The Case for Knowing the Scores: 1 1/2 Disney Edition

62355005_1141195532734999_8701329314760622080_nWe are dedicating the month of June to movie music! First on our list, we have the third installment of our film score series! This week we are focusing on the scores and songs of the Disney Animated Classics. We will be looking at Disney scores by each era, while discussing the evolution and influences of the music.

In order to listen along to the incredible list that Robin put together for this episode follow the link below!


The Golden Age

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
      • It’s 1937–two years before Judy Garland will sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  Talking pictures have only been around for 10 years, and the movie musical is becoming all the rage (for example, 42nd Street and Top Hat were big successes in the 1930s)
      • Walt Disney makes headlines by not only producing the first full-length animated film, but he pushes the limits by making it a musical as well. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the birth of Disney animation’s Golden Age.
      • The men who worked on this score were: Paul Smith, Leigh Harline, Frank Churchill, and Larry Morey (lyrics)
        • Smith, Harline, and Churchill worked on the score while Churchill and Morey were responsible for the music and lyrics
  • Their score was the FIRST EVER commercially issued feature film soundtrack  
        • This music and songs set the tone for the “Disney Formula” that the later films followed for years to come
        • All three composers were nominated for an Oscar for this score
  • Pinocchio
      • We will not be able to talk about every movie in length, but we will try to highlight the most prominent films of each era. This includes Pinocchio, Disney’s second animated classic
      • Paul Smith and Leigh Harline returned, earning an Oscar for best original score
      • Snow White may have set the tone for Disney Animated musicals, but Pinocchio is responsible for bringing us the most iconic song in Disney’s collection: When You Wish Upon a Star
  • When You Wish Upon a Star
      • Music by Leigh Harline, lyrics by Ned Washington
      • Voiced by Cliff Edwards, a popular singer of the 1930s, Jiminy Cricket delivers the song that would become the theme of Disney
      • Not only did it win an Oscar, the American Film Institute named it the 7th greatest song in film history (one of only four Disney songs on the list)
      • Ned Washington was a lyricist from Tin Pan Alley and was inducted in the songwriters hall of fame in 1972
        • If you are unfamiliar, Tin Pan Alley was a genre of music that came from American song producers in late 19th century New York. It’s where a lot of American popular music was written; another lyricist from this time and genre is Johnny Mercer who we will talk about in another episode
  • Fantasia, Dumbo, & Bambi are other films of this era that we don’t have time to go into fully but are important to note
    • Bambi was the first Disney animated movie where the songs were not sung by characters, but all off-screen; it also was an important movie for the time and an animation marvel, but since this episode is about scores, we won’t go into that
      • Frank Churchill and Edward Plum scored Bambi
      • Churchill and Larry Morey wrote the songs and lyrics, the same team behind Snow White
    • For Dumbo, Churchill and Ned Washington were reunited to write the songs
      • Churchill was obviously instrumental (ha) in early Disney movie scores; He was what Alan Menken became during the renaissance
      • Ned Washington, as you might recall, was the lyricist for Pinocchio
    • Fantasia’s score was made up of classical pieces, so it didn’t really have a true score.

The War-time Era

  • Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music, Fun and Fancy Free, Melody Time, and The Adventures of Icabod and Mr. Toad
    • This era of Disney animation is often forgotten, mostly because the films had a smaller budget and were not necessarily up to the same standards as the films of the Golden Era
    • These movies were known as package films, consisting of two or more shorts instead of an overarching plot
      • Saludos Amigos was notable because the Disney studio worked with other musicians in South America to create the songs of the shorts
        • This was the introduction of José Carioca, a now iconic Disney character very popular in South America
        • Paul Smith also worked on this movie with Edward Plum, the most notable song was “Saludos Amigos” by Charles Wolcott and Ned Washington
      • The Three Caballeros was a similar film that took place in various parts of Latin America, where Saludos Amigos had a strong emphasis on Brazil
        • It was scored by the same people as the former film
      • Make Mine Music, Fun and Fancy Free, and Melody Time were all package films that consisted of narrated shorts based on poems, songs, classical music, or fairy tales
        • One of the most notable shorts from Make Mine Music is Peter and the Wolf
        • Many people would recognize Mickey and the Beanstalk from Fun and Fancy Free
        • The Andrews Sisters are an example of a popular singing duo that lent their voices to “Little Toot” in Melody Time
      • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was a different story, however, because it only consisted of two separate stories
        • These two segments had their own plots and songs pertaining to the specific stories on which they were based: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Wind in the Willows
        • Oliver Wallace, an American composer wrote the score with songs by Don Raye and Jean de Paul; Frank Churchill and Charles Wolcott
        • The most notable thing about this soundtrack, is that it was sung by Bing Crosby; this is an example of a famous singer lending their voice to the animation, which was not a common practice at the time and is much more prominent in animation today

The Silver Age

  • Cinderella
      • With the war over, all hands are on deck for the next era of Disney animation! Disney has now proven that animation is a viable medium in motion pictures, and that they are steering the ship. With more resources, time, and ever-changing technology, Disney begins to make movies based on more complex stories, with dynamic characters. This is the era where Disney Animation stands tall and shows everyone: they aren’t going anywhere.
      • Cinderella is undoubtedly the most prominent film to come from the next era of Disney, and its music continued the trend set by the Golden Age
        • Scored by Oliver Wallace and Paul J Smith, both now veteren Disney composes; the score also reflects the era of popular music and film scores.
        • Songs like “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” became well-known staples in the Disney songbook
      • Mack David, Jerry Livingston, and Al Hoffman wrote the songs of Cinderella, and were nominated for Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo
        • Mack David and Jerry Livingston often worked together on Broadway; Much like other composer/lyricist combos that have come to Disney, they came as a team
        • Al Hoffman was also known for writing many popular tunes including “Fit as a Fiddle” which many might recognize from Singin’ in the Rain (if nothing else)
  • Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone
      • Alice in Wonderland was also scored by the same men behind Cinderella, though the songs were written by several different people
        • Most were written by Bob Hilliard and Sammy Fain, though our old friends Don Raye and Gene De Paul (Ichabod and Mr. Toad) and Jerry Livingston and Al Hoffman also shared writing credits
      • Peter Pan shares similarities in its score to other movies of this time, sweeping orchestral music with the addition of a chorus for some songs
      • 101 Dalmatians, like many movies of the “Dark Age” only has one song. However, the iconic “Cruella DeVil” has had a lasting impact for generations
  • Mel Leven, who wrote the melody and lyrics, also wrote the songs for the movie “Babes in Toyland”
        • This song also shows a clear Jazz influence in Disney music
        • The soundtrack was done by George Bruns who went on to score more films for Disney
      • Lady and the Tramp
        • The songs for this film were written by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke, the most famous of course “Bella Note”; this is the first female credit for songwriting on this list
  • Sleeping Beauty
    • Once Upon a Dream
      • The only character song of the movie was written by Sammy Fein (of Alice and Wonderland) and Jack Lawrence
      • This song melody is based off “The Garland Waltz” from Tchaikovsky’s “The Sleeping Beauty” ballet
    • The rest of the score is standard to the sound of this era, very similar to Cinderella
  • The Jungle Book
    • This film is incredibly important to the direction that Disney went in the upcoming bronze era; George Bruns this time wrote a score that was heavily influenced by the setting of the movie
    • The songs were written by Terry Gilkyson, though Disney felt his songs were too dark and thus he asked the Sherman Brothers to do a rewrite. The only song they kept was “The Bare Necessities”
    • The Sherman Brothers, who also wrote the music for Mary Poppins, would be part of the Disney Animation music team for the next few films

The Bronze Age (or Dark age)

  • At the time, this seemed like a bad era for Disney. The movies took a darker turn with storytelling and the studio was working hard to find its footing after the death of Walt Disney. However, this time was incredibly important in the development of Disney Animation, and that goes for music as well
  • The Aristocats, Robin Hood, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Fox and the Hound
      • George Bruns created a jazz-inspired score for The Aristocats with an influence of classically French tunes as well
        • The Sherman Brothers returned to write the songs, some of the most notable being “Thomas O’Malley” and “Everybody Wants to be a Cat”
      • Bruns’ Robin Hood score is similar to that of Aristocats, with songs sung by artist Roger Miller
        • Robin Hood is notable for having Roger Miller write and sing the songs, as this helped set the stage for artists (Phil Collins) to do this in the future
        • The song, “Phony King of England” was written by Johnny Mercer who was an incredibly prominent songwriter of the time (Moon River)
      • The Sherman Brothers returned once again to write songs for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh; “Winnie the Pooh” has since been a recognizable theme for the silly ol’ bear
      • The Scores for Winnie the Pooh and The Fox and the Hound were both written by Buddy Baker who had worked for Disney scoring live-action films
        • “The Best of Friends,” the only song from The Fox and the Hound, was written by Stan Fidel and Richard Johnston
  • The Rescuers
      • “Someone’s Waiting for You” was written by Carol Connors and Ayn Robbins (who also wrote “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky) with music by Sammy Fein
      • Connors and Robbins wrote the rest of the songs for the film with Artie Butler’s score
  • The Black Cauldron
      • The Black Cauldron was a definite turn from the light-hearted films of early Disney, and with it it had a grand score by legendary composer Elmer Bernstein
      • There are no songs in the Black Cauldron, and it’s dark orchestral score sets the tone for the fantasy epic
      • Bernstein was foriegn to animation-composing, and the idea of using a well-established composer for a stand-alone score and no songs was essentially unheard of for Disney
      • This style was repeated in the Disney films of the post-renaissance (ie Atlantis)
  • The Great Mouse Detective
      • With the exception of “World’s Greatest Criminal Mind,” The Great Mouse Detective also was a movie that relied heavily on a well-crafted score by non other than the great Henry Mancini
      • This was the only Disney film scored by Mancini, who was well-established in the entertainment industry for “Pink Panther” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Peter Gunn”
  • Oliver and Company
    • Scored by J A C Redford, Oliver and Company closed out the Disney dark ages
    • The songs of this movie are notable for how many different artists collaborated on them! Using the voices of Billy Joel, Huey Lewis and the News, and Bette Midler hearkens back to the time of Ichabod and Mr. Toad or Robin Hood
    • One of the most prominent songs: Once Upon a Time in New York City is important as it was the first Disney writing credit for Howard Ashman who was a vital piece of the Disney renaissance

The Renaissance

    • Ah yes, the time period we’ve all been waiting for! Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Disney Animation saved itself from being closed down; and all it took was the angelic voice of a little mermaid
  • The Little Mermaid
      • As Disney was in danger of losing its animation studio, they brought in a composer/lyricist duo that had had some success with musicals such as “Little Shop of Horrors”
      • Alan Menken, the composer, would go on to write music for Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hercules. He was responsible for the sound of the Disney renaissance and helped save Disney
      • His other achievement though, was bringing in Howard Ashman, considered by many to be one of the greatest lyricists in Disney history
      • Ashman also suggested changes to the film that also brought success; He changed Sebastian’s ethnicity for example to Jamaican
      • Here is a clip of Ashman coaching Jodi Benson as she records “Part of Your World
  • Beauty and the Beast
    • Alan Menken and Howard Ashman his the world with a 1-2 punch with The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast
    • From the hauntingly beautiful score of the beginning to the delicate sound of “A Tale as Old as Time,” Beauty and the Beast won the hearts of audiences, and Disney was once again considered to be the best in animation
  • Aladdin
    • After the death of Howard Ashman, Tim Rice came in as a lyricist for Aladdin
    • Howard Ashman had worked on some of the songs in the film before he passed away, including Friend Like Me; Tim Rice wrote the lyrics for A Whole New World
    • Aladdin broke ground by having separate actors sing and speak for the leading roles, a practice they continued as they saw fit throughout the renaissance
    • Robin Williams as the genie also increased the popularity of casting celebrities as voice actors, though this was not a brand new concept in Disney animation
  • The Lion King
    • Scored by the well-known composer Hans Zimmer, The Lion King’s music has a vast and epic feel to it, as well as influences from the African location of the movie
    • With songs by Elton John and Tim Rice, the movie was a step in a different direction from the previous movies of the renaissance, though it kept the broadway-like structure and feel of other renaissance movies
  • Pocahontas
    • Stephen Schwartz joined the Disney team as a lyricist for Pocahontas
      • He had seen much success on Broadway for Pippin and Godspell (and in a few years he would have a MAJOR success with Wicked)
    • Alan Menken returned to score Pocahontas and write the melodies for songs, fitting the mold of the other movies of the renaissance and proving that he was responsible for the Disney-movie-sound of the 1990s
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
    • This movie proved that Disney could in fact cover dark topics with intense themes while still maintaining a appeal for children; this was something they were not able to nail down during the bronze age
    • Stephen Schwartz wrote lyrics for Hunchback as well, and Alan Menken gave us one of the greatest scores in the Disney collection to accompany Schwartz’s lyrics
  • Hercules
    • For Hercules, a new lyricist joined the team, David Zippel and Alan Menken returned once again to write the score and songs
      • Hercules sets itself apart from other Disney movies by using gospel and mo-town influences
      • Using narration throughout the movie, accompanied by music and Zippel’s lyrics, Hercules was able to keep the plot moving forward in a unique way
    • It’s important to note that this is the last movie of the renaissance that Alan Menken worked on and his absence was noticed in the post-renaissance
  • Mulan
    • Jerry Goldsmith, a film score giant, was responsible for the grand soundtrack with Eastern influence in Mulan
    • Along with Elmer Bernstein and Hans Zimmer, this was an example of Disney using a composer unfamiliar with animation, but well-known for live-action film scores
    • The songs for Mulan were written by Matthew Wilder and lyrics were penned, once again, by David Zippel
      • The most popular songs from the film were: Reflection and Be a Man
  • Tarzan
    • For the Tarzan soundtrack, Disney took a new direction. Reminiscent of The Lion King, they had a well-known singer/songwriter write the songs for the film. This time, the artist was Phil Collins and he wrote music as well as lyrics
    • Collins’ voice appears many times in the film, with songs sung by characters and songs off-screen
    • The score is by Mark Mancina, a composer known today for Moana
      • Mancina had worked for Disney in the past as an arranger for other films like The Lion King, and would go on to score Brother Bear (another Phil Collins collaboration)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s