Interesting Behind-The-Scenes Stories About Disney Songs
The songs in Disney animated films are fun to sing along to - but they're even more fun when you know the stories behind them. Sometimes, the experiences and inspirations of the creators can be just as memorable as the songs themselves.
Did you know before "Let It Go" was created, Elsa was going to be the villain of Frozen? Or that COVID-19 affected how "We Don't Talk About Bruno" from Encanto got recorded?
The backstories behind classic and contemporary songs from Disney films offer a whole new look into the world of Disney music.
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'Beauty and the Beast' Recruited Celine Dion (Then Unknown) To Sing The Title Song Because The Filmmakers ‘Couldn’t Afford A Big Singer’
Today, Celine Dion is a household name, but when she was recruited to sing the title song for Beauty and the Beast in the '90s, hardly anyone outside of Quebec had ever heard of her. Casting Dion was a big risk for Disney. In a 2012 article, producer Don Hahn discussed the decision:
Celine Dion, who was unknown at the time, was drafted out of Canada to sing the song because we couldn’t afford a big singer. Actually, we were worried about her singing it alone, so we paired her with Peabo Bryson, who was a bigger star at the time. So that song was put front and center in the run-up to the awards, and that’s the one that won.
Dion, of course, would go on to superstardom shortly thereafter, and her version of “My Heart Will Go On” for the Titanic soundtrack would hit #1 and go on to sell 18 million copies.
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Phil Collins Originally Wrote ‘You’ll Be in My Heart’ From ‘Tarzan’ As A Lullaby For His Actor Daughter Lily CollinsPhoto: Buena Vista Pictures
Lily Collins is an accomplished actor who has starred in everything from comedies like Rules Don't Apply and Netflix's Emily in Paris to serious BBC dramas like Les Misérables. She's also Phil Collins's daughter. If you're a Disney fan, you probably know Phil's song "You’ll Be in My Heart," which appeared in Tarzan. As if the song weren't heartwarming enough on its own, here's a fact about it that will make you melt: Phil wrote the song for Lily as a lullaby when she was a child.
The actor revealed:
We grew up watching Disney shows and movies together, so that was his way of kind of being able to do it for his kids. It was so special.
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Songwriter Mel Leven Wrote Two Versions Of ‘Cruella de Vil’ For ‘101 Dalmatians,’ Didn’t Like The Music, And In 15 Minutes Wrote The Now-Famous Blues VersionPhoto: Buena Vista Distribution
Songwriter Mel Leven wrote the song "Cruella de Vil," about the villain from 101 Dalmatians, at the last minute. His son, William Leven, described the songwriting process:
One very interesting story is that Dad wrote two versions of "Cruella de Vil" that he was going to sing to Walt [Disney]. There was a slight delay the day of his meeting with Walt of about 15 minutes, and Dad had not been happy with the two versions he was going to sing... In that 15 minutes (in the meeting room and on the meeting room piano), he wrote a blues version, and it was that blues version that Walt liked, and that was the version that became world famous!
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Stephanie Beatriz Was In Labor While Recording 'Waiting On A Miracle' For 'Encanto'
If it sounded like Stephanie Beatriz had a little extra emotion in her voice when she was belting out "Waiting On A Miracle" in her role as Mirabel in Encanto, there might've been a reason - she was literally in labor while recording the takes used for the film. She told Variety:
“I didn’t want to tell anybody at Disney because I didn’t want anyone to freak out, but I was already having some contractions when we were scheduled to record that day. I was like ‘Well, fingers crossed I finish the song before [the baby] comes!’”
Beatriz gave birth to a baby girl named Rosaline the next day. 'Cutting it close' would be putting it mildly.
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Making Sebastian The Crab Caribbean Instead Of British Greatly Influenced The Writing Of ‘Kiss the Girl’ In ‘The Little Mermaid’
Sebastian the crab is known for his Trinidadian accent, but that wasn't the initial vision for his voice. Originally, Sebastian was supposed to have a British accent, but that changed when composer Howard Ashman heard actor Samuel E. Wright's audition. Wright recalled:
If it wasn’t for [Ashman], I wouldn’t have done this [film]. He wasn’t looking for a Jamaican accent; he was looking for the sound of the way he was raised in Trinidad, and when I came and [auditioned], he said to me, “What are you doing?” and I said, “You gonna throw me out?” and he said, “Where did you learn that?”
I said, “In college,” and he said, “That’s the accent I wanted to have for Sebastian.” So, Sebastian has never said, “Ya, man.” If anything, he said “Yes, man.” Quite different.
According to Alan Menken, this choice opened up a world of possibilities, especially for the song "Kiss the Girl":
In “Kiss the Girl,” you have the character of this little crab who’s playing the crooner. He’s playing Harry Belafonte. The choice of making Sebastian a Caribbean crab from Trinidad added so much richness to the characterization and to his sense of his manhood and his sense of the Latin lover in him even though he’s a tiny, little red crab.
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Composer Alan Menken’s Original Title For ‘A Whole New World’ From ‘Aladdin’ Involved… FeetPhoto: Buena Vista Pictures
When composer Alan Menken first wrote the music to "A Whole New World," the romantic duet featured in Aladdin, he used a stand-in title, "The World at My Feet."
Lyricist Tim Rice pointed out including the word "feet" in a romantic song might be a weird move for a children's movie. Menken saw his point, and the title was changed to the one we know today.