The holiday season is upon us. With Thanksgiving just around the corner in the United States, radio stations and stores have gone all in on everything holly jolly. My own home is no exception. Our Christmas tree has found its place in our living room and an assortment of festive decor can be found throughout the apartment.
To get everyone in the spirit, I’ve put together a list of 12 classic Disney holiday songs (one for each day of Christmas). This week, we’ll hit on the first six songs.
Christmas is Starting Now (Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation!)
I’ll be honest. One of the ways that I know it’s time to deck the halls is when Tim & Jenn Tracker begin singing “Christmas is Starting Now” on their daily vlogs. The song is part of the hilarious and utterly brilliant cartoon Phineas and Ferb. It appears in the Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation! special, which was originally broadcast on December 6, 2009.
Written by Danny Jacob, Martin Olson, and Dan Povenmire, and performed by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (best known for You & Me & the Bottle Makes 3, Mr. Pinstripe Suite, and Go Daddy-O), the song actually debuted before the cartoon on November 27 when the special’s entire soundtrack played on Disney Radio.
12 Days of Christmas (Disney’s Merry Christmas Carols)
No one quite knows the origins of the carol The Twelve Days of Christmas, but the best-known English version was published in 1780. Listed as Number 68 in the Roud Folk Song Index, the song has been covered countless times by artists ranging from Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters to Alvin and the Chipmunks. The Muppets and John Denver performed the song on the Christmas special John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together television special and comedian Allan Sherman recorded two different versions of his parody The Twelve Gifts of Christmas.
But for me, the definitive version will always be track four on side two of Disney’s Merry Christmas Carols. Performed by Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Minnie Mouse, Chip n’ Dale, Clarabelle Cow, and Larry Groce (a singer, songwriter, and radio host famous for his novelty song Junk Food Junkie). Once you’ve heard Goofy sing, “Five Onion rings!” during the song, there’s simply no going back.
Making Christmas (Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas)
The age-old debate continues. Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Christmas or Halloween movie? The correct answer is both. Always both.
Really, any number of songs from this soundtrack could have been selected: What’s This?, Kidnap the Sandy Claws, maybe even Oogie Boogie’s song. But ultimately I had to go with Making Christmas. The song features Jack Skellington (whose singing voice was provided by Danny Elfman), the Mayor (voiced by Glenn Shadix), and the other residents of Halloweentown.
Composed by Disney Legend Danny Elfman (Class of 2015), the song borrows its opening notes from Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) which can be traced back to the 13th century, and is attributed to either Thomas of Celano or Latino Malabrancac Orsini. While the song in the movie is a rather joyous number, celebrating the townspeople’s preparations for their own version of Halloween, this connection to Dies Irae lends it a sense of foreboding. The melody used coincides with Latin lyrics that translate, “Day of wrath and doom impending,” a hint of the calamity soon to befall Jack and his friends.
Once Upon a Christmastime (Once Upon a Christmastime Parade)
An embarrassing confession: despite my best efforts, there’s not much that I can tell you about this song. It’s even a bit of a stretch to refer to it as a song. I’ve yet to find it on a musical streaming service. To listen to it, I’ve had to find videos on YouTube. And it lasts about 15 minutes and 39 seconds, or roughly ¼ of a live Grateful Dead song. But outside of that, there isn’t much I can tell you about it. I attempted to find out who composed the piece, but with no luck. After all, I’m an amateur Disney historian. Not a professional.
What I can tell you is once you’ve listened to the song, it will be stuck in your head until NEXT Christmas, when you will re-listen to it and start the process all over again.
Radiator Rockin’ Holiday (Season’s Speedings from Cars Land: Holiday Songs from Mater & Luigi)
Ah, Christmas. Who can forget the dulcet tones and velvety smooth voice of Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” or Larry the Cable Guy singing Radiator Rockin’ Holiday? That’s right. Larry the Cable Guy. Singing.
Featured on the album Season’s Speedings from Cars Land: Holiday Songs from Mater & Luigi, and heard on the attraction Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree at Disney California Adventure. The song is a holiday variation on the song Radiator Rock which has been performed by Larry the Cable Guy and blues musician Joe Louis Walker. It was written by composer Bruno Coon and Imagineer Kevin Rafferty and is, as I’m told the kids these days say, a bop.
All I Want for Christmas Is You (Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration Stage Show)
Written by Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff, All I Want for Christmas Is You might just be the most ubiquitous holiday pop song (though Last Christmas by Wham! certainly has to be in the conversation). Originally released on the 1994 album Merry Christmas, the song has sold an estimated 16 million copies worldwide, and even topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 2019, 25 years after its release.
Of course, as talented a singer as Mariah Carey is, she simply can’t compare to the unbridled genius of one Clarabell Cow, who unleashes her inner diva on the number as part of Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration Stage Show, a part of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Walt Disney World. In future years, I trust that the performance will rightly take its place alongside the Sistine Chapel, Citizen Kane, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer when it comes to timeless works of art.
And that, my friends, is the first half of our 12-song holiday extravaganza of holiday music. Join us next week for part two, when we’ll slow things down a little bit and get a bit sentimental. In the meantime, put on some hot cocoa, hang some mistletoe, and get busy rockin’ around the Christmas tree!