In the lead-up to the release of the live-action The Little Mermaid, Consequence will be looking back at the Disney Renaissance and how it shaped our culture. This time, we’re updating our ranked list of every Disney song ever — this feature originally ran in November 2016, and it has been updated to include animated Disney releases since that time, up to 2022’s Strange World.
Things make a real, lasting mark on your brain when you’re a kid. That encompasses the fears, loves, insecurities, dreams, and other things one will likely describe to a therapist as an adult, but other things stick, too. Songs, especially. The impulse children have to press “play” over and over and over again can leave all kinds of wonderful and sometimes useless things stuck in your head.
It’s part of why creating entertainment for children can be so meaningful, because with some talent and skill, it’s possible to give a young person a song they’ll carry with them for decade after decade. Well after they’ve stopped thinking about the works of A.A. Milne as anything but some stories they liked when they were young, one can hear the phrase “Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood” and know immediately what comes next, and what comes after that. That stuff lingers. It lasts. It matters.
That’s all a big part of why, for reasons beyond its massive size and reach and bank accounts, Disney matters. That’s not to diminish the very real cultural significance of the films in the Disney animated canon (that’s films released by Walt Disney Feature Animation, beginning with Snow White in 1937), many of which can (and do) appeal to adults as well as children. Beauty and the Beast is a stunning achievement in filmmaking, no matter the audience demographic.
But because so many of us were introduced to many of their films at a young age, those movies, and the songs they contain, have the potential to stay with a person for a lifetime. The relationship one has to those songs and movies may change — spoiler: not all of them have aged well — but they’re far from easily forgotten.
Why dig into this catalog? Well, because lists are fun, of course. But it’s also worthwhile to take a spin on the carousel and head back in time, revisiting characters and melodies first encountered at a young age. It’s valuable to then, while your mind remembers what it’s like to love something so unabashedly, explore some other stories and songs you missed.
Beyond all that stuff, Disney also makes some damn good songs, and great music is never a waste of time. Disney has employed some legendary composers and lyricists, from the powerhouse team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, to the Sherman Brothers, who wrote many, many songs that millions of people know by heart. It can’t be said that every single film has at least one musical gem, if only because a few have no songs at all. But most of them do. Remember Home on the Range? Neither did we. That thing’s got a few great, little tunes hidden away.
It’s also important to explore the stuff that helped to shape us as people, and our society as a whole. There’s some really racist shit in this list — some of those songs are still great songs; some are the kind of garbage it’s easy to dismiss. There are a lot of really restrictive ideas about gender — do you have any idea how many songs in the Disney catalog romanticize housework? — and some extremely unrealistic depictions of love and romance (again, see your therapist).
But there are also songs that inspire, challenge, and provoke thought. On reflection, that one scary song from Beauty and the Beast isn’t just scary, but illustrates the danger of a mob mentality and was written by a man dying of AIDS just as the ‘80s were being ushered out the door. Yes, it’s frightening, and it serves the plot. But it does more, because art can be both things. To a child, one story. To an adult, perhaps many stories in one. One thing’s for sure: There may be 55 films, but the stories are countless.
So here they are, all the songs in the Disney animated canon, from Aladdin to Zootopia. If Disney transformed a song in any way, from giving an old melody new lyrics (The Lion King’s “The Hula Song”) to creating a whole new work, it’s included. Here’s hoping there’s at least one new gem waiting for you in here or one priceless tune you didn’t even realize you remembered. It’s OK to sing along. No one’s watching. Just follow the bouncing ball.
— Allison Shoemaker
295. “Kanine Krunchies,” 101 Dalmatians (1961)
I’m sorry. I don’t believe any dog would be into this. Hey, also, do you have any enemies? Here’s a 10-hour loop of this song. — A. Shoemaker
294. “What Made the Red Man Red,” Peter Pan (1953)
So, to be clear, this song isn’t second-to-last on our list, beating only the worst fake commercial jingle in history, merely because it’s super-duper racist. It’s also trite, repetitive, boring, utterly predictable, and not even any fun. The animation is among the least interesting sequences in Peter Pan, the jokes fall flat — John smokes and then turns green! Hilarious! — and it’s difficult to even catch what’s being said most of the time. Flop on all counts. But yeah, this song is racist as hell. There’s also a side of misogyny, just for kicks. “Squaw gettum firewood!” For fuck’s sake. — A. Shoemaker
293. “The Siamese Cat Song,” Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Aunt Sarah’s twin cats are jerks. The Lady and the Tramp’s poorest-aged sequence sees poor Lady being framed for household destruction, as the two cats croon their way through chaos. Peggy Lee, as both cats, does her best, but between the instrumentation and the deeply, deeply unfortunate Asian accent the cats adopt, “The Siamese Cat Song” is just one of those Disney songs that doesn’t play as well with time no longer on its side. — Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
292. “Where the Dream Takes You,” Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Mya’s “Where the Dream Takes You” is the one major single from Atlantis: The Lost Empire, one of those Disney movies that makes audiences the world over say, “Oh, shit, that, was a movie that came out once.” It’s an addendum every bit as forgettable (if competently made) as the film in which it appears. — D. Suzanne-Mayer
291. “Bug Hunt,” Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Yes, former From First to Last frontman Sonny Moore also has a Disney credit. Skrillex isn’t bad at what he does, the wide-ranging contempt for the musical trend he helped usher in notwithstanding, but “Bug Hunt” is hardly one of his more interesting or complex works. It’s loud, addled with ADHD, and works best in context of the film as background noise to a more engaging sequence. But for the parents who probably had to hear this thing for weeks a few years ago, the assessments might not be as charitable. — D. Suzanne-Mayer