The Best Disney Theme Park Songs
Discover the most magical Disney theme park songs that have brought joy and wonder to millions.
Since Disneyland opened its doors in Anaheim, California, music has been a vital part of the magical experience that comes with visiting Disney theme parks. Songs that were written specifically for attractions have become firm favorites with visitors and memorable music from the movies has found a new lease of life soundtracking much-loved rides. Over the years, more parks have followed – Magic Kingdom in Florida, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland – all of which place music at the heart of the Disney experience. Here’s our pick of the best Disney park songs.
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When You Wish Upon A Star
“When You Wish Upon A Star,” written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for Walt Disney’s 1940 adaptation of Pinocchio has become synonymous with all things Disney, not least its parks. The song has played an integral part in such memorable shows as Remember… Dreams Come True (the spectacular fireworks display that celebrated Disneyland’s 50th anniversary and Tokyo Disneyland’s 35th anniversary) and Wishes: A Magical Gathering Of Disney Dreams at the Magic Kingdom. “When You Wish Upon A Star” remains a timeless and magical reminder that anything is possible – a perfect song for the Disney theme park experience.
Another song from a beloved Disney movie that has become a vital part of Disney theme parks is “Heigh-Ho,” from the 1937 animated film, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. In the movie, “Heigh-Ho” introduces us to Snow White’s seven sidekicks as they mine for diamonds and rubies. It’s a call-and-response working song, designed to keep spirits up during a hard day at the mine. The instantly recognizable “Heigh-Ho” features in the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a roller coaster that opened in the Magic Kingdom in 2014 and was replicated in the Shanghai Disneyland Park two years later. A version of the song with altered lyrics also plays at the end of the Enchanted Tiki Room show, an attraction based at both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom – here, our seven heroes thank guests for watching the show as they depart.
Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me)
Next is a song that was featured in the Disney theme parks before it hit the silver screen. “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me)” was the bawdy theme tune for the original Disneyland Pirates Of The Caribbean attraction, where it was sung by a group of rowdy pirates. The song – written by composer George Bruns and lyricist Xavier Atencio – is a pirate anthem, reveling in the daring and dastardly activities that come with life on the high seas. “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me)” appeared in the hugely successful spin-off movie Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl and went on to feature throughout the franchise.
Grim Grinning Ghosts
Another popular attraction that later inspired a movie is The Haunted Mansion, a ride that opened in 1969 at Disneyland and was later recreated at the Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland. “Grim Grinning Ghosts” was composed by Buddy Baker with lyrics by Xavier Atencio and became the attraction’s theme song, with snippets of the melody and variations on its themes audible throughout the ride. The song’s whipsmart wordplay and spooky melody made it a firm favorite with parkgoers over the years and has even inspired cover versions from Los Lobos and Barenaked Ladies. “Grim Grinning Ghosts” also featured prominently when The Haunted Mansion was adapted into a 2003 live-action movie starring Eddie Murphy.
It’s A Small World
When songwriting brothers Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman were challenged by their boss, Walt Disney, to write a song “that can be translated into many languages and be played as a round,” they hit the jackpot. Written for the Disney theme park attraction originally named “Children Of The World” the Shermans’ song was a plea for understanding and unity that was as simple and catchy as a nursery rhyme. Before moving to Disneyland, the attraction premiered at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Since then, versions of the water-based boat ride have won hearts at Magic Kingdom, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland, and Hong Kong Disneyland, proving the strength of the song’s message.
In The Big Blue World
A much more recent favorite, “In The Big Blue World” is a key song in Finding Nemo – The Musical, written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the married songwriting team. The song follows Nemo, a young clownfish with a serious case of wanderlust, and his father Marlin as they prepare for Nemo’s first day at school. While the hero of the musical is excited to explore the oceans, his father is wary of the dangers that lurk in the “big blue world.” The live puppet and musical stage show opened in 2007 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World and was relaunched in 2022 as Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond!.
Dancin’ A Catchy Rhythm
Since opening on April 12, 1992, Disneyland Paris has brought the joy of Disney to Europe, becoming the continent’s most visited theme park. Obviously, the Disney park needed a theme song and that’s where the upbeat and infectious “Dancin’ A Catchy Rhythm” comes in. The song, written by composer Vasile Sirli and lyricist Jay Smith, was originally part of The Wonderful World Of Disney Parade at the resort, soundtracking a procession of floats that showcased some of Disney’s most popular characters. “Dancin’ A Catchy Rhythm” soon took on a life of its own and was even released as a CD single in 1998. When the attraction was replaced by The Princess Parade in 2003, “Dancin’ A Catchy Rhythm” was given a bigger role, becoming a bona fide park anthem.
There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow
Another immortal song by the Shermans originated from the 1964 New York World’s Fair. “There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” is a winningly optimistic show tune that soundtracked the Carousel Of Progress, an attraction that used “Audio-Animatronics” (programmed robots) to tell the story of a normal family’s relationship with technology throughout the decades. The attraction was moved to Tomorrowland at Disneyland in 1967, before reopening in the Magic Kingdom in 1975, where it remains. The song has a special place in the heart of many Disney fans, not least as its writers considered it to be a song for Disney’s founder. Richard Sherman later said the song “had a wonderful positiveness about it. In a way, it was Walt’s theme song, because he was very positive about the future. He really felt that there was a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day.”