Close your eyes and try to imagine being in a Disney theme park without music. Isn’t it a strange feeling? Of course, I have a little bit of bias as a trained musician who is always listening to music, but I think that music is an integral part of the parks. Very few guests have experienced Disneyland Paris in silence, usually only during times with technical issues or if they’re at Disney Village before it opens (merci Starbucks for opening early!).
In this week’s article, I’m going to be discussing the soundtracks of not only rides but also shows, parades, and even a fireworks show (that may or may not be sponsored by Pandora). Let’s dive in a take and look at some of the best soundtracks that can be heard in Disneyland Paris.
Halloween Celebration – Great Big Year/Are You Brave Enough?
Scott Erickson arranged “Great Big Year” for the 2018 Halloween parade. The song was not only a celebration of the season of Halloween but also a kind of foreshadowing of Mickey’s 90th birthday celebrations, also known as the Surprise Mickey season (remember those cupcake girls?). The music was simple and catchy, allowing guests to quickly learn the lyrics to sing along as the parade went by.
After the end of Mickey’s 90th birthday celebrations, Disneyland Paris decided to bring back the music of Erickson for the fall season of 2019, but this time with some new lyrics that better reflected the Halloween season. I personally love the choice of bringing back the music for Mickey’s Halloween Celebration because it perfectly captures the theme of the season – family fun with just a few spooks to look out for (yes, that was me jumping a foot in the air the first time I saw the fireworks on the Central Hub stages)!
Jamming out with not only the classic characters like Mickey and Goofy but also more unique ones like Melanie Ravenswood and the (sparkly) Phantom is such an unforgettable experience and would be a lot less spooky fun without the great music! Music makes it easier for everyone to be dancing to the same beat and is much easier to learn than a monologue or something along those lines. Now, are you brave enough to face the next attraction?
“it’s a small world”
Well now that this song is going to be stuck in your head for the next few minutes (at least), let’s go into detail about one of the (in)famous Disney attraction songs in history. The Sherman Brothers were some of the greatest attraction composers in the world and even if I don’t love the attraction, I have to admit that anyone who can make an earworm this popular deserves praise. The song is incredibly simple, yet even the most jaded guests find themselves bopping their heads to the music by the time the boat ride ends.
While I’m not a big fan of the attraction as it is now, let me assure you, it is ten times creepier when you are trapped on a boat in the final room hearing nothing but clicking dolls. Music is absolutely essential for this ride if you don’t want it to turn into the next haunted house after Phantom Manor. I’d rather have that song in my head on repeat for the rest of my life than go through that horrifying experience again.
Stars on Parade
“ET MAINTENANT….” Let me start by saying that the introductory drum roll and subsequent blasts of music for Stars on Parade are probably my favorite part of any parade music ever, so there’s definitely going to be a little more bias in this section. As a musician, I know that many songs have the same beat (and even the same melody), but every time the songs transition in the parade I’m blown away by how perfect it sounds. Each float has its own version of the parade music with different songs (slightly remixed) like “Beyond the Sea”, “Un jour mon prince viendra”, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”, and “For the First Time in Forever”.
A personal highlight for me during the parade was when there was a technical error and the intro music played the entire time. Others might have been a bit confused by the repetitiveness but I was having the absolute time of my life jamming out as the floats and characters went by as usual.
Mickey and the Magician – Let the Magic Shine
What the soundtrack of Mickey and the Magician does is tie in multiple beloved Disney songs while also using a new one (“Let It Shine”) as the main theme, another brilliant arrangement from Erickson. As Mickey learns to become a true magician and perform magic, he is helped by some of Disney’s “magical” friends like the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella, the Genie from Aladdin, and even Queen Elsa from the Frozen movies! Each segment of the show is a song from one of the beloved Disney movies that ties into the same message – The magic is inside of all of us, we just have to let it shine. “Let It Shine” is the song that ties the different stories together and gives guests a song that will be stuck in their head for the rest of the day, long after the streamers have been cleared away.
Mickey and the Magician is returning very soon and I can’t wait to see the magic shine again!
You didn’t think that I would leave out the best soundtrack in the park, would you? The Phantom Manor Suite, composed by John Debney for the attraction, is a piece that never fails to take me on an emotional journey of love and loss. Even though it is based on the boppy “Grim Grinning Ghosts” by Buddy Baker, Debney makes the music his own, taking guests on a dark journey through the Ravenswood Manor. There is even a tribute to Baker’s original song in the Phantom Canyon scene of the attraction, with the singing busts making an appearance with some musical skeletons!
Of course, I can’t write about the Phantom Manor soundtrack without bringing up the infamous “soft opening” controversy. During the time when Annual Pass members could get a sneak peek of the attraction in May before it opened, guests were shocked that the gorgeous soundtrack had been changed, especially in the ballroom scene. Now the music was jarring and unfortunately nearly identical to the Haunted Mansion, something that many guests were not happy with. Disneyland Paris actually responded to the complaints and brought back the original music for the ballroom scene, letting me breathe a sigh of relief the next time I went on the ride.
I’ll be honest – Disney Illuminations (sponsored by Pandora) isn’t my favorite Disney nighttime spectacular. That honor is legally obligated to go to IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth (1999-2019: Rest in Peace, forever in our hearts). But the castle show is a nice way to end the evening after a busy day of attractions, characters, and food. Illuminations tells the story of the dreamers in all of us, no matter how young or old, tall or small. The music is full of triumph with a hint of nostalgia, something that helps end the night nicely.
While both projections and fireworks are nice on their own, bringing in music allows the creative team at Disneyland Paris to tell a beautiful story with songs from hit movies like The Lion King, Frozen, Finding Nemo, and even the Star Wars saga (you have to love the music of John Williams blaring through the speakers as fireworks go off behind the castle). There are some low points with incorporating modern music (“How Does A Moment Last Forever” is not my favorite song and I wish that there was more from the original Beauty and the Beast instead of the live-action remake), but it’s necessary to not just have classics in order to appeal to people od all ages.
Ultimately, music is one of the most important and magical things about Disneyland Paris, even if it is usually taken for granted and sometimes even ignored by guests. The sounds we hear enable us to be transported into another world of fantasy, discovery, and adventure through soundtracks and songs. It doesn’t take a musician to recognize the talents of the Disneyland Paris creative team and the music/sounds it has created for the parks.
Disclaimer: All of the beliefs stated in this series are my opinions, not the opinions of DLPReport and its associates. I only wish to give my thoughts and do not intend to hurt anyone with my words.