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Top 10 Best Disney Intro Songs

VO: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Talk about opening with a bang. For this list, we’re taking a look at Disney movies that hit the ground running with their opening numbers. In addition to the music itself, we’ll also be taking the visuals into account, in addition to how well the song ties into the story. Our list includes “This Is Halloween,” “Arabian Nights,” “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” “When You Wish Upon a Star,” “Belle,” and more! Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the Disney Intro Songs.

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Top 10 Disney Intro Songs

Talk about opening with a bang. Welcome to MsMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Disney Intro Songs.

For this list, we’re taking a look at Disney movies that hit the ground running with their opening numbers. In addition to the music itself, we’ll also be taking the visuals into account, in addition to how well the song ties into the story.

#10: “Two Worlds”
“Tarzan” (1999)

Phil Collins wrote and performed most of the songs for “Tarzan,” acting as an unseen musical narrator of sorts. “Two Worlds,” which was also the first song Collins scribed for the film, wonderfully sets the mood as two shipwrecked parents seek shelter with their infant son on an island. Meanwhile, gorillas Kerchak and Kala raise their small infant in the heart of the jungle. Both families suffer great tragedy at the paws of a vicious leopard, but two worlds are brought together when Kala discovers an orphaned Tarzan. Popping up several times throughout for the film, this song conveys the story’s overarching theme of family while also adding to the jungle’s threatening yet adventurous atmosphere.

#9: “The Gospel Truth”
“Hercules” (1997)

It only makes sense that a film about Greek mythology would have a Greek chorus to advance the story. “Hercules” takes a slightly different approach, however, with the Muses singing songs right out of traditional gospel choir. Stealing the show, the Muses inject a lively sense of fun into what could’ve been a Greek tragedy. Before getting to Hercules, the five provide the backstory of Zeus and how he conquered the Titans who terrorized the earth. The music is so infectious that you want to clap along with every note and the lyrics dish out the exposition in style, complete with imagery cleverly brought to life through ancient Greek pottery.

#8: “This Is Halloween”
“The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)

When former Disney animator Tim Burton returned to the studio, he didn’t leave his signature gothic style behind. Between director Henry Selick’s stop-motion artistry and Danny Elfman’s whimsical musical compositions, it became clear from the opening scene that “The Nightmare Before Christmas” would be unlike any film Disney had ever released. Uniting all the monsters that reside in Halloween Town, “This Is Halloween” is weird and creepy while also being lots of fun. That basically sums up the spirit of Halloween in a nutshell, which is largely why the song has become an anthem for the holiday. Just as Christmas wouldn’t be complete without “Rudolph” or “Jingle Bells,” this song is a Halloween staple.

#7: “Winnie the Pooh”
“The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” (1977)

The “Winnie the Pooh” theme may not be the most grand or epic song on this list, but it perfectly captures the wholesome, cheerful nature of the Hundred Acre Wood. Written by the legendary Sherman Brothers, the catchy tune is more or less a rundown of all of Christopher Robin’s animal friends, although Tigger wouldn’t get a shout out until the 2011 film. As soothing as a lullaby, this opening song submerges you in a comforting world where all of your problems will melt away. It even acted as a beacon of hope when eighteen-month-old Jessica McClure fell down a well in 1987 and she kept the rescue crew going by singing “Winnie the Pooh.”

#6: “Arabian Nights”
“Aladdin” (1992)

One of the final collaborations between composer Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, “Arabian Nights” immediately draws the audience in with its mysterious musical score and the Peddler’s alluring singing chops. The song makes the audience feel as if they’re trekking through a treacherous desert in order to make it to the rousing city of Agrabah. The lyrics were met with some controversy from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee due to the line, “Where they cut off your ear/if they don't like your face.” This lyric was eventually changed for subsequent releases, however, and the song itself proved so popular that it served as the theme for the “Aladdin” TV series.

#5: “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”
“Toy Story” (1995)

Much like “Tarzan,” “Toy Story” isn’t a conventional musical, but the filmmakers still frequently use music to convey the characters’ emotions. Written and sung by Randy Newman, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” establishes the bond between young Andy and cowboy doll Woody. By the end of the picture, though, the song can just as easily apply to the newfound friendship between Woody and Buzz Lightyear. In any case, the song encompasses the carefree days of childhood and the nostalgic sentiment we all feel towards the toys from our youth. This Oscar-nominated tune would go on to play a crucial role in the “Toy Story” sequels, but it all stems back to this delightful opening.

#4: “The Bells of Notre Dame”
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996)

Disney’s take on “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” isn’t as grim as Victor Hugo’s classic novel, but still gets away with some shocking material for a G-rated flick. The opening hits just the right note, walking a tightrope between brooding and triumphant. Chronicling how the corrupt Judge Frollo murdered an innocent gypsy and took in her deformed son, this may be the darkest intro in Disney’s repertoire. Yet, the song completely sucks the audience in with its heavy drama, haunting imagery, and stirring choir. With an operatic ambiance that brings great gravitas to each note, composer Alan Menken cited “The Bells of Notre Dame” as “possibly the best opening number [he’s] ever written for any project.”

#3: “When You Wish Upon a Star”
“Pinocchio” (1940)

“When You Wish Upon a Star” is not only the first song in “Pinocchio,” but also the first Disney song to win an Academy Award, in time becoming a trademark for the House of Mouse. Written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, this iconic song embodies the film’s message of never giving up on your dreams and finding the strength to persevere even when all hope seems lost. If there’s one downside to this intro, it’s that the song is mostly accompanied by a simple credits sequence without anything very visually interesting. Whenever we hear the song, however, we can always envision a shimmering star up above, providing audiences everywhere a symbol of faith.

#2: “Belle”
“Beauty and the Beast” (1991)

A narrator and gallery of stained glass windows provide the Beast’s backstory, but this remarkable opening number introduces us to the film’s titular “Beauty”. Book smart and beautiful, Belle may stand out as an oddity to everyone else in town, but this doesn’t discourage her. In addition to establishing our leading lady and her desire for more out of life, the song also acts as an introduction to the villainous Gaston, who wishes to marry Belle based on her looks alone. The song might be about a single character, but “Belle” is truly an ensemble piece that sets the film’s Broadway-style tone, earning comparison to the openings from various classic stage musicals.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“Fathoms Below”
“The Little Mermaid” (1989)

“When Will My Life Begin?”
“Tangled” (2010)

“Perfect World”
“The Emperor’s New Groove” (2000)

#1: “Circle of Life”
“The Lion King” (1994)

Not every musical opens with a show-stopper, but “Circle of Life” is a number that’ll have the audience dead silent throughout and then applauding uproariously following the final note. Showcasing some of the most breathtaking animation Disney has ever produced, the intro is full of unforgettable imagery as the animal kingdom gathers around Pride Rock for the unveiling of lion cub Simba. The sequence is only made more memorable due to Elton John’s enthralling music and Tim Rice’s inspiring lyrics, conveying the cycle that unites all living creatures together. Adding another layer of depth, the film also closes with this song, bringing Simba’s journey full circle.

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