I love Disney theme park music. It’s without-a-doubt the genre of music that takes up the most space on my iPod.
But the sad part is, it plays constantly all day with little to no recognition.
We’re taking an in-depth dive into the complexity and technical genius behind the music of the Walt Disney World theme parks.
Bruce Broughton is an American composer known for his ability to write music in a wide range of styles. Broughton is one of the creative minds behind much of the music heard in the theme parks today. More specifically, he was the composer for the following:
- O Canada! – 2007 Arrangement (World Showcase, Epcot)
- “Canada (You’re A Lifetime Journey)”, originally written by Robert Moline for the 1982 version of the film was re-arranged by Broughton. The movie was redone in 2007, and while Moline’s song remains, Broughton’s version plays currently and was re-recorded by Canadian singer Eva Avila.
- Spaceship Earth (Future World, Epcot)
- In 2007, Spaceship Earth sponsorship was taken over by SIEMENS and the ride was significantly remodeled. Broughton was brought in to compose a totally new soundtrack for the attraction. He came up with beautiful work featuring a 63-piece orchestra and a 24-voice choir.
- Ellen’s Energy Adventure (Future World, Epcot)
- In 1996 the Universe of Energy attraction became Ellen’s Energy Adventure. Once again, Broughton composed a gorgeous melody to be used as the attraction’s theme as well as background music for the entire film and show. The main theme (“Energy Adventure Medley”) is about 7 minutes long and can also be heard playing as part of an Epcot medley at the entrance.
- Honey, I Shrunk the Audience! (Future World, Epcot)
- When this attraction opened in 1994, Broughton made a theme for the fictional institute giving the impression of a prestigious establishment but with a whimsical flare. The theme is just under 2 minutes long and can be heard in Epcot’s entrance medley as well.
- The Timekeeper (Extinct – Tomorrowland, Magic Kingdom)
- The Making of Me (Extinct – Future World, Epcot)
- One Man’s Dream (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
These are arguably some of the best themes in the parks. Spaceship Earth, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, and Honey, I Shrunk the Audience are some of my all-time favorites.
Another theme park legend (among other things) here, Robert and Richard Sherman are responsible for so many catchy themes of the theme parks. There include:
- Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress (Tomorrowland, Magic Kingdom)
- “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” – The current and original theme for the attraction that is sung in each room. Each time it is sung it’s in a different musical style depicting the different decades.
- “The Best Time of Your Life” – The theme song intended to replace “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow”, however it was retired in 1994 permanently.
- “it’s a small world” (Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom)
- “It’s a Small World (After All)” – This is arguably the most well-known piece of music ever written. At first, the Sherman Brothers wrote the song as a slow ballad, however Walt wanted something more cheerful so they sped it up. The song is known for being catchy, and scientifically explained, this is because the verses and the chorus can be played at the same time creating harmony (rather than them clashing).
- Journey Into Imagination with Figment (Future World, Epcot)
- “One Little Spark” – Written in 1984, this catchy tune written by the Sherman brothers was directly inspired by the positive personality Walt Disney always had. It is now different from it’s original version, with added percussive elements and sung by Figment and Eric Idle (Dr. Nigel Channing). It can also be heard for about five minutes in Epcot’s entrance medley.
- The Great Movie Ride (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
- “Chim Chim Cher-ee” – From Walt Disney’s film Marry Poppins, this song is sung in the movie and attraction by Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews. Another song by Van Dyke, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, references this song.
- The Enchanted Tiki Room (Adventureland, Magic Kingdom)
- “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” – This song was much more prominent in the original version of the Tiki Room attraction. However now in the “Under New Management” version, only the first few seconds are heard until it is humorously cut off and the show continues.
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom)
- “Winnie the Pooh” – The theme song for the lovable Pooh bear was also written by the Sherman Brothers, and for the attraction it plays at the entrance and in the last scene (“Hooray!”).
- “A Rather Blustery Day” – This instrumental song can be heard in the first scene of the attraction where Gopher exclaims, “Hey – happy Windsday!”.
- “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” – Finally after the blustery day sequence, the next musical work is Tigger’s appearance. This is the official theme song for Tigger. Richard composed the music while Robert Sherman wrote all the lyrics.
- “Heffalumps and Woozles” – First premiering in 1968, this scene and song is after Tigger. This song, as with all the others, is not the original. It was rewritten for this attraction. The most notable difference is the altered trumpet part in between fragments of the chorus.
- “The Rain Rain Rain Came Down Down Down” – Finally we come to the Rain Scene where this song is featured. In the actual movie, some parts of this song are sung by Pooh, but for the attraction only a chorus is singing.
More commonly known as “X”, Atencio was an Imagineer at Disney as well as an Animator. He retired in 1994 and in 1996 he was given the honor of becoming a Disney Legend.
- Pirates of the Caribbean (Adventureland, Magic Kingdom)
- “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)” – X Atencio not only wrote the script for this attraction, he also wrote the lyrics to it’s infamous theme song. (George Bruns composed the melody).
- The Haunted Mansion (Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom)
- “Grim Grinning Ghosts (The Screaming Song)” – Once again, “X” wrote the script for the Haunted Mansion attraction as well the lyrics to it’s theme song.
- The Haunted Mansion (Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom)
- “Grim Grinning Ghosts (The Screaming Song)” – While X Atencio wrote the lyrics to the Mansion’s song, it was Baker who actually developed and composed the melody (and all 8 variations of it heard throughout the attraction).
- Impressions de France (World Showcase, Epcot)
- Baker also arranged the medley of French classical music heard in the movie of the France Pavilion. Some of the music though was written specifically for the film. Baker also composed the music for 22 of the 49 scenes in the movie.
It’s sometimes hard to recognize and appreciate the Disney theme park music because it is always so well integrated and themed that we don’t consciously notice it. However there’s no denying that much more than we ever thought goes into the music of the Parks.
It takes raw talent to come up with some of the catchy tunes and melodies that Disney has on their hands. So next time you’re in the parks – keep your ears open to listen for some of these magical pieces!