Note: A version of this article was previously published by Celebrations Press on March 13, 2022: 8 Favorite Musical Experiences in Walt Disney World – Celebrations Press
November is Thankful Season in the United States, a time to celebrate the things that make our lives better. The little sparks of wonder that light up the darkness, even if it’s only for a moment. It doesn’t matter how big or small, if it spreads joy, it deserves to be recognized. With that in mind, here are a few of the best musical experiences in Walt Disney World (past and present). Without them, life would be a little less magical.
1) Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing (Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Magic Kingdom)
The song “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” tends to get all the glory at this attraction, and not without good cause. It’s a classic composed by the legendary Sherman brothers, and it is imminently singable. Add to that the voice talents of Wally Boag, Fulton Burley, Ernie Newton, and Thurl Ravenscroft, and it’s clear why Guests love it so much.
That said, there’s just something perfect about “Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing.” Originally written in 1932 by a group of songwriters, including Tolchard Evans, the piece is sung by the Showgirl Birds. Hosts Jose, Pierre, Fritz, and Michael join in as well. Maybe it’s the beauty of the Bird Mobile, which holds the cockatoos, or the fact that José does his best Bing Crosby impression during the piece, but it just holds a special place in our hearts.
2) Beauty and the Bees (It’s Tough to Be a Bug, Animal Kingdom)
You didn’t read that wrong, and it wasn’t a typo. While waiting to enter It’s Tough to Be a Bug, you’ll see a variety of posters advertising musicals like “A Cockroach Line,” “My Fair Ladybug,” and “Beauty and the Bees.”
Make sure to listen while you’re in the area, and you’ll even notice music being performed by insects, specifically a chorus of bees performing their version of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s beautiful “Beauty and the Beast” (from the 1991 film of the same name). Once you hear it, the tune will be buzzing in your head all day.
3) Heart, We Did All That We Could (The Country Bear Jamboree, Magic Kingdom)
While I will always consider “Blood on the Saddle” as performed by Big Al (above) to be the greatest musical moment of all time, I can’t deny the glitz and glamor of Teddi Barra.
The song she sings, “Heart, We Did All That We Could”, was a 1967 Billboard Country Top 20 hit in 1967, though it was Jean Shepherd singing it that time, instead of a Mae West-influenced bear who descends from the ceiling like a furry angel. While Shepherd’s performance is wonderful, she’s got nothing on the last of the Big Time Swingers.
4) It’s Fun to Be Free (World of Motion, Epcot)
Long before Test Track, Guests of Walt Disney World could enjoy a slightly more leisurely journey in the World of Motion, a dark ride that carried Guests through the past, present, and future of transportation.
A ubiquitous part of the experience was the song “It’s Fun to Be Free”, a jaunty number composed by Buddy Baker and with lyrics by Xavier “X” Atencio. If that pair sounds familiar, there’s a good reason. They also wrote “Grim Grinning Ghosts” for the Haunted Mansion. Atencio is also responsible for “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)”, a song that he wrote with George Bruns.
5) The Shaman’s Song (Na’vi River Journey, Animal Kingdom)
As the boats wind their way through the waters of Pandora on Na’vi River Journey, Guests find themselves surrounded by ethereal, glowing plants, wild animals, and beautiful, haunting music. The climax comes when the Shaman of Songs appears.
A truly stunning piece of Audio-Animatronics, she sings a profoundly gorgeous song with music by James Horner and Simon Frangien, featuring lyrics by Paul Frommer. The song is sung in Na’vi, but there’s no translation needed to convey the sense of wonder, awe, and reverence that it creates.
6) Cantina Song aka Mad About Mad About Me (Oga’s Cantina, Hollywood Studios)
Music has always been a key part of the Star Wars experience. From the opening credits to the menace of the Imperial March, the score becomes its own character throughout the films. So, it’s no surprise that it plays a huge role in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
One of the best examples comes from DJ R3X in Oga’s Cantina. If the little droid looks familiar, that’s because he used to be a pilot on Star Tours. These days, he spins tunes for tourists. While all of his music is great, his remix of the Cantina Song, originally performed by Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes is arguably the most fun. Just listen to a few bars and you’ll start tapping your feet.
7) Making Memories (Magic Journeys, Epcot)
When Epcot opened in 1982, one of the original attractions was Magic Journeys, located in the Journey Into Imagination Pavilion. The 3D film allowed Guests to view the world through the eyes of a child, where everyday wonders were transformed into flights of fancy.
Before the movie, there was a pre-show that included the song “Making Memories”, written by the Sherman Brothers. Because the attraction was sponsored by Kodak, the lyrics are all about preserving memories through photographs, and like other pieces composed by the Shermans, it’s incredibly singable.
8) Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (Hollywood Studios)
This one feels a bit like cheating, but if we’re talking about great music at Disney parks, how can we not include the Bad Boys from Boston? Hit Aerosmith songs like “Sweet Emotion,” “Back in the Saddle,” “Walk This Way,” and others can be heard on the high-octane thrill-ride. They’re great to sing along to, that is if you can stop screaming as the coaster rockets along.
If I had to list one complaint about the whole experience, it would be that I still haven’t received those backstage passes that Steven Tyler promised me. What’s the holdup?