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Nostalgia 101: The Wonders of the 90s: Disney's unrivaled music

By Matt Gantos
On April 13, 2014

"Professional Musician" is a term that gets thrown around a lot. Anyone with a record considers themselves one, but if you want to know what pure professional musicianship is, give a hard listen to the Disney Orchestra.
The Disney Orchestra is a bit of a broad term because several different composers worked on the soundtracks to Disney movies in the 90s, including Elton John and Phil Collins.
Any high school student with a MacBook thinks they can be the next J.S. Bach because they can arrange "organs" and "strings" in Garage Band. But real musicianship can be found at the heart of all our favorite Disney movies, my personal favorite being "Aladdin."
The "Aladdin" soundtrack was composed by Alan Menken and lyricized by Tim Rice and Howard Ashman who unfortunately passed away before its completion. I could probably sing you every word of each song.
Some days I like to walk around campus blasting "Prince Ali" through my headphones, imagining that there is a parade of horns and drums close behind me. The strut that comes with it is unavoidable.
I won't pretend I'm an orchestral music fanatic, but listening to a Disney soundtrack without watching the film is a totally different experience. You can hear the ornamentation more clearly, the extra voices and background strings and all of the other nuances that separate it from pop radio.
The best way to categorize the music without saying "soundtrack" could be pop orchestra because it aims to entertain a younger audience with catchy melodies while still maintaining a level of professionalism recognized by the musical world.
Even if you don't care about the subtle musicianship, there has to be at least one song that you know by heart. Even if as a little kid you were saying to yourself, "stop singing and get back to the movie," there's always that one that you could scream at the top of your lungs if you were to watch it today.
There are the ones that everybody knows: "Hakuna Matata" from "The Lion King," "Make a Man Out of You" from "Mulan," or "Under the Sea" from the "Little Mermaid" to name a few.
"Under the Sea" is one of my favorites because of the steel drums that give it that Caribbean sound. They make an interesting popping sound, somewhat similar to a xylophone.
Even though the works themselves are quite honestly masterpieces, they wouldn't be what they are without the films. The animators and editors did a spectacular job of lining up the music with appropriate movements of the camera and characters to create a full on exploitation of the senses.
While my bias leaves me to believe that the golden age of Disney musicals has ended with the 90s, I'm sure many people will debate that with the release of "Frozen" and its highly regarded soundtrack.
It's good to know that there is still hope for high quality Disney movies for future generations, because I wouldn't be the person I am today without the lessons learned from the ones of my childhood.
What's your favorite Disney song or soundtrack? Tweet me @GiGantoss.

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