My Favorite Disney Canon Scores


Hey guys!  I think you will all enjoy this a lot.  I love a great score to a movie.  I’m a lover of classical music and when you have a story behind said music it makes it even better.

I have a little hobby of collecting scores of all types and then listening to them while I work.  This isn’t as distracting as vocal music can be but you still get the entertainment and the story.

I thought it would be fun to put together a list of my favorite scores.  Some of these are part of strong movies and others are not.  So the quality of the movie doesn’t really affect the value of the score.

That said, some of these are integral in making the movie work.  Rescuers Down Under, for instance, uses the John Williamesque score to give the feeling of an Indiana Jones type adventure very effectively.

I also tried to put in some variety because I don’t only like epic scores but also the electric video game feel to Wreck It Ralph and the pop anime influence of Big Hero 6.

If I had to pick 2 favorites it would probably be Lion King and Bambi because in both films the score tells a lot of the story, especially Bambi.  Instead of having sound effects for rain, it is music.  Without the score Bambi would be a much weaker movie.

(Also I’m not counting Fantasia, Fantasia 2000 or Sleeping Beauty since those aren’t original scores. If I did they would clearly be the top)

What are some of your favorites?

This list is in no particular order

Beauty and the Beast by Alan Menken

Great Mouse Detective by Henry Mancini

Black Cauldron  by Elmer Bernstein

Rescuers Down Under by Bruce Broughton

Frozen by Christophe Beck

Treasure Planet by James Newton Howard

Mulan by Jerry Goldsmith

Pocahontas by Alan Menken

Hunchback of Notre Dame by Alan Menken

Pinocchio by Leigh Harline and Paul J Smith

Bambi by Frank Churchill and Edward H Plumb

Little Mermaid by Alan Menken

Lion King by Hanz Zimmer

Snow White by Paul J Smith and Leigh Harline

Wreck it Ralph by Henry Jackman

Big Hero 6 by Henry Jackman

Alice in Wonderland by Oliver Wallace

Princess and the Frog by Randy Newman

Winnie the Pooh by Sherman Brothers and Buddy Baker

Atlantis: The Lost Empire by James Newton Howard

26 thoughts on “My Favorite Disney Canon Scores

    1. That’s too bad. Maybe listen to some of these tracks I have on this post and see if you can see what makes them special? Always good to learn more about art and music. We can always become knowledgeable on things we are not as well versed in.

      I like songs too but I also love beautiful orchestrations and instrumental numbers. Like I said, especially when I am working and need inspiration but no distraction.

    2. I think you miss out on a lot of the enjoyment of a movie if you don’t take a second to notice the score. I mean what would Jaws be without it’s iconic background music, Jurrasic Park, Star Wars etc? They are key to the films success.

      1. I mean, there are some film scores that stand out like those you mentioned. But, if you asked me to describe or imitate the background score and music from ‘Aladdin’, I don’t think I could remember it.

        I think you just have to be geared towards noticing it or not.

      2. Fair enough. It is absolutely key to me to the enjoyment of a film. Maybe next time you are doing work and need some background music put on some scores and see what you think? I really love them. 🙂

    3. I used to think that dance was boring in movies like the ballet in Singing in the Rain but then I learned more about it and now I really love it.

      1. Long dance sequences like those 15 minute dance numbers that Gene Kelly would do in movies bore me so much!

        It has to be less than 10 minutes for me to enjoy. Or it has to be exceptionally unique like the Barn-Raising dance in ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’.

      2. Yeah I thought that at first but I learned more about dance and now I love them.

  1. I love a good movie score – many of the tracks on my MP3 are from movie soundtracks.

    Disney-wise, I prefer the scores of the more modern films to the classics, though those are still very good. The Lion King is probably my favourite, particularly “King of Pride Rock”, but I also like Beauty and the Beast and Tangled for their emotional power, and Tarzan because it just sounds cool. I actually played the Tarzan PS1 game before I saw the film and always loved the music on it.

    1. Cool! Ive never played any of the games so that’s interesting. Tarzan I like the songs but the score never stuck out to me but I will give it a listen. I realized after I probably should have subbed out Princess and the Frog for Tangled but was trying to show some variety. Plus I had so much Menken but Tangled is great. I also like to load my playlists with scores and play them while I work. They are usually pretty exciting and pump me up without distracting me with lyrics.
      Lion King and Bambi are my favorites. My least favorites are the one’s with the cheesy 50s choral accompaniment like in Peter Pan and Cinderella.

      1. It was originally Phil Collins that drew me to Tarzan’s overall soundtrack, as he’s one of my favourite singers, but the score compliments the songs and the rest of the movie very well. The game is obviously a bit primitive by today’s standards but I played it a lot way back when – even my mum did!

        I actually agree with Swanpride’s comment on Tangled: the songs are nothing special but the score is really brilliant – I especially like “Waiting For The Lights” and “The Tear Heals”.

        I don’t tend to listen to scores while I’m working, but outside of work I find they can give me good inspiration for my writing.

      2. Yeah I should have put Tangled. What kind of writing do you do? I am writing for nanowrimo right now and I agree about scores. They are very inspirational.

      3. I do most of my fiction writing in NaNoWriMo, but I also write some short stories at other times. I’ve written some fantasy stories in previous NaNos and those are the ones I most associate music with. How’s NaNo going for you?

      4. It’s going great . I wish I was creative like all of you fantasy writers. Nanowrimo has been going well. I’m confident I am going to finish. This year is the first time I haven’t had a plan and it’s the first book that really isn’t drawn from my life. It’s taken a darker feel than I expected which has been interesting to write. All things considered its been a great experience.

    2. Glad to hear it’s going well for you! I’m almost at 25k. I’ve had periods where the words come fairly easily and others where it’s more of a slog, but that’s really quite typical for me.

      1. Congrats! That’s awesome. I’m the same way writing in spurts. My sleep has suffered but I’m at 30k.

  2. If you go for instrumental pieces only, Tangled should be on the list. The songs have their problems, but the score is one of the most beautiful in the whole canon. It’s Menken at his best.
    Mulan has some of my favourite instrumentals. While the soundtrack as a whole doesn’t really fit that well together because the style of songs and instrumental is slightly different (well, that happens if you use two different composers), the hair cut score might be the most memorable of all Disney instrumentals.
    A little unfair to exclude Sleeping Beauty. I once read that a lot composer consider it easier to create a new score than taking a existing one to fit a movie. And the work on Sleeping Beauty was outstanding. “Once upon a dream” is only a very brief piece in the original ballet, and “Maleficent’s evil spell” is a truly chilling reinterpretation of the puss in boots segment.

    1. So you don’t like any of the scores I mentioned? Tangled is great but I’d still put the other Menken scores I have listed ahead of that. Different tastes I guess.

      Fair enough on sleeping beauty but for my list I wanted to focus on originals. I will honor the Sleeping Beauty music at other times.
      You dont like any of the James Newton Howard scores or Hans Zimmer in Lion King? I think they are fabulous listens.
      Oh well. To each her own.

      1. Didn’t say that. Menken is always good, and Beauty and the Beast might have the single best overall soundtrack of all Disney movies. It is the perfect example how music and songs should be used in a movie. But that doesn’t make the score of Tangled, which sadly gets overlooked way too often, less great.

        I love Hans Zimmer music (even though I lately got a little bit tired of his style.) and I certainly wont argue against Lion King being on the list, but I especially love his work on Spirit, the black stallion. I also like the work of James Newton Howard. Honestly, the only movie on your list which surprised me was Princess and the Frog, because I really, really don’t like the score. At all. I listened to it multiple times ones in order to figure out the “stand-out” instrumental. I finally went with the one played when Tiana turns human again, but mostly by default, because every single piece on this soundtrack was so forgettable, I couldn’t remember the melody the moment the piece ended.

        On a positive note, I totally agree concerning the role of music in Bambi, and I am glad that Snow White got a nod.

        As much as I love the classics, I think the 1950s movies (Sleeping Beauty aside) are pretty weak when it comes to instrumentals. Not bad, but also not particular remarkable. Cinderella for example has barely any instrumentals at all, most of the time they play either what I call “the mice score” or a variation of A Dream is a wish your heart makes…the piece for the scene when she leaves the ball is very well done, though.

        What are your favourite score pieces? Mine are the “Hair Cut Score” (Mulan), “Maleficent’s evil Spell” (Sleeping Beauty), “Transformation” (Beauty and the Beast), “Kingdom dance” (Tangled), “Jig” (The Little Mermaid), “Snow Whites Death” (Snow White…the Organ music is the main reason I am still crying when I see the scene), just to name a few.

      2. Yeah sorry about that. I missed the , after only when I was reading on my phone. Sometimes my insomnia gets the best of my eyes 😉 ! Menken is amazing. He deserves every last one of his Oscars. I personally think he is an even better composer than John Williams.
        A couple of people have recommended Spirit to me recently so I am definitely going to give it a try. It’s interesting that there seems to be a handfull of composers these days we see again and again. Danny Elfman can be really good and I love Patrick Doyle. His music for Sense and Sensibility and The Little Princess are worth looking up if you enjoy scores.

        You are probably right about Princess and the Frog. I couldn’t find a good clip without singing in it so I guess it is more accompaniment than orchestrations or a traditional score. I think the lyrics are weak in Princess and the Frog but I loves jazz music and so that was kind of my tip to jazz on the list. But it is more the background to songs with admittedly lame lyrics so probably shouldn’t count.

        I also agree on the 50s. I actually listened to a bunch of selections before making this list. I like the songs from Cinderella, Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp but they often have this annoying choral accompaniment that I hate. Plus, they favor the flute and clarinet over the string sections which I tend to like better in orchestrations. Also I was surprised to only have 1 Sherman Brother’s score but I found they wrote songs more than scores and none on their own really stood out for me except the Winnie the Pooh theme. The beginning song of Sword and the Stone I love but that’s a song. I wonder if part of it is they did mainly lighter material and comedies?

        It’s tough picking favorites. They all kind of blend together. The Kingdom Dance is great in Tangled. I really should have put that one on. Darn it all that always happens on these lists :). Transformation in Beauty and the Beast, the opening of Little Mermaid, Snow White’s Death (had a hard time finding clips of that one), The Kings of the Past sequence from Lion King is such a sad moment of abandon that it always moves me but I also like the brighter happier pieces like I love Main Titles of Great Mouse Detective, Alice in Wonderland suites or the Rescuers Down Under theme (it feels very John Williamsesque and I like it). I guess if I had to pick one it would probably be Kings of the Past but they are all great.

      3. Well and there are instrumental numbers in Princess and the Frog but none of the jazzy pieces I like that have songs to it. I If you just listen to the score selections on the soundtrack it sounds just like Toy Story score. Randy Newman! I still think they should have gotten Harry Connick Jr for Princess and the Frog. He did the score for When Harry Met Sally and it is a favorite of mine (even though it is also a traditional soundtrack too).

    2. Wait I read your post wrong. I thought you were saying only Tangled should be on the list and nothing else. Yeah I should have probably included it but I still prefer Menkens renaissance musical scores best but Tangled is great too. It’s a fun list and shows how varied Disney can be. if I included Pixar Up score would be there for sure. It has some of my favorite music ever written

      1. The great thing about the Hair Cut score is that you can play it more or less on everything and it sounds awesome! Just look at youtube.

        I think the Sherman brothers did their by far best work with Mary Poppins. Feed the birds is great as song AND as score.

      2. That’s true. Mary Poppins is just practically perfect in every way. Ive started to do a profile on it but I feel like I just end up saying how much I love it which feels like a boring read. Kind of had same issue with Little Mermaid. It’s such a part of my childhood have a hard time being objective

      3. I’ll have to look up those Mulan covers. I’m surprised Jerry Goldsmith didnt do more for Disney because the melding of east and western music in Mulan is great

Leave a Reply