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Disney was one of the staples of my childhood, and one of the sub-staples of that staple was the series of Sing-Along videos that came out from the mid-’80s to the 2000’s. With the dawn of home video, Disney jumped on the bandwagon to ensure every generation grew up with its classics in some form or another, and this was the perfect way to do it. Sure, many of the songs featured were taken from animated movies we all know and love, as well as from a few park attractions that have the most earworm-iest themes, but they also included tunes from the Walt-era of television shows and live-action films. That was my gateway to the Wonderful World of Disney that sadly is often overshadowed by whatever preteen crap the Disney Channel is peddling today. Each tape was a twenty-minute compilation of their greatest hits and they kept families entertained for hours…well, they kept the kids quiet for a half-hour at least. I know they did for me. So strike up the birdhouse school band Professor Owl, let’s look at my 10 favorite Disney Sing-Alongs!
10. The Bare Necessities (1987)
I have to be honest, The Jungle Book was never one of my favorite Disney films, but I love the music from it. Frankly I think I may have watched the sing-along more than the actual movie. It features two of the best musical numbers, “I Wanna Be Like You” and of course the song where the title of this video comes from, and it doesn’t disappoint. It even provides room to do some jazz scatting with King Louie and Baloo. This is also the video that probably has the most obscure tunes; apart from the aforementioned Jungle Book songs, the Work Song the mice from Cinderella sing, and the theme from Winnie the Pooh, it features “Look Out for Mr. Stork” from Dumbo (remember the last time you hummed that ditty?), one of Jiminy Cricket’s songs from the original Mickey Mouse Club, “The Ugly Bug Ball” from the lesser-known Hayley Mills movie Summer Magic (and the only reason I knew that it’s from there is because my grandma somehow got that movie on VHS while I was in middle school, and when I watched it for the first time and the song came up I was like “Hey! I remember this from that old sing-along video I used to have!”) and the theme from Old Yeller, which was my intro to the classic movie long before Animaniacs, every critic and their mama made fun of the infamous ending (they wisely leave it out during the song itself). These are some interesting choices to have on this tape, especially considering this was released to coincide with The Jungle Book’s 20th anniversary.You’d think they’d have more songs from the film on there, but I appreciate that they decided to shine the spotlight on some nice melodies that would have otherwise been overlooked.
9. Heigh-Ho (1987)
The first (though technically second released) in the Sing-Along lineup, “Heigh-Ho” was made in time for Snow White’s 50th anniversary with the song everyone remembers and loves the most at the forefront. Like with the previous entry, it only features one other song from the movie, “The Silly Song”, but I’m not complaining. I love the Seven Dwarfs and I’m glad they get quite a bit of screentime. Professor Owl even helps point out which dwarf is which for anyone who gets confused. I’ve tried to glean what kind of theme runs through the video, and the best I could come up with are songs of adventure. We’ve got The Three Caballeros, the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean (the ride, not the movies) which kind of used to scare me what with the stiff animatronics, dark lighting and explosion at the end, the theme song to Zorro (my intro to the classic series, which I can’t recommend enough; the version played here is also the complete one!), “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”, “A Cowboy Needs a Horse”, and a few others. My Disney nitpicking alarm goes off whenever I see them spell the “Heigh” in “Heigh-Ho” as “Hi”, but I guess they wanted to make sure it was easy for kids to say. I grew up with several videos mashed together on to one cassette, and Disney Sing-Alongs were no exception. This one always came first, and it was a great way to kick off the series.
8. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah (1986)
Once upon a time, there was an actual period in Disney history where they not only acknowledged Song of the South’s existence, but celebrated it, as is the case with this video. The Oscar-winning tune Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah is taken straight from the movie and performed by Uncle Remus himself, James Baskett. The reprise at the end is also from the movie, though they superimpose clips of other Disney characters singing it. It was, like most people from my generation, my introduction to the movie Disney will never let us see. I’ll save my thoughts on Song of the South itself for another day, but I will say it’s nice that for a time Disney didn’t try to sweep it under the rug, because take it in or out of context, Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah is a nice, catchy tune and it deserves to be heard and seen as it was originally intended.
7. Disneyland Fun aka It’s a Small World (1990)
The first sing-along to be solely live-action, this one was made for Disneyland’s 35th anniversary, because why stop at making 20 minute commercials for movies and television when you can also do it for theme parks? Anyone who grew up watching this tape will tell you this is exactly what they dreamed a day at Disneyland would be like – cavorting with your favorite characters, riding the rides and exploring the park with them, hell, Winnie the Pooh makes the act of sitting down and eating seem like fun! Every one of the tunes featured are catchy as hell, even the version of Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah with the “radical” 90’s rap that was cheesy even back then shoehorned in, and the addition of a ton of familiar faces makes it even more enjoyable. Most fans of the sing-alongs will say that makes this the best one, so why am I putting it so low on the list?
No reason. I just want to be obnoxious about not liking what everyone else likes. Call me a hipster, it’s better than –
Oh hey Connie from obscure ABC sitcom Just The Ten Of Us. What are you doing here?
Oh God…not THAT…anything but –
GOOD. GOD. Where do I begin with Grim Grinning Ghosts? I seriously want to know who thought making a slow, eerie version of the Haunted Mansion’s theme, throwing in the Disney villains (and Donald Duck dressed as a ghost for some reason), having them dance around a graveyard, and filming it at night would NOT give hundreds of kids nightmares. I know I wasn’t alone in running from the room and hiding whenever this came on. I loved going to the Disney Store at the mall when I was younger, but if this song happened to come on the big television screen, I would cry to be taken out until it was over. One of the things that definitely set me off at the start wasn’t just the eerie music, the shift from day to night, or the self-opening gates, it was those dancing trees. Just…YIKES. I never wanted to know what would happen if someone crossbred the scary trees from Snow White and the ones from The Evil Dead, but thanks to this song, I do. And I am not even joking when I say they still haunt my dreams. My very first trip to Disney World happened when I was two years old, and my earliest memories were of riding the Haunted Mansion. According to my parents I loved it, but this sing-along made me too afraid to ride it again until I was nearly in my teens. I’m all for throwing in a little darkness for the sake of a story, but when your whole simple sing-along is upbeat and light and then takes a sudden turn into nightmare territory, you’ve got the tunnel scenario from Willy Wonka again, only without a fan theory to possibly justify it. I love The Haunted Mansion and how it differs from much of the other rides in the park for being dark and spooky, but even THIS is too dark for it.
Anyway, Disneyland Fun sold well enough that they actually made another one for Disneyland Paris. It’s basically a remake since they use the same versions of certain songs with the only difference being the Paris version of the locations they filmed at, but they also threw in a few new numbers with attractions original to DP like Alice’s Curious Labyrinth and a tribute to Pecos Bill. And yes, they remade “Grim Grinning Ghosts” in front of and with scenes from Paris’ answer to the Haunted Mansion, Phantom Manor, demonic trees and all. Only this time we have a Phantom with the voice of Vincent Price bringing them to life and having them and the villains attend a ghoulish wedding. Ain’t love grand?
5. Be Our Guest
There we go, some nice Beauty and the Beast to take my mind off the nightmares. Jiminy Cricket primarily hosts this one, bringing together songs of romance (“Beauty and the Beast”, “Bella Notte”, “Once Upon a Dream”) with Mary Poppins and…Ratigan?! Yes, they include the villain song from one of the most underrated Disney classics in here, and to quote the big bad rat – er, mouse himself “I love it, I love it, I love it!”
Interesting enough, the version I grew up with had “Little Wooden Head” from Pinocchio in there. All other versions I’ve found, however, have it removed for some reason. I’m not entirely sure why, but I do miss it.
4. Fun With Music (1989)
This is one of the few sing-alongs to have a coherent theme, and what better and simpler theme to go to than music? This time Prof. Owl shares hosting duties with Ludwig Von Drake, and the good professor carries it out with panache from his appearances in the The Wonderful World of Color and several other shorts. This video was also the closest thing I had to watching Oliver and Company, since I didn’t own it or even see the movie until its re-release in the 90’s. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s a simple, enjoyable film with some catchy tunes (its flagship one, “Why Should I Worry” is sung by Billy Joel, no less!) Throw in songs from Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, and others from beloved shorts like “Jack and Old Mac” and “The Nifty Nineties”, and you’ve got nothing to worry about.
3. Mickey’s Fun Songs: Campout At Walt Disney World and Let’s Go To The Circus (1994)
Okay, these are technically not Disney Sing-Alongs, they’re from a spinoff called Mickey’s Fun Songs, but as the VHS cover on the first video indicates, they were later brought into the DSA fold. Plus I grew up watching these two as much as the other ones on this list so I count ’em! The premise is simple – Mickey and his friends go on a fun adventure with a bunch of real-world kids and both Disney and non-Disney songs are sung throughout. God I envied those lucky kids, dancing and singing with Mickey and Minnie while all I could do was pretend. Fun fact – not only are most of those kids on loan from Kidsongs, but one of them is Taj Mowry, aka Wade from Kim Possible. There was also a Beach Party one made under this title as well as a Halloween video where they had a party inside the Haunted Mansion, however I never learned about the former until I was too old to enjoy sing-alongs, and the Haunted Mansion one…well, you saw my reaction to the seventh entry on this countdown.
The Campout video made the act of roughing it in the wild actually seem like fun, and as the title proclaims, it was shot on location at Walt Disney World’s Fort Wilderness Campgrounds, as well as the now-closed Discovery Island. It even features appearances by rare characters including Orville from The Rescuers and The Country Bears. The Circus one was always my preferred of the two, though. Remember how I said the Disneyland one was a commercial for the park? Well this one is a tie-in with Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey and it features some of their most popular acts. Not only are Mickey and the gang watching the show, they get to be a part of it too, and it’s just as entertaining as the songs themselves. They even spend some time backstage before curtain call, and it’s great! It makes me want to revisit to the circus. Come on, kids, let’s all go right now!
2. Friend Like Me (1993)
Aladdin is AWESOME.
Friendship is AWESOME.
Songs from Aladdin and other Disney movies all about friendship are AWESOME.
This is one video where every bit of music fits the theme perfectly. We not only get two of the best pieces of music from Aladdin, that being “Friend Like Me” and “A Whole New World”, but music from The Parent Trap, Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Fox and the Hound, a catchy tune from The Little Mermaid tv series, Mickey Donald and Goofy crooning over their greatest exploits, and…can it be? Yes! More Song of the South put into appropriate context! Huzzah!
And my Number One favorite Disney Sing-Along is…
1. The Twelve Days of Christmas (1993)
As someone who loves the holiday season, this should come as no surprise. This takes the best of Disneyland Fun and Mickey’s Fun Songs and adds a heaping dose of Christmas spirit as Mickey and his friends – and I mean ALL of them, not just Goofy, Minnie, Donald and Pluto, but also Daisy, Chip, Dale, Roger Rabbit, Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Scrooge McDuck – get ready to celebrate in style. There’s caroling, sleigh rides, decorating, lists for Santa, and ending with a magical tree lighting in Disneyland with even more beloved Disney characters. Yes, some of the green screen effects, toys asked for by Donald’s nephews and song choices date it (“Hip Hop Noel”, anyone?) As a kid, I would watch this even when it wasn’t Christmas. As an adult, there’s no better way for me to get nostalgic and in the festive mood. Yes it’s cheesy, but I don’t care. It feels like this is exactly what the characters we love would be doing to prepare for the holidays. I don’t see people in costumes dancing around, I see Mickey and the gang having fun during the best time of the year. I loved it then, I love it now, and I look forward to putting it on every Christmastime.
Hi everyone. Sorry I didn’t get the Prince of Egypt review out in time. My new job started to take up more time, and I had to choose between working on PoE, wrapping up the next couple of Gravity Falls reviews, or working on my opening act for my screenwriting class before the month was up. Seeing how this list ended with a nod to the approaching holiday, I hope this put you in a festive mood just as much as it did for me, because I have more than a few surprises for December. Thanks for understanding. See you in a few days!