Like a lot of people, I really love Disney musicals. Some of my fave films (Disney or not) are musicals and I’ve seen Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King Performed live. I’m not really an aficionado of musicals so I’m not the best critic of what defines the best of the best in musicals, but I will say one thing that can really make or great a musical is the opening number. It has to really hook you in. And these songs, in my opinion, do their job. Here are my top five fave Disney opening numbers. They are…
#5: Frozen Heart (Frozen)
Putting this at the bottom because I really don’t think Frozen is that good a musical (people only really remember Let It Go, and there’s no use of reprises or a finale song to make the whole thing flow), but this song is pretty badass. It brilliantly uses the cutting of ice picks as acoustics, and the men singing this song have very deep, powerful voices. It helps set up the role ice is going to play in the movie (foreshadowing just how powerful Elsa could be). The only problem is that it talks about a Frozen Heart, but we never figure out what exactly it is. We know that A frozen heart is what happens when you get magic ice stuck in your chest, but the song makes it sound like it’s going to be something more sinister, like it’s going to be what Elsa would become. Well, despite it, this song is pretty chilling (pun intended) and probably what helped sucker people into the film.
#4: The Circle of Life (The Lion King)
I think this song is the main reason why so many people love this movie. Right away it hooks you in with the stunning imagery and vocals. The scope of the whole scene is so grand and amazing. My only gripe is that I find it hard to believe all these animals would be so happy over the birth of a lion like it’s the second coming of Christ (yeah…not a big fan of this movie), but at any rate, the song itself is still amazing.
#3: Two Worlds, One Family (Tarzan)
This movie isn’t technically a musical but the opening to this movie is really intense so I had to put it here. The song starts off quietly, then gradually gets louder and more intense, building up tension and excitement. Even if you don’t like Phil Collins’s voice, you have to admit he could really play the drums. The song does a great job establishing the backstory of the main characters and how they parallel each other. The lyrics also do a good job of matching the visuals without necessarily stating the obvious. Overall, this is an underrated opening number. It’s fantastic.
#2: Bells of Notre Dame (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
This song masterfully incorporates a Latin choir and church bells to make a powerful song. It does a fantastic job setting up the plot, characters, theme, and general tone of the movie. Right away you can tell this is no typical animated kiddie fare; this is something that (for the most part) takes itself very seriously, and is a masterpiece in its own right. I couldn’t find the whole opening with the visuals in one video, so check out the movie for yourself. It’s worth it.
And my number one pick?
#1: This is Halloween (The Nightmare Before Christmas)\
Definitely the best Disney musical (along with Beauty and the Beast). Why? Because all the songs are good and unique in their own way and serve an integral part of the story, helping it move along. When I saw this opening number for the first time, it completely blew me away. Some of the imagery looked REAL. There are times when you go “how did they do that?” The scene grabs you and never lets go, introducing you to the eccentric but amazing world of Halloweentown, with eye-popping imagery and brilliant music. There’s also a great sense of community established right away with the citizens of Halloweentown, and their adoration of Jack is very clear. There’s also great use of foreshadowing the sinister and ominous Oogie Boogie and the inquisitive Sally. But more than anything, the opening is FUN. You know that you’re going to have a great time with this movie, singing and dancing along with the rest of the movie (I know I do from time to time!).
And there you have it! We’ll see how Moana stacks up against these!