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April 18, 2024


Not too long ago, we published a Bitesize Top Five on Best Original Songs, and although I understand the choices we ultimately ended up with, I was quite surprised by the lack of Disney inclusion – not even in the Honourable Mentions! Having grown up in Disney’s Renaissance Era, the studio’s extremely musical animated offerings in the 90s have always held a special place with me. So, since they were ignored in our Original Song Top Five, I figured I’d give them their own list.

Before I get into my personal selections, however, a couple of notes...A lot of the early Disney Classics feature only one hit song. You have “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio, “The Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book, and so on. Although those soundtracks, as a whole, may not be super strong, they usually have at least one iconic tune that has stood the test of time. The Renaissance Era changed that a bit as music became a key component of Disney movies in the 90s, and my personal favourite from this sub-category of stand-alone hits happens to be from 1997’s Hercules: “Go the Distance.” Truth be told, I’m not a huge Hercules fan, nor am I particularly a Michael Bolton fan (“Jack Sparrow,” notwithstanding), but the marriage of the two is pure magic. It’s an underrated track in the Disney pantheon that deserves more recognition. I also wanted to focus this list on the Disney Renaissance Era (1989-1999), specifically, so films like Mary Poppins, Encanto, Frozen, and Moana will not be included.

Let’s dive in!

5. ALADDIN (1992)

When I mentioned Disney stand-alone hits above, I initially thought of “A Whole New World” until I took another look at the Aladdin soundtrack. Although that song remains supreme, it’s a deceptively catchy tracklist, especially with comedy master Robin Williams at work on songs like “Prince Ali” and “Friend Like Me.” The man can do no wrong. But if that’s not your flavour, you’ve got the dark “Arabian Nights” or the fun romp that is “One Jump Ahead.” Aladdin also is the rare occasion when one of the new tracks from the live-action adaptation is able to stand with the original, as Naomi Scott’s Jasmine finally gets her solo with “Speechless.” She does a great job, and her performance is worth checking out. The movie? Less so.


As I’ve implied above, I believe the 90s to be the strongest Disney era, musically speaking, and one of the first Disney soundtracks to overflow with catchy and memorable music was Beauty and the Beast. I mean, it’s a tale as old as time, amirite? There are character-focused songs like “Belle” and “Gaston,” which perfectly suit their onscreen counterparts. Or how about the visual wonder displayed during the “Be Our Guest” sequence? However, the pièce de résistance is screen legend Angela Lansbury's take on the title track, “Beauty and the Beast.” Fun movie fact: Lansbury took the role as a gift for her three grandchildren, and her character, Mrs. Potts, tells the beautiful tale of unexpected love through magnificent song. It’s easily the lasting musical moment of the film.


A lot of Disney films have themes of belonging, family, love, loss, and dreams. The Little Mermaid may be the greatest embodiment of these ideals wrapped into one package. Who would have thought a film where the lead character loses her voice would present such great musical numbers? “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl” are among the most fun songs you’ll find in a Disney film, as their island vibe makes it near impossible to sit still while listening. You also have the lesser mentioned “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” a track that is not only solid on its base merits, but also serves a greater purpose as it solidifies Ursula as the villain of the film. Then you have “Part of Your World,” a song that is wonderfully performed by Jodi Benson, yet topped by Halle Bailey in the 2023 live-action adaptation. Seriously, if you’re like many who gave up on the live-action Disney remakes, I suggest you give this one a shot. It’s a pleasant surprise.

2. THE LION KING (1994)

Unlike The Little Mermaid, I will not be taking up space to recommend checking out the live-action adaptation of The Lion King. I will, however, talk about the 1994 original. I mean, of course this was going to be on the list. After all, it even spawned a full stage musical. The cool thing about The Lion King soundtrack is that most songs have two versions. There are the ones performed in the film, and the ones performed by Elton John on the commercial soundtrack release; both have merits. Jason Weaver (yes, Marcus from Smart Guy did the singing for young Simba, not Jonathan Taylor Thomas) brings a youthful exuberance to “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” which works better than the rockin’ honky-tonk version John supplies. Likewise, “Hakuna Matata” is carried by the child-friendly, onscreen comedy act of Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella. However, it’s the two main songs performed by John that are among the best pieces of music to come from any Disney film to date: “The Circle of Life” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” These two songs not only elevate the film to be the greatest animated movie Disney has ever made, but the latter track is still being played on radio to this day.

1. TARZAN (1999)

Ok, so we’ve done Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King… what’s left? Pocahontas? The Hunchback of Notre Dame? No, no... this is a list of the best Disney soundtracks, and you can’t make one of those without talking about Phil Collins. I’ll gladly match Tarzan’s tracklist against any of those mentioned above. “Two Worlds,” “Son of Man,” “Strangers Like Me,” “You’ll Be In My Heart,” — just banger after banger. The messaging permeating the film is one of acceptance, and it’s present in the music too. I mean, “two worlds, one family?” That’s just a beautiful concept for children to learn. Nearly 25 years later, and “Strangers Like Me” is still a semi-frequent earworm, while “You’ll Be In My Heart” tugs at my heartstrings like few Disney tracks can. It is, to this day, my favourite Phil Collins song. There’s even a collaboration between *NSYNC and Collins doing some scatting on “Trashin’ the Camp.” There’s something for everyone! Jokes aside, though, this soundtrack is an all-timer, and easily the best Disney has had to offer.

Photo Credits: Walt Disney Studios

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