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Top 10 Instrumental Disney Songs

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Nick Spake If Disney has taught us anything, it’s that animation and music go hand in hand. Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the top 10 Instrumental Disney songs. For this list, we’re taking a look at the best original pieces of music from Disney’s animated features that manage to tell a story and express a character’s emotions without the accompaniment of lyrics. However, we’ve excluded musical scores from live-action films like “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Special thanks to our user kenn1987 for submitting the idea on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at http://www.MsMojo.tv
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Top 10 Instrumental Disney Songs


If Disney has taught us anything, it’s that animation and music go hand in hand. Welcome to MsMojo and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 instrumental Disney songs.

For this list, we’re taking a look at the best original pieces of music from Disney’s animated features that manage to tell a story and express a character’s emotions without the accompaniment of lyrics. However, we’ve excluded musical scores from live-action films like “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

#10: “Define Dancing”
“WALL-E” (2008)


To bring to life his surprisingly heart-warming story about a lonely robot on a garbage-covered Earth, Pixar mainstay Andrew Stanton teamed up once again with composer Thomas Newman – with whom he’d previously worked on “Finding Nemo.” It was no easy feat scoring a mainly silent film, but the pair worked together to craft ideas for “WALL-E”’s musical identity. One of Newman’s most touching instrumentals is this one, that’s as plucky, upbeat and quirky as the movie’s title character. With this Grammy-winning song acting as the soundtrack for an adorable dance sequence between our love-struck robots, the visuals and music combine for an endearing and unforgettable scene.

#9: “12 Years Later”
“Treasure Planet” (2002)


Yet another Disney feature that’s growing in popularity, “Treasure Planet” is an unlikely medley of old-school swashbuckling and futuristic sci-fi. James Newton Howard’s score wonderfully captures the film’s spirit, particularly in this scene where we’re introduced to an older Jim Hawkins parasailing through the sky. The theme commences with a more timeless, mystical feeling, but then merges with a rockin’ electric guitar. Suddenly, you go from thinking of a pirate ship on the sea to a pirate ship in outer space, summing up much of the inventive imagery on display.

#8: “The Glory Days”
“The Incredibles” (2004)


This instrumental song from “The Incredibles” takes us back to the golden days when superheroes were colorful and lighthearted as opposed to dark and gritty. Reminiscent of the ‘60s “Batman” theme, Michael Giacchino finds just the right balance of whimsy, jazzy, and stupendous. His score constantly leaves you on edge as if you’re reading an old fashioned comic book or watching a classic serial on television. Encompassing elements of heart-racing action and heart-melting romance, it’s nothing short of super.

#7: “Happy Ending”
“The Little Mermaid” (1989)


No matter how grim Disney movies get, you can usually count on the ending being the happiest one imaginable. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in “The Little Mermaid.” This isn’t merely because Ariel becomes human, marries her prince, and reconciles with her father, but because Alan Menken’s score is so triumphantly merry. Just as the film’s opening titles overcome you with enchantment, listening to the film’s ending theme makes you feel like you’re at a fairytale wedding. It’s essentially the embodiment of Disney’s magic in music form.

#6: “The Turtle Lope”
“Finding Nemo” (2003)


This composition from “Finding Nemo” goes through several transitions. It starts off dazed and confused as Marlin awakens following a major blowout. As the clown fish slowly comes to, the score becomes much more flowing and laidback, as if you’re wearily drifting through water. Once Marlin fully comprehends where he is, the audience is overcome with awe-inspiring vibes. From there, it’s a flat-out rollercoaster like you’re surfing a heavy wave with a bunch of righteous turtles.

#5: “Farewell”
“Pocahontas” (1995)


While “Pocahontas” does technically have a happy ending, it doesn’t entirely follow the happily ever after trope because, rather than returning to England with John Smith, our heroine remains with her tribe. And the music conjures all the mixed emotions that accompany farewells. On one hand, you’re saddened to see a loved one leave; on the other hand, you feel stronger having met this individual. Even if Pocahontas and John Smith are separated by land, they’ll always be connected by their memories of each other and the colors of the wind, and Alan Menken’s brilliant musical structure encapsulates it completely.

#4: “Transformation”
“Beauty and the Beast” (1991)


Disney movies have a tendency to make audiences bawl their eyes out in sadness one minute and then in joy the next. The resolution of “Beauty and the Beast” perfectly demonstrates this as the Beast dies and is brought back to life by Belle’s love. Alan Menken’s musical score is literally a transformation as we go from an unbelievably devastating moment to a magnificent storybook conclusion. The music just makes you want to get out of your seat and applaud as if you just witnessed a miracle on the screen.

#3: “This Land”
“The Lion King” (1994)


“The Lion King” is full of powerful music, such as Simba and Scar’s intense catfight and Simba proclaiming himself King of Pride Rock. However, the track entitled “This Land” has to be Han Zimmer’s most breathtaking composition. Hearing the score, the listener is overcome with the sensation that they’re experiencing something much greater than themselves; it’s a force connected to nature, the afterlife, and fate. As insignificant as the music can make one feel, you ultimately walk away feeling like you have an essential place in the circle of life.

#2: “Mulan’s Decision”
“Mulan” (1998)


Instrumental music is all about expressing emotions without using words. This piece from Jerry Goldsmith’s Academy Award-nominated “Mulan” score masterfully accomplishes this as the titular heroine decides to take her father’s place in the war. The music is very different territory for Disney, sounding like something out of a samurai picture. It conveys the boldness of Mulan’s actions as she cuts her hair and embarks on her journey. At the same time, there’s a lingering feeling of uncertainty. This is fitting because, as brave as a soldier might be, they’re never guaranteed to return home.

Before we close out with our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Across the Desert”
“Dinosaur” (2000)
- “The Crystal Chamber”
“Atlantis: The Lost Empire” (2001)
- “The Stroke of Midnight”
“Cinderella” (1950)
- “Overture”
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937)
- “Epilogue”
“Frozen” (2013)

#1: “Married Life”
“Up” (2009)

Do we even need to explain why this is number one? This four-minute section from “Up” has been talked about to death, hailed by many as both the saddest and most uplifting sequence in all of animation. While the imagery is astounding, it’s Michael Giacchino’s Oscar-winning score that incorporates another level of depth. Giacchino accomplishes the impossible by making us feel like we’ve experienced somebody’s entire life, from the good times to the bad. Whether we’re watching the movie or listening to the soundtrack, tissues are always required when this music plays.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite instrumental Disney song? For more entertaining Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to MsMojo.
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