It is no secret that the movie musical and Disney go hand-in-hand. Some of the greatest songs of all time have come out of our favorite movies—animated and live-action alike. The writers and composers of these movies created beautiful, funny, memorable songs that will always stay with us, but the voices behind the songs truly bring the whole thing together.
Some of the best performers of screen and stage have been featured in Disney movies, but did you know that real life musicians have also lent their talents to Disney? Now, we’re not talking about people who became musicians after making it as an actor. Instead, we’re talking about bonafide stars in the world of music who became actors later on in their career.
Shakira – Zootopia
Let’s start off with one of the more recent Disney movies, Zootopia. When looking to cast the voice of pop-superstar Gazelle, Disney called upon real-life superstar Shakira. Additionally, the hit song “Try Everything” was co-written by another major pop star… Sia!
Cliff Edwards – Pinocchio
Cliff Edwards (also known as “Ukulele Ike”) was a major star in the jazz and vaudeville scene in the early 1900s. His use of the ukulele helped account for a rise in the instrument’s popularity in the ‘20s and ‘30s. However, you probably know him best as Jiminy Cricket.
Billy Joel – Oliver & Company
Billy Joel had already established himself as “The Piano Man” when he got the call for Oliver & Company. As the voice of Dodger, he added his New York-swagger and “street savoir-faire” to the movie. The song “Why Should I Worry” is one of my favorite Disney songs ever. To this day, Oliver & Company remains as Billy Joel’s only acting credit.
Bette Midler – Oliver & Company
Okay, okay. We made an exception with this one. Bette Midler did get her start in the world of theater, but she really came into her own when she released her debut album. Her early work with the legendary Barry Manilow continued well into the ‘80s (and beyond) when he was brought in to co-write “Perfect Isn’t Easy” for Bette’s character Georgette in Oliver & Company.
Donny Osmond – Mulan
“Let’s get down to business.” We now know Donny Osmond as an actor, singer, and Dancing With the Stars champion, but he first got his start as a teen idol in the ‘70s. Flash forward to Disney’s 1998 hit Mulan when he was asked to provide the singing voice to Li Shang. The song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” continues to be a favorite among an entire generation of Disney fans.
Peggy Lee – Lady and the Tramp
As a popular jazz and pop singer, Peggy Lee landed her first #1 hit in 1942 at the age of 22. Making her name as a singer and songwriter, she not only lent her voice to Lady and the Tramp as four different characters (Darling, Peg, Si, and Am), but also co-wrote all of the music for the film.
Mandy Moore – Tangled
When Mandy Moore’s debut single was certified Gold in 1999, she was destined to become a major player in the industry. After establishing herself as a respected and popular musician, she decided to step in front of the camera and give acting a try. Her appearance in The Princess Diaries was amazing, but for Disney fans, she will always be remembered as the voice of Rapunzel in Tangled.
Tevin Campbell – A Goofy Movie
Since the late ‘80s, Tevin Campbell has been a major player in the R&B world. With multiple Grammy nominations to his name, and the backing of legendary producer Quincy Jones, Campbell was at the top of his game when he was asked to provide the voice for Max’s favorite singer, Powerline. He also co-wrote “I 2 I” and “Stand Out.”
Danny Elfman – The Nightmare Before Christmas
Over the course of his career, Danny Elfman has become Tim Burton’s go-to composer. When it came time for The Nightmare Before Christmas, Elfman not only scored the movie, but also wrote all the songs and provided the singing voice for Jack Skellington. But before he was one of the most well-respected and sought after composers, Danny Elfman was known as the lead singer and frontman for the New Wave band, Oingo Boingo.
Phil Collins – Tarzan
My passion for the Tarzan soundtrack is well documented, but it absolutely worth noting again here. Within the movie, only two characters ever really sing. The rest of the vocals are provided by the man himself, Phil Collins. He may not be listed in the credits as an official character, but his contributions to the story cannot be taken for granted.
Bette Midler – Hocus Pocus
Yes. We made our way back to Bette Midler. But this list really wouldn’t be complete without mentioning her portrayal as Winifred Sanderson in Hocus Pocus. And you can’t think of Hocus Pocus without thinking of the best rendition of “I Put a Spell on You” that has ever been recorded.
Who is your favorite Disney movie musician? Tell us in the comments!