It goes without saying that Disney has had some of the greatest heroes to ever grace the screen. With every hero in a Disney film, there’s also usually an incredible song that explains their story. What follows is our pick of the ten best.
A Spoonful Of Sugar, Mary Poppins (1964)
Not all heroes wear capes, as they say. Nanny Mary Poppins floats into No 17 Cherry Tree Lane, the London home of Jane and Michael Banks on a magical umbrella to provide the children with moral guidance in the absence of their distracted parents. “A Spoonful Of Sugar” finds Mary Poppins, played by Julie Andrews, teaching the Banks kids that even the dullest of tasks can be achieved if “an element of fun” is introduced. A fantastical sequence accompanies the song, with Jane and Michael discovering how useful magic can be while tidying. “A Spoonful Of Sugar” helps the nanny to earn the trust of the children, putting in place a sequence of events that encourages their parents to prioritize them, uniting the family.
Part Of Your World, The Little Mermaid (1989)
The hero of The Little Mermaid is Ariel, a mischievous mermaid who is the daughter of King Triton, the ruler of the underwater kingdom of Atlantica. “Part Of Your World” (sung by Jodi Benson) is one of Disney’s classic “I want” songs – an expression of Ariel’s desire to understand and be part of the human world. She sings it as she swims among her collection of trinkets salvaged from the shores, making her desperation for new experiences clear. Her father warns her of the dangers of the human world, but Ariel’s bravery means she persists and eventually, her dreams come true.
One Jump Ahead, Aladdin (1992)
“One Jump Ahead” (sung by Brad Kane) introduces us to the charming hero of Aladdin. The song is a riot – all sassy trombones and witty wordplay. The “street rat” wisecracks and flirts as he causes mayhem in the streets of Agrabah alongside his “only friend” – a fez-wearing monkey named Abu. After being caught stealing a loaf of bread, Aladdin is chased by Razoul (the captain of the royal guards) and his men before escaping them with his prize intact. In a pleasing reversal of fortunes, Aladdin’s pursuers will later work for our hero as he falls in love with Princess Jasmine and becomes the prince of Agrabah.
I Just Can’t Wait To Be King, The Lion King (1994)
This infectious, afrobeat-infused song finds Simba – the lion cub who is heir to the Pride Rock throne – expressing his excitement at the prospect of becoming king, informing Zazu (a hornbill bird and his father Mufasa’s right-hand man) of the changes afoot. The playful tone of “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” (sung by Jason Weaver) endears the youthful and energetic Simba to the audience before events take a turn for the worse and Simba is cast out into the wilderness. When he returns as an adult lion to take what is rightfully his, we’re all on his side.
Just Around The Riverbend, Pocahontas (1995)
Written by composer Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) and lyricist Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked, Spellbound) and sung by Judy Kuhn, “Just Around The Riverbend” arrives at a point in Pocahontas when our hero is caught a crossroads. Pocahontas is the daughter of the Chief of the Powhatan tribe and is conflicted about following a traditional life. When English settlers arrive, threatening the tribe’s future, Pocahontas falls in love with their captain, John Smith. When their romance is discovered, Smith’s life is threatened before Pocahontas saves the day by showing the warring factions that they are not as different as they think they are. “Just Around The Riverbend” is an early indicator of those heroic qualities.
Out There, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1996)
The stirring “Out There” (another song from the Menken/Schwarz partnership) finds Quasimodo, the hero of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame yearning to be among the everyday people who pass below his vantage point at the top of the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris in the French capital. Quasimodo has spent 20 years with only a trio of stone gargoyles to keep him company and is ready to step out into the world. Though his journey is beset by difficulties, by the film’s close, he will be hailed by the people of Paris as a true hero.
Go The Distance, Hercules (1997)
“Go The Distance” (again, with music by Alan Menken, this time collaborating with lyricist David Zippel) arrives at a pivotal point in Hercules. It’s the moment when our young hero discovers that the parents who raised him are not his birth parents and that he needs to embark upon a quest to Mount Olympus to discover his true origins. The showstopping tune is delivered by Roger Bart in the movie and was recorded by pop singer Michael Bolton for the end credits.
Reflection, Mulan (1998)
The heartfelt ballad “Reflection” finds the hero of Mulan at a moment of self-doubt that leads to empowerment. After a disastrous meeting with a matchmaker, Mulan catches sight of her made-up reflection in a pond and knows that she will never be the daughter her family expect her to be. Heroics follow as she disguises herself as a man to enlist in the army in her father’s place, eventually proving herself to her family, but it all starts with the self-examination of “Reflection.”
Let It Go, Frozen (2013)
A look at the songs synonymous with Disney heroes wouldn’t be complete without Frozen’s soaring power ballad. “Let It Go” is sung by Queen Elsa of Arendelle (voiced by Idina Menzel) as she comes to terms with her magical powers. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez’s song has become one of Disney’s biggest-ever songs, a universal anthem of self-acceptance that has resonated worldwide.
Remember Me, Coco (2017)
“Remember Me” is unusual in that it is sung by both the hero and the villain in Coco. For this article, we’ll focus on the heroic version, sung by Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) – the child looking for redemption for his grandfather. Here, it’s a bittersweet and affecting solo performance that rouses Miguel’s great-grandmother for the emotional heart of the movie.