Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Top 10 Arrangements

Before starting my official countdown of top 76 Disney songs, I want to pay homage to some great "arrangments," or songs that were not originally written for Disney but are used in something Disney related.  There are some great songs here that were hard to rank, but tough decisions are part of my job and that's why they pay me the big bucks.  You can click on the name of the song to hear it on video.  Enjoy!

10. Hooray for Hollywood
Heard in: The Great Movie Ride, MGM Studios
Original written by: Richard Whiting, 1937

More than any other, this is the song that I associate with MGM Studios (I know it's not called MGM any more, but that's what I call it).  It's a catchy tune that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the Studios and its old Hollywood motif.

9. Peter and the Wolf
Heard in: Peter and the Wolf, animated short film, 1946
Original written by: Sergei Prokofiev, 1936

I remember seeing this as a kid on the cartoon shows on The Disney Channel.  The link above shows the original animation but with David Bowie narrating instead of Sterling Holloway. The music is fantastic throughout, and I especially like Peter's main theme (each of the characters have their own song).  The one thing that I remember most about the cartoon is Sonia the duck -- I really liked her as a kid and was very glad that she did not get eaten by the wolf.  In the original Russian tale she is not as fortunate, despite the fact that this was intended to be a children's story -- the lesson here is that they don't mess around in Mother Russia.

8. True Colors
Heard in: Imagination Pavilion, Epcot, 1995-2003
Original written by: Billy Steinberg, Tom Kelly, 1986

I like both the original version of this song (Cyndi Lauper) and also the remake (Phil Collins), but I think the Disney version is the best of them all and gets the spirit of the song just right.  A perfect choice for the Imagination Pavilion's pre-show before the Honey I Shrunk the Audience 3-D movie (which I was never a big fan of -- I just remember snakes and lions coming at you and not a lot of redeeming qualities).  Instead they should have had the 3-D movie be the pre-show to this great True Colors montage.  And poor Kodak (the sponsor) -- who would have thought at the time that the proud American company would be declaring bankruptcy in the not too distant future? As the pre-show instructs us at one point, "Expect the Unexpected."

7. The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Heard in: Fantasia, 1940
Original written by: Paul Dukas, 1896

Probably a little low on the list for such an iconic Disney moment, but what can I say, there are a lot of great songs on this list!  The Sorcerer's Apprentice is based on a Goethe tale from the late 18th century, and Mickey Mouse is cast as the apprentice.  We alternatively see the Mick-ster drunk with power, then battling an army of broomsticks, and then being humbled by the old sorcerer.  I was never a big "Fantasia" guy (kind of long and boring to a young kid), and I never bothered to rewatch it when I was older.  But there's no doubting the greatness of the Sorcerer Apprentice scene and its legacy as a defining and symbolic moment for MM.

6. Once Upon a Dream
Heard in: Sleeping Beauty, 1959
Original written by: Tchaikovsky, 1889

Again, this seems too low.  Tchaikovsky's original version is one of the best songs of all time (the first 30 seconds -- my goodness), but I'm not as partial to the Disney rendition (though I still like it a lot).  As for Sleeping Beauty the movie, another one that I haven't seen since I was a kid, but I remember liking it.  It's the classic fairy tale (based on the Brothers Grimm story) complete with princess, prince, castle, villain, et cetera.  And as for Tchaikovksy -- wow, what a legacy.  When you have the Sleeping Beauty Waltz, The Nutcracker Suite, and the 1812 Overture at the top of your resume, that is a job well done.

5. Two Brothers
Heard in: The American Adventure, Epcot
Original written by:  Irving Gordon, 1951

A powerful tune that is even more impactful when seeing The American Adventure show in the theater, and this somber rendition is performed beautifully by singer Ali B. Olmo.  Too bad that the Youtube link above does not include the four-measure guitar intro from the original show.

4. Begin the Beguine
Heard in: The Rocketeer, 1991
Original written by: Cole Porter, 1934

There's a lot that I could say about The Rocketeer, but I will save my thoughts for a later date.  I will say that I love this rendition that we hear in the ritzy Hollywood South Seas nightclub when Timothy Dalton is wining and dining Jennifer Connelly.  The singer is Melora Hardin who played Jan on The Office -- she does a fantastic job here.

3. Caderas
Heard in: Adventureland, Magic Kingdom
Original written by: Balafon Marimba Ensemble

Wow, what a song!  I had always thought that this was a Disney original and had it in my original list, but after reading more about it I learned that it not written for Disney.  The group, the Balafon Marimba Ensemble, is based out of Oregon State University and has been in existence for a while.  This particular song is very recognizable to me as a song that you hear when walking around Adventureland, and it's a very catchy tune.

2. Behind the Waterfall
Heard in: Tomorrowland, Magic Kingdom
Original written by: Paul Speer and David Lanz, 1985

I love everything about this song. I remember hearing it in Tomorrowland several times (including while on the People Mover) and it stuck in my memory.  But since it's not an official song of the People Mover, it was hard for me to find the name of it.  When making the original list a few weeks ago, I scoured the internet far and wide and finally found it, and I'm really glad I did.

I reached out to Paul Speer to ask about this song, and he was kind enough to write back to me. He said:

That tune is on an album called Natural States that we recorded in 1985.  Natural States is also a music video album and Behind the Waterfall was composed to go with a video of waterfalls.  I don't know how it got to Disney but someone would have contacted Narada Records to work out licensing.  Many people have written to me and commented on youtube about hearing it there.  David and I recorded some very successful albums but that tune is the one we are most remembered for.  FYI, David and I no longer work together but we are both still making albums and continue to be great friends.

1. Impressions de France
Heard in: French Pavilion, Epcot
Original written by: French composers of the Romantic era.

I covered this in my interview with Director Rick Harper.  A breathtaking arrangement of some of the finest songs ever written.


  1. Nicolas - Maybe this is my time to weigh in. I probably found this blog 2-3 months ago. I was born in '73 in MN, still live there, and was a huge MacGyver fan from the beginning. The channel cloo on DirecTV has been playing episodes for a while now. I have been following along the reviews of the whole review crew (Mark, Highlander II, Al, et al) and have enjoyed the insight from all as my DVR has captured your entire list. I also am a big music fan, and started my own love of Disney in June of 1979. Just watched Impressions de France again and feel the depth of it all. Great call, and just wish you the best as you break it all down in the coming months. Keep it going!

    Special note: Waiting to hear your feedback on the most polarizing song of my own family's experience with WDW that has now passed on another generation of my family! Assuming its T76...

    1. Hey Patrick, thanks for the comment and glad to hear that you found the blog! That's awesome that you're both a MacGyver and Disney fan, and I hope that you enjoy the upcoming countdown! Interesting to hear about your family's "polarizing" song and I look forward to hearing the story behind what makes it polarizing once I get to it.

  2. Two songs that I forgot about (and have since remembered) that belong on this list:

    Bluenose (from the Canada pavilion) -

    The Kilimanjaro Safaris theme - I originally had this one on my top 76 list but didn't realize until recently that it was a pre-existing song (by a group called "African Dawn." I had to scramble to find a replacement for it on the list, and fortunately I found one!

  3. Another great arrangement: Peter Pan Flying by James Newton Howard

    It's featured in the Disney Year of a Million Dreams ad campaign.