So, I’ve been listening to a lot of Disney music lately.
Don’t really know why. I guess I just forgot how fantastic it was. Primarily the stuff written for the movies in the 90s (all of which had music written by Alan Menken, sans “The Lion King” by Hans Zimmer.) Music geek that I am, I can’t help but marvel at the musical genius each and every one of these films represent.
As I listen to this music, I can’t help but discover a pattern though. Every Disney movie from the 90s has similar plot outlines, and the significant turning points in the plot are highlighted through the use of songs. I have outlined this pattern for you, (don’t worry. I’m going somewhere with this), and I would like you to think about any or all of the following movies as you read it:
The Little Mermaid
Beauty and the Beast
The Lion King
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The pattern goes something like this:
The Prerequisite: This is how the movie opens, the first song, that sets the stage for the remainder of the film. Almost all of the above films have it, the exceptions being The Little Mermaid and Mulan. These prerequisite songs are important to give the viewer a feel for the rest of the movie. (Think “Circle of Life” or “Bells of Notre Dame,” my personal favorite.)
Ambitious Song: The protagonist sings some kind of song that discusses how he/she got to where they are or why they are the way they are. This song is featured in all of the above movies. Usually sad with some kind of happy, hopeful overtone, the song shows the viewer what the protagonist wants from life. (Think “Part of Your World” “Out There” or even “I Can Go the Distance,” just not the Michael Bolton version. Yikes!)
New Beginning Song: This is by the middle of the movie, and it can go one of two ways. This is the first way, in which a significant event happens to change the plot or the protagonist’s mission. (Think “Hakuna Matata” “Colors of the Wind” or “Strangers Like Me” from Tarzan.) However, these songs are not in every movie.
Love Song: Ah! This is the second of two ways, and is probably the more obvious/common of the two. Also, I think it should be quite obvious that this is the song where the protagonist meets the romantic interest and, as any good person would do, decides to sing about it in public. (Think “Beauty and the Beast” “A Whole New World” or “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”)
Bad Guy Song: Quite succinctly, the bad guy song is the song sung by the bad guy to illustrate his overall badguyness. Again, pretty obvious. (Think “Kill the Beast!” “Be Prepared” or “Savages. Note that the bad guy songs always have the coolest sounding voices.)
Conflict Song: Okay, this isn’t so much a song so much as a scene with lots of background music that makes the viewer feel as if the bad guy might win. (Think when the Beast lets Belle go back to her father or when Quasimodo is chained up to Notre Dame or, my personal favorite, when Simba sees Darth Vader in the sky.)
Renewal Song: Victory for the good guys! The song is often a reprise of the more musically thematic/best song in the movie, and ties up the rest of the movie so that the viewer has a satisfactory ending. (Basically, every movie has a reprise except for Mulan, Tarzan, and Hercules.)
Okay! Now that we’ve got that out of the way…where am I going with all this?
Stay tuned to find out. ; )
(And feel free to think that I have no idea what I'm doing.)