What’s your favorite Disney song? I’ve got lots, but I’ve noticed that I tend toward the really sappy, sentimental ones. I’m happy to tap my toes along with “Bare Necessities” or “Under the Sea.” I’ll grin like a loon every single time I hear “You Can Fly.” And I’ll sing along with “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (which I almost knew how to spell). But the songs I listen to repeatedly are the ones that make me tear up. Every. Damn. Time.
I don’t know what that says about me, although it’s pretty in keeping with my feelings about music. I demand genuine feeling and emotion from my music. Anything that doesn’t somehow feel like someone cared about it at some point in its production is garbage. Now, arguably, all music has some genuine feeling in it somewhere. But I’ve heard enough over-produced, poorly written, studio-dubbed crap to know that isn’t true. Some music is created to appeal to the widest possible audience while (ostensibly) offending no one. It’s bland and forgettable, completely lacking in any and all soul. Many people feel that Disney is one of the mega entertainment conglomerates responsible for this kind of travesty, and I’m sure there’s more than a few Disney songs that fit this category (everything from, say, The Lion King, for example). But they’re also responsible for a huge portion of the most iconic, and most recognizable, songs in popular culture. And when these songs are done right, they are brilliant.
Take “When You Wish Upon a Star” for example. Originally written for the 194o animated feature Pinocchio, the song seems to have taken on a life of its own. This was the theme for the movie, and in the tradition of great themes, it laid out in simple musical terms the theme of the movie: “When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.” Toymaker Geppetto longs for a son, so he carves himself wooden marionette in the form of a little boy. The Blue Fairy grants his wish and brings the wooden boy to life, but Pinocchio must prove himself “brave, truthful, and unselfish” in order to become a “real” boy. I’m pretty sure you know the rest of the story (and if you don’t, go watch the movie, for goodness’ sake). What I’m not sure anyone realized at the time was that they were creating the theme for all of Walt Disney’s empire. “When You Wish Upon a Star” has become the de facto theme song of Disneyland–and Disney World, and all the rest of the resorts. And movies. And television shows. The idea that your dreams can come true is something repeated over and over in everything Disney does. Sure, these days those dreams seem to come attached to a price tag, but even consumerism can’t obscure the truth behind the song. Warning: This clip contains the end of the movie, so have some tissues handy! (It’s funny; I sometimes criticize newer Disney movies like Finding Nemo for being a little upsetting and dark, but that’s been a tradition of Disney movies since the beginning. You can’t have the light without the dark, after all.)
Maybe we’d all do ourselves some good if we followed our dreams and imaginations a little more often. And maybe all of our lives would be a little better if we listened to that little Jiminy Cricket in our hearts. It certainly can’t hurt. Of all the Disney songs I love, I think this one really might be my favorite. It gets me every time.
So reply if you like with that one Disney song that gets you every time. You know which one I mean. The one that makes you happiest, and turns you into a child all over again.