My home movie watching has involved a lot of animated and other films primarily aimed at children over the past month or so. This proved to be quite useful, given the wealth of great music included in these films, so I thought it was time I compiled a list of my favourite songs that feature in kids movies.
‘Kids movies’ is not a term that I’m particularly fond of, especially as many of these films appeal to adults as much as younger audiences, but it’s less of a mouthful than ‘films primarily aimed at children’ or something similar.
There were plenty of songs considered for this and, in fairness, it could have quite easily been double the length. But restraint was needed and after a lot of editing and re-ordering, what’s included below are my ten favourites…
Sunshine, Lollipops And Rainbows – Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs
It took a while for me to be convinced that Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs was a film worth watching. I was put off by the trailer that failed to give any kind of indication of the level of humour and charm that the film has to offer. I subsequently avoided the film at the cinema and it took me a while to pick it up on Blu-ray. And boy am I glad I did!
I thoroughly enjoyed the film and watched it twice within a few days and can see myself watching it many more times in the future. It’s a much, much, better film than the trailer would lead you to believe.
The song in question is Sunshine Lollipops And Rainbows and features when Flint’s invention is found to be a success and makes the inhabitants of Swallow Falls very happy indeed. Recorded by sixties teen pop sensation Lesley Gore and written by Marvin Hamlisch and Howard Liebling, it’s 90 seconds of pure pop goodness.
I acknowledge that, unlike what’s to follow, this wasn’t written specifically for the film in which it features, but I couldn’t resist including it.
Little April Shower – Bambi
Taken from Disney’s 40s weepy and written by Larry Morley and Frank Churchill, Little April Shower is one of four original songs on a soundtrack that was comprised by Churchill and Edward Plumb. Given the sparse dialogue in the feature, Bambi relies more heavily on a score to carry the emotions of the picture than most Disney features.
Love Is A Song received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song, but Little April Shower is my favourite. The song was recently used in a Vodafone advert in the UK to great effect.
When You Wish Upon A Star – Pinocchio
This song, from Disney’s second film, has been the studio’s theme for as long as I remember and’ as a result’ is the most recognisable song on this list. Which is quite an achievement given the quality of the other songs.
It was awarded the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1940. Written by Ned Washington and Leigh Harline, it was performed by Cliff Edwards as the voice of Jiminy Cricket.
Somewhere Out There – An American Tail
I remember seeing this when I was about four. It’s a film that I loved as a kid and one that I watched over and over.
Produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment and directed by Don Bluth, the story finds a young mouse named Fievel Mouskewitz separated from his family as they’re travelling to America after fleeing their village that was destroyed by an army of cats. Fievel arrives in America and embarks on a quest to find his family, encountering a number of characters, some of whom are quite sinister, on the way.
Similarities can be drawn between this and Art Spiegelman’s fantastic graphic novel Maus, particularly the choices of animals for the protagonists and antagonists, although there’s no sign of Mauschwitz here.
Somewhere Out There was composed by James Horner, who provided the film’s score, and Barry Mann and, like the film, is a childhood favourite of mine and one that I owned on vinyl many years ago.
I Hope That Somethin’ Better Comes Along – The Muppets MovieRainbow Connection was the song that received an Academy Award nomination but it’s this duet between Kermit and Rowlf that’s my favourite. This is a combination that was rarely heard, as both characters were voiced by Jim Henson.
Kermit is feeling down about his relationship with Miss Piggy and Rowlf comforts him with this song about the difficulties of love. Like so many of the songs featured in the various Muppets productions over the years, this is an amazing song in its own right.
Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher were both granted an incredible level of freedom whilst writing the songs. Henson trusted them completely and was fully confident that he’d love whatever they came up with.
The hot script in Hollywood right now is a Henson biopic, so it shouldn’t be too long before we get to enjoy some Muppet madness on the big screen.
Under The Sea – The Little Mermaid
Performed by Sebastian the crab (voiced by Samuel E. Wright) in Disney’s 1989 smash hit, Under The Sea won a Best Original Song Academy Award and Golden Globe. Written by Howard Ashman and composed by Alan Menken, it’s a calypso style song in which Sebastian attempts to convince Ariel that “…it’s better down where it’s wetter”. It’s one of the highlights of a soundtrack packed with some quite smashing lyrical work.
A Whole New World – Aladdin
Another song that was awarded the Golden Globe and Academy Award and a collaboration between Menken and Ashman (the last film that they would work on together, given the sad death of the latter), A Whole New World was the musical highlight from the studio’s thirty-first animated feature. The score also won both awards.
Tim Rice picked up work on the film too, and would later go on to work on The Lion King.
Circle Of Life – The Lion King
So talking of The Lion King, Tim Rice followed his work on Aladdin by collaborating with Elton John on the soundtrack for Disney’s follow-up feature. And, as was the case with many of Disney’s features, the score was the recipient of an Academy Award as was the song, Can You Feel the Love Tonight.
It’s the Circle Of Life that’s my favourite song that features in the movie. It brilliantly bookmarks this excellent feature, as it’s featured in the opening credits and later as a reprise in the film’s finale.
The soundtrack to the film was phenomenally successful and was one of the biggest selling albums of 1994.
Pure Imagination – Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory
Taken from the original and best adaptation of Roald Dahl’s source material, this song is my favourite of a number of excellent musical numbers in a film that was such a big part of my childhood.
Performed by Gene Wilder, who is amazing as the eccentric and slightly sinister chocolatier, Pure Imagination was written and composed by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, who received an Academy Award nomination for their work.
The song can currently be heard on adverts for Sky HD in the UK.
Bare Necessities – Jungle Book
Another song that features on this list that was up for the Best Song Oscar, Bare Necessities lost in 1967 to Talk To The Animals from Dr. Dolittle, but is, in my view, the finer song of the two and arguably one of the finest that features in a Disney movie.
Written by Terry Gilkyson, it almost didn’t feature as it was originally written for an earlier draft of the film that was rejected. Two versions feature in the film. The main one is by Baloo (voiced by Phil Harris) and Mowgli and the reprise that features later features Baloo and Bagheera.
Let us know your favourites below…