Since we received The Legacy Collection Disneyland album at the 60th anniversary of the park earlier this year, we have been listening to it endlessly. These three discs are a pure delight. The Legacy Collection Disneyland clocks in at nearly four hours, with the entire 60-year history of Disneyland neatly covered, spanning everything from Walt Disney’s opening day speech to the country-fried twang of the Radiator Springs Racers attraction at Disney California Adventure.
It was more than a little difficult narrowing down this epic collection of songs that both trigger the most emotional aspects of nostalgic memory and also the happiest experiences we can still have today. And yet, we did. So, without further ado, here are our ten favorite songs from the amazing, awe-inspiring, hasn’t-let-our-car-stereo-since-early-May The Legacy Collection Disneyland album.
10. “Fantasmic!” from Fantasmic!
Fantasmic is one of the coolest nighttime spectaculars in the history of the Disneyland resort, and the music is a big part of what makes it so magical. Not only does this track, running a cool 22 minutes and 41 seconds, include bits and pieces of music from other Disney favorites, but the Fantasmic theme, happening at around the 45 second mark, is an instant trigger for nostalgic good feelings.
9. “The Fantasyland Dark Ride Suite” from the Fantasyland Attractions
Admittedly, this is kind of a cheat: it runs just under 18 minutes long and includes music from a handful of Fantasyland dark ride favorites (Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Peter Pan’s Flight, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Alice in Wonderland). This music is the heart of Fantasyland, letting guests glide easily into the world of make believe, fairy tales and Never Never Land.
8. “Let’s Dance at Disneyland” from Carnation Plaza Gardens
Before The Legacy Collection Disneyland, we had never heard this amazing ditty. It’s a tune by the Elliott Brothers and the Disneyland Date Niters Orchestra. Apparently the Elliott Brothers were entertainers who would regularly perform at the Carnation Plaza Gardens, providing musical accompaniment to swinging young couples. This track is a novelty song that they played at Disneyland but also released and the lyrics offer some intriguing insights into the Disneyland of long ago: was the park really open “till the clock rocks 1 a.m.” on Friday and Saturday nights? Was it a really date night destination? And what happened to the Elliott Brothers after their tenure at Disneyland?
7. “The Main Street Electrical Parade” from the Main Street Electrical Parade
When the Main Street Electrical Parade opened at Disneyland in 1972, it instantly dazzled audiences with its elf-described “electro-sympho-magnetic musical sounds.” This track combines classical elements and motifs from Disney favorites, grafted to “Baroque Hoedown,” a groundbreaking 1967 synth composition by Jean-Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley. “Baroque Hoedown” is insidiously catchy and has been incorporated into almost every Disney nighttime parade since.
6. “Space Mountain” from Space Mountain
You get two versions of the Space Mountain music on The Legacy Collection. It includes the 1998 surf guitar variation and then there’s our favorite rendition, from Inside Out composer Michael Giacchino: a more traditional, sci-fi-influenced version, with some gorgeous electronic flourishes. This music is so perfectly timed, making excellent use of the new on-board audio, and is now just as important a part of the attraction as the star field or rocket ships themselves. Listening to this in headphones feels like zooming through the cosmos from the comfort of your laptop.
5. “It’s a Small World” from it’s a small world
it’s a small world is an attraction with a storied history, first debuting at the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens and eventually moving west to the Disneyland park. Part of what makes the attraction so special is the stuck-in-your-head-for-days theme song, written by Richard Sherman and Robert Sherman. Richard has said that the song wasn’t just for the ride, but was a “prayer for peace.” That harmonious sensation can be felt throughout the song, whether you’re listening it from your ride vehicle or at home.
4. “Grim Grinning Ghosts” from The Haunted Mansion
With a title borrowed from a William Shakespeare poem, the signature song from the Haunted Mansion is a perfect example of the ride’s serious-and-silly aesthetic. The tune serves as the soundtrack to the climactic graveyard set piece, and is the work of Buddy Baker and lyricist Xavier Atencio (one of the Imagineers responsible for many of the gags in the Mansion). It’s both ominous and bubbly, a perfect approximation of the Haunted Mansion’s point of view, and a song that signals that you are in for a ghoul-filled trip into the heart of otherworldly activity.
3. “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me)” from Pirates of the Caribbean
Another Xavier Atencio masterpiece (this time written with George Burns), this is one of those unforgettable Disneyland songs that has simple, sing-song-y lyrics that are also incredibly difficult to recite correctly. (What comes after pillage?) The lyrics are loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Dead Man’s Chest” from Treasure Island and has been endlessly sampled, adapted, or quoted in the years since (including everyone from Jimmy Buffett to Brian Wilson). And it’s easy to see why; it’s both simple and sophisticated and fits the anarchic fun of the attraction perfectly.
2. “Soarin’” from Soarin’ Over California
Soarin’ Over California is a groundbreaking, deeply awe-inspiring attraction that takes you gliding on a tour above California,and Jerry Goldsmith’s music is the perfect soundtrack for that journey. It’s so profoundly beautiful that listening to it, totally divorced from the attraction itself, is enough to make you well up with tears. Combine it with the stunning imagery of the ride, though, and it’s totally unstoppable.
1. “There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” from Carousel of Progress
This is another Sherman Brothers marvel and another holdover from the 1964 World’s Fair, this time for the Carousel of Progress. (It has since moved to the Magic Kingdom in Florida.) And it’s our favorite song from The Legacy Collection because there isn’t anything on the entire three-disc set that exemplifies Walt’s vision for Disneyland (and indeed the world) quite like it. “There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day,” the song intones, cheerily but not forcefully, just the way Walt would. It’s that kind of optimism, never pushy and always inspiring, that made Walt’s vision of tomorrow so intoxicating. Walt was never content with sitting still, and said of Disneyland that it would never be complete. It would always be evolving and changing and getting better, adapting to the newest technologies and storytelling innovations. When you walk around Disneyland today, you get the same sensation–that there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day.