Movies

Published: Thursday June 12, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday June 12, 2014 MYT 11:54:30 AM

'The Lion King' turns 20: Celebrating Disney's greatest musical moments

From The Lion King to Frozen, Disney continues to mesmerise us with show-stopping tunes.

Can you still feel the love for The Lion King? It’s been 20 years since Disney released what would become its highest grossing animated feature ever (that is, until Frozen overtook it recently), and to this day, it still stands proud as one of the Mouse House’s greatest ever films.

One of the most important aspects of the film was of course, the music composed by Elton John. The magnificent Circle Of Life, the romantic Can You Feel The Love Tonight (which won a Best Song Oscar), the joyous I Just Can’t Wait To Be King, the sinister Be Prepared, and of course, the hilariously catchy Hakuna Matata – almost every single song in the movie is a classic.

With the film turning 20 on Sunday, and The Little Mermaid also hitting 25 this year, we’ve come up with a list of the most memorable and most powerful Disney musical moments ever.

We could of course, fill the list with songs from The Lion King or with the numerous love duets ranging from Cinderella to Tangled, but we’ve tried to go for a more unconventional list instead.

Since The Lion King was such a powerful, moving movie, we decided to select songs that are not only pivotal or powerful moments in the movie, but also tend to give you goosebumps or make you tear up every time you watch it.

Of course, this is by no means a definitive list. Songs such as You’ll Be In My Heart, and Colours Of The Wind may have won Oscars, but somehow the scenes didn’t quite accommodate the songs as well.

The scene where Rafiki holds Simba up to the sunlight remains one of the most iconic scenes from The Lion King.
Long live the king: The scene where Rafiki holds Simba up to the sunlight remains one of the most iconic scenes from The Lion King.

Circle Of Life (The Lion King, 1994)

What better way to start this list than with one of THE greatest opening sequences in ANY movie, let alone a Disney animated feature?

From the joyous cry accompanying the rise of the sun, to the herds, flocks and groups of animals making their way to Pride Rock, all the way to the majestic reveal of Mufasa standing majestically atop the rock, this is sheer movie magic.

But that’s not all, the quiet background chanting as Rafiki the mandrill shaman walks his way towards the young heir to the throne, and the gradual build-up to the iconic presentation of Simba to the denizens of the Pride Lands is without a doubt, one of THE most powerful scenes in Disney’s animated features, rivalled perhaps, only by the death of Bambi’s mother.

Part Of Your World is the song that helped breathe life into The Little Mermaid.

Part Of Your World (The Little Mermaid, 1989)

Under The Sea may have won the Oscar for best original song, but the un-nominated Part Of Your World is the song that helped breathe life into The Little Mermaid.

The first time the song is sung, we see Ariel’s burning curiosity and yearning desire to be “part of that world” coming through wonderfully through Jodi Benson’s playful yet melancholic voice, helping to establish a new era of Disney.

In the reprise sung right after she saves the prince, however, she embraces her awakening love for the prince, declaring that she wants to be “part of your world”, encapsulating the entire movie in just a few minutes and melodies. Wonderfully beautiful.

Beauty and The Beast share a dance in the film’s iconic ballroom scene.

Beauty And The Beast(Beauty And The Beast, 1991)

This was the scene that most people remember Beauty And The Beast by. At the time, it was lauded as one of the first scenes to include computer-generated animation, but it wasn’t the computer rendered chandelier that makes this simple, elegant, and beautifully choreographed scene so memorable. 

It is the fact that the song itself is sung by a teapot – or rather, Angela Lansbury’s Mrs Potts, whose calm, motherly rendition blows the over-wrought Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson duet out of the castle.

Elsa finally lets it go and becomes the Snow Queen in Frozen.
Elsa finally lets it go and becomes the Snow Queen in Frozen.

Let It Go (Frozen, 2013)

You didn’t think we would let this go, did you? One of the most memorable (and probably overplayed) Disney anthems ever written (and one of its most unshakable earworms), it also accompanied one of the most powerful scenes in Frozen.

Forget the tame, pop-ish Demi Lovato studio recording, Adele Da... sorry, Idina Menzel’s powerful rendition of the song during the scene in which Elsa casts aside the shackles and embraces her power, thereby transforming herself into the Snow Queen, really gets the goosebumps going every single time.

A Whole New World is a shining, shimmering, splendid song that is arguably Disney's best love song.
A Whole New World is a shining, shimmering, splendid song that is arguably Disney’s best love song.

A Whole New World (Aladdin, 1992)

A shining, shimmering, splendid song from Aladdin that is arguably one of Disney’s best ever love duets. Brad Kane and Lea Salonga’s screen version sold the notion that Aladdin and Jasmine COULD fall in love in over the course of one magic carpet ride around the world.

The song not only won that year’s Best Song Oscar, the pop version performed by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle also became the first and only song from a Disney animation to hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart to date.

Pinocchio's When You Wish Upon A Star is the official theme for the Walt Disney Company, played over the studio's title credits sequence in all of their movies.
Pinocchio’s When You Wish Upon A Star is the official theme for the Walt Disney Company, played over the studio’s title credits sequence in all of their movies.

When You Wish Upon A Star (Pinocchio, 1940)

Originally sung by Cliff Edwards in the character of Jiminy Cricket, this is an iconic tune that is now the official theme for the Walt Disney Company, played over the studio’s title credits sequence in all of their movies.

Written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, it is a poignant, tender reminder that it’s ok to dream, and in the context of the film, it’s a tender ode to a poor wooden puppet who wishes he was a real boy.

The song won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Original Song, the first Disney song to do so.

Jesse's Song is a heartbreaking tale of a toy that was given away after her owner grew up and became too old to play with dolls.
Jesse’s Song is a heartbreaking tale of a toy that was given away after her owner grew up and became too old to play with dolls.

When She Loved Me (Jesse’s Song) (Toy Story 2, 1999)

OK, we’re cheating a bit here – this is technically a Pixar movie, and made before Disney bought the animation studio outright in 2006; but Disney has been the main distributor for Pixar movies since the very beginning, so we’re sticking to this.

Sung by Sarah McLachlan, Jesse’s Song is a heartbreaking tale of a toy that was given away after her owner grew up and became too old to play with dolls.

Nominated for the best original song Oscar in 2000, it actually lost out to a song from another Disney movie – Phil Collins’ hugely overrated You’ll Be In My Heart, from Tarzan.

Someday My Prince Will Come (Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, 1937)

Come on, it’s Snow White, the first Disney animated feature, and the one that started it all. Without Snow White and her seven dwarfs, there would be no Lion King, no Toy Story, no Pinocchio, and no Frozen.

While in today’s modern world, the idea of a woman just content to wait for a prince to come is a little outdated, there is no denying that this tender, yearning tune sums up the character of Snow White perfectly, and it remains one of THE most classic of all Disney tunes.

Jack Skellington takes off his head to recite some Shakespeare during his lament in Nightmare Before Christmas.

Jack’s Lament (The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993)

Another unconventional and possibly controversial choice, true, but no less powerful a song and scene. Jack Skellington’s lament that he has to keep doing the same thing over and over again every Halloween is the perfect contrast to his joyous wonderment at all the treasures he sees in Christmasland.

And besides, any song that contains the line “And since I am dead, I can take off my head, to recite Shakespearean quotations” and features the lead character actually taking off his head, deserves a place on this list.

Mulan contemplates her reflection in one of the most poignant scenes in Mulan.

Reflection (Mulan, 1998)

Short but sweet, but incredibly moving, Reflection is the lament of a girl who longs to break free of the chains of tradition and fight for her family. Too bad Let It Go wasn’t written at the time…

The pop version of Reflection was also Christina Aguilera’s first ever single, recorded before she became a Genie In A Bottle.

Related story:

These Disney villains are so bad, they're great!

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment, Disney, animated features, The Lion King, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid

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