The Top 20 Disney Theme Park Songs Of All Time

I have an entire iTunes playlist called “Disney Theme Park Music” because I don’t know what is going on with these modern songs. It’s all loud rock-n-roll with kids shaking their hips and whatnot. What happened to those bygone days when a “Taylor Swift” was something seen during a riveting bird-watching expedition? I wish we could all return to a time of solemn church hymns, but the world goes on.

When it comes to theme park music, Disney wrote the book (or at least Buddy Baker and the Sherman Brothers did). No self-proclaimed expert is going to be caught dead listening to the Poseidon’s Fury Overture. Can you imagine? How embarrassing!

With almost sixty years of parks on four continents (Japan is a continent, right?), there’s a lot to choose from. I hereby submit my top 20 Disney Theme Park Songs of all time.

I dare you to disagree.

20. Mickey Mania

Back in the 90s, there was a Magic Kingdom parade called Mickey Mania. Roger Rabbit himself called it a “def jam.” And verily I say unto you, hath no jam ever soundeth so def.

Packed with hip 90s lingo and driven by a rockin’ 90s dance beat, the theme music was infectious and happy. None of the Magic Kingdom parades since have come close (but the Splash Mountain Rap might).

19. Tokyo DisneySea Theme Song

I first heard this song when Ted brought back a soundtrack CD during one of his hundred trips across the Pacific (I swear he owns stock in Oriental Land Company — or has his own personal submarine). It’s now used mainly as a background track for Opening Ceremonies, celebrations, and shows. But it is stirring and uplifting in the way all those goofy Disney park celebrations are.

Tokyo DisneySea Aquasphere

This should be the album cover to the Top 20 Disney Theme Park Songs

18. Another Part of Me

This song appeared as a single on Michael Jackson’s 1988 Bad album, but it was first introduced as Captain EO’s grand exit song in 1986. It’s got a great 80s vibe, and it is impossible to say the song title without adding Jackson’s signature hee-hee at the end, because that’s how it is sung. It’s so groovy, Captain EO kept using it even after he was promoted to Admiral EO.

17. Tapestry of Nations

Part of the Millennium Celebration at Epcot, this theme song to the parade of the same title is mostly instrumental, with some choral chanting providing the lyrics. It somehow manages to be stately and playful at the same time. It is best listened to while envisioning bizarre oversized puppets.

Scar Puppet from the Legend of the Lion King at Magic Kingdom

Ugh. Not this one.

16. Two Brothers

This brief, gut-wrenching musical interstitial to the Civil War portion of the American Adventure features haunting female harmony. Contrary to popular belief, it is not about the Sherman Brothers, though their favorite colors were blue and gray and neither of them could ever get cannonballs to mind.

15. If You Had Wings

…Had wings … had wings. You heard it in your head even as you read the title. The ride is no longer with us, but this extended omnimover commercial for Eastern Airlines had one of those ethereal 70s theme songs that seems to come from the land of dreams. Its successor, the Dreamflight theme song, wasn’t bad either, but this Magic Kingdom classic still rules the skies. It can still be heard in instrumental form as part of Tomorrowland’s background music loop.

14. New Horizons

The original incarnation of EPCOT Center was loaded with stirring, forward-looking theme songs for its pavilions, and the Horizons theme song was one of the absolute best. It mixed bellowing female vocals with a child’s choir singing that famous Walt quote “If you can dream it, then you can do it (yes you can, yes you can).” If space travel ever becomes affordable in my lifetime, this is the song I’ll be listening to as I break away from Earth’s gravity, right before the alien bursts out of my chest.

13. There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

Carousel of Progress’s theme song was heralded as a masterpiece, exiled for a short time, and then re-instated. In that sense, it has a lot in common with Napoleon. It is unrepentantly optimistic, which seems to be a theme running through a lot of these park songs. You can practically feel your seat rotating underneath you as you listen to this song, no matter where you are.

12. We Go On

Another Millennium song on the list! This one caps the end of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. When that central torch of fire rises from the glittery LED panels of our Earth opening like a flower, you’d swear you’re at the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. And whether you’re already smiling in pride at the finale, or still scowling about that convention crowd which somehow managed to fence off all the prime viewing locations around the lagoon, this song will make your heart soar.

11. Monorail Song

This is old school Disneyland, and purely instrumental. Nevertheless, this is a jaunty accompaniment to a world on the move. If the orchestration sounds like it was written in the 60s, that’s because it was. I first heard this “track” (see what I did there?) as a segment background from one of those Disneyland TV shows. They were showing the newly added monorail. Little did I know it really was called the Monorail Song. Happy and awesome, it is (No idea why I’m suddenly talking like Yoda).

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Shane was raised on a steady diet of EPCOT Center and Kenner action figures. Parkeology is the happy result. He is the creator along with his friend Ted of the WDW47 Challenge and the WDW49 Challenge -- featured by such media giants as CNN, ABC, FoxNews, and the in-flight magazine for Norwegian Air. With his brother Tristan, Shane is the author of the adventure fantasy novels Arabian Heist and Johnny Shipwreck. He currently resides in the Swiss Family Treehouse.

33 thoughts on “The Top 20 Disney Theme Park Songs Of All Time

  1. One little spark is amazing it should be one here even if it is #20

    • So many great park songs had to be left off the list. I like One Little Spark, but honestly can’t rank it above these.

  2. I love the list! What’s really interesting is how we tend to love the songs we experience for the first time. Growing up, my Carousel of Progress memories were of ‘Now is the time…’ I recall the first time I heard ‘There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow’ and being furious that they changed the song.

    • Well, “Now is the Time” is actually the original COP song for me as well. I was not even aware of Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow until the Tomorrowland redo of ’94, when it was slotted back in. But I have to say, it’s better.

  3. Shane, great list! I have recently fallen in love with listening to Disney theme park music during my annoying “not-on-vacation” periods.

    Your list has some great ones that I have come to really love — as mentioned above, I also love the “Listen to the Land” song — another one I discovered recently is “Making Memories” — great song to describe a vacation, but also a really fun, catchy tune.

    As for Soarin’ — it’s a family favorite theme song — and I am definitely amongst those who feel the need to clap at the end of the ride.

    • So many great original Epcot songs that it’s hard to leave some of them out. And congrats on discovering Making Memories! So cheesy, yet such a part of Epcot’s early years. Epcot always had this weird blend of 80s electronica futurism in its music, offset by cornball jazzy tunes and 1900s Music Man-style music. Making Memories falls into this category, as does Fun to be Free, Astuter Computer Revue, and country folksy things like Listen to the Land.

  4. No “We’ve Just Begun to Dream”? For shame. The theme from the Timekeeper is very underrated, too. Great choices, though. Tough to get to 20!

    • I love the Timekeeper music also. I probably would have put that ahead of We’ve Just Begun To Dream. But like you point out, it’s so hard to get down to 20. Sacrifices must be made!

  5. I also love listinging to Disney Theme Park music and enjoyed your list. Spectromagic would have to be somewhere near the top of the list for me, along with Golden Dream, Soarin’ and Grim Grinning Ghosts.

    As far as attractions that get spontaneous applause, I would have to say that about 50% of the time, Mickey’s Philharmagic gets applause at the end. It’s always fun to visit that attraction when it happens that the majority of the audience hasn’t seen it before and you can hear their reactions.

  6. Putting Golden Dream in your top spot is exactly right. There is no better theme park song and never will be. I ALWAYS get misty-eyed when I hear that song and Walt’s image comes up on the screen. Oh crap, what’s that in my eye now? Excuse me for a moment.

  7. Just make believe, you’re a tiny little seed…

    THE LAND MAN! What happened to THE LAND! That original tune is THE BEST.

    Anyone have a good recording of Tomorrow’s Child they can share? I’ll trade some of my recordings including the Enchanted Tiki Room!

  8. I think the bizarre puppets must be the key to Tapestry of Nations. I don’t have any memories of them (even though I was at EPCOT Center in 1984), and don’t care too much for the song.
    Reflections of Earth, OTOH, is one of my favorite single pieces of music in WDW.

  9. Love all of these! I’m not sure if parade music counts, but I would definitely add SpectroMagic, The Electrical Light Parade and ESPECIALLY Remember the Magic from Magic Kingdom’s 25th to my list!

    This definitely just inspired me to listen to some park music all day.

    • Baroque Hoedown IS the Electrical Light Parade. Spectro just missed my Top 20, and I find that Remember the Magic song too schlocky, I guess.

  10. To say “Soarin'” features “the same melody over and over again” is a bit of an over simplification, I think. Most parkgoers will be unaware that this wonderful piece of music was composed by master film scorer (and musical genius, in my opinion) Jerry Goldsmith. I guarantee you have heard Jerry’s film scores before because his other film work is played in heavy rotation in the “Soarin'” queue.

    There are no fewer than four distinct themes in “Soarin'” and most are repeated at least twice (not the same melody over and over). The most-repeated, central theme is skillfully orchestrated to evoke an outstanding emotional response related to the picture. To squeeze so much into a 4:45 minute piece is a remarkable accomplishment. I have never been on “Soarin'” when the audience did not applaud at the end of the ride. (I can’t think of another ride that has ever solicited applause.)

    I believe the score to this ride accounts for more than half of the experience. When Disney decides to revamp “Soarin'”, coming up with a new equally impressive piece of music is going to be extremely difficult.

    • While sadly Jerry Goldsmith is no longer with us, I think a good choice to score a Soarin’ follow-up would be Bruce Broughton. He has written a lot of solid music for the parks and he just seems to “get” the vibe of what WDI does. I fully agree that Goldsmith’s score is a significant part of Soarin’s success. I would imagine any future versions would include quotations of the original themes along with new material, almost like the Raiders March throughout the Indiana Jones films.

    • Yeah, it was an oversimplification, but I didn’t want to spend too much time going into the nuances of each piece. There are variations, but it’s very similar and consistent throughout, without becoming repetitive. And you’re right, the Jerry film scores in the queue are an awesome highlight.

      Good question about the applause! I’m trying to rack my brains. There are some rides that out-and-out fish for it, and pretty much guilt you into it (I’m looking at you, Great Movie Ride). But Soarin’ does have a very high spontaneous applause ratio. Tower of Terror is the same way. Pretty much every elevator will end in applause, and lately Star Tours has been that way for me as well (though certainly not every time).

  11. Interesting choices!
    As a DLP local, I miss the amazing and dark Phantom Manor music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPRu1WX5PtY
    Space Mountain (original version “De la Terre à la Lune” is also fantastic : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Y6tIk4zuas

    For all theme park music lovers out there, you should dig for Efteling music. Efteling is a wonderful theme park in the Netherlands. They pay a lot of attention to music, often especially composed for the park. These are my favorites Efteling tunes:
    Droomvlucht: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ji6Mr8RYr3M
    Spookslot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YE6HGTDXRY
    Raveleijn: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxN2HeAcySg
    De Magische Klok: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9VuSueSCTA
    Joris & de Draak: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XenTHW5lbV0
    Langnek: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRLjseKKpdE
    Ruigrijk : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75rmpVy0ToU
    Parking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CE0CUNKknRY
    Fata Morgana: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gh8QhjQcgrA

    Enjoy!

    More info on Efteling here: http://parcorama.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/my-love-letter-to-efteling/#UniqueName

    • Agreed, Phantom Manor is awesome, and the Space Mountain original soundtrack is fantastic as well. Space Mountain was another one that just missed the cut for me.

      I think what this is showing is that it’s really hard to whittle it down to a Top 20. At some point, you have to start leaving classics behind.

  12. Interesting Shane that your top 10 is 40% EPCOT music (50 if you include Soarn’).

    My list would be close to 100% original EPCOT.

    I think the big one you are missing is the EPCOT entrance loop. All instrumental and incredibly stirring. It’s sort of cheating since it samples from many songs but that’s a way to get a lot more in there with only one entry.

    The Dick Dale soundtrack from DL Space Mountain (sadly and needlessly replaced a few years back) is also great.

    In fact I’d drop all the show music with the exception of Baroque Howdown to make room for more ride tracks. TDS has a bunch and I even like some of the AK music, especially the track they used to play by the Elephants on the safari (from an album called African Dawn).

    But everything always comes full circle back to the EPCOT music for me. Close your eyes, pick a pavilion and the music was awesome. That EPCOT Center album was like Disney’s White Album.

    • Without a doubt, the EPCOT Center Official Album is the best park soundtrack ever released. Look at all the amazing songs I had to leave off: Making Memories, Listen to the Land, One Little Spark, Fun to be Free. And you’re favorite, the Astuter Computer Revue.

      The AK songs are all hypnotic, but they all start to sound too similar after awhile. They sort of split the vote amongst themselves, and in the end, I didn’t include them. Strong case for the African Dawn song though.

  13. These get lots of play on my iPod, too! Great list–I’m so glad you included the Tokyo Disney Sea theme! But, c’mon…No love for the Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room or One Little Spark?

    My own list would also include Junkyard Jamboree, Miracles From Molecules and The Bear Band Serenade.

    • I knew the Tiki room slight would get me some criticism! In the end, I just felt it hit too much of the same note. Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit was kind of the same way.

      I thought about including some Country Bears as well, though I would have gone with Heart We Did All That We Could. The Serenade is fun, but more expository than other true song numbers.

      Miracles from Molecules just missed the cut.

  14. I have long been a fan of the cloppity-clop section of Soarin’ Over California.

    I’d have to think about a bit, but it feels like there hasn’t been any truly great new Disney park music in quite a while. Some of the newer nighttime spectaculars have contributed a few new pieces but largely they are new arrangements of existing material. In terms of the attractions I can’t really come up with anything past Soarin’ that isn’t existing music. I hope more original music can find its way into the parks soon, although with the drive to have only character-based attractions I’m not sure if we will see that happen anytime soon.

    “Meet the World” from Tokyo Disneyland would certainly be on my list of great Disney park music, a true classic Sherman Brothers earworm.

    • I had Meet the World on the list originally, but bumped it out for the TDS Theme Song, which feels grander.

      You’re right about the new music. I tried to think of a few examples that are more recent that are up to par. The Mater songs at Junkyard Jamboree are pretty darn great. And the song to the Magic The Memories and You show is stellar as well.

    • Sorry for not doing that. It would have taken more time than I had. A lot of these can be found quickly just by googling for them. Almost all have been available on some official album or another. Or you could check out some of the Disney internet radio sites that abound. They’re bound to turn up.

  15. “If You had Wings” has been stuck in my head on and off for thirty years. And we sang “Golden Dream” in my middle school choir three years running, so I know all the ooh and aah harmonies cold. It’s a great, big, earwormy tomorrow.

    • That’s kind of awesome that your middle school choir did Golden Dream. Was your teacher a Disney freak?

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