Late last year I went on a little bit of a travel bender. I started out with a trip to Seattle to see the Packers play, I went to Paris with my mom and competed in the IBJFF Fall Open, went to Miami to celebrate a friends birthday, and wrapped it up with a nice trip to Disney World.
Honestly, I’m not trying to flex here, I’m just setting the stage. I could write a piece about any of them (well, actually maybe we shouldn’t talk too much about what happened in Miami). I was able to take advantage of a gap between ending one contract and starting another and all the details filled in perfectly. I understand I was very lucky to be able to do that.
Flexing debate aside, the point that I want to make here is that, of all of those things, the trip to Disney stuck in my mind the most, compared to how short of a visit it was. Maybe it’s because it happened last. Maybe it’s because nearly the entire trip was excitement. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t hung over the entire time. The experience, though it only lasted two days, was something else. The rides, the parks, the employees, even the lines for the rides, all of it had a feel. Pretty much everything was memorable. Those guys really know how to make magic, I’ll give them that.
But, as I’m sure many of you would say as well, the biggest part of that might have been the music. I heard a lot of fantastic songs while I was down there, music spanning the better part of seventy years. You could (and they obviously have) fill a CD collection with all of the stuff.
And as soon as I got on the plane, I was listening to Under the Sea. Very shortly after that, my Spotify search list was littered with pretty much every iteration of Colors of the Wind and Zero to Hero. Let’s just say the entire experience painted my year end recap in a much different color.
So naturally, I did what any sane, well-adjusted person would do. I decided that I was going to make a giant March Madness style bracket to try to figure out what the best song of all of those songs actually was. This was going to be a fun activity, I thought. Certainly, it couldn’t be all that complicated.
That thought held true for, roughly, three minutes. As soon as I pulled up a list of songs from which I could work, I was bogged down by a list of complications longer than a half boy/half puppet’s nose. I realized there are way more songs that I anticipated. It turns out Disney has made a lot of shit. More questions mounted. How would I seed them? How many would I include? How could I possibly objectively measure them?
After a lot of very heated discussions with some of my Disney experts, I was able to slap together something resembling a 64 song bracket. I needed some play in games to fit everything in, sure, and I had to make some very hard cuts (sorry, Hakuna Matata), but I had something. And that was good enough for me. Not so much the Disney experts, but I was fine.
I broke the field into four different regions: Classics, Golden Age 1, Golden Age 2, and New Stuff. Obviously, by the last bracket, I had run out of steam. And that’ll definitely show when we get to it. The brackets have sixteen seeds, with the classics region being so stacked we needed a few play in games to get to that point. Songs were given priority seeding if they had won an academy award, and from there I arranged seeding to try to keep songs from the same franchises from running into each other too early. Songs were only included if they appeared in an animated movie, which unfortunately cut out a lot of Muppet related classics (apologies to Rainbow Connection). If you’ve got a specific complaint, my advice is to Let it Go (now THAT’s foreshadowing!).
Songs would advance based on a few different criteria: how well the song fits the movie and its narrative, how good the song is in its own right, how much the song means to the Disney franchise, how well it holds up, and how much I personally like the song (if necessary). The last one came into play a lot less than I thought it would. But it will rear its head here.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the first bracket, the Classics region:
When You Wish upon a Star was given priority seeding as it won an Oscar, as were Zippidee Doo Dah and Chim Chim Cheree. The 13/14/15/16 seeds all won play in games over a few songs that you might expect to see here (Heigh Ho, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo, He’s a Tramp, A Pirate’s Life). If you’d lie to know what a play-in game entails, let’s just say it definitely isn’t a shouting match over how anyone could include a song from the Aristocats. Let’s get into it.
1) When You Wish Upon a Star (Pinocchio) vs.
16) Whistle While You Work (Snow White)
One of these songs is the iconic anthem of everything that Disney aspires to create. The other is roughly sampled by the Ying Yang Twins. Honestly, that makes it a lot closer than it has any business being. But Star moves through, as it gives rise to the story of one of Disney’s cornerstone stories and is still playing today. This one is going to be tough to beat.
8) Bella Notte (Lady and the Tramp) vs.
9) Once Upon a Dream (Sleeping Beauty)
Both of these songs are great. They both paint a picture of the spell of love, one being built by the perfect night together, the other being painted by your own dream-like vision of the other person. Both of them hold up very well, Lana Del Rey’s version from Maleficent is especially haunting. Both really fit into their movies well, but ultimately, Bella Notte gets the nod. The imagery of Lady and the Trump being pulled together in a kiss by a single noodle of spaghetti is too much for me to forget, and that scene doesn’t work without this song as the backdrop.
4) Bare Necessities (The Jungle Book) vs.
13) Spoonful of Sugar (Mary Poppins)
Spoonful of Sugar is about a woman who manipulates a group of children into performing free labor. That alone gives it a few points. And it’s a pretty good song sung by the ever talented Julie Andrews. It’s all pretty good. But Bare Necessities? Man, that song is a banger. It holds up remarkably well. And, with the other songs in the movie, it shows the dichotomy of the animals by whom Mowgli is influenced. This one is close, but Baloo’s big hit scrapes by to the next round.
5) Some Day My Price Will Come (Snow White) vs.
12) In a World of My Own (Alice in Wonderland)
Look, it’s 2019. We don’t need any songs about young girls needing princes to save them. What we need are more people dreaming themselves into a complete split from reality. Easy win for Alice.
2) Zippiddee Doo Dah (Song of the South) vs.
15) I Wanna Be Like You (Jungle Book)
Again, it’s 2019. I’m pretty sure that anything other than Splash Mountain from Song of the South has officially been taken off the record. Plus I Wanna Be Like You helps to paint that dichotomy I talked about earlier. Bear man good, ape man bad and all that. Though it might be by the bad guy, it is still a certified banger. The Jungle Book is definitely underrated in terms of music. This is a big upset, but not at all surprising.
7) Baby Mine (Dumbo) vs.
10) Winnie the Pooh (Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree)
I’ll bet you already know all the words to the Winnie the Pooh song. Go ahead try it out. I’ll wait.
Are you surprised? That song has been getting mileage in like, every single iteration of the titular character since its inception. It’s iconic. And it’s generated a metric shitload of history for Disney. Baby Mine is a sweet song, and it might see a resurgence with the live action release of Dumbo coming in a few months, but for now it gets rolled over by everyone’s favorite bear.
3) Chim Chim Cheree (Mary Poppins) vs.
14) Everybody (Wants to be a Cat) (The Aristocats)
Don’t even get me started on the Aristocats. The whole fucking thing is a mess. I feel like the writers at Disney had a long list of puns that they wanted to churn into a movie and finally landed on this one after hitting it with a dart. I’m betting the throw juuuust missed hitting You Can’t Snake it With You and Cabarat. Seriously, go watch the movie again. When the crux of your movie is that a fortune is being left to a pack of mangy cats, you’ve got some serious issues with the overall premise. There’s a character unironically named “Scat Cat”. It’s like a charmless, soulless version of 101 Dalmatians except there really isn’t a convincing villain and there aren’t any stakes. They could’ve revived Beethoven to write a symphony for this movie, it wouldn’t matter. Chim chim cheree by a mile.
6) A Dream is a Wish (Cinderella) vs.
11) Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians)
You want to make a movie about a maniac threatening the lives of animals? Sit down and take some notes, because 101 Dalmatians is a master class. Look, a cat losing their multi-million dollar inheritance is pretty spooky I guess, but I’m not sure I’m really feeling it until the bad guy is trying to skin the heroes (of which there are over one hundred) alive and turn them into a coat. Maybe I’m the sick one here. I don’t know.
Cruella De Vil immediately sets the tone for one of Disney’s more iconic villains, who has had no less than four incantations (I see you Emma Stone), and lays out for you straight away that someone is in trouble. It’s also one of the themes of the movie – the lead character is a failed songwriter who gains inspiration in his craft by signing about his nemesis. It’s layered stuff.
Meanwhile, a Dream is a Wish does nothing for me. It’s about a little girl sitting around waiting for a fairy godmother to solve all of her problems for her if she hopes hard enough. Basically the entire message of the song (and the movie when you think about it), is that maybe if you get lucky enough magic and a strong man will come save you. Seems like hogwash to me. The song about the evil dog butcher moves on.
That wraps up the first round. The bracket now looks like this:
I honestly don’t know how every does this on a yearly basis for a much less arbitrary event. It’s pretty grueling stuff. I have a new respect for bracketologists. Let’s move on to the next round.
1) When You Wish Upon a Star vs.
8) Bella Notte
Let’s make one thing clear if it isn’t already: When You Wish Upon a Star is a powerhouse. It’s the song that’s playing when the Super Bowl MVP says he’s going to Disney World. It’s a cornerstone of basically any Disney commercial you’ve seen on TV. It oozes this otherworldly, magical field. It’s transcended its movie and moved into a spot in the fabric of America. Bella Notte is very sweet and the scene in which it is used is most assuredly iconic; but it’s not strong enough to beat Star here, which rolls on into the semi-finals
4) Bare Necessities vs.
12) In a World of My Own
Bare Necessities is a beneficiary of the tournament effect where a team pulls a shocking upset and moves into the next round of the tournament only to have run out of steam and subsequently loses by 30. Winning a round is nice, but In a World of My Own gets rolled over here. It’s a fine song, if a little short. It does a good job of setting up the idea of the movie, but it doesn’t really hold up and most people wouldn’t even think about it. As we’ve discussed, Bare Necessities is a banger. So it advances.
15) Be Like You vs.
10) Winnie the Pooh
Both of these songs are pretty great, if you haven’t heard the cover of Be Like You by Fall Out Boy, you should give it a listen, because it showcases how good the song actually is and how well it can hold up if adapted for modern times. It also fits the movie well and is relatively iconic, but, much like Baby Mine in the previous round it just can’t stand up to the power of the song that perfectly paints a picture of one of the world’s most beloved characters. It doesn’t compare well straight away as a song, but it’s short and sweet and captures perfectly what Pooh is all about. For the same reason that Wish Upon a Star does so well, this song’s placement in the Disney brand and the character of Pooh is too important to ignore.
3) Chim Chim Cheree vs.
11) Cruella De Vil
I had a lot of trouble with this match-up. Chim Chim Cheree is hauntingly beautiful and has a great, if trite, message: you don’t need money or prestige to be happy. Cruella De Vil is catchy, helps get De Vil over as a villain, and is an important part to one of the main characters story arcs. Ultimately, I leaned towards the latter. CCC, though great, gets overshadowed in its own movie by a few other songs. I’m not sure it even would’ve made the field had it not won an Oscar (giving it automatic introduction and priority seeding). It’s hard to say that should move forward, and it doesn’t.
So, here we are at the semi-finals of this bracket. The top half looks pretty normal, with the one and the four seed advancing. The bottom half is a fucking mess, with the 10 and the 11 seed squaring off. We’re guaranteed to have one double digit seed in the elite eight.
1) When You Wish Upon a Star vs. 4) Bare Necessities
Man, I love Bare Necessities, I really do. That should be pretty clear based on the fact that it’s notched two advancements so far. But Star is just so fucking strong. If this were a sporting event, you might see the four seed mid-major topple the powerhouse from the ACC, but that doesn’t happen here. There’s no Steph Curry or Jimmer Fredette launching bombs for Bare Necessities. The iconic song from the movie about a creepy puppet turned into a living automaton turned into donkey turned into a real boy rolls on into the regional finals.
10) Winnie the Pooh vs. 11) Cruella De Vil
This one is really though, given that the two songs are pretty much mirror entities of each other. Both are specific to one character, both have been re-used in multiple instances of a film for the character, and both of them have similar song structure. They both fit into their franchises really well, and they’ve both aged really well in their own ways. It’s hard to measure how important each song is to Disney, but I think I’d have to give a big edge to Pooh.
All of that being said, I just can’t away from me sitting in front of a TV at my grandma’s house watching this stupid bear bumble around the woods while this song played happily in the background. Cruella De Vil just doesn’t create that kind of emotional connection for me. In a race this close, that’s the tiebreaker. Sorry Cruella, don’t turn me into a coat, please.
So we’re onto the finals here, with two iconic songs facing off. Spoiler alert, that’s going to be the story for most of these brackets. And, sorry, folks, but chalk plays here.
1) When You Wish Upon a Star vs. 10) Winnie the Pooh
Remember the NCAA basketball metaphor I used like two hundred words ago relating to Bare Necessities? That’s the case again here. Pooh, though great, just does not have the firepower of one of Disney’s most valuable pieces of music related intellectual property. I didn’t think this song would see a lot of competition until it got out of it’s region, and that appears to be the case.
That gives us the following for our completed Classics bracket:
Next up, we’ll take a look at one of the two regions that I’m sure most of you are looking forward to: the Golden Age region. We will see which song from the early part of the 1990’s joins When You Wish Upon a Star in the final with a trip to the finals on the line.
It should be fun.
And I’m sure absolutely no one will be upset about the results.