They’re on every top sing-along playlist and are forever etched in our heads – songs that have defined generations. Disney’s animated musicals have their hits and misses, but the studio’s star performers are always the soundtracks, from love ballads to infamous villain songs.
Disney’s “I Want” songs (sometimes referred to as “I Wish” songs) are songs sung by the hero detailing who they are, who they want to be, and how they want to get there. The song “I Want” arguably dates back to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in The Wizard of Ozand Disney’s iconic library of these musical anthems are some of the best in cinema.
“Part of Your World” – “The Little Mermaid”
“I want to be where the people are,” is Ariel’s lifelong desire long before she met Eric. She has “whozits and whatzits” and gadgets and gadgets galore, paintings and gizmos and an entire underwater cavern of surface world treasures. For Ariel’s curious mind, that’s not enough, with one of Disney’s most famous ‘I Want’ songs making a fresh appearance in the new live-action remake of The little Mermaid.
The song describes her deep desire to travel to a world she cannot reach and all that she desires to do if she only had a pair of feet. He also describes her displeasure at being Triton’s daughter, imagining a world where she wouldn’t be chastised for being who she is, “roaming free” out of the sea.
“How Far I’ll Go” – ‘Moana’
Moana is caught between trying to be the “perfect girl” and her desire to explore the ocean beyond the island where she lives. Moana. Everyone on the island has their job, and Moana must one day lead. While she can “roll with” her work, the ocean invites her to explore how far it goes and how far she can sail.
This is at odds with its people’s fear of leaving the island despite previous generations of sailing and navigating with ease. Moana yearns to explore anyway, accepting the temptation to indulge her curiosity and put her skills and self-reliance to the test.
“After Today” – “A Goofy Movie”
Max Goof needs a fresh start and “positive proof that I’m not just an idiot”. “After Today” weaves in verses from Max’s high school students and teachers on the last day before summer vacation, all singing about how their lives will change “after today.” The song effectively establishes Max’s desire and the world in which the story takes place.
As Max tries to impress Roxanne, other students anxiously await the end of class, the end of their high school careers, and the start of summer. Max’s verses detail how he fears becoming like his uncool and “clumsy” father and that everything will be better once he gets a girlfriend.
“I Can’t Wait to Be King” – “The Lion King”
Simba ‘just can’t wait to be king’, not realizing that Mufasa has to step down or die for that to happen in The Lion King. Young Simba is naïvely arrogant and the song shows it in spades. He “reviews looking down” and is too ready to ignore royal duties to be able to enjoy himself without anyone telling him he can’t.
Mufasa’s death is a rude awakening, but for now Simba basks in his own glory in a song full of double meanings and puns. It builds him up so he can come down with a dose of humility and become the king that Mufasa believes he can be.
“Belle” – “Beauty and the Beast”
Belle wants “more than this provincial life”, stuck in a city that finds her as beautiful as her namesake, but terrifyingly strange and unusual for having “her nose stuck in books”. The beauty and the Beast opening song lasts almost five minutes, crossfading of the song and the dialogue between Belle, the various inhabitants of the city, Gaston and LeFou.
Belle reminisces about her favorite books and dreams of a life beyond the monotony of the people around her as fantastic as the stories she reads, while Gaston wants to make her his wife just because of her looks . The song is then later covered, with Belle explicitly wanting the adventure “more than I can say”.
“Almost There” – “The Princess and the Frog”
In The princess and the Frog, Tiana wants to fulfill her dream of opening a world-class restaurant and after years of hard work and savings, she’s “almost there”. Her mother wants her to find a man and give him grandchildren, take time to dance and enjoy life. Tiana’s ambition won’t stop for anyone and the song details her vision for success.
She’s had her share of “trials and tribulations” and is determined to see her courage pay off despite the people around her doubting her dreams can come true. She is going to open a restaurant where “people will come from everywhere”, Tiana is almost there.
“When will my life begin?” – ‘Entangled’
Tangled Rapunzel has spent her life locked up in a tower and wants to see the paper lanterns that light up the sky every year on her birthday, not just from her window. She spends her days doing chores, painting, cooking, reading and making candles, bored to death “stuck in the same place I’ve always been”.
She is tired of the same old routine and after sixteen years she has found the courage to ask to leave the safety of the tower and explore the world. The only thing stopping her is her mother, who has so far strictly forbidden Rapunzel from leaving the tower, and of course, having a guide to take her to the lanterns.
“Over There” – “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”
Quasimodo has lived his whole life above Parisians in the bell tower of Notre-Dame and only wants one day “over there” at Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The song begins with Judge Frollo convincing him that the world is not safe and that, especially for Quasimodo, the world will not accept him as he is. First, he pledges never to leave his sanctuary.
Once Frollo is gone, Quasimodo begins to sing, longing to be on the streets with people “hungry for the stories they show me”. He only aspires to one day, and he “will be satisfied with his share”, remaining standing in the steeple of Notre-Dame.
“Do you want to build a snowman?” – ‘Frozen’
All Anna wants is to get her sister back, to invite her to join her in the snow to build a snowman, an invitation that Elsa repeatedly ignores in 2012. Frozen. While Elsa is convinced by her parents to hide her powers and thus bottle up her emotions, Anna has no idea that Elsa is trying to protect her, only that Elsa ignores her.
The song follows the two sisters through their childhood and the death of their parents. Anna’s enthusiasm wanes over the years, changing from bubbly excitement to a mournful plea for her sister to acknowledge her existence, as Elsa becomes the only person Anna has left in her life.
“Waiting for a Miracle” – ‘Encanto’
Encanto’s Mirabel is the only member of the Madrigal family without her own special power, and she eagerly awaits her chance to show off her strength and that she richly deserves one. She “can’t move mountains” or “control morning rain or a hurricane” and is no longer OK with being left out of family portraits.
Mirable is “waiting for a miracle” and is fed up with being neglected, eager to be as strong as her sister and for the same adoration the rest of her family receives. She only fears that it is “too late for a miracle” and that it will never happen.
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