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The Musicians Behind Walt Disney World’s Music


Sherman Brothers with Walt Disney - copyright DisneyI love looking at and learning about the behind the scenes of Walt Disney World, especially the people who make the magic happen. Normally, I like to focus on Imagineers and the attractions they created, but today I want to highlight another group of magicians…the musicians.

Attractions are great, but what would they be without their songs and soundtracks? Imagine Haunted Mansion without its haunting melody or Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress without its There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, or the Imagination Pavilion without its One Little Spark, or “it’s a small world” without its…well, maybe that’s a bad example (Just kidding. I enjoy that ear worm as well).

Some of the musicians who came up with these songs are very well-known, like the Sherman brothers. Robert and Richard Sherman wrote much of the Disney music in the 1960’s, from movies like The Parent Trap, Mary Poppins and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh to theme park attraction songs like the aforementioned There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, “it’s a small world”, and One Little Spark.

The Sherman brothers began writing music in 1951. In 1958, they caught the attention of Walt Disney after writing a song for Mouseketeer Judy Harriet (a song which was later covered by Annette Funicello). Walt hired them as staff songwriters soon after. The first song they wrote for Disney was the Medfield Fight Song for The Absent-Minded Professor. They continued working for Disney for the next decade. Sadly, Robert Sherman passed away in 2012, but Richard still writes for Disney on the occasion, from Iron Man 2 to the live-action reboot of The Jungle Book.

Another name you’ve probably heard is Xavier (X.) Atencio, who started out as an animator for Disney before becoming an Imagineer and then finally writing songs for two of Magic Kingdom‘s most iconic attractions: Yo Ho Yo Ho in Pirates of the Caribbean (written with George Bruns) and Grim Grinning Ghosts in Haunted Mansion (written with Buddy Baker), as well as the gone-but-not-forgotten If You Had Wings from the attraction of the same name (written with Buddy Baker).

In the 1940’s and 50’s, Atencio worked on movies like Fantasia and shorts like Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom. In 1965, he became an Imagineer designing sets for the Disneyland Railroad and writing scripts for attractions like Pirates and the Mansion, as well as Adventure Thru Inner Space. He also lent his voice to a number of characters in these attractions.

Some of the songwriters and musicians whose work you can hear throughout the Walt Disney World are George Bruns, Bruce Broughton, and Jerry Goldsmith:

Bruns became Disney’s musical director in the 1950’s, working on movies like Robin Hood, The Jungle Book and Herbie The Love Bug. He co-wrote both The Ballad of Davy Crockett, The Bear Band Serenade and Yo Ho Yo Ho (A Pirates Life For Me).

Broughton has written music for a number of Disney Park attractions all over the world, including Spaceship Earth, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, O’ Canada and Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream, just to name a few.

Goldsmith has enjoyed a varied career as a composer but is best known, to Disney fans anyway, for writing the scores for the movie Mulan and the attraction Soarin’ Over California. Apparently, after riding Soarin’ for the first time he said, “I’d do anything to be a part of this project. I’d even score the film for free.”

What is your favorite song or piece of music from the Disney Parks? What do you go home humming at the end of a magical day in the park?


(Photo copyright Disney)


To learn more about Chris and his recent posts for WDW Radio, visit his author page by clicking the link on his name at the top of this post.