Disney and music have historically been a very symbiotic relationship. Disney’s storytelling sets the bar high and is almost always supported by a magical soundtrack. The House of Mouse is no stranger to marvelous musicals and spellbinding scores.
The Walt Disney Company was born almost 100 years ago and proved its inclination for innovation by developing the immensely popular character Mickey Mouse, who initially debuted in Steamboat Willie. Steamboat Willie is the first post-produced sound cartoon that employed synced sound, and with that, Disney quickly established itself as a leader in the animation industry.
One of the most beloved brands in the world is the Disney musicals series. The featured musical numbers are one of the Disney singing movies’ most significant components. These tunes can be anything from exciting dance songs to heartfelt ballads and almost always earns a place amongst the zeitgeist.
In 2010, with the Tim Burton-directed Alice In Wonderland release, Disney continued its foray into live-action remakes of their animated classics. Fast forward to now with the most recent release of their 2023 live-action remake of The Little Mermaid making a splash in theaters worldwide. Audiences can see the live-action remake trend picking up steam as Disney announces plans for even more remakes through 2024 and beyond.
Tunefind dives into the musicality and nostalgia that lives within Disney’s music magic that is most certainly, part of your world.
A Whole New World
So far, Disney has remade some of their most popular animated musicals, including 1992’s Aladdin, 1998’s Mulan, and 1989’s The Little Mermaid. Many millennials will have childhood memories of at least one of these classics if not all of them. With the nostalgia of the movies comes the familiarity of the accompanying time-honored soundtracks. Many of the live-action remakes include versions of the classic songs and, sometimes, even brand-new original songs made specifically for the remakes.
Aladdin’s 2019 live-action remake gifted fans with a new original song titled ‘Speechless.’ The new addition provided an updated and empowered narrative for the main character, Princess Jasmine.
The following year Disney released it’s 2020 live-action remake of Mulan. The 1998 animated version of Mulan is well-known for it’s many musical numbers and included a soundtrack full of plot-related pop tracks. The live-action remake, understandably, went in a slightly different direction and mostly used instrumental pieces that served as a callback to the original movie.
Mulan (2020) did provide fans with an entirely new song titled ‘Loyal, Brave, True’ that was an excellent addition to the spirit of the franchise. Christina Aguilera, who provides the vocals to the original film’s iconic song ‘Reflection,’ lended her voice once again when she recorded ‘Loyal, Brave, True.’
On May 26th, 2023 the long anticipated live-action remake of The Little Mermaid was released in theaters. The 1989 version of The Little Mermaid is another true blue representation of a Disney Princess with unforgettable songs. The film won two Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song (‘Under the Sea’).
Luckily for fans, the 2023 remake includes new renditions of the many classic songs in addition to some new original tracks. Most notably, the live-action version includes songs such as ‘For The First Time,’ sung by Hallé Bailey’s Ariel, and a genre shift rap track titled ‘The Scuttlebutt.’
The Circle of Life
Disney musicals are well suited for the screen and for the stage. Classic animations such as The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid have been adapted as stage productions that not only honor the essence of the original movies, but also expand them in ways that only live theater can do.
The Lion King is one of the most successful animation-to-stage crossovers with the stage production going on to be the third-longest-running musical in Broadway history. With music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, the Broadway musical has earned six Tony Awards including Best Musical.
The Broadway production added more musical numbers to what was originally featured in the animated film. Sung by characters Zazu, Mufasa, and young Simba, the song ‘The Morning Report’ is an extension of the scene in the original film where Zazu delivers a morning report to Mufasa.
The song was later added, with an accompanying animated sequence, to the film for its 2002 IMAX limited theatrical release. Only to be cut from the Broadway production in 2010, when a total of 9 mins was shaved off of the show’s runtime. Talk about the circle of life.
The Lion King went from the 1994 animated film, to the Broadway stage, and then back to the big screen when Disney released the live-action remake of the original animation. Beyoncé Knowles was cast in the live-action film as the voice of lioness Nala. The superstar’s casting in the most recent incarnation of The Lion King came with an original song, recorded by Queen Bey, featured in the live-action remake and on it’s soundtrack. ‘Spirit’ is written and produced by Ilya Salmanzadeh, Labrinth, and Beyoncé, and lyrically discusses Simba’s return home. Hans Zimmer, who composed the music in the 2019 remake, explained that ‘Spirit’ was the final addition to the soundtrack and was initially slotted in for the end credits.
Disney’s 1991 animated musical Beauty and the Beast was the first animated movie to ever take home the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Additionally, it was the first animated movie to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award at the 64th Academy Awards, where it won for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for the film’s theme song sung by Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts.
The animated classic version of Beauty and the Beast was dedicated to lyricist Howard Ashman who passed away shortly before the movie was released. Ashman worked closely with composer Alan Menken The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. The 2017 live-action remake honored Howard as well, after additional verses of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ were discovered and incorporated into the film.
In April 1994, Beauty and the Beast became Disney’s first animated film to be adapted into a Broadway musical. All 8 songs from the animated film were reused in the musical and original songwriter Alan Menken composed 6 new songs for the production alongside lyricist Tim Rice.
The stage production also included a resurrected musical number which had been cut from the motion picture. The song ‘Human Again’ was originally created for the movie but ended up shelved due to time and story constraints. The musical number was eventually revived for the stage and included in the Broadway production. Since 2002 the song has been featured in the special edition of the movie.
Over 25 years after the animated original, Beauty and the Beast would return to the screen when Disney released the 2017 live-action remake starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as Beast. Director Bill Condon drew inspiration from the original film and wanted to include songs from the Broadway musical. Composer Alan Menken returned to score the new version of the film and created four new songs. An instrumental version of the song ‘Home’, which was written for the musical, is used during the scene where Belle first enters her room in the castle.
The 2017 live-action remake also included 2 new original songs that can both be heard in the film’s end credits. Powerhouse vocalist Celine Dion, who had originally lended her vocals on a duet of the theme for the original animated feature, returned in 2017 with the song ‘How Does A Moment Last Forever’.
Josh Groban sang the new original song ‘Evermore’. ‘Evermore’ was first recorded for the film by actor Dan Stevens, who performs the song for his starring role as the Beast. Josh Groban’s version was released first on March 3, 2017 and is played during the film’s closing credits.
Be Our Guest
The TV special featured singer-songwriter H.E.R. as Belle and Josh Groban as the Beast. The characters perform renditions of five songs from the animated film, and ‘Evermore’ from the 2017 live-action version. Paige O’Hara (the original voice of Belle), Richard White (the original voice of Gaston) and composer Alan Menken cameo as, respectively, the Bookseller, the Baker, and the piano player during ‘Belle.’
Initially, Celine Dion, who performed the titular song for the animated film with Peabo Bryson for the end credits, was approached to play Mrs. Potts, but Shania Twain was later offered the role. Twain also sang the titular track with Alan Menken on the piano, as a tribute to Angela Lansbury (the voice of Mrs. Potts in the original film), who died in October 2022.
In 2019 The Little Mermaid Live! received a television special as part of The Wonderful World of Disney to mark the 30th anniversary of the animated film’s original release. The special was watched by 9.01 million viewers, making it the highest-rated made-for-TV musical on any network at the time of its release. Auliʻi Cravalho (from Disney’s Moana) stars as Princess Ariel, alongside Queen Latifah, Shaggy, John Stamos, Amber Riley and Graham Phillips.
The hybrid format special was performed in front of a live audience on the Disney lot, where the animated film was projected on a giant projection surface and interwoven with live musical performances of songs from the film and the Broadway stage version.
A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes
Not all Disney stories are musicals but a lot of Disney’s magic is borrowed from folk and fairy tales. These Disney animated classics and their accompanying remakes may not be musicals in the classic sense but they all have great music to offer.
The animated classic Cinderella was released by Disney in 1950 and is based on the 1697 fairy tale of the same name. One of the most recognizable songs from the film is the classic ‘A Dream is A Wish Your Heart Makes.’ In 2015 Disney released a live-action Cinderella adaptation starring Lily James as Cinderella and Helena Bonham Carter as her Fairy Godmother. The live-action version included covers of ‘A Dream is A Wish Your Heart Makes’ by Lily James and the classic ‘Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo’ by Helena Bonham Carter in the movies post credits.
In 1953 Disney released an animated film titled Peter Pan that is based off the 1904 play Peter Pan, also known as the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up by J. M. Barrie. Most recently, Disney released a live-action adaptation of their original animated Peter Pan. 2023’s Peter Pan & Wendy was released exclusively on Disney+ on April 28th. Peter Pan & Wendy features original songs performed by Captain Hook’s pirates, similar to the animated version. A live-action film based on the Peter Pan character Tinker Bell is currently in development by Walt Disney Studios and is currently expected in 2025.
Maleficent is a 2014 live-action retelling of Disney’s 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty. The film stars Angelina Jolie as the title character and portrays the story from the perspective of the eponymous antagonist. The classic animation features a well known track titled ‘Once Upon A Dream’ that Princess Aurora sings when she meets Prince Phillip. Lana Del Rey covered the ‘Once Upon a Dream’ as the title song for 2014’s Maleficent.
Tim Burton’s 2010 live-action remake of Alice in Wonderland created an album of songs that were inspired by the songs from the 1951 Disney animated film. However Burton’s remake did include Avril Lavigne’s song ‘Alice’ in the movie’s end credits.
The Jungle Book live-action remake used songs from the 1967 Disney animated version but made some changes to update the soundtrack. Largely, Kaa, the gigantic Indian python, was gender swapped in the remake and voiced by actress Scarlett Johansson. Following the 2016 film’s critical success, the studio has begun working on a sequel titled The Jungle Book 2 is in development and currently expected in 2026.
In addition, slated for the next few years include TV and film remakes such as, Tiana the series from Princess and the Frog, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hercules.
Check out the official Tunefind Disney playlist below!