Mentioning soundtracks of animated musical films, would likely immediately conjure up the image of Elsa strutting over the snow, singing “Let It Go”. Songs in kids’ films are not a new concept, but they have gotten better over the years to the extent where they are nominated for and win Academy Awards.
However, there are several criminally underrated songs in animated films that are just as good as the prize winners (sometimes even better).
10 “Great Spirits” – Brother Bear
Brother Bear was released in 2003 and tells the story of a Native American boy, Kenai, who can’t wait to become a man. However, when one of his brothers is killed by a bear, he immediately seeks revenge and is turned into a bear himself when he angers the spirits of his people. This profound story couldn’t have anything other than fantastic music to accompany it, and that it does.
The soundtrack was written by Phil Collins (who also wrote the songs for Tarzan) and some of the songs are truly excellent. A great example is “Great Spirits” performed by Tina Turner. Tina is no stranger to movie soundtracks, having also provided the title song to the James Bond film, “Golden Eye”.
9 “I See The Light” – Tangled
Tangled doesn’t only have many underrated songs, but is also an underrated film as Frozen seems to take precedence when it comes to favorite animated movies. The film tells the story of Rapunzel in a new and fresh way, with some great songs in the mix. These include “When Will My Life Begin”, “Mother Knows Best”, and “I’ve Got A Dream.”
The best by far however, is the song at the end of the movie when Rapunzel’s dream of seeing the floating lanterns comes true. She and Flynn are on a boat with the lanterns highlighting the scene from the background when they start singing, “I See The Light.” This epic song is performed by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi and is still truly underrated.
8 “Deliver Us” – The Prince of Egypt
Dreamworks is behind the grand animated story, The Prince of Egypt, and while there are many awesome songs that form part of the soundtrack including “When You Believe”, some are surprisingly underrated as well. “When You Believe” is sung in the movie by the characters of Tzipporah and Miriam and a pop version was recorded by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey in 1998. It also won the Oscar for Best Original Song.
Mostly overlooked however are the scores created by Hans Zimmer and Stephen Schwartz including the opening number of the movie, “Deliver Us”. Ofra Haza and Eden Riegel deliver a powerful vocal that sets up the story of the struggle of the Hebrew slaves.
7 “When We’re Human” – The Princess And The Frog
The Princess And The Frog is one of Disney’s most underappreciated gems. The movie tells the reworked tale of The Frog Princess in which a waitress named Tiana dreams of owning her own restaurant. She ends up kissing a prince who’d been turned into frog and ends up as a frog herself.
This film too features some great songs, two of which were nominated for Academy Awards but lost out to Up and Crazy Heart. The song that not many people talk about however is the fantastic “When We’re Human”.
Starting with the quip “enjoy your loneliness, my friend” this catchy tune definitely deserves more love.
6 “Lost in the Woods”- Frozen II
There is no doubt that Frozen has delivered some of the best songs of all animated films. “Let It Go” became a smash hit after the first film and the Idina Menzel-performed song won both a Grammy and an Oscar. It became one of the most globally recorded Disney songs and the international releases of the movie included at least 41 versions sung in different languages.
Menzel shone again in 2019 with the song “Show Yourself” that she performed as Elsa in Frozen II. While not quite as popular as “Let It Go”, the song garnered much acclaim.
There is a highly underappreciated ballad in the second movie however, sung by Kristoff (Jonathan Groff). Sounding like a nod to Chicago’s “You’re the Inspiration”, Kristoff belts out “Lost in the Woods” while he’s, you know, in the woods. There is even a nod to Queen in one scene during the song.
And while we’re at it, let’s never forget about “Reindeer Are Better Than People.”
5 “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” – Mulan
Mulan is another beautifully told story and is based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan. The film takes place during the Han dynasty in China and sees Fa Mulan impersonating a man in order to take her father’s place in battling a Hun invasion.
The action is set to a great soundtrack that includes songs like “A Girl Worth Fighting For”, “Honor To Us All”, and “Reflection.” One of the best songs to come out of this classic animated film is the inspiring “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” It is performed by Donny Osmond & Chorus and plays as Mulan and her army are transformed into warriors. Stephen Schwartz was tasked with scoring the soundtrack of Mulan, and his ideas included a melody called “We’ll Make a Man Out of You.” He was however persuaded by Dreamworks to make music for the Prince of Egypt instead and the song was changed to “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”.
4 “When She Loved Me”- Toy Story 2
The Toy Story movies are hugely popular with kids and adults alike. Woody, Buzz Lightyear and their friends made a huge impression with the first film and this led to 3 sequels all with their own great soundtracks. The first instalment was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Original Screenplay and was also nominated for Best Original Song for “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” which is the most well-known song on the soundtrack.
There are quite a few sad moments throughout the Toy Story movies, with one of the most heartbreaking scenes being the one in Toy Story 2 when Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl ruminates about being forgotten and given away by her owner Emily. The song that plays during this scene “When She Loved Me” is sung by Sarah McLachlan and is a true underrated tearjerker.
3 “Immortals” – Big Hero 6
During the trailers of Big Hero 6, the song “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” by Fall Out Boy could be heard playing throughout several scenes. And that wasn’t the last of the band’s songs in the movie either. Big Hero 6 follows the adventures of Hiro Hamada and Baymax and is the first Disney animated film to feature Marvel Comics characters.
It was the highest grossing animated film of 2014 and won several awards including an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. The soundtrack includes a thumper of a song by Fall Out Boy called “Immortals.” The song was written specifically for the movie and sold one million units. But despite its success, the tune still doesn’t make a lot of ‘best of’ lists.
2 “I Won’t Say (I’m In Love)” – Hercules
Development of the animated classic, Hercules, began in 1992 and the movie was finally released as a musical fantasy film in 1997. The film didn’t perform quite as well as its Disney predecessors and the soundtrack received mixed reviews. Some of the most recognizable songs to come out of the movie, is “Go The Distance” by Michael Bolton and “One Last Hope” by Danny DeVito.
The most under appreciated song on the soundtrack is “I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)” which is performed by Susan Egan, Lillias White, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, Cheryl Freeman and Vanéese Y. Thomas. The pop ballad is reminiscent of 1950s songs and its lyrics are about denying have romantic feelings towards a particular person; in this case Meg denying having feelings for Hercules.
1 “You’ll Be In My Heart” – Tarzan
Tarzan was the most expensive animated film ever made until Final Fantasy was released in 2001. It grossed $448 million worldwide and became the second highest grossing animated release in 1999, after Toy Story 2. The success of the film led to two sequels, a TV series and a Broadway show.
The songs on the Tarzan soundtrack were composed by music legend, Phil Collins and one of the tracks, “You’ll Be In My Heart”, won an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Original Song. The soundtrack as a whole was the first to be recorded in several different languages to cater for different countries and Collins recorded French, Italian, German and Spanish versions of the songs. The album release of the soundtrack put Phil Collins back in the spotlight as it became his best-selling album in ten years. Strangely enough, despite “You’ll Be In My Heart’s” massive success, it is still one of the most underrated songs in an animated film.