Friday, January 31, 2014

Royal Review: Disney Classics (CD Boxed Set)

As a life-long lover of Disney music, I have found one truth to be undeniably eternal:

You can never have too much Disney music.

Case in point: the new Disney Classics boxed CD set that I plucked from beneath the Christmas tree just over a month ago! The collection (released in November of 2013) is a four-disc tribute to the melodies that have helped to make Disney memories for as long as 90 years. Each CD in the set represents its own era or facet of the Disney's wide-reaching shadow to ultimately put forth a fantastic representation of what makes Disney music so very special.

via Amazon

The first player in this tuneful quartet is the "Modern Classics" disc, which covers all ground from the start of the Disney Renaissance (i.e. The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast) through 2010's Toy Story 3. It wasn't until examining the track list for this collection of newer hits that I realized what an eclectic mix has been created in the soundtracks of the latest Disney films. This CD runs the gamut of the musical spectrum, placing sweeping ballads like "Colors of the Wind" alongside the Barenaked Ladies' quasi-rock anthem "One Little Slip" (from 2005's Chicken Little). It also wasn't until giving this album a good listen that I truly understood how deeply my love for Randy Newman runs. Yes, even Pixar works its way into this assembly with both signature ditties ("You've Got a Friend in Me") and more obscure pieces ("The Time of Your Life" from A Bug's Life- this one may not actually be obscure... I had just completely forgotten about its existence). Toss those in with the rousing "Dig a Little Deeper" from the neo-jazz-age masterpiece The Princess and the Frog, and you've got a pretty comprehensive case for Mr. Newman's excellence. 

Second in the lineup, you'll find a collection of "Timeless Classics" which span from the earliest days of Walt's Silly Symphonies to 1981's The Fox and the Hound. (Why this era of music was placed after the "Modern" class in the set's chronology, I will never know, but I digress.) What I find most appealing about this compilation is its willingness to highlight pieces of great musical merit even if they are of waning (or in some cases, nonexistent)  popularity. No, most preschoolers won't already know the words to "Fortuosity" or "Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly)" (from The Happiest Millionaire  and So Dear to my Heart, respectively), but this CD creates the opportunity to expose a new generation to the great Disney films- and scores- of the past. This theme is echoed in both subsequent discs- more on that later. In the meantime, you'll find plenty of the perennial classics you know and love, from the vast and varied melodies of the Sherman Brothers songbook to the wistful "When You Wish Upon a Star". Overall, this collection is a touching tribute to Disney's days of yore, and a heartfelt reminder that it all started with a little bit of magic and, of course, that little Mickey Mouse.

The final additions to the set branch out from the more conventional realm of Disney's hits on the big screen to focus on the great music from parks and television. The former of the two, "Theme Park Classics", is a one-stop shop to fulfill all of your Disney Parks needs. Suffering from Post-Disney Depression? Theme Park Classics. Psyching yourself up for your next trip? Theme Park Classics. Pining for the return of long-lost attractions? Theme Park Classics (and my condolences... though it may be time to let go). Lovers of both Disneyland and Walt Disney World will find familiar tunes in this set, where tracks from both coasts are given their due. Naturally, the bulk of the tracks are taken from Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park, followed closely by Epcot's wealth of beloved theme songs, while bits from California Adventure and Animal Kingdom are sprinkled between them. As is to be expected, E-Ticket ride scores are heavily represented (the album's longest track is a Splash Mountain medley that clocks in at a whopping ten minutes and thirty-four seconds), but there are a (pleasantly) surprising number of pieces taken from extinct attractions of years gone by. The "Kitchen Kabaret Medley" from the long-gone Food Rocks! show at Epcot and the Dreamfinder's anthem of imagination (my personal favorite) offer up an intense nostalgia for life-long fans, as well as the opportunity for younger generations to carry on their legacies.

In the same way, the last (but not least) disc in the collection, "Television Classics", reads like a timeline from the 1960's to now. It's a playlist that begins with the ubiquitous "Mickey Mouse March" and eventually emptying into the stream of the Disney Channel's sitcom cavalcade, hopping across every small-screen success along the way. There's something for everyone here; from the aforementioned Mickey Mouse Club ditties, to the theme songs from the 1990's heyday of Darkwing Duck and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, and on to the early-2000s classics like Lizzie McGuire, at least a handful of tracks will make you squeal with childish glee. In that respect, it very much follows the vein of the other three discs in its ability to span generations without feeling dated. One of my favorite things in the entirety of this boxed set is that a large chunk of the TV portion pays homage to the shows of my own childhood, many of which I thought had been swept under the mouse-shaped rug. Sure, Kim Possible and High School Musical are on the roll (and thank goodness!), but it's a special day when the theme from Lilo & Stitch: The Series is included in a "classics" collection! The TV tunes are sweetly capped off with the "Mickey Mouse Club Alma Mater", bringing the disc full circle and offering a lovely little send-off for us listeners!

Overall, this set of CDs encapsulates everything that makes us love Disney: the memories, the magic, and the universality that brings us all together. This is a perfect addition to the libraries of all Disney fans, both young and young-at-heart!

The Disney Classics collection is available from the Disney Music Store, as well as on Amazon and iTunes.

Are your favorite classics on this CD? Let me know which ones in the comments below!

- Becca 

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