Various Artists – Now Disney (review)

Various Artists – Now That’s What I Call Disney (Universal / EMI / Sony / Disney)
The biggest songs from the House of Mouse

For over 70 years, Disney has produced classic films for kids young and old, and a big part of the success is the timeless music that has accompanied them.  While they’ve covered specific genres before, Now That’s What I Call Disney marks the first time that the popular series has tackled a specific movie company.

Although there have been several compilations tackling “Disney’s Greatest Hits,” this disc represents the widest scope covered on one CD – grabbing “Someday My Prince Will Come” from Disney’s first feature-length animated film, Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs from 1937, all the way up to “I See the Light” from 2010‘s Tangled.  Along the way, everyone is bound to find something that makes them feel all fuzzy inside.

The disc opens with the ubiquitous “When You Wish Upon a Star,” Disney’s theme song (and a melody which has opened numerous films), and the aforementioned “Someday My Prince” – both are the original songs from the movie, which is a recurring theme here.  Although many artists have had hits with their versions of Disney songs, these are the actual film soundtrack songs.

Sometimes the hit version WAS in the movie, as in Elton John’s “Circle of Life,” from the Lion King or Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from the original Toy Story.  Other times not – “A Whole New World” is done by Brad Kane and Lea Salonga, who sang it in the Aladdin movie, while Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle scored a #1 hit with their rendition which adorned the closing credits.

More often than not, Disney songs have a grandiose feel, which makes them both timeless and out of step with modern music.  Only Rascal Flatts’ cover of Tom Cochran’s “Life is a Highway” (from Cars) seems totally out of step.  This track lacks the flair of the other songs featured here.  It’s also the only song that was not specifically written for the movie (Cochran had a hit with his version 15 years before the movie’s release).

Along the way, many genres are explored, the Caribbean-laced “Kiss the Girl” from the Little Mermaid is good fun, “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” makes you want to get out the grass skirt, and the Vaudevillian “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat” from The Aristocats slinks along, thanks to the star-studded lineup of Phil Harris, Scatman Cruthers, and Thurl Ravencroft (who played the voice of Tony the Tiger for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes cereal commercials).  There’s even an ode to the bad guy (or girl in this case), “Cruella De Vil” from 101 Dalmations.

Many of these songs have transcended the movies they came from – “Someday My Prince Will Come” has become a jazz standard, while “The Bare Necessities” became a popular catch phrase that is still used today.

The great thing about Now That’s What I Call Disney is that it covers such a wide scope – it’s possible to please grandma, mom, and daughter, all in the same collection.  What other collection could say that?  –Tony Peters