The Songs Best Forgotten From Disney
March 27, 2019
Mister D: I couldn’t put these two Bette Midler songs on this list, although I really didn’t like God Help The Outcasts, because, basically, I’m one. But I’m glad I’m one and don’t want to cry about it. So damn that song, LOL But Perfect Isn’t Easy should not be on this list by a long shot. To hear the rest of the songs: Click Here
This week marks the arrival of Disney’s first major non-Marvel film of 2019, a live-action/CG remake of their beloved 1941 animated picture Dumbo. Like many of the greatest Disney animated films, Dumbo is as well known for its charming and cute characters as it is for at least one memorable song, the heartbreaking “Baby Mine”. But let’s turn the natural question — what are the best Disney songs? — on its head. Instead, let’s think about some songs you … might not want to think about; the songs that are just bad.
With more than 50 movies in the Disney feature-animation canon (so no Pixar), there are plenty of Disney songs to sift through, some of which are quite terrible. This list will look at 15 of those songs that are best left forgotten, ranked from least awful to most awful. Listen to them below at your own peril.
- “It’s Gonna Be Great”
From Winnie the Pooh (2001)
Up front, the 2011 film Winnie the Pooh is wonderful and you should watch it as soon as you finish reading this list. Most of the music in the film is quite lovely and sweet, with just “It’s Gonna Be Great” as a swing and a miss. Sung between
2. “One Last Hope”
From Hercules (1997)
Some songs in the 1997 film Hercules are charming and upbeat, with a gospel flair. But then there’s “One Last Hope”, which feels like a sop to the style of earlier Disney Renaissance songs. Though this film, from the directors of Aladdin, has a Genie-like character in the form of the nefarious Hades, our hero also has a wacky comic-relief friend, his coach Phil. He’s never quite as funny as the film thinks he is. And since he’s voiced by Danny DeVito, the singing in “One Last Hope”, as Phil describes how Hercules represents his last gasp at respectability, is never that melodic. The idea for this song might have worked if Hercules came earlier in the Renaissance, but the song feels like an also-ran.
3. “On My Way”
From Brother Bear (2003)
Phil Collins wasn’t the first pop star to work on a Disney animated film, but it’s still rare for a songwriter to perform their own songs over the soundtrack in films like Brother Bear. For “On My Way,” a treacly number meant to be bouncy and energetic, he takes over for Jeremy Suarez, playing the cuddly bear Koda, after the first couple of verses. While Collins has a perfectly decent singing voice, there’s something about removing the characters’ voices that just emphasizes how the songs in Brother Bear don’t even feel like they should be there at all. “On My Way” is less terrible than it is forgettable, a sin in and of itself for a Disney song.
4. “Perfect Isn’t Easy”
From Oliver & Company (1988)
The title doesn’t lie! That’s the good part of this song. On paper, giving a big, brassy number to Bette Midler, voicing a stuck-up poodle in New York City, makes sense. She can belt with the best of them, and this number is meant to be appropriately diva-esque. But “Perfect Isn’t Easy” is a gaudy, silly song that tries awfully hard to be funny without ever succeeding. Most of the music in this 1988 animated film has gone by the wayside, with just “Why Should I Worry?” standing up even slightly to the test of time. “Perfect Isn’t Easy” may be correct, but it’s also exhausting.
5.“God Help the Outcasts”
From The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
There are some all-time classic songs in Disney’s 1996 adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel. And there are also a couple of real whiffs (“A Guy Like You,” I am looking in your direction). “God Help the Outcasts” is a number first performed by the comely gypsy Esmeralda as she bemoans the state of affairs in Paris during the events of the film. In some respects, this fits in line with a lot of Disney songs of the era: it’s a ballad meant to showcase a female character’s vocal range. But the woman voicing Esmeralda, Demi Moore, didn’t sing the song (and it is very obvious); though it’s sung well, the lyrics dive straight into treacly and annoying. For all the good music in this film, when it gets bad, it gets rough.
From Pocahontas (1995)
On one hand, you almost want to give credit to Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz for trying to do something intelligent with this song. The title may give you pause, but the intent of the song is to capture a “both sides” debate, as both the English settlers and Native Americans perceive each other
7. “My Funny Friend and Me”
From The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
Though this Sting song is a pretty big snooze, the history surrounding the number is nothing short of fascinating. The 2000 film The Emperor’s New Groove has, over nearly two decades, gained a pretty solid cult fanbase, all the more impressive because the movie was almost entirely different. The film was supposed to be an all-out musical, a more richly complex and emotional story akin to The Lion King before Disney’s top brass decided to go in an entirely different direction. Most of the songs Sting wrote for the original version were nixed, but this still played over the credits. And it shouldn’t have even gotten that much exposure; title aside, this is a weirdly somber number that’s easy to nap through.
8.“One Little Slip”
From Chicken Little (2005)
Sometimes, a song suffers by association. The Barenaked Ladies are a perfectly enjoyable musical group, and they’ve made many catchy songs. “One Little Slip” is not one of them, coming as part of the package known as the worst Disney animated film, Chicken Little. Though “One Little Slip” is very much in line with BNL’s style of bouncy, poppy, upbeat music, the song feels part and parcel of the overall problems the film exhibits. It’s a movie all about capturing what seemed hip and cool a couple years before it was released, ensuring how dated it felt immediately upon release. With this song, part of the problem is simple: BNL has made better music, just as Disney has made better songs. Move past this one.
9. “Fixer Upper”
From Frozen (2013)
Yes, I went there. Yes, one of the songs from Frozen is close to the pits of Disney animation. Review, for a second, one of the main storylines of the movie: characters criticize heroine Anna (Kristen Bell) for falling in love with a prince who she just met. (And, by the film’s end, it’s revealed that they’re right to criticize her because that prince is a villain.) But Anna also gets pretty quickly connected to ice-salesman Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), a romance that hits a low point with “Fixer Upper.” It doesn’t help that the troll subplot in Frozen is barely sketched in — not only is one of the magic, but they apparently raised Kristoff — and that this song, in which the trolls try to goad Anna to get with Kristoff, climaxes in them almost being married. It’s as obnoxious as it is bouncy.
10. “Song of the Roustabouts”
From Dumbo (1941)
When Disney announced that it was doing a remake of Dumbo, there was the inevitable amount of joking online about whether or not the new version would incorporate “When I See an Elephant Fly” and the racial stereotyping inherent in the original film’s depiction. (For the uninitiated, the song is performed by a group of crows seemingly racially coded to African Americans, a connection made worse because the lead vocalist, Cliff Edwards, was white.) But “When I See an Elephant Fly” doesn’t approach the same racial stereotyping present in “Song of the Roustabouts,” in which Dumbo and the other elephants help pitch circus tents with dark-skinned, literally faceless circus workers. It doesn’t help that the supposedly happy roustabouts say they “never learned to read or write”. Bad, bad song.
From Home on the Range (2004)
Your mileage may vary on this song, written by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, in part because you might be the kind of person who likes yodeling. For those of us who don’t, “Yodle-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Oo” is pretty rough. Home on the Range is one of the last hand-drawn animated films from Walt Disney Animation Studios, and far from their finest offering. (Though, hey, if you’re a fan, I hope you’re preparing to celebrate its 15th anniversary in April.) The song in question is sung by the villain (voiced by Randy Quaid, just one of a number of actors in this film whose presence has not held up well), as he reveals his Pied-Piper-like ability to lure cattle into his clutches. It’s a weird song.
12. “Trashin’ the Camp”
From Tarzan (1999)
There’s a couple of solid songs in Tarzan, Disney’s 1999 adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs character, such as “You’ll Be In My Heart” and “Son of Man”. But then there’s the exhausting “Trashin’ the Camp”, in which a group of jungle animals
13. “The Siamese Cat Song”
From Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Here’s the good news about “The Siamese Cat Song” from the 1955 film Lady and the Tramp: the actual melody is fairly memorable, and not in an annoying, earworm-y kind of way. That is the end of the good news. Even if you leave aside the aggressive racial stereotyping in the song, performed by twin Siamese cats who have slanted eyes and speak with heavy accents, this song serves no real purpose in the story. The cats never show up after the scene in which they perform the song, destroying the well-appointed house they’re visiting with their harridan of an owner.
14.“Scales and Arpeggios”
From The Aristocats (1970)
Not every bad song from Disney animated movies has a whiff of racism surrounding it. Take, for instance, this number from the 1970 animated film The Aristocats. Coming early in the story, the song is a way for the kittens in the story to show off their twinkly piano-playing skills. The song is designed to essentially mirror the upward and downward scales and arpeggios that young pianists may have to learn, which ends up making it sound exceedingly obnoxious. It doesn’t help that the child singers’ voices are, well, child voices, making it sound kind of shaky too. Some songs are just insufferable for being sappy, overly saccharine, and annoying, and this is right up there.
15.“What Made the Red Man Red?”
From Peter Pan (1953)
You have probably seen the 1953 film Peter Pan a few times before. The story itself is one of the most ubiquitous in modern popular culture, and this Disney version inspired an immensely popular theme-park attraction, among other things. But you might not remember this song — or you’ve tried to forget it. The title is a clue to its embarrassingly offensive depiction of Native Americans, as Peter, Wendy, John, and Michael meet the family of Princess Tiger Lily, including a chieftain who deeply intones “How” as a greeting and another character who tells Wendy “Squaw get ‘em firewood”. This is the pits of Disney animation and music.