Pop Ballads from Animated Movies

Songs from animated movie soundtrack, featuring popular artists
April 27, 2011
I love animated kids movies, who doesn't? The stories are captivating, the characters are lovable, sometimes silly, sometimes diabolical, and most importantly, the animation is spectacular. I also love kid movie soundtracks. The songs can be either dramatic instrumental pieces, or charming, fun, and emotionally-driven musical numbers, sung by one or more of the characters for the audience to love and feel what they are feeling in the movie. We've all sung along to one or more of these delightful tunes, even when nobody is around to hear us.

As cheesy and sappy as they may sound, ballads seem to be the most memorable of these beloved animated classics. What draws me the most to these soundtracks are the popular artist renditions of these ballads, usually heard in the end credits, adding to the commercial appeal of these films, and ballads done solely by pop artists themselves as part of the soundtrack or for a movie sequence. The following are my favorite pop ballads from animated children's films.

"Somewhere Out There" - An American Tail

Sung by Pop and R&B singers Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram, it was the first song from an animated movie to become a top ten hit and win a Grammy Award for Song of the Year, a record that would be shattered by another animated movie six years later, inspiring a legion of pop singers to do soundtracks for animated kids films.

The song was even lampooned in an episode of South Park in 2008.

Ronstadt would later do a rendition of "Dreams to Dream" for the sequel Fievel Goes West, though the song wasn't as successful as its predecessor.

"If We Hold On Together" - The Land Before Time

Featured on the soundtrack to Don Bluth's third animated feature film, "If We Hold On Together", sung by pop diva Diana Ross, became a huge hit in Japan, and also featured in the 1990 Japanese drama Omoide ni Kawaru Made.

It has also become a popular graduation song and even covered by American Idol contestant Jordin Sparks. Though I haven't seen The Land Before Time since I was 12, hearing this song in the end credits has always been my favorite part of the movie.

"Love Survives" - All Dogs Go To Heaven

Sung by R&B singers Irene Cara, best known for her songs to the Fame and Flashdance soundtracks, and Freddie Jackson, best known for his hit single "You Are My Lady", this duet is heard at a low pitch in the end credits to the NTSC version, and a high pitch on the PAL version and soundtrack. In my opinion, it sounds a lot better at the higher pitch, as it has more energy and emotion. The song may not have had much to do with the movie, but it's still a good song to listen to.

"Beauty and the Beast" - Beauty and the Beast

After the success of "Somewhere Out There", Disney had decided to cash in on pop ballads for their animated movie soundtracks.

In 1991, they teamed up French Canadian singer Céline Dion with R&B crooner Peabo Bryson, whose previous hits included "Tonight I Celebrate My Love" and "Can You Stop The Rain", for a duet to their 34th animated motion picture of the same name. It became another top ten hit and won an Academy Award for Song of the Year in 1992.

"A Whole New World" - Aladdin

A year after doing the single "Beauty and The Beast", Bryson returned for another Disney motion picture soundtrack, this time teaming up with R&B singer Regina Belle for the pop version duet "A Whole New World." The song topped the charts in 1993, surpassing "Somewhere Out There", and won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1994, as well as an Academy Award in that same category, a feat that Disney animated movies would accomplish for the next two years.

"Can You Feel The Love Tonight" - The Lion King

Elton John had actually done two other rendition songs on the movie soundtrack, though neither were as good as this song. In fact, this was the first Disney soundtrack to use more than one ballad or rendition song from a popular artist. The Lion King is my #1 most listened-to soundtrack as a kid, as my sister and I would play it endlessly on a cassette tape in the summer of 1994, driving my parents insane while we listened to it and sung along to many of the songs in the car.

"Whatever You Imagine" - The Pagemaster

From the composers of "Somewhere Out There", this Grammy-nominated song was done by a relatively unknown artist named Wendy Moten. Much like Sheena Easton's "A Dream Worth Keeping" from the movie FernGully, this song was used in a sequence to the film, rather than in the end credits, where it would have been more appropriate. "Whatever You Imagine" is another popular graduation song and is yet to be covered by another American Idol contestant.

"Far Longer Than Forever" - The Swan Princess

In 1994, two non-Disney princess movies were released, both directed by former Disney staffers in the animation department, Don Bluth with Thumbelina, and Richard Rich with The Swan Princess, though I've never seen either film myself. Both films featured movie and pop version duets on the soundtrack, "Let Me Be Your Wings" for Thumbelina, and "Far Longer Than Forever" for The Swan Princess. After doing "A Whole New World" for Aladdin, Regina Belle had collaborated with R&B singer Jeffrey Osborne for a pop rendition of "Far Longer Than Forever". The song was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 1995 for Best Original Song and an Annie Award for Best Animated Feature, both lost to Disney animated films.

"If I Never Knew You" - Pocahontas

Sung by Latin Pop singer Jon Secada, best known for his hit single "Just Another Day", and R&B talent Shanice, best known for her early 90s smash hit "I Love Your Smile", the song was originally intended as a duet between Pocahontas and John Smith in the prison scene, but was removed because it apparently had slowed the pace of the movie, however, it was added as an optional feature for the Tenth Anniversary Edition DVD.

Another pop ballad on the soundtrack was the Vanessa Williams rendition of "Colors in the Wind", which won both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Movie.

"At The Beginning" - Anastasia

Sung by singer/songwriter Richard Marx, best known for 80s chart toppers "Hold on to the Nights" and "Right Here Waiting", and pop singer Donna Lewis, best known for her hit single "I Love You Always Forever", it was featured on the soundtrack to the Don Bluth animated feature about the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Though the song was a major hit on the adult contemporary charts, it wasn't really anything too special as pop ballads on kid movie soundtracks were becoming all too common at that point, even if they had little to no involvement with the movie.

However, the soundtrack did feature a rendition of "Journey to the Past" by the late Aaliyah, which was nominated for Best Original Song at the 1998 Academy Awards, only to lose to "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic.

"Reflection" - Mulan

Featured on the soundtrack to the second to last hand-drawn animated films of the Disney Renaissance era, this was sung by a pre-Genie in a Bottle, pre-Dirrty Christina Aguilera. It's a shame this song wasn't very successful at the time of its release because it really showed off Christina's skills as a singer. The song was even nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song in 1999, which lost to "The Prayer" from another animated children's film, Quest for Camelot.

"When You Believe" - Prince of Egypt

I've always loved Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, and hearing them sing together was a huge blessing from above. In the 90s, both superstar divas were at the pinnacle of their careers, turning out hit single after hit single. The two had never performed together, despite media-fueled rumors of bitter rivalries, until they were both offered to collaborate on a pop rendition of "When you Believe" to the soundtrack of Dreamworks' first hand-drawn animation film.

The song was a moderate hit, which was also featured on Houston's fourth studio album "My Love is Your Love" and Carey's "1's". The song even took home an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

"You'll Be In My Heart" - Tarzan

Phil Collins was one of the biggest musical forces of the 1980s, both as a solo artist, and as the drummer and vocalist for Genesis. During the 90s, his musical career had declined in popularity, until he was approached to do the soundtrack to Disney's last successful animated film from their Renaissance era.

Collins wrote and performed 5 songs for the soundtrack, including the smash single "You'll Be In My Heart", which won a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award both for Best Original Song, and earning him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that same year.

And those are my favorite pop ballads from animated children's films. Not a whole lot to say about these songs, other than they are well-crafted in their own right to suit each movie and an absolute joy to listen to and feel good about, no matter how schmaltzy they are. For any other songs not included on this list, I either haven't taken the time to listen to them or they just don't hold up very well for me. Sadly, we'll never hear good music like this on movie soundtracks again, let alone a kids movie soundtrack, as they have become less popular with time.
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