My Disney Top 5 - Walt Disney World Attraction Songs

by Chris Barry, contributing writer
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Welcome back to another Disney Top 5.

Dick Clark famously said, “Music is the soundtrack of our lives.” He was 100% correct. Music has that power. It can take you out of a moment and instantly bring you someplace else. I can hear songs from the 70’s like “Seasons in the Sun” and vividly feel like I’m buckled into the backseat of my parent’s Volvo listening to the tinny sounds of AM radio. Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” will always take me right back to my teenage years hanging out by the bonfire at the beach. Will I ever forget that Grateful Dead performance of Fire on the Mountain at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in 1988, which seemed to be completely in sync with a lightning storm off in the distance? As I wrote that sentence I was taken right back there. It’s a palpable phenomenon that only music can really accomplish.

Just the other night my wife and I were at a meeting up at our daughter’s school. There was a senior citizen concert band rehearsing in the band room next door. About halfway through the meeting I began to hear a familiar melody coming through the walls. I could easily make out the tune and starting singing the words – to myself, of course - “It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears…” At that moment, my wife, Diane picked up on it and so did fellow meeting attendee, Laura, who happens to be our latest and most favorite Disney traveling buddy. A smile came across all of our faces as we were, just for a brief moment, transported out of that meeting and happily dropped back into our trips to the Magic Kingdom.

The same can be said for much of the music in the Disney parks. There are tunes that instantly send me to Main Street U.S.A. in my mind. I can almost smell the popcorn. There are others that make me feel like I’m circling World Showcase looking for the best spot to stop and watch Illuminations. Several years ago, right here on MousePlanet, I documented my favorite Walt Disney World musical moments in a Top 5 article. Today, after that happy moment of musical escape brought on by the Glen Cove Senior Citizen Concert Band, I thought I’d get a little more specific and present my Top 5 Walt Disney World Attraction Songs.

5 – “The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room” – written by Robert & Richard Sherman


Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room. Photo by Chris Barry.

I’ve found myself on more than one occasion with this song from Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room in my head. I’m not talking about that insipid version from the Under New Management incarnation of the attraction. I’m talking about the original Sherman Brothers tune that has mercifully been reinstated into this quirky Adventureland show. It tends to pop into my head, in of all places, as I’m schussing down the ski slopes. I have no idea why, but I’m well aware that it puts a silly smile on my face. As if my time on the mountain wasn’t happy enough, add in me joyfully singing along, “In the Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room,” – once again, to myself, of course – as I careen down the hill on a crisp, cold, sunny Vermont morning. If only the people around me knew what was going through my head!

4 – “Grim Grinning Ghosts (The Screaming Song)” – written by Buddy Baker & X. Atencio


Place your hand over the instruments to create an orchestral rendering of Grim Grinning Ghosts. Play the keys on this musical organ and you get a musical grim grinning surprise. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

I love the Haunted Mansion. To me, and to many others, it’s perhaps the ultimate Disney dark ride. There’s so much detail and so much to look at that it’s sometimes easy to ignore the song that you hear in various forms throughout the attraction. Once you exit the attic scene and enter the graveyard however, X. Atencio’s words kick in and Grim Grinning Ghosts becomes permanently etched into your brain.

3 – “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me)” – written by George Bruns & X. Atencio


Pirates of the Caribbean at the Magic Kingdom. Photo by Samantha Barry.

“I love this song!” says Jack Sparrow as he dances around on the beach, under the influence of rum and Elizabeth Swan. I can echo Jack’s words, although certainly not as slurred. It’s another classic attraction and another one of those songs that just sticks in your head long after you disembark the boats.

2 – “One Little Spark” – written by Robert & Richard Sherman


Journey Into Imagination. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

We finally leave the Magic Kingdom for this next entrant in the countdown. Epcot’s Journey Into Imagination with Figment is a family favorite in this house. While many can debate which version is better, and whether or not the Dreamfinder should return to this Future World classic, or whether the whole thing should be completely reimagined, one thing can’t be debated; the positive feeling you’re left with after listening to the catchy Sherman Brothers tune that is featured in the ride.

1 – “it’s a small world” – written by Robert & Richard Sherman


My favorite cat from it's a small world. Photo by Chris Barry.

Ok. Here it is. It’s at the top of my list and I’m not going to apologize. “My name is Chris…and I like the song 'it’s a small world'.” So many people despise this song and I don’t think that’s fair. Here’s the thing. I’m not listening to this song on my iPod, in the car, on the treadmill or really anyplace else. I don’t want Springsteen to cover it the next time I see him in concert. We love the ride. We hear it when we go on the ride…and we love it when we’re on the ride. It just fits.

When I’m at Walt Disney World, I’ve stepped back into a childlike state of innocence and magic. Quite honestly, nothing objectifies that state of being more than a trip on “the happiest cruise that ever sailed.” People say it’s sappy. I prefer to call it hopeful. They say it’s hokey. I’d rather call it timeless. Walt believed in this attraction and I like to think he believed in the song as well. So do I. When I think of Walt Disney World and what it means at its very core…I think of “it’s a small world.” And that’s why it’s my number one attraction song.

So, now that I’ve taken that brave step, let’s open up the comments and see if I take a beating for putting the song that everyone loves to hate at the top slot on my list. We’re all entitled to our own soundtrack in life and I stand by my selections.

How about you? Click on the link below; let me hear your thoughts and I’ll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.

 

Comments

  1. By SimbaOne

    Definitely agree with you about the importance of music, though being a composer I'm a bit biased, haha! Having enjoyed both of the US resorts over the years, here are my top 5 (coast-to-coast):

    1 - Zip-a-dee-doo-dah (prefer DL's bouncy orchestral version over the laid-back WDW version)
    2 - Space Mountain (obviously prefer DL's version; the onboard music does so much to enhance the experience!)
    3 - Yo Ho! (just wish it played more in the WDW version. Love hearing it in the caves at DL!)
    4 - Soarin' (this score still gives me goosebumps even after hearing it everyday at work!)
    5 - Indiana Jones Adventure (not an original attraction song, I know, but it's so epic when you're careening around in your military transport and John William's classic cues blast triumphantly from the speakers. Really feels like you're in an Indy film!)

  2. By jon81uk

    I often seem to end up singing There's a great big beautiful tomorrow, waiting at the end of ev'ryday, there's a great big beautiful tomorrow and tomorrow is just a day away! to myself quite regularly.

    Can't remember Grim Grinning Ghosts at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by SimbaOne View Post
    4 - Soarin' (this score still gives me goosebumps even after hearing it everyday at work!)

    Yes, the Soarin' theme is a great one for the goosebumps feeling!

  3. By SimbaOne

    Quote Originally Posted by jon81uk View Post
    I often seem to end up singing There's a great big beautiful tomorrow, waiting at the end of ev'ryday, there's a great big beautiful tomorrow and tomorrow is just a day away! to myself quite regularly.

    Can't remember Grim Grinning Ghosts at all.

    Yes, the Soarin' theme is a great one for the goosebumps feeling!

    Although many might think it blasphemous, I've actually never experienced the Carousel of Progress. I aim to do it next time at the World!

    Also, I admit that many of my Top 5 choices are actually scores rather than songs, but hey, music is music!

  4. By Tony T

    1. It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow
    2. Zip a Dee Doo Dah
    3. You Can Fly
    4. Grim Grinning Ghosts
    5. The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room

  5. By Drince88

    "It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" sticks in my head much longer than "Just A Spark"

  6. By jerm

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony T View Post
    1. It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

    That was the first song that I thought of before I even opened up the story. Love that one. When I put together my DVD slideshow together after my last trip, the opening of that was the music used in the menu.

  7. By mkelm44

    I'm a big fan of songs you can sing along with. Don't get me wrong, as a musician I love instrumental and theme music as much as anyone, but whe I think about Disney Songs, I think more about Sherman Brothers lyrics than I do soaring instruments. Disney would be a very very strange place without the omnipresent background theme music (there's a whole article to be written on the pyschology of the music that they play and when they play it) but when I think about my favorite Disney attraction music, I almost always go with the vocal pieces. If you think about it, there have been multiple versions of the space mountain and Spaceship earth music, and quite frankly it's hard for anyone to say they have a real preference, so long as the theming of the music is relatively the same. Yet people can and do remember the different iterations of lyrical music quite well. As our intrepid author Chris pointed out, most people can remember 40 year old lyrics easily, yet couldn't tell you what they ate for lunch on Tuesday.

    So without further adieu, and in no particular order, my top 5:

    1. Yo-ho (Pirate's Life): A jaunty upbeat tune that brings smiles when singing about kidnapping and ravaging.
    2. Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow: Although by the fourth iteration of the song on the ride you're may be looking forward to the day after tomorrow or perhaps several yesterday's ago, this song is very catchy and fits in well with the 1964 world's fair theme of progress.
    3. It's a Small World: Although this song gets knocked frequently (by Disney itself, let alone outsiders), it has a great message, is very catchy and unique in that it's sung in many different languages.
    4. Lifetime Journey (Canada): The full 8 minute version with instrumental lead in is exceptional, but the lyrics are tremendous. I dare anyone to listen to the song, watch the circlevision and not at least consider stopping by the nearest Canadian consulate and asking to move. It turns our northern neighbor into a place of mystery and wonder begging to be explored.
    5. Golden Dreams (America): A fairly patriotic song without being a bludgeon about it. Like Lifetime Journey, Golden Dreams invokes the best of the country being sung about- in this case the pioneer spirit and highest ideals of the country. With the interspersed sound bytes of President Kennedy, Dr. King and Neil Armstrong it harkens a sense of the possible, when America reached beyond what it was and a sense of optimism ruled the nation.

  8. By DisneyGator

    How did Zip-a-dee-doo-dah not make the list? That is the most Disney of all songs. Sure it's on a movie that those who wish to perpetuate racism won't allow to be sold in teh USA (so I had to buy a copy from Europe). And if you were at WDW back at the turn of the century, the Disney resort TV would have the "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah Tip for the Day". I can still hear that tune in my head from my very first trip in 2002. I'm just going to chalk this up to the reason that your mind temporarily blanked on that ride -otherwise it would've been at least #2. Right? RIGHT!?!

  9. By davidgra

    I have such a different take on Disney theme park songs -- while I love the "classics" ("Yo Ho," "Tiki Room," "Grim Grinning Ghosts" and "it's a small world"), when I think of Disney songs, I immediately think of Epcot. Limiting myself to songs that have words, this would be my top five Disney theme park songs:

    5. Canada (You're a Lifetime Journey) -- O Canada
    4. Energy (You Make the World Go Round) -- Universe of Energy
    3. Tomorrow's Child -- Spaceship Earth
    2. Golden Dream -- The American Adventiure
    1. We Are Here to Save the World -- Captain EO

    A few others barely missed the list -- "Magic Journeys," "New Horizons," "It's Fun to Be Free," "Universe of Energy," and "Listen to the Land." All of these songs here have the highest play counts in my iTunes library -- way more plays than the Magic Kingdom songs. When I'm feeling like I need a "Disney" boost, I play the Epcot songs. It's unfortunate that almost all my favorite Disney songs are no longer played in any of these attractions; it was always great that each Future World attraction had its own theme song.

  10. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by DisneyGator View Post
    How did Zip-a-dee-doo-dah not make the list? That is the most Disney of all songs. Sure it's on a movie that those who wish to perpetuate racism won't allow to be sold in teh USA (so I had to buy a copy from Europe). And if you were at WDW back at the turn of the century, the Disney resort TV would have the "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah Tip for the Day". I can still hear that tune in my head from my very first trip in 2002. I'm just going to chalk this up to the reason that your mind temporarily blanked on that ride -otherwise it would've been at least #2. Right? RIGHT!?!

    Hey Gator,

    Nope. I didn't blank out at all. I went with music that was written for the attractions themselves. As opposed to say, "You Can Fly" from Peter Pan...or "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid..or...let's say..."Zip-a-dee-doo-dah" from Song of the South. All great songs. All favorite Disney songs of mine, but not written specifically for the attractions they appear in.

    I got my Song of the South DVD from overseas also. It was a gift from a good friend. I have a PAL VHS version of Song of the South as well. I used to have a PAL converter at the TV Studio where I teach. Made myself a VHS dub back in the day. Maybe someday a nice DVD/BluRay release???!!!

  11. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by SimbaOne View Post
    Although many might think it blasphemous, I've actually never experienced the Carousel of Progress. I aim to do it next time at the World!

    Also, I admit that many of my Top 5 choices are actually scores rather than songs, but hey, music is music!

    I'm always worried that the Carousel will close one day, so I make sure to pay a visit on each trip.

  12. By davidgra

    Quote Originally Posted by cbarry View Post
    I'm always worried that the Carousel will close one day, so I make sure to pay a visit on each trip.

    This has been a worry of mine, too. We do the Carousel of Progress at least once each trip, sometimes a couple of times. Back in 2002 or 2003, they decided to make the Carousel of Progress "seasonal" (which they had already done with the Timekeeper). For a few months, it was only operating during peak season. Luckily, when they closed the ExtraTerrorestrial Alien Encounter, they opened both Carousel of Progress and the Timekeeper full-time during the conversion to Stich's Great Escape, and the Carousel of Progress remained open permanently after that.

    But yes, there's always the concern that the Carousel of Progress could become another Wonders of Life... I've felt that way about the DHS Backlot Tour for a couple of years, too, and look what's happened there!

  13. By SimbaOne

    Quote Originally Posted by mkelm44 View Post
    If you think about it, there have been multiple versions of the space mountain and Spaceship earth music, and quite frankly it's hard for anyone to say they have a real preference, so long as the theming of the music is relatively the same. Yet people can and do remember the different iterations of lyrical music quite well. As our intrepid author Chris pointed out, most people can remember 40 year old lyrics easily, yet couldn't tell you what they ate for lunch on Tuesday.

    Guess I'm just wired differently. I tend to remember instrumental melodies and harmonies just as well as lyrics, and I find myself humming to instrumentals more. I can remember every note and harmony from Michael Giacchino's Space Mountain score as well as the turns (and single drop ) they sync up to in the ride. And I waaay prefer the new soundtrack to the "Surf-Saint-Saens" version. :P

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