Should the characters sing again?

Wow, I have the nerve to go to Walt Disney World for 9 days, and when I come back, the site is totally different--I'm still trying to figure it all out(having the post-Disney blues is not helping!)! Anyway, here's a topic I haven't seen discussed since I "joined" this wonderful site about two months ago--it's a topic we have fun debating at home frequently, and I'd like to hear some opinions! I started thinking about it again after watching "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" on DVD earlier today. There are some truly wonderful songs in that movie, "Topsy-Turvy," "The Bells of Notre Dame," to name a few(not to neglect Alan Menken's terrific score)--and they are all sung by the characters themselves. Isn't it time Disney moved back in that direction? Doesn't that really put magic in the movies, to hear, for instance, Pat Carroll's deliciously nasty "Poor Unfortunate Souls"? If there is any doubt in anyone's mind what can happen when the characters sing, just listen to the beautiful 4-CD tribute to Howard Ashman, "The Magic Behind The Music"--it brings tears to my eyes every time I listen to it, realizing what was lost with Howard's death. Seeing--and hearing--"The Hunchback" today made me long to hear the heroes-heroines-villains raise their voices again and bring us more musical memories! Can the characters we come to know and love so much be given musical voices again? Thoughts? Michael Zielski.

X-S Tech

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Absolutely. I guess we should be grateful that Disney hasn't got locked into a formula of Happy Smiley Musicals (not that we didn't like them) and is experimenting with darker themes, and non musical plots-HOWEVER the musical genre is a lost art and it would be nice if Disney kept it alive as long as possible. I don't believe that songs sung by offscreen non characters qualify since they are rarely intertwined with the story. Sadly though, from what I hear Alan Menken's songs for "Sweating Bullets" are beyond bad, and if Disney's surefire Songwriter bombs out, I'm sure they'll use it as proof that the genre is dead, not as the occasional fluke that it is. I would not want to be Peter Schneider (head of Feature Animation) when some other studio releases a fabulous 2-D animated musical that makes a fortune at the box office and sells a million copies of the soundtrack.


Don't you believe everything they say! Menken's songs have been said to be no good before by jealous musical-hating critics...
I am really looking forward to Sweatin' Bullets and since the previous non-musical Disney animated features haven't been so huge successes, there is a chance that they'll change their minds and start making musicals again if Bullets succeeds. It would certainly be great.
But isn't there supposed to be singing in Treasure Planet? Or are the songs merely background music, as in Tarzan?


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I agree that it would be wonderful for Disney characters to sing again...I was raised on the old Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musicals and so that style of movie/song is just...what I like best. Unfortunately, Disney seems to have forgotten a lot of its roots, instead just going for the cheaper and cheaper product.

Now, I don't know a whole lot about "how to make a musical animtaed feature" but it would seem to me that it would cost more to figure out what a character is going to do when he/she is tromping around, singing his/her heart out, than it would be to just continue with the story. You don't have to figure out choreography that way. Of course, look what that gives us. Atlantis and Dinosaurs. OK, neither one were BAD...but neither were HBOND or B&TB either. Sigh.

Great points, Sharon! You're right, neither Dinosaur or Atlantis were bad movies--I really loved Atlantis, a classic Jules Verne-esque adventure that I'm sure even Walt would've loved. But just try and imagine Ariel without Jodi Benson, Belle without Paige O'Hara, and Jafar without Jonathan Freeman's maddening cackle at the end of his version of "Prince Ali"! It's perfectly fine to experiment with different film genres, but as you said, there comes a time to return to your roots and create some new Disney anthems to help carry us into the twenty-first century and join the ranks of what can be looked upon as classic American music. Let's all wish upon a star, as Jiminy Cricket HIMSELF once said. Michael Zielski.

matt d.

Hi everyone!

One of the greatest contributions a song can make to a movie is provide movement of time (Hakuna Matada, Human Again, Zero to Hero) or exposition (Bells of Notre Dame, Honor to Us All) while being entertaining and providing an emotional punch -- all in one compact sequence. My problem with the more recent Disney animated features is that I don't "feel" for the characters the way that I have in the past. Milo is definitely not an Ariel or Bambi or Pongo. I think music, even if not in the form of a song, can go a long way to allowing us to empathize with an on-screen character and thus engage us in the story.

One of my favorite Disney moments is the "Something There" sequence in Beauty and the Beast. That scene very much conveys a lot of emotion from both characters and has some of the best acting in a Disney movie, in my opinion.

While I like Atlantis okay and while I am very impressed by Disney Animation's motivation to push Disney movies into new directions, Atlantis just frustrated me with its underdeveloped characters and relatively straight forward plot. Even without songs (and I think Atlantis is a movie that should have been songless), stronger musical cues in appropriate scenes may have helped me be part of Milo's journey. I don't know.

But I am hopeful that future Disney movies will find a better mix of pushing the envelope (story-wise) and still providing me with some great Disney characters. And if music helps me better remember and understand those characters, that'd be good to. :)

- matt d.


I agree -- I think the characters should go back to singing. Like Sharon I grew up with those R&H musicals, and I love going to musicals at the theater. Maybe this is one of the sparks that has been missing from the latest crop of Disney animated features. And I'm sorry having pop stars sing a song during the credits that isn't even in the feature to me is not good enough. Also, think how many times you leave the theater singing one of the catchy songs that one of the characters has sung. I didn't leave any of the latest features singing or even humming a tune from the movie, even though I enjoyed the picture something was missing. I would love to see and hear another great Disney musical animated masterpiece! Is that asking for too much? ;)

X-S Tech

Active Member
From what I understand, No there are no songs in Treasure Planet, while Lilo and Stitch has only Elvis songs. Good point about the emotional dimension that songs add. Maybe those of us that get it are just dwindling. I know several people who just don't have the attention span or ability to appreciate a musical. The problem is that the musical genre has 2 extremes; one, the Rodgers and Hammerstien end, is far too cliche and corny for today's audiences. The other, the Sondheim style, is probably too sophisticated for a general audience. There's those songwriters who can write somewhere inbetween, like Menken & Ashman, or (Anastasia's) Flaherty & Ahrens; writers who can write beautiful medleys, sophisticated but clear lyrics which move the story along and expedite out emotional understanding of the characters.
A Disney movie carried along by Elvis Presley songs--can you imagine what Walt would've felt about an "original" concept like that! "Beauty and the Beast" wasn't nominated for a "Best Picute" Academy Award purely on the merit of its storyline--try and think of the film without the Ashman-Menken songs you refer to! They certainly elevated the film to classic status. As John Hench has been quoted with regards to the power of music in theme park attractions, "People don't walk out of the attractions whistling the architecture"--an analogous thing happens after watching a film such as "Beauty and the Beast"--the feelings you are left with come in part from the wonderful songs that are still happily reverberating in your mind! I don't think hearing "a hunka-hunka burnin' love" in "Lilo and Stitch" will generate any of those feelings. Michael Zielski.
Nausea certainly is a possibility, Matt--just don't forget your popcorn, as the bucket might come in handy! And thank you for the villain song poll! Disney villains play an important role in our household, and in fact, we've had many discussions like your poll in the past! It just brings us back to my topic about the characters singing their own songs! I believe the last villain song in a Disney theatrical release was Tony Jay as Frollo performing "Hellfire"; but including non-theater releases, then I think the last villain song would then be Suzanne Pleshette as Zira performing "My Lullaby" in "Lion King II--Return to Pride Rock." In any case, it's time that the villains were heard again(I would have liked to have heard Pat Carroll as Morgana in "Little Mermaid II--Return to the Sea" give us another classic nasty number--but alas, she was silenced--a true missed oppurtunity!)! Michael Zielski.


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Besides the change in "acceptable" movie performances (animated or not), I wonder how much overall money comes into play. As I said the other day, I would think it costs signficantly more to pay writers to think up choreography etc., than it would to just plod along with the story. But if you think about many "big time" stars did they used to use for voices in Disney animated features? Beauty & The Beast had Angela Landbury, Robbie Benson and David Ogden Stiers (of course ). Oh and the voice of Lumiere, whose name escapes me right now. I wonder what's the difference in pay rate for Phil Collins, Sting, Michael J. Fox, etc? Or when they use SO many "famous" voices (to the point where it was DISTRACTING), like in Atlantis?

I can understand the reasoning behind it all, but it doesn't mean I hafta LIKE it

Sharon, I'm SURE "the money factor" plays a significant role--it seems the accountants are the "bottom-liners" these days, as opposed to the artists--but this is a blight we're seeing throughout society. You would like to think that if you're talking about the ultimate success of a film, and even the possibility of propelling it upwards with the classics, that you would add that extra bit of magic, no matter what the cost--for example, to have Judy Kuhn give us the breathtaking "Colors of the Wind"! Disney certainly has used "big name stars" like you refer to, but vocalists like Jodi Benson(Ariel), Judy Kuhn(Pocahontas), and Susan Egan(Meg) I don't believe were widely heard of at the time of their Disney film singing debuts(by the way, both Judy and Susan have their own CD's available!). So I know that there are a multitude of more non-"big star" people out there who could gladly give song once again to the characters we all come to know and love. We certainly don't always need, or even want "the big names". Michael.


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Exactly. Even when B&TB was released 10 years ago, Celine Dion was not the household name she is now. I guess the current formula is "get them in however you can, even if they're "just" Elton John, Sting or Phil Collins fans.

The movies aren't nearly as good as they usewd to be, though, IMHO. And I'm showing my disapproval...we don't buy the DVD's of the Disney movies we don't like. Nowadays, that's more than 50% of the "new" titles. We bought HBOND within a week of release though...and I'm counting the days until B&TB comes out on DVD!

I started thinking about it again after watching "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" on DVD earlier today. There are some truly wonderful songs in that movie, "Topsy-Turvy," "The Bells of Notre Dame," to name a few(not to neglect Alan Menken's terrific score)--and they are all sung by the characters themselves. Isn't it time Disney moved back in that direction?

Yes, indeed, it is Michael. As I posted over in that Hunchback DVD thread [and thank you for your response], it is a real shame after its string of successes in the animated musical genre that the Disney studios has apparently abandoned the form. Mermaid, Beauty, Aladdin, Lion King, Pocahontas, Hunchback, Hercules and Mulan were all worthy successors to Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Cinderella and Peter Pan. [These are not complete lists! ;)]

Alan Menken and Howard Ashman did a wonderful thing reviving the animated musical and breathing new life into the Disney Studios.

Then, starting with Tarzan (with music I admittedly like), the company began its departure and released its string of non-musical films -- Emperor's New Groove, Dinosaur, and Atlantis.

I'm sure these films made money for the company music afficionados arenot the only film-goers Disney is marketing towards -- and that's an important thing to remember. But when you look at the "classic" Disney titles, the ones even the Disney bean counters (not you, Bean) have deemed worthy of "Platinum" status, you will find the animated MUSICALS.

Simply put, I am a fan of the musicals (Count me as a huge Rogers & Hammerstein fan, too!) and I, selfishly, want to hear great voice talent sing well-crafted songs with superior animation all wrapped around a well-written story! ;D

Not asking TOO much, am I?!?! ;)

Let's get back to what Disney has always done best. Not comedic knock-offs like Shrek, Anastasia, Ice Age, etc. But, well-told stories with music to delight the young and old at heart.


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> Let's get back to what Disney has always done best. > Not comedic knock-offs like Shrek, Anastasia, Ice Age, > etc. But, well-told stories with music to delight the
> young and old at heart.

The "old at heart?" Oh I gonna have to put my CPR training into use every time I go to the movies???

Relax Sharon--"good music" is good for old hearts! And thanks, Mike Frezon, too, for keeping this vital topic going! It seems to have generated some strong feelings(see also DJ Stich topic), especially in light of what we've been hearing about "Lilo and Stitch"'s musical theme. The "good music" I referred to above is at the core of classic Disney films--and at the core of what this site is all about. Why have films such as "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast" achieved icon status in just a few short years? Yes, both were classic, timeless stories of enchantment with wonderful characters, but the songs that weaved through the tales melded everything together into a true artistic achievement, transcending the simple classification of "musical." As I mentioned in an earlier comment, if you've listened to the 4-CD tribute to Howard Ashman, "The Magic Behind the Music," you can certainly appreciate why "Mermaid," "Beast," and "Aladdin" have that certain magic to entertain us year after year, time after time. Yes, "Dinosaur" and "Atlantis" were entertaining, innovative films; but I still believe it's time for some fresh songwriting sparks to be fired again. I'm just worried that Elvis songs may not raise "Lilo and Stitch" to the same pinnacle as earlier triumphs--we'll all have to wait and see, and not be too pre-judgmental. But if some new Disney "anthems" aren't generated in the near-future, Randy Thornton's follow-up to his definitive "75 Years" compilation is going to be brief! Michael Zielski.
Yes, "Dinosaur" and "Atlantis" were entertaining, innovative films; but I still believe it's time for some fresh songwriting sparks to be fired again. I'm just worried that Elvis songs may not raise "Lilo and Stitch" to the same pinnacle as earlier triumphs--we'll all have to wait and see, and not be too pre-judgmental.

Michael, I will NOT be pre-judgmental about Lilo & Stitch. Trailers make it look funny. We shall see. I didn't think I'd like Phil Collins' tunes for Tarzan and was proven completely wrong.

However, while I completely agree with you about needing "fresh songwriting sparks to be fired again", I must disagree about Dinosaur and Atlantis.

A good Disney movie is a good story well-told. Walt said that over and over. Yes, the animation in Dinosaur is stunning. The groundbreaking juxtapositioning of animation with live landscapes is breath-taking! But, the story? My wife successfully avoided the theatrical release of Dinosaur, but I had her watch the terrific opening sequence with the journey of the egg. After she watched the first few minutes she got up and left saying, "Oh, its Tarzan." (Baby of one species reared by parents of another species. Wonders about others like him).

My ten-year old son and I both were just plain bored throughout the predictable Atlantis. I was personally offended by the pointless use of such stereotyped characters. Don Novello? C'mon! ::) Someone once asked me about my criticism of Atlantis being predictable. But, if you don't have songs or interesting characters to carry the movie, you are left with only the plot or animation. I found both lacking.

But, I digress. I really don't want this to turn into a meaningless thread fart. Your topic is inspired and deserves much more comment from us Disney music lovers.

Have many of us been playing our OSTs of Dinosaur lately? ??? How about your Atlantis or Emperor's New Groove soundtracks? ???

Let the characters sing! Loud and often!
Thank you Mike! I, too, liked Phil's songs for Tarzan--but at least they were ORIGINAL, themed toward the story--that's what concerns me about Lilo and Stitch, but let's see... And not to got onto the topic of musical scores, because that is a completely different issue, I actually did refresh my memory of the Atlantis score when the movie was released on DVD--I do enjoy James Newton Howard's work, and look forward to his scoring of Treasure Planet--but again, maybe a future topic? Anyway, thank you for continuing this interesting discussion--I'll be away for the holiday, but let's gather more opinions! Michael.