Call them all Disney Princes, call them Disney heroes, I prefer to call them the Disney Dudes. These are the underrated male leads of Disney animated films that are tragically underrepresented in Disney marketing and merchandise. I have already advocated the need for Disney to publicly have an official lineup of their most marketable males to stand as role-models for young boys.
But for this to be a reality, they need something that every one of the Disney Princess has, and many of them did not get in their original films, a signature song. Fortunately, though you may not be aware of them all, many of the Disney Dudes were given opportunities to sing their hearts out outside of their movies. Here are the 12 Anthems of the Disney Dudes.
“The Boy Who Never Grew Up”
(Peter Pan, 1953)
“I’ve gotta crow!
I’m just the cleverest fellow
‘Twas ever my fortune to know;
I give the sign and the sunlight will shine
And the forest will grow
And the rivers will flow
I’ve gotta crow!
Don’t be such a sissy, prim and prissy
Let out the crow!
You’ve nothing to fear.”
Peter Pan the musical, based on J.M. Barie’s original novel, debuted on Broadway in 1953. In 1955 NBC Broadcast the show with its original lead, the first full-length Broadway production on color TV. Star, four-time Tony award winner Mary Martin, is seen above in the original telecast singing the reprise of Pan’s signature song “I’ve Got a Crow”. Most solos from Broadway leads like this one can be classified into broad categories such as “I am” songs (songs that describe who a character is) or “I want” songs (songs that describe what a character desires).
“I’ve Got a Crow” is the former, a song that describes Pan’s defining characteristic, his confidence, and the signature sound he uses to express it, his “crow”. The reprise shows him passing on this sound to Wendy, and the audience by proxy, teaching us to come at life with a proud and confident air.
(Sleeping Beauty, 1959)
“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream
I know you, that gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam
And I know it’s true that visions are seldom all they seem
But if I know you, I know what you’ll do
You’ll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream.”
Sleeping Beauty, like most fairy-tales, originated as oral folktales passed on to others individually. It wasn’t until French writer Charles Perrault documented “La Belle au bois dormant” in his fairy-tale collection of 1697, and the German Brothers Grimm “Dornröschen” in theirs, that Sleeping Beauty was preserved as we know it today. Russian ballet “Spyashchaya krasavitsa” from composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky debuted in 1890 and became one of the most famous ballets in history, as well as the most well-known iterations of the title heroine.
The musical arrangements from this ballet subsequently became the basis for the soundtrack of Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty in 1959. Because of this, Phillip does not have a solo song as he would in a traditional music theater format, rather a classic “meeting of the young lovers” as is seen in many classic ballets. His introduction is in his charming of the young maiden, in “Once Upon a Dream”.
“Voyager of the Sea”
(The Little Mermaid, 1989)
“I can sense her laughter
In the ripple of the waves against the shoreline
I can see her smiling
In the moonlight as it settles on the sand
I can feel her waiting
Just beyond the pale horizon
Singing out a melody too lovely to withstand.”
“Her Voice” is the beautiful “I want” song of Prince Eric from Broadway’s The Little Mermaid. The song takes what was just a small scene from the animated film, Prince Eric longingly staring into the ocean wondering where the mysterious girl he saw that day on the shore could be, and expands it. His longing to find the voice that haunts him is conveyed with beautiful lyrics and a score that sails high into the rafters, slowly drifting us all away.
Eric is, after all, a sailor first. The song is reprised in the hauntingly beautiful quartet “If Only” which sees Prince Eric, Ariel, Sebastian, and King Triton, all convey their deepest desires. The song becomes even more meaningful the second time it appears because finding the voice that still haunts him means losing the wonderful girl who he had just met, unaware they are one in the same.
“The Cursed Prince”
(Beauty and the Beast, 1991)
“And in my twisted face
There’s not the slightest trace
Of anything that even hints of kindness
And from my tortured shape
No comfort, no escape
I see, but deep within is utter blindness
Hopeless, as my dream dies
As the time flies
Love a lost illusion.”
This song is another “I want” number from the male lead, that conveys a very deep agony. “If I Can’t Love Her” from Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast, starring Terrence Mann and Susan Egan, is a song placed in the narrative after the explosive scene in The West Wing of the castle. What was once the roars of a beast as Belle flees the castle into the snowy night alone, we hear as a lonely plea full of self-loathing.
The Beast is aware that he does not and could not deserve Belle with his “twisted” appearance and deep inner hopelessness, but he is also aware that she is the only possible hope for him. Its reprise occurs after The Beast willingly sets Belle free from the castle, loving her more than he cares about himself in a beautiful and tragic moment. The song was replaced in the live-action film adaptation with the vastly inferior “Evermore” but “If I Can’t Love Her” is the number that truly captures the heart of the Beast.
“A Diamond in the Rough”
“Water flows under the bridge, let it pass, let it go
There’s no good reason that you should believe me, not yet
I know, but someday and soon
I’ll make you proud of your boy
Though I can’t make myself taller
Or smarter or handsome or wiseI’ll do my best, what else can I do?”
“The Captain of the Guard”
(The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996)
“Like other true knights
I’ve got ambition
But for a few nights
Fun is my mission
So what do you say
Care to share a day
Of rest and recreation?”
The Hunchback of Notre Dame musical is quite interesting, as the plot is based on Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, but the songs are from the 1996 Walt Disney film of the same name with some cuts and additions to the soundtrack. It originally came to the stage in 1999 as a Berlin production, with the English adaptation not being made until 2014. It ran in an off-Broadway production from 2014-2015. One of the more welcome additions to the book is Captain Phoebus’ solo number “Rest and Relaxation” and “I want” number that is an open love letter to human vice.
Phoebus outlines his plans to waste his days before being officially instated as Captain on wine and women, not yet knowing his life will soon be changed forever by a certain gypsy girl. Though it demonstrates darker themes of the story than the animated Disney tale, as does the entire show, the song is still a high-energy highlight.
“The Boy, and the God”
“I will beat the odds
I can go the distance
I will face the world
Fearless, proud, and strong
I will please the gods
I can go the distance
‘Til I find my hero’s welcome right where I belong!”
One of the standout songs of the Disney Renaissance, “I Can Go the Distance” is a Disney classic. It serves as an “I want” song, soundtracking the main character’s desire to have a place where he belongs. The song goes on to send Hercules on his hero’s journey to find his identity, and become a true hero. The song itself has certainly gone the distance, becoming perhaps the greatest legacy from the film as a whole. The 1997 film version is performed by the voice of Hercules actor Roger Bart, with the soundtrack version covered by recording artist Michael Bolton. The song was nominated for both an Oscar and golden globe, and the soundtrack version peaked at 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. We may yet see another version be released upon Disney’s live-action remake of the animated classic.
“General of the Chinese Army”
“Tranquil as a forest
But on fire within
Once you find your center
You are sure to winYou’re a spineless, pale, pathetic lot
And you haven’t got a clue
Somehow I’ll make a man out of you.”
“I got to know where I belong
I got to know where I came from
I got to know the reason why I’m here
The way I am
Feeling the things I feel
These spirits calling me
Familiar voices haunting
Disappearing taunting me
This is the choice I must make.”
Disney’s Tarzan has no shortage of amazing songs from writer Phil Collins in its original soundtrack. However, this “I am” song written for the 2006 Broadway production is an addition that is welcome. “Everything I Am” takes place when Tarzan’s adoptive mother Kala takes him to the treehouse where she first found him and gives him the choice to go with Jane and the others back on their boat to England or stay in the jungle with his ape family. This does not represent a single choice, but a crisis of identity. Throughout the song, as Tarzan takes in his surroundings, he is haunted suddenly by the ghosts of his past, realizing all the things that used to not make sense and now do. He is a man, and he must go on to face a world he has never known. A very powerful moment.
“Discoverer of New Worlds”
(Atlantis: The Lost Empire, 2001)
“They’ll try to hold you back
They will say your wrong
But they will never understand
The journey that your on.”
As Atlantis is not a musical, but a serious science fiction adventure, there is not a song in the narrative sung by main character Milo Thatch. Nor sadly, is there a well-known end-credits signature song from the film that perfectly illustrates the character and his motivations. No, Milo receives only this underwhelming and forgettable R&B ballad “Where the Dream Takes You” from pop star Mya.
Frankly, the song’s tone does not fit the film whatsoever. However, the generic motivational lyrics do fit the main character, as they would for literally anyone that has a dream they wish to follow. Milo Thatch deserved a song as epic sounding as the journey he goes on. As the film was released in 2001, I recommend instead listening to 2001’s Billboard #1 hit “Hanging by a Moment” by Lifehouse. See Milo “desperate for changing, starving for truth” and picture the film leads Milo and Kida falling in love every moment they are together.
“Young Space Adventurer”
(Treasure Planet, 2002)
“I am a question to the world,
Not an answer to be heard
Or a moment that’s held in your arms.
And what do you think you’d ever say?
I won’t listen anyway…
You don’t know me,
And I’ll never be what you want me to be.”
Jim Hawkins is a character who, like Milo Thatch before him, deserved better. Though both of their films were incredibly epic and very creative, they are underrepresented in Disney canon. But, unlike Milo, Jim does have an amazing signature song “I’m Still Here” AKA Jim’s Theme. Artist John Rzeznik is best known as the guitarist and frontman of the Goo Goo Dolls, with whom he has recorded 12 total studio albums. Following the release of 2002’s Gutterflower, with the single “Here is Gone” peaking at 18 on the Billboard charts; he wrote both “Always Know Where You Are” and “I’m Still Here” for the film independently of the band. The lyrics are, simply put, perfect. The sound of the song encompasses both the rebellious youths of the hero as well as the expansive space epic he finds himself thrust into.
“The Notorious Outlaw”
“Everything I’ve yearned for
Everything I planned
All my sweetest memories were castles made of sand
Now that it’s all crumbling
Help me understand
If none of it was really me then who am I supposed to be?”
When Flynn Ryder is shown in Disney’s Tangled at first his dream is to be “…somewhere warm and sunny on an island that I own. Tanned, and rested, and alone surrounded by enormous piles of money.” This is changed drastically when he “sees the light” in Rapunzel. “Now she’s here shining in the starlight. Now she’s here suddenly I know, if she’s here it’s crystal clear I’m where I’m meant to go.” But by the time we meet Eugene once in Tangled: The Series he has lost his place once more. Happily ever after is not as simple as either Rapunzel or Eugene anticipated, and lead to a lost of sense of self for him. This “I am” song conveys the question “Who am I?” It is an excellent expansion of Eugene’s journey as a man.
Those were the official anthems of the unofficial Disney Dudes. Some songs are sorrowful, some longing, some triumphant. But all of them convey strong emotion that makes an anthem an anthem, declaring to the world in s strong way who one is or what they want. Which of these anthems from Disney Dudes are your favorite? Are there any you hadn’t heard of until now (besides “Where the Dream Takes You”- because I think we all intentionally blocked that one out)? Let us know!