10. Energy (You Make the World Go ‘Round)
The original Universe of Energy’s pre-show closed with this 80s love ballad about gas and stuff. The song’s message: We are nowhere without energy. It’s also a misnomer because it is Gravity, not Energy, which makes the world go round. But why let science get in the way of a good theme park song? But on the other hand, you could substitute the word “Gravity” for “Energy” if you want, and the song still sounds the same. But Ellen’s Gravity Adventure sounds weird since comedians are known for their levity. But then you could also swap the word “Levity” for “Gravity” and… anyway.
9. Yo-Ho Yo-Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)
Pirate ghosts from centuries ago are kicking themselves for not thinking up this song themselves. This infectious sea chanty is what all pirates simply must sing from here on out, until the end of time. It is the perfect accompaniment to Pirates of the Caribbean. The ride looks a lot more cruel and dark without this rousing chorus to lighten the proceedings.
8. Baroque Hoedown
The best use of electrosynthomagnetic musical sound ever recorded. This is the song Deep Blue listens to when it goes to bed. Hard to believe that something so synthesized could be so delightful, but one cannot imagine the Main Street Electrical Parade without the blips and bleeps and squawks of Baroque Hoedown trickling through its various permutations. It’s at its best when fusing in other songs, like Grand Old Flag. Or Disney music. Or that hilarious circus pipe organ.
The show Fantasmic has several musical numbers, but it’s the theme song (which is untitled on the official albums) which knocks it out of the park. From that first glittering word “Imagination,” the song slips into your subconscious and takes flight, with pounding trumpet fanfares and sweeping orchestrations. Still gives out goosebumps even years later.
6. Soarin’ Over California
Another all-instrumental selection, which serves as the backdrop for the entire ride. It’s the same melody over and over again, with slight variations based on the scenes we’re flying over. It perfectly captures the feeling of drifting through open air. My favorite part is the cloppity-clop rhythm that kicks in during the desert scene with the riders on horseback.
5. Canada (You’re a Lifetime Journey)
This is the most beautiful song on my list. When they changed up Canada’s Circle-Vision movie a few years back, I was worried the natural splendor of the country would be lost in frantic Martin Short shenanigans. But the filmmakers wisely kept the same ending, with a new recording of the closing song. The current incarnation is a little too “American Idol” at times, but it’s hard to beat the melody.
4. Grim Grinning Ghosts
Haunted Mansion’s jubilant celebration of the macabre is noteworthy for its many permutations throughout the attractions. Sinister and foreboding in the lobby, discordant in the ballroom, and full-on party mode in the graveyard. The lyrics are delightfully twisted, and the beats of the verses are nicely punctuated by those pop-up dead heads in the ride.
It was inspired by William Shakespeare himself and sung by Thurl Ravenscroft (Tony the Tiger, the Grinch) himself, for a nice deep sound.
3. It’s a Small World
You knew this was coming, right? The theme park song everyone loves to hate. But don’t be a hater. This song simply is Disney.
A simple round with simple lyrics and simple ideas — do you know how hard it is to create something so perfect and enduring? It is repetitive, but that’s part of the cohesiveness that makes this ride an enduring classic. Like Grim Grinning Ghosts and Yo-Ho, this song as has an extraordinary ability to rework itself a dozen times during the course of your boat ride. My favorite is the far-off island serenity of the South Seas version, with those hula dancers shaking to the beat.
2. Tomorrow’s Child
This song has a twinkle in its eyes, a melodious sonnet to the ideals behind the original EPCOT Center. It was jettisoned from the Spaceship Earth descent sometime in the 90s, when Jeremy Irons’s narration replaced Walter Cronkite’s. It’s a darn sight better than listening to that interactive Siemens cartoon that plays over the finale today.
And the Top Disney Theme Park Song is… Golden Dream
Patriotic songs seemed to have disappeared as a genre for U.S. songwriters to explore. Golden Dream may be the last true American anthem. The song is about greatness, and it achieves greatness itself. Full of optimism, but not the goofy Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow kind. This song knows where American has come from and knows where it is going. When it wraps up the American Adventure, with the sun rising behind the Statue of Liberty, you find yourself almost busting with national pride.
So there you have it. The definitive list. How does this compare to your list?