Most people pay very little attention to the music being played in the background while visiting a Disney theme park. Our eyes are much too busy taking in all of the sights to consciously pay any attention to the melodies filling the air. The songs are simply there. But if the music wasn’t surrounding us at every turn, we’d notice. Our stroll down Main Street would seem flat and wanting.
Disney puts a lot of thought into the music they select for each land or area of their parks. First, it has to be appropriate. Obviously, they’re not going to play German music at the Japan Pavilion in Epcot. But you will find 1930’s and 40’s big band music on Sunset Blvd. at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Next, the music is usually somewhat upbeat. Disney wants their guests to be happy and a jaunty melody can affect our mood. I’m not saying that every tune played is a toe-tapper, but you won’t find many dirges, either.
Disney also wants the music to be recognizable when possible. If we can hum along with a tune, we’ll feel at home and comfortable.
But have you ever paid any attention as to where this music comes from? I mean, when you walk through a Disney park, the tunes are just there, as if by magic. The sounds don’t come from any one direction, they surround you.
In this article, I’m going to show you how this magic happens. In reality, I’m not going to provide you with any information you couldn’t garner for yourself if you were so inclined. In this blog I’ll cover the Magic Kingdom and leave the other parks to your own discoveries.
Let’s start with Main Street. The most commonly used technique along this thoroughfare is to hide speakers behind vents. Since many structures have openings to allow for air circulation, this is the perfect spot to place a speaker.
Another common practice is to design the speaker into the structure.
Out on The Hub we see the vent method used again as well as hiding a speaker in a lamp pole.
Many of the melodies played on Main Street are old standards that hearken back to a simpler time. A number of these songs, like “In the Hills of Old Kentucky” and “Kentucky Home” are performed by the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and are available for sale on Amazon. Disney’s 1963 movie “Summer Magic” and his 1967 film “The Happiest Millionaire” both provide music for Main Street. The stories in both of these movies took place around the turn of the 19th to the 20th century so the theming is correct. The same can be said for the three Broadway musicals represented. Oklahoma, The Music Man, and Hello Dolly were all set in this same era.
Tomorrowland doesn’t bother with trying to hide their speakers. Here the Imagineers placed them in plain site. They just disguised them to look like futuristic objects. See for yourself.
The music of Tomorrowland was performed with the use of synthesizers. Very few (if any) “traditional” instruments were used in the making of these recordings. The music also has a strong beat to emphasize energy. A sharp ear can make out “Strange Things” from the Disney/Pixar 1995 movie Toy Story. “A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” and “Now is the Time,” both from the Carousel of Progress, can also be heard. And for you old timers, “If You Had Wings” is also played.
I have to say, I was disappointed with the speakers in Mickey’s Toontown Fair. All of them that I could find were out in the open. Many times, outdoor speakers are hidden beneath bushes, but not here. The Imagineers didn’t even bother. Take a look.
Most of the songs played in Mickey’s Toontown Fair are from the cartoons Disney produced during the ‘30’s to the ‘50’s. “Minnie’s Yoo Hoo,” “The Country Cousin,” and “The Three Little Pigs” are just a few of the selections in store for you here.
In Fantasyland the Imagineers did a fine job of hiding the speakers.
As you might expect, the music played in Fantasyland is from the many animated movies Disney produced over the years. These are the songs that we all know by heart and we could probably even sing the words. However, near Pinocchio Village Haus the music has a different theme and is Bavarian in nature.
Many of the speakers in Liberty Square are hidden in vents (like Main Street) so I didn’t take many pictures in this area. However, I do like the bird house disguise.
The music in Liberty Square is patriotic and homespun. Violins, the fife, and the dulcimer are the instruments of choice for most of these renditions. A Disney connection is also present. The song “The Sons of Liberty” from the 1957 movie Johnny Tremain is played.
Where Main Street uses vents to hide speakers, Frontierland uses boxes. On many of the balconies and porch tops, rustic crates that blend into their surroundings can be seen.
A variation on the box theme is the barrel.
And on Splash Mountain speakers are encased in make-believe rocks.
“Oh My Darling Clementine,” “Home on the Range,” and “Happy Trails,” among a dozen other western favorites, are all on tap. Fiddles, banjos, guitars, and harmonicas make up the orchestra in Frontierland. The Disney song heard in this area is “Davy Crockett” from the 1950's TV series.
Last, but not least we come to Adventureland. Next to the entrance sign is a drum. But upon closer examination we find that it’s actually a piece of metal normally used as a vent or filter. Its multiple holes allow sound to pass right through.
On a balcony we find a lovely wicker planter. Once again, this “open” material provides the perfect place to hide a speaker. Music can easily flow through its openings.
This final picture is of the Pirate’s Stage near Pirates of the Caribbean. In this case a speaker is hidden in a birdcage.
When entering Adventureland, much of the music heard is played on the marimba with a tribal African beat. In many ways, it sounds similar to the music heard in the Animal Kingdom.
As you move further into Adventureland the music takes on a Middle Eastern theme.
And finally, the music from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies can be heard in Caribbean Plaza.
I didn’t want to take away all of your fun, so I’ve only covered the Magic Kingdom in this blog. I’ll let you discover your own musical moments in the other parks. But before I go, I’d like to share one of my favorite bits of Disney trivia.
In the attraction “it’s a small world” we all know that there are two counter melodies that play against each other. But in reality, there is a third melody heard on this ride. As you pass the Switzerland section, a young boy, perched high and to the right, yodels this other tune. But there’s more to the story. Let’s travel to Blizzard Beach. Among the many songs played here is this same young boy yodeling the third part to “it’s a small world.”
The previous post in this blog was Bay Lake Tower - Part Three.
The next post in this blog is Richard Carpenter & Mr. Guder.