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The 10 Most Hauntingly Beautiful Pieces From Disney Movie Scores

Every Disney fan knows the names and lyrics of the classic Disney songs from countless re-watches and singalongs. But there are just as many amazing pieces of instrumental music from Disney classics. So, I decided to share some beautiful scores that you may not know the names of, some instrumental covers, and the faces of those behind the mysterious composures.

Here are ten hauntingly beautiful pieces from Disney films and the artists behind them.

“Aeon,” Cinderella (2015) Trailer

Nick Murray Composer

Credit: Nick Murray Music

Like every Disney movie, the trailer comes first. So, we’re starting this list with some trailer-exclusive music.

 

For the teaser trailer of the 2015 Disney remake of Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh, Disney enlisted the help of award-winning composer of film and television Nick Murray. Murray is experienced with creating epic music to score film trailers. He composed the trailer music for the 2015 Academy Award Winner of Best Picture Spotlight, the remake of Steven Spielberg’s 80’s horror classic Poltergeist, and even for the beginning of the two-part finale Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.

It is his affinity for capturing the essence of a film for a trailer that is encapsulated in “Aeon,” which conveys all the hope, perseverance, and magic in the story of Cinderella.

“The Second Star To The Right” Composed by Sammy Fain, Peter Pan (1953).

Sammy Fain Composer

Credit: George Mann

“The Second Star to the Right” is the opening number for the 1953 classic Peter Pan. The melody of the timeless tune was actually taken from a song left on the cutting room floor, also by Sammy Fain, from 1951’s Alice in Wonderland. The original number was called “Beyond the Laughing Sky,” with lyrics reminiscent of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The lyrics were reworked for Peter Pan, becoming synonymous with the film and its titular hero, and the rest is history.

UK-based artist Sam Yung, known for “creating arrangements from video games, film, pop, and everything in between,” arranged this piano and string cover version as a part of his Disney collection. The soft piano replacing the boisterous chorus of the original brings out a sad kind of nostalgia.

Main Titles,” Composed by Alan Menken, The Little Mermaid (1989)

Alan Menken Composer

Credit: Everett Collection

This short but enchanting piece of music composed by bonafide Disney legend Alan Menken is the opening number that first brings us into the enchanting world of The Little Mermaid. Acting as a prologue to Princess Ariel’s adventure, the song foreshadows the medley to her number “Part of Your World.”

The tinkling keys of the piano truly bring to mind the visual of beams of sunlight shining down into the ocean, welcoming one to view a magical undersea kingdom. And the underlying singing of the mermaid’s chorus brings the deep want of Ariel’s signature song to the forefront of the piece.

“Prologue, “Composed by Alan Menken, Beauty and the Beast (1991)

After the critical and commercial success of The Little Mermaid, Alan Menken was brought back for a second venture by Disney, taking on the classic tale of “Beauty and The Beast.” Just as he did in his previous work, Menken’s score immediately sets a tone for the film and the world within it. Though the song is inviting, it is also foreboding, with darker tones seemingly warning that there is beauty as well as danger to be found in the world we are entering.

The opening number is spoken over by a narrator, telling the tale of a prince cursed by an enchantress in a long-forgotten castle. But the song stands on its own, telling a story with music and not mere words. The initial teaser trailer for the 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast recognized this, arranging a piece that began with the melody of Alan Menken’s “Prologue” before transitioning into an epic reworking of the movie’s signature song.

“This Land,” Composed by Hans Zimmer, The Lion King (1994)

Hans Zimmer Composer

Credit: Masterclass

It is tough to imagine The Lion King without any of its signature songs (though the 2019 remake certainly tried to). But just as essential to the tale of Simba as the musical numbers are the absolutely amazing score of Hans Zimmer. Interestingly enough, prior to this film, Zimmer’s only work on a score of a feature-length animated film was 1993’s Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

In this writer’s opinion, Simba’s hero’s journey is treated equally as epic as the Dark Knight’s in “This Land.” The piece scores the climactic scene in which Simba confronts the spirit of his father and the ghosts of his past before deciding, at last, to rise to claim his rightful place as King of Pride Rock.

“Farewell,” Composed by Alan Menken, Pocahontas (1995).

Alan Menken returned to score a Disney animated classic for the fourth time with Pocahontas. For his efforts, Menken received critical and commercial success once more, taking home the Oscars for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score as well as Best Original Song for “Colors of the Wind.” But one standout musical piece is not at the film’s introduction or climax, but its finale. The parting of John Smith incorporates musical themes from almost every character, as they say, “Farewell.” We hear both “Colors of the Wind” as well as the (tragically cut for the final film) love theme “If I Never Knew You.” One cannot help but feel emotional as the music swells and Pocahontas runs as fast as she can for one last glimpse of the ship sailing into the distance.

“Mulan’s Decision,” Composed by Jerry Goldsmith, Mulan (1998).

Jerry Goldsmith Composer

Credit: Universal Pictures

Composer Jerry Goldsmith has the very unique distinction of being the most nominated composer ever to have won only one Oscar. Receiving 18 total nominations, he only won for his work on the horror classic The Omen in 1976. But only Goldsmith’s unique sound could make Mulan the epic animated classic it is. Most memorable of Mulan’s musical moments is the score featured during the haircut scene.

The song “Mulan’s Decision,” marking her fateful choice to leave and fight for China, is actually different in the soundtrack album. The official soundtrack album uses an orchestrated score while the movie uses heavy synthesizer music, gearing up Mulan for battle in a singular montage that would not be out of place in an 80’s action movie. The synthesizer version is only available on the limited edition CD.

“Define Dancing,” Composed by Thomas Newman, Wall-E (2008).

Thomas Newman Composer

Credit: Universal Pictures

Thomas Newman has collaborated on Disney, and Pixar features for several years, beginning with Finding Nemo in 2003 and most recently with its sequel Finding Dory in 2016. 2008 marked a truly masterful work with the score for Disney Pixar’s Wall-E. The film, starring two robots falling in love with little to no spoken dialogue, and helping mankind regain its humanity in the process, was highly conceptual.

Wall-E relied on gifted animators to convey real emotion on the robots’ inanimate faces, as well as a score that perfectly partnered with their journey. Thomas Newman delivered, and this is best exemplified in “Define Dancing,” which plays as Wall-E and EVE float gracefully through space in a cosmic dance.

“Married Life,” Composed by Michael Giacchino, Up (2009).

Michael Giacchino Composer

Credit: Movies Matrix

Another rendition from Sam Yung’s Disney collection, “Married Life,” is the famous opening number from Pixar‘s Up that documents the lifelong love story of Carl and Ellie. Composer Michael Giacchino has scored several Pixar films, including The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and COCO. But “Married Life” stands distinct from all other pieces by the composer for perfectly conveying every high and low in the lives of Carl and Ellie as a married couple in music.

Sam Yung’s stripped-down piano cover takes these emotional beats and emphasizes them so that they hit even harder, making the lows feel emotionally devastating while still being beautiful.

“Fairy Tale/Going Home (Ray’s Death)” Composed by Randy Newman, The Princess and the Frog (2009).

Randy Newman Composer

Credit: D23

Randy Newman was officially declared a Disney Legend in the year 2007, known mainly for his work on Pixar films, most famously with his song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story. But his bouncy jazzy score is also the background music for Walt Disney Animation Studio’s The Princess and the Frog. The most beautiful moment of the film, when firefly Ray is at last united with his true love Evangeline among the stars, is backed by a section of score that punctuates the moment perfectly.

These are just some of the beautiful Disney moments brought to life with the art of music. What are your favorite moments from Disney compositions?

Disclaimer: The following opinions expressed in this article are that of the writer and may not reflect the opinions of Disney Fanatic as a whole.

About Maggie Koch