Today, people across the country are celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Disneyland. Whether they are spending the day at one of the theme parks, having a party in their community, or just having a movie marathon at home, millions of people have been touched by the magic of Walt Disney.
In commemoration of the day, many notable composers reached out to share their favorite memories from their history of writing soundtrack music for Disney, be it for movies, television series, or even park attractions. Read on, as some of the greatest minds behind Disney music favorites reminisce on the magic they have helped to create and continue to innovate for generations to come.
Brian Tyler (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 3, The Greatest Game Ever Played, Annapolis, Marvel Studios Fanfare):
I have composed so many memorable projects for Disney… I suppose I will never forget first conducting a piece of music for Disney which was the main theme for “The Greatest Game Ever Played” with the Hollywood Studio Symphony and being hit with the simple idea that, ‘Wow, I am writing music for a Disney film!’ It was one of those moments where all of the memories of growing up watching Disney films caught up with me. Very memorable indeed!
Craig Safan (Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, ‘Twas the Night, The New Adventures of Spin and Marty: Suspect Behavior, Miracle Child):
I’ve composed music for Disney films, TV shows, pilots, Disney Channel movies… I even sold Disney a treatment for an animated feature! However my favorite Disney/Safan moment is when California Adventure started using my theme from “The Last Starfighter” in the park… that’s a kid’s dream come true!
Jim Dooley (Epic Mickey, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning, Pirates of the Caribbean film series):
When “Epic Mickey” was released, Warren Spector supervised a promotional tour of Disneyland. I was fortunate enough to be invited and to hear his stories and insights along the way. Also, we were allowed to skip all the lines on the rides as we went through the park. It was incredible!!
Geoff Zanelli (The Odd Life of Timothy Green, The Lone Ranger, Pirates of the Caribbean film series):
By now, I’ve spent just about as much time writing music for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise as I spent going to high school! So I’ve got Pirates in my blood, and have always been a crucial part of the music for those films, whether it was the exploration and tone-defining first score, or the many evolutions the music underwent over the course of the sequels.
But my time scoring “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” was one of the most fulfilling experiences in my musical life thus far. That’s due to having such a great support network, with director Peter Hedges’ encouragement and Disney’s music department allowing for all the crazy experiments I came up with. You always try to find a way to make your work personal, and it was easy with “Odd Life.”
John Beal (America Sings, Carousel of Progess, The Grand Opening of Walt Disney World):
I had grown up with the kids of top Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston and was introduced to Buddy Baker, the main composer of all Disney films, TV shows and theme park music at the time. He was the most delightful man. He introduced me to Marc Davis and George Probert, who worked in Imagineering. I worked on “America Sings” and “Carousel of Progress.” I must say that working with the folks at Imagineering was a dream – a collaborative creative experience such as I’ve not found anywhere else. To work with completely open minds that encourage all ideas and build on each other’s suggestions was a real treat.
It would be impossible not to have a sense of the incredible privilege of working in the most magical and timeless of environments. Buddy shared that by his sheer exuberance, not by dictation. He had the joy of a young person discovering a new toy every time he showed me a scene and talked about his approach to scoring it. As for my own part in the theme parks, it was miniscule when seen within the total canvas that was the creation of great Imagineers. Each and every piece of the park, from the smallest piece of sign to the largest ride experience was so carefully thought out by great minds that I could never include myself as anything other than a very happy participant in a great adventure.
Randy Miller (The Marvel Experience, Handy Manny, Disney: Drawn To Magic, Disney Animation Magic):
I recently had the opportunity to compose the music score for ‘The Marvel Experience’, including themes for S.H.I.E.L.D., The Avengers, Iron Man, Hydra, Red Skull, M.O.D.O.K. and other Marvel characters. I never imagined as a kid reading Marvel comics that one day I would be composing music for my same childhood comic heroes!
Tim Williams (Guardians of the Galaxy, Believe fireworks show, Wishes fireworks show, Snow White live show, Aladdin live show, Mickey and the Magical Map, Candlelight Reflection):
I have had the pleasure of working on over 20 Walt Disney Creative Entertainment projects and “Guardians of The Galaxy” as orchestrator. One of my favorite moments was on “Snow White” for Disneyland. I was told I was doing a presentation of the show for Roy E. Disney. I asked who else would be doing the presentation with me and was shocked to find it would be just me and Roy. I started to play through the show and I said ‘Roy, you know these songs. Can you help me out with the chorus numbers?’ For the next 40 minutes, I got to sing through Snow White with Roy Disney singing along with me. Heigh Ho! I’ll never forget that special day.
Frederik Wiedmann (Miles From Tomorrowland):
I’ve always admired Disney Studios and the films they produced. Each of them was always of such high quality, with super stories that especially affect young children (like my own). I am mostly talking about animated movies such as “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo,” “Monsters Inc.,” etc. I’ve always wanted to work on a project that I can watch together with my 4-year old. When I got the call from Disney that I was one of the few they considered for their new show “Miles from Tomorrowland” – I was absolutely thrilled! Getting that job and being able to work on something that my son loves so dearly will be an unforgettable time in my career.
Kevin Kliesch (Sofia the First, Tangled Ever After):
I have two special memories to share. The first was bringing my then 4-year-old daughter to the premier of “Sofia the First: Once Upon A Princess” on the Disney lot in 2012. It was wonderful to be able to share in the launch of a new Disney princess with her, even more so as the composer of the film. She’s now an avid Sofia fan, and my biggest cheerleader. The second was having the privilege to work on “Tangled,” which was Disney’s 50th animated feature film. Working with the legendary Alan Menken was truly an honor.
Danny Jacob (Phineas and Ferb, Sonny With a Chance, Lilo & Stitch: The Series, Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas):
Starting in the summer of 2011, daily at California Adventure, the street show Phineas and Ferb Rockin’ and Rollin’ Dance Party featured my recordings of songs from the series. The creators Dan Povenmire, Jeff Swampy Marsh and I along with our families attended the last performance of its three and one-half year run on November 2, 2014. It was amazing to see fans of all ages enjoying the music and dancing.
Patrick Doyle (Cinderella , Brave, Shipwrecked):
My first job for Disney was a film called “Shipwrecked” many years ago, which was a Norwegian film based on the famous Norwegian tale of Haakon Haakonsen, who was shipwrecked and landed on a desert island to then be chased by pirates. It was a lovely film and was a real challenge as it had lots of chase sequences and there were two versions for the Norwegian and US market which meant that lots of the music had alternate lengths as a result of the different speech patterns! The director was Nils Gaup who had recently won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film called “Pathfinder,” which was superb, of course. He was a delightful person and we got on famously.
The second film was “Brave,” which was a joy to work on. Mark Andrews the director and Katherine Sarafian the producer made it such fun. I was honored and proud to be asked to score such a quintessentially Scottish story, being a Scot myself. Coincidentally, it was the first time in my career I was asked to work on a Scottish-based film. The film is already deservedly part of Scottish history. It was a tremendous opportunity to delve into my Scottish musical roots, and I was like a kid in a candy shop. The story was a real inspiration for a composer. The attention to detail with regards to the culture and the respect for the language was commendable as it made very little compromise in its authenticity. I was also very proud to be the first person to compose a song in Gaelic (which is the language mainly of the Highlands) for a Disney film.
“Cinderella” is my third project for Disney and is a wonderful film. It was such a treat to be part the Disney family once more and to have the opportunity to work with Sir Kenneth Branagh on our 11th project together. Kenneth did a fantastic job and, as always, is an inspiration. The performances and the production were stunning and already it has been hailed as a classic which I think is indeed the case. It has a classic feel to it and it was a real challenge to rise to the great quality of the production and the musical history in the Disney canon. It gave me such scope, especially in the ballroom scene, where I had the joy of being able to compose myriad polkas and waltzes. It was also tremendous fun to be on the set for the entire filming of the ballroom sequence as naturally all the dances needed to be composed in advance. I am so proud to be part of this beautiful picture.
I remember the first time at the age of 14 going to see a matinee film screening of “Fantasia” on my own in Glasgow. I had seen clips on TV and I knew I had to see it on the big screen. I was blown away that afternoon and little did I know that one day I would be composing films for this iconic film company. I loved ‘The Rite Of Spring’ sequence and the ‘Toccata and Fugue.’ They both left an indelible mark on me to this day. I also have a fond memory of visiting the Disney theme park in California and listening to ‘It’s a Small World’ by Richard and Robert Sherman. It is indeed a small world as I met Richard shortly afterwards, and he and his lovely wife invited us for a delightful afternoon where we all had tea.
How are you celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Disneyland?