beautiful song just makes it a million times harder. It's a song that speaks to anyone who has felt abandoned in life or in love. It's tragic and by far the saddest moment in the Toy Story trilogy. A fan theory that is making the rounds believes that Jessie's owner, Emily, is in fact Andy's mom. The evidence is the hat Emily wears is the same as Andy's. I don't know about you, but that just makes this whole thing far more tragic.

4. "The Hunter" (Bambi)

It's a given that this infamous death makes people's saddest moments list. It truly deserves to be there, though. This moment has made anti-hunting advocates and even vegetarians because it's so startling. What's so powerful about the whole scene is that you neither see the hunter, nor Bambi's mother getting shot. In fact, you never see the Hunter throughout the whole film, yet he completely drives the plot. He shoots Bambi's mother, so Bambi is instead raised by his father. The Hunter leaves his fire unattended and basically burns the whole forest down, leading to a climactic battle and the rescue of Faline. Anyway, the death of Bambi's mother isn't the really sad part about the whole scene, but what happens afterward. Bambi steps out of their home, calling for his mother. While Bambi blindly searches the forest, it begins to snow. The whole scene makes you believe that Bambi is now completely on his own, but then out of nowhere the Great Prince appears and coldly tells Bambi that his mother can't be with him anymore. Bambi slowly follows the Great Prince into the cold winter. It's a masterful scene and one that has resonated in people's minds for generations.

3. "A Mother's Sacrifice" (The Land Before Time)

Littlefoot and Cera are playing together when out of nowhere, Sharptooth (or as I called him as a child, Sharktooth) attacks. Luckily for them, Littlefoot's mother protects them. An earthquake causes Sharptooth to fall into a ravine, but not before he mortally wounds Littlefoot's mother. Littlefoot and Cera are now seperated from their herds and much journey to the "Great Valley" by themselves. Littlefoot's mother tells him that she will always be with him, and that she knows that he'll find a way to the "Great Valley" if he follows his heart. It's sad enough watching this and knowing that she's dying, but the fact that Littlefoot is completely oblivious to this fact is heart-wrenching. It's basically the same reaction that any child would have if their parent were dying. That is what makes this scene so hard to watch. Also the end with her cloud showing the way the "Great Valley."

2. "Carl and Ellie" (Up)

This is by far the saddest opening to any movie that has ever been made. Pixar movies can be pretty sad at times, but Up takes the cake and throws it out the window on your birthday. Carl and Ellie meet as children and both have an affinity for adventure. They vow that they will someday travel to Paradise Falls in Venezuela, but life keeps getting in the way. We watch as the couple gets married, prepares for children, and then finds out that they are unable to. That scene is sad enough, but it keeps going. Years pass and they are now old, and Carl decides it is finally time to go to Paradise Falls. Before he can surprise her with the airline tickets, Ellie gets sick and soon passes away. The scene of Carl sitting by himself after the funeral is by far the worst part. The whole scene is beautiful, extremely sad, and unforgettable. I don't think anyone expected this when going to see a Pixar movie about an old man. Oh, and being married has made this whole scene way harder to watch.

1. "Long Live the King" (The Lion King)

This scene has affected me more and more as the years go by. I don't know if it's because my father is getting older and I'm becoming more afraid that someday I'll lose him. It's harder to think about that when you're younger because you think you're parents are invincible. Now that I'm older, all these movies and shows about parents passing away is hitting me harder and harder. Growing up stinks sometimes. Anyway, this scene is about as infamous as Bambi's, if only for my own generation. Scar plans for Mufasa and Simba to get trampled by wildebeest, but Mufasa manages to save Simba. Mufasa attempts to get himself out of the gorge, but his lousy brother throws him back down to his death. Simba watches his father fall, but does not see how it happened. Simba tries to wake his father up, but to no avail. He cries out for help, and getting none, goes back to his father and puts himself underneath the fallen king's paw. That part kills me. Guh. What makes the whole thing worse is that Simba is made to believe that he is the reason his father is dead, so he carries that around with him for years to come. The relationship between Mufasa and Simba is just too relatable, and that's what makes this movie so great, and also very tragic.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Top 10 Best Disney Songs (1989-Present)

Same rules as before: only films from the Disney Animated canon and no songs that were made before the film. A reminder that this list is the culmination of several top tens, which were averaged out to get the list you see now. Remember to click the links in the titles!

10. "Go the Distance" (Hercules)

An epic song for an epic movie. By being one of the few songs in this movie not to involve the Muses, it has a much different tone. The music was written by Alan Menken, as will most of the songs on this list (spoiler alert?), while the lyrics were written by David Zippel. "Go the Distance" is considered Hercules' featured song, and enjoyed a moderate success outside of the movie thanks to renditions by Michael Bolton and Ricky Martin. The song may not be as fun or soulful as many of the other songs in Hercules, but this one sticks with you because its pretty darn inspiring. This is probably a perfect song to work out to. For the very few that haven't seen the movie, this song takes place when Hercules is trying to find out about his origins and travels to the Temple of Zeus. I'm very happy that this song made the list, and not just because I love this movie. It's a very solid song in the Disney music library and hopefully will be remembered for a very long time.

9. "One Jump Ahead" (Aladdin)

This is one of the songs that I'm a little surprised made the list, but I'm happy it did. It's not a serious song like many on the list, in fact it's downright silly. You're going to see a lot of nostalgia picks on this list I'm afraid, as all those polled were born from 1983-1992. These movies were our childhood and we connected with them more than some of the older Disney movies, if only because we got to see them at the movie theater. Anyway, this is one of those songs that is a riot to try to sing-a-long to. I've heard it a million times and I still can't get the words right. It's Aladdin's intro song, showing us what he goes through on an average day, which includes stealing food, running from guards, inadvertently causing street performers pain, and women who think he's "rather tasty." The music itself is nothing really special, but the lyrics and visual comedy make this a special song. Definitely a Disney song that is better viewed in the movie than listened to on your Walkman (yeah I'm going retro).

8. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (The Lion King)

I knew this song would make it on the list, but it's honestly not my favorite. I didn't like it as a kid (too lovey-dovey I guess) so I'm predisposed to not caring much for it. I always thought Nala's "come hither" look near the end of the song was really creepy. All that being said, it is a great song, and arguably the best in The Lion King. Composed by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice (another name that will pop up a lot in this list), it plays twice during the movie, sung by Kristle Edwards first, and then Elton John in the credits. The song was originally meant to be a comical song sung by Timon and Pumbaa, but John insisted that it become the "Prince and Princess" moment. In fact, the song was pretty close to getting cut, but again John pushed Disney to include it, which we are all pretty thankful for.

7. "I'll Make a Man Out of You" (Mulan)

This song is arguably pretty sexist, but at the same time, women love it, so interpret that any way you like. I had no idea this song was as popular as it was until a few years ago. I guess people really like inspiring songs sung by Donny Osmond. Also, people must really like montages more than I thought because that's all this song is. I'm not a big fan of them myself, but this song is so fun and ridiculous/awesome, that I can't help but love it. Didn't think this song was cool enough before? Jackie Chan performed the song for the Chinese release. How about now? I would say that this is another nostalgia pick, because it's definitely not a masterful song music wise. None of that matters, because this song is as mysterious as the dark side of the moon.

6. "I Just Can't Wait to be King" (The Lion King)

I'm actually a little surprised that this made it on the list, and not "Hakuna Matata." Don't get me wrong, this song is fun and all, but "Hakuna Matata" is "Hakuna Matata." That being said, this song is a lively romp involving Simba and Nala attempting to ditch Zazu. It ends with Zazu getting sat on by a female rhino, so mission accomplished? This song is all about naivety, as Simba sings how he'll be able to do anything he wants, and nobody can stop him. Of course that's not what being king, or an adult, is like, but it's the song we all loved as kids, because that's exactly what we wanted as adults: to be able to do anything you like and have nobody boss you around. We all know better now. The songs in The Lion King do a great job of showing Simba's internal struggles, whether it's aspirations of being grown up, aspirations of running away from problems, or finally accepting who you are. This song is great because we've been that dreamer before, though most of us aren't destined to be king of the jungle.

5. "Colors of the Wind" (Pocahontas)

"Colors of the Wind" is arguably Pocahontas' best song. I say arguably because people argue about it all the time. This song is excellent, but so are all of the other songs in Pocahontas. I really didn't realize it until a few years ago, but this is a solid musical. "Colors of the Wind" was composed by Alan Menken and performed by Judy Kuhn. The song went on to win an Oscar for Best Original Song. "Colors of the Wind" is Pocahontas' way of showing John Smith that the Earth is not something to be conquered or owned. It's the perfect song about tolerance, too. This song is epic, and the animated sequence does it justice. It's the most visually appealing part of the whole movie, and that's saying something. It's near perfection in my book.

4. "I See the Light" (Tangled)

One thing that makes this song different from many others in Disney movies is that the voice actors also do the singing. Frozen is the same way, but that entire cast is basically made up of Broadway stars. While we all knew Mandy Moore could sing, it was honestly a surprise that Zachary Levi could. The song itself is beautiful, but what makes it one of the best is the animated sequence with the floating lanterns. You can see Rapunzel and Flynn's relationship becoming closer throughout the film, but it's this song that really cements it. It's nice to have a more recent song on this list, considering that Disney went on a drought for about ten years. The Princess and the Frog had some great songs, and that has started the musical trend again. With both Tangled and Frozen grossing ridiculous amounts of money, it's safe to say that we can look forward to many more great Disney musicals. I would go so far as to say that I liked the music in this movie more than Frozen, and I know people will get mad about that because Frozen is the "bee's knees" right now. It just has a more classic Disney feel in my mind, and this song is part of that reason.

3. "Reflection" (Mulan)

We've all gone through those times where we felt we weren't able to be ourselves around others. That's probably why so many people love this song, mainly because it's relatable. Also, it's strikingly beautiful. It is sung by Lea Salonga, who also provided the singing voice for Jasmine in Aladdin, during the movie, and Christina Aguilera for the cliche 90's Disney credits. Compared to the other songs in Mulan, this is by far the best, whether some people want to admit that or not. It's not fun like the others, but there had to be a serious song in this film. It's one of the more serious films, dealing with war, identity issues, and honor. In every good movie, there's a solid emotional core. That's this song.

2. "Beauty and the Beast" (Beauty and the Beast)

Also known as "Tale as Old as Time," this classic song is sung by none other than Angela Lansbury. There isn't much to say about this song that hasn't been said already. It's as close to perfection as Disney has probably ever gotten. This entry and the number one were extremely close, so if you feel a bit disappointed, know that they are basically the same in quality. This song is great not only in music, lyrics, but also in visuals. The whole ballroom scene is iconic, and there's a reason for it. The song went on to win just about any award that could be won, though the picture itself lost the Best Picture race at the Oscars. I consider this the turning point in Belle and Beast's relationship, though it isn't spoken out loud until the end. It's a masterful song expertly composed by Menken and written by Howard Ashman, the latter passing away shortly after the movie was released. That's quite a memory to leave behind.

1. "A Whole New World" (Aladdin)

This ballad takes our top spot, and one can hardly argue with that. Actually, I'm sure there will be a few people who will. Well, the people spoke, and they like Jasmine and Aladdin's duet across the world. Seriously, they go around the known world during the whole song. They should have had jet lag by the end of it. There's even a hint about future movies with a visit to Greece and China (insane theory: Aladdin, Hercules, and Mulan all took place at the same time)? Probably not, I don't think Disney was thinking that far ahead. Like the last entry, this one is near perfect and a staple among the Disney animated music library. The song is fantastic, the animation superb, and there's even a little bit of humor in there. It's so beautiful that you almost forget that Aladdin is pretending to be someone else. Oh well, it all works out in the end. Let me know what your top picks would be for this era!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top 10 Best Disney Songs (1937-1988)

This was a hard list to make, so I decided to take all the weight off myself and ask others their opinions on top of mine. That being said, these choices are not the same as my own Top 10. There are a few rules to this list. First off, all songs are from the Disney canon. Secondly, they are all songs written for their respective movies, not a song like "Night on Bald Mountain." I decided to split up my lists, since there are far too many to just squeeze them down to ten. Enjoy!

10. "Bella Notte" (Lady and the Tramp)

Bella Notte translates to "Beautiful Night" in Italian, in case you were wondering, which makes sense since Tony sings it in the first line. This song is probably one of the most iconic love songs in Disney, and probably everywhere. It's a beautiful song, and an even more beautiful scene. Who can forget the famous the Spaghetti Kiss? The scene is so famous that it's been parodied numerous times over the years. It's a short song, which they remedy by singing it twice, once by Tony, and another by a chorus. Whether you like this movie or not, you have to admit that this song is pretty moving.

9. "Winnie the Pooh" (The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh)

This song is a childhood favorite of many and it's easy to see why. It's very catchy and just a lot of fun. Also, who doesn't love Winnie the Pooh? For me, this right up there with another certain Winnie the Pooh song. This song serves as the opening to both The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and its sequel Winnie the Pooh. We're going to go with the original song as the better one just because it's a classic. The newer version was sung by Zooey Deschanel. I always like the opening because of the Winnie the Pooh character stuffed animals and the zoom in on the book, which contains the map of the 100 Acre Wood, complete with misspellings and backward letters.

8. "I Wanna Be Like You" (The Jungle Book)

This is probably one of the swinging-est, jazzy songs Disney has ever produced, and it is awesome. This is one of my personal favorite Disney songs, and it's easy to see why. This song just makes you want to dance, and sing-a-long. King Louie is a great character and this song just makes him cooler. The Sherman Brothers penned this song, while Louis Prima provided the vocals. The Sherman Brothers based it off of Prima and his band, who were huge hits in Las Vegas with their Dixie-Land style Jazz music. It was a winning combination, as this song, along with the rest of The Jungle Book soundtrack is considered one of the better all around musicals of pre-Renaissance Disney.

7. "You Can Fly" (Peter Pan)

This is probably the most well known song in Peter Pan, and it's a good one. No other song has made anyone want to fly more than this one. Every child has tried it at least once: they've stood on the edge of their bed, thought of a happy thought and jumped, hoping to fly off instead of awkwardly hitting the floor. This is another trademark of Disney music, popping up in ads and Disney theme parks. It's not my favorite Peter Pan song (that goes to "Never Smile at a Crocodile"), but it's a million times better than the embarrassingly racist, "What Makes the Red man Red?"

6. "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" (Cinderella)

No other phrase is more synonymous with magic, save for abrakadabra or alakazam, than bibbidi-bobbidi-boo. This song, if you haven't noticed, is almost completely gibberish, and it's still good. The song ended up being a hit in its own right, later being performed by Perry Como and the Fontane Sisters. Cinderella has plenty of good songs, but I think this one made it on the list because it's probably the most fun. The scene is great too, with everyone getting turned into different things. This is one of those songs that makes people wish that they had that backup, a fairy godmother if you will, when things go terribly wrong.

5. "He's a Tramp" (Lady and the Tramp)

As you can see, I'm letting a few repeats on the list. This is definitely the coolest song in Lady and the Tramp, with it's bluesy feel and the outstanding vocals by Peggy Lee. Lee also did many of the other songs in this movie, but this is the highlight. "He's a Tramp" was actually a very late addition into this movie, being submitted by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke. Disney liked it so much that they fit it into the movie by putting it during the pound scene. I always liked this song, mostly because it gave me a reason for singing in dog howls, but I hated the immediate scene after it. Lady finds out that Tramp has had quite a time with the ladies before her and decides to shun him. Still, it's a great song, and I can see how it made the list.

4. "Bare Necessities" (The Jungle Book)

As I said before, The Jungle Book is full of great tunes, and this is probably the best known one from it. Sung by Phil Harris and written by Terry Gilkyson, this song is the only hold-over from an earlier draft of The Jungle Book. Gilkysons songs were considered too moody for the picture, so Disney got the Sherman Brothers to take over. The crew begged Disney to let them keep it, and boy are we glad they did. This song is a ton of fun and has Disney written all over it. I've always considered this to be the pre-cursor to Hakuna-Matata. The song revolves around Baloo trying to convince Mowgli that any thing you need will come right to you, so don't bother worrying about anything. That is sound advice! Baloo is one of my all time favorite Disney characters, and he basically makes an appearance in another movie (Robin Hood) and a TV show (Talespin). He's the prototypical fun uncle, and this is his lazy anthem.

3. "Cruella De Vil" (One Hundred and One Dalmatians)

"Cruella De Vil" is the most iconic villain song Disney has. The biggest difference between this villain song and the others is that this one is sung not by a villain or their henchman, but a protagonist. Songwriter Roger Radcliffe (Bill Lee) pens the song on the spot after meeting his wife's boss, Cruella De Vil. The song is equal parts funny and terrifying, depending on what age you are. The song is also the only main song in this whole movie, save for an outro and a TV commercial, even though one of the characters writes songs for a living. Luckily the song is so great that it makes up for the lack of other musical interludes.

2. "Once Upon a Dream" (Sleeping Beauty)

There had to be a song from Sleeping Beauty. They're all good, but this whimsy song takes the proverbial cake. It has a great duet, a chorus, and woodland creatures pretending to be a person. Disney decided to make a nod to Snow White's "I'm Wishing/One Song" by having a Prince unexpectedly becoming part of the song. This song also sticks out because they use it in the opening credits. The songs in this movie are about the only bright and happy things, as this is one of the darker Disney films, so it's nice that the songs aren't crazy depressing. That being said, with the new Maleficent movie coming out, "Once Upon a Dream" has been redone, albeit in a darker, moodier way.

1. "When You Wish Upon a Star" (Pinocchio)

I'm sure a lot of you saw this coming. This song is heard almost anytime you see a Disney commercial, it's logo, or watch one of its movies. It's probably the most beautiful and hopeful song Disney, or anybody has ever made. It, like Mickey Mouse, has become an icon of the Disney company and is instantly recognizable. This song best represents the true essence of Walt Disney, a dreamer if there ever was one. This was far and away our top choice for best song before the Disney Renaissance. Is this the greatest song Disney has ever made? According to AFI it is, but what do you think? Is this better than the rest of the Disney song library?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Underrated Disney Songs: Part II

1. "Jig" (The Little Mermaid)

This is another one of those songs that I completely forgot existed until today. The funny thing is now I remember enjoying this song a lot when I was a kid. That being said, I haven't seen The Little Mermaid since I was very young, so I also only found out today that this plays when Ariel first sees Eric on the ship. This is a very catchy...well...jig. It's one of those songs you can put on repeat and not get tired of. This is one of those times where I actually like listening to the song without the movie scene. I know this is an instrumental, but it's too good and underrated not to put on this list. The Little Mermaid has some great songs, but this one is probably my favorite (I know I just said I rediscovered it today, but come on). I also think "Daughters of Triton" is hilarious for some reason. 

2. "He Lives in You" (The Lion King)

This song technically belongs to The Lion King II since it's actually featured in that movie, but it was first on The Lion King soundtrack sequel, "Rhythms of the Pridelands." In that case I count it as part of the canon. It's honestly one of my favorites of The Lion King. Too bad nobody remembers it compared to The Lion King hits. It's a very powerful song and I was always confused on why it wasn't in the original movie. Luckily the song is also part of The Lion King Broadway musical so that helps it out, too. In The Lion King II it serves as the opening sequence, which I think works very well. The Lion King II version is slightly different than the "Rhythms of the Pridelands" version, and honestly I like the latter much better. It's just a great song and worthy of being part of The Lion King

3. "Listen With Your Heart" (Pocahontas)

I really didn't care for Pocahontas as a child. Not sure why I didn't now, but I think it's one of the better Disney movies today. Well, if not one of the better movies, at least one of the best musicals. Pocahontas has a really good soundtrack with a lot of really solid songs, but a few are forgotten compared to the others. One is Grandmother Willow's song "Listen With Your Heart." It's a very short, but very beautiful song that ultimately leads to Pocahontas discovering the Old World voyagers. There's not much else to say about this song, but it's very good and shouldn't be forgotten as it has. 

4. "Ma Belle Evangeline" (The Princess and the Frog)

I admit that I'm fairly new to The Princess and the Frog. I've seen bits and pieces over the years, but just recently watched the whole thing. The movie is filled with some excellent songs, but the one that I keep going back to is "Ma Belle Evangeline." Sung by the great Jim Cummings, it's a very touching song and it's the part in the movie where Tiana and Naveen start to fall for each other. Ray is also my favorite character from this movie, so it's easy to see why I like this song so much.This is the most current of any of my picks, so don't expect anything from Tangled or Frozen. This song is so low key that it kind of gets pushed to the background of the movie, with "Almost There," "Down in New Orleans," and "Dig a Little Deeper" taking the main focus.They are great songs and all, but I'll take "Ma Bell Evangeline."

5. "Out There" (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

I decided to get rid of my other Hunchback song because I realized that all of the movie's songs are underrated. They are all really good songs, but nobody cares about them. What gives? Part of it probably has to do with the source material. Hunchback is probably one of the most adult of the Disney canon, and it goes for the songs too. I love "Heaven's Light"/"Hellfire," but "Hellfire" is so dark and creepy! Probably the only song that even comes close to being mainstream is "Topsy Turvy", and even that one barely is. My favorite of these underdogs however is "Out There." My wife pointed out that most Disney movies revolve around a character wanting to feel included, and this song proves that this movie is no different. It's a very moving, powerful song about Quasimodo (sung by Tom Hulce) longing to spend one day among the rest of Paris. Hulce has a pretty good voice and makes the song really work. It's definitely the highlight song for me, plus maybe "The Court of Miracles," just because it's morbid and fun. 

6. "The Gospel Truth" (Hercules)

Hercules is by far my favorite Disney movie, so it's hard for me to say that any of these songs are underrated, since I love them all. That being said, if there was any song that doesn't get as much credit as it should, it's "The Gospel Truth." It sets the tone for the rest of the movie and literally lets you in on everything that's going on. I love the gospel sound of this song, which is in three parts by the way (I couldn't find all three together so click each word in the title to watch all of them), which sets it apart from any other Disney song. I just like how unique it is I guess, plus it's tons of fun. You think you're in for a boring Greek story, and then they hit you with this song. I knew I loved this movie from the very beginning. Everybody knows" Zero to Hero" and "I Can Go the Distance," but this is a great hidden gem from a fantastic movie.

7. "Steady as the Beating Drum" (Pocahontas)

I almost had three songs from Pocahontas on this list, but that would be far too much from one movie. My other choice would have been "If I Never Knew You" which is a pretty touching song and all, but it's not as good as the other songs included in the film (it was left on the cutting room floor but eventually they animated a sequence for it for video releases). I really enjoy the opening song "Steady as the Beating Drum." Combined with "Virginia Company (Reprise)" it makes one of the better openings for a Disney movie. The song is great by itself, but it also acts as a contrast to the English settlers's own song. This also happens later in the movie with "Savages." That's one thing I have always liked about this movie is that it doesn't tell just one story, but two complete ones. This is a great opening song, and while it may not be as bombastic or epic as some of Pocahontas' other songs, it's still a solid addition.

8. "I'm Still Here" (Treasure Planet)

I like Treasure Planet a lot, even if it was a box office bomb and was released in the black hole that was the 2000's for Disney. I honestly had completely forgotten about this song until a little while ago, but I think it's perfect for the whole mood of the story. Jim goes through many hardships in this movie and this song clearly shows that side of him that's hurting. John Rzeznik, frontman of The Goo Goo Dolls, provides the vocals, something he was chosen for by Disney because of his "rebel-with-a-cause angst." Rzeznik felt right at home writing the song, claiming that he "felt a lot like Jim when he was his age." The song was a moderate success by itself, but it's largely forgotten, as is the movie. I think most people forget that the non-musicals still have some music in them.

9. Good Company (Oliver & Company)

Maybe I just like songs with only piano. This is a sweet little song sung by Jennifer (Myhanh Tran) to Oliver, the recently rescued kitten. It's honestly kind of a short song, since most of it is an instrumental montage. It's a nice change of pace from the 80's music fest that is Oliver & Company. You've got Billy Joel, Huey Lewis, Ruth Pointer, and Bette Midler's song written by Barry Manilow. How more 80's can you get? I guess I just like simple songs sometimes. Most of the other songs are pretty underrated too, save for "Why Should I Worry." If I had to pick another favorite, it would probably be "Once Upon a Time in New York City." Probably because Huey Lewis is awesome. Anyway, it's a great underdog (no pun intended?) song.

10. Small Wonders (Meet the Robinsons)

I have a small confession: I didn't know that this song had anything to do with this movie. I don't even remember any songs for this movie. I've heard this song, performed by Rob Thomas, on the radio and at work all the time, and I really, really like it, but I assumed it was just another Matchbox-Twenty song. Little did I know that this was made specifically for Meet the Robinsons, another non-musical made in the 2000's, though this movie did much better than Treasure Planet. In fact, I would probably pinpoint Meet the Robinsons as being the turning point of the Disney canon, though many claim it's The Princess and the Frog. The reason that I've included this song on this list is because I'm assuming that most people don't know this is a Disney song, or have long forgotten. It's honestly one of the better songs performed by a professional musician. 

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.