Saturday Matinee #148: "The Disney Classics Box Set, Part Two: Modern Classics" (November 12, 2013)
Published November 2, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
As discussed last week, Saturday Matinee will take a multi-week look at the upcoming "Disney Classics" box set, a four-CD set that draws from the past ninety years of the company's existence. This week, we take a look at the second CD in the set, aptly titled "Modern Classics." Given that the first CD selected songs from within a near-fifty-year range (1933 to 1981), this CD's selection skips a few years to start the Modern era at 1989 with The Little Mermaid. This gives us twenty-four years to select from theatrical films, including the hugely-popular 1990s, which understandably consists of half the tracks. That Broadway-Comes-To-Disney formula worked very well throughout that decade, though it would still serve as a hindrance when Disney attempted to branch away from that format in the 2000s. Let's take a look at the twenty-three songs selected from the Modern Classics:
01. "Under the Sea" - The Little Mermaid
02. "Be Our Guest" - Beauty and the Beast
03. "Seize the Day" - Newsies
04. "A Whole New World" - Aladdin
05. "What's This?" - Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas
06. "Circle of Life" - The Lion King
07. "Colors of the Wind" - Pocahontas
08. "You've Got a Friend in Me" - Toy Story
09. "Out There" - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
10. "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" - Hercules
11. "Reflection" - Mulan
12. "The Time of Your Life" - A Bug's Life
13. "Strangers Like Me" - Tarzan
14. "When She Loved Me" - Toy Story 2
15. "Whoop-de-Dooper Bounce" - The Tigger Movie
16. "If I Didn't Have You" - Monsters, Inc.
17. "Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride" - Lilo & Stitch
18. "Look Through My Eyes" - Brother Bear
19. "One Little Slip" - Chicken Little
20. "Happy Working Song" - Enchanted
21. "Dig a Little Deeper" - The Princess and the Frog
22. "I See the Light" - Tangled
23. "We Belong Together" - Toy Story 3
With only half as many years at their disposal, Modern Classics presumably should feature a wider range of material. However, unlike the Timeless Classics, we have some very noticeable omissions. Disney shows no love for The Great Mouse Detective's "The World's Greatest Criminal Mind" or even Oliver & Company's "Why Should I Worry?", neither of which even made it to the "Classic Disney" series. Granted, the latter is a song so steeply embedded in the 1980s that we can't really label it Timeless or Modern. Still, I'd have liked that sort of aged variety added to this list, perhaps in place of "Whoop-de-Dooper Bounce," which is harmless fun, but hardly a classic. I suspect the song may have been included as it was one of the last Sherman Brothers songs written for Disney (they had returned to the Disney fold with 1999's Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving and 2000's The Tigger Movie). Then again, not enough time has passed to justify "We Belong Together" either, a song is even less (Academy Award notwithstanding) deserving than "Whoop-de-Dooper Bounce," especially as the Toy Story franchise is already well-represented with "You've Got a Friend in Me" and "When She Loved Me."
Of course, I don't want to be overtly-negative towards this entire CD. We see signature songs like "Under the Sea" and "A Whole New World," while a few lesser-knowns get a chance to shine, like "Happy Working Song" (Enchanted) and "One Little Slip" (the terribly-underrated and misunderstood Chicken Little). Much of the songs selected come from Alan Menken's collaborations, he takes up nine of the twenty-three songs. For many fans, Menken was the new Richard M. Sherman, and his work with Ashman especially helped define 1990s Disney. Personally, I think his collaborations with Tim Rice and Stephen Schwartz were solid, though nothing can quite replace the void left by Howard Ashman. For comparison, Randy Newman takes second place with six songs, but only one of which ("Dig a Little Deeper") was for a Disney film. And seeing two of Phil Collins' songs ("Strangers Like Me" and "Look Through My Eyes") makes me wish he had done more collaborations with Disney. Can you imagine if Bolt had Collins music? Perhaps I might have liked it more. Overall, the CD has a few missteps, but still does a commendable job of presenting a snapshot of Disney music from their self-defined Modern era.
All images taken from "Introducing the Disney Classics Box Set"