The Walt Disney Company has a library full of original music to use in their parks. But the reality is that a lot of the music we hear in the parks aren’t original Disney tunes. Regardless of where certain songs originated, through the years they have become synonymous with Disney. Here are some songs that, even though I know they weren’t created by Disney, I often think of the Disney Parks before I think of the original source whenever I hear them.
The most iconic example of this would probably be some of the music you hear looping on Main Street, U.S.A. This entrance into the park is designed to look like the beginning of the 20th century; therefore, the music playing was chosen to reflect that mood. A couple of non-Disney music samples heard here are from Broadway musicals that take place during similar time periods.
The musical “Hello, Dolly!” is set in the late 1800s, and from this mega-hit show came the songs “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” “Elegance,” and “Before the Parade Passes By” — all of which can be heard playing on Main Street. I’ve always found these tunes to be catchy, so when I heard them onstage for the first time while seeing a community theatre production of “Hello, Dolly!” I was shocked. The recognizable, bouncy orchestrations of “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” began and I immediately knew that I had heard this tune before; it didn’t take me long to figure out from where.
When it comes to another Broadway hit, “The Music Man,” I was familiar with this show’s song “Wells Fargo Wagon,” from a younger age, but I still partially associate it with the music of Main Street. A couple of other musicals represented are “Oklahoma!” and “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a fan of musical theatre, if you’ve ever caught yourself humming along to the music of Main Street U.S.A., you may just enjoy a good musical more than you realize. If you’re only familiar with the instrumental versions of these tunes, I encourage you to listen to the songs with lyrics to discover what they’re all about.
Composer James Newton Howard has written music for Disney throughout the years, most recently for “Raya and the Last Dragon” and “Jungle Cruise,” but one of his most Disney-like scores comes from a Universal Pictures movie. Although most folks think of Disney when they hear the title “Peter Pan,” Universal made a live-action version of the story in 2003 with a fantastic score by Howard.
Apparently, the folks at Disney liked the music as well, because “Flying” was used for the Year of a Million Dreams commercials in 2006. I remember hearing this score for the first time while seeing the movie and thinking to myself that it sounded like something you’d hear from Disney. When Disney started using it for the advertising campaign, I had a good chuckle over that. For a lot of folks, I’m sure the melody brings up memories of Disney before it does the live action “Peter Pan.”
I always find it a bit funny when content is used from a rival studio for the parks, and it was done once again with music from the 2004 movie “The Polar Express,” released by Warner Bros. There’s a song in the film called “Believe” that has become a bit of a holiday standard at this point. In the Disney Parks, this song was used as part of “World of Color: Winter Dreams” in Disney California Adventure. It fits beautifully in the show, but once again, it’s always a bit surprising when Disney looks outside of its plentiful library for additional music.
Let’s head back to the world of musical theatre and talk about the song “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from the 2002 show “Hairspray.” I’ve always enjoyed this musical and was shocked and delighted when I heard it being used for the finale of “Celebrate! A Street Party” in Disneyland, which premiered in 2009. I admittedly was one of very few people who loved this show, but I think even if you didn’t like the street party overall, you can agree that “You Can’t Stop the Beat” was the perfect, energy-inducing tune to top off the party.
It’s not uncommon for Disney to use music in the parks that aren’t originally from Disney works, but with such a strong brand, sometimes these songs unofficially feel more related or fitting to the Disney product than it does the original source. Were you surprised to learn about any of these tunes not originally being from Disney? Are there any non-Disney songs that you love that have been part of the parks? Leave a comment and let me know.
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Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles, California. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” a Disney fan podcast. He is offering the free gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.