Disney Music Then And Now: Live-Action Vs. Animated

Disney has released almost 200 animated films since 1937, so it’s no surprise that they’ve also started to remake some of those films into live-action adaptations. The mouse company’s latest addition to its live-action updates? Aladdin.

The film is also rife with music, a common, important part of most Disney animated movies that gets carried over to the live-action counterparts. Because what would Aladdin—or any Disney movie—be without music? With every remake comes changes both visually and musically. In celebration of Aladdin’s opening weekend, we decided to compare how iconic Disney songs’ live-action versions stack up against the originals.

 

Aladdin

It only makes sense to start with the newest member of the live-action reboot family. With the 2019 soundtrack involving Alan Menken, the original Aladdin composer, you know the music will remain mostly unchanged. We’ll probably see modern upgrades of songs though, like Will Smith putting a rap spin on “Friend Like Me.”

But no song is more iconic than the film’s theme “A Whole New World.” The single version was originally performed by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle in 1992. Seventeen years later the single gets an update from Zayn and Zhavia Ward. The two versions keep the same slow pace, but Zayn and Ward give us a touch of R&B beats and a more intimate feel to the whole song.

Verdict: Although Zayn and Zhavia Ward killed their rendition, the original version of “A Whole New World” is a classic and can’t be beat.

Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle (1992)

Zayn & Zhavia Ward (2019)

 

Beauty and the Beast

A tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast, originally released in 1991, has some memorable songs. From princess Belle singing “Belle” through the village, to Lumière and the other servants serenading Belle with “Be Our Guest.” But no song is more notable than the film’s title track, “Beauty and the Beast,” the single version originally performed by Céline Dion and Peabo Bryson.

John Legend and Ariana Grande took on the song in 2017 for the remake. Their version is mainly piano and drums, where as Dion’s and Bryson’s version incorporated a more orchestral band. However, both have a romantic feel, and Dion’s and Grande’s powerful vocals add to the emotion of both tracks.

Verdict: Céline Dion and Peabo Bryson’s version is timeless and untouchable. Why else would Dion be asked to perform a song for the live action version?

Céline Dion & Peabo Bryson (1991)

John Legend & Ariana Grande (2017)

 

Dumbo

Probably one of the most heart-wrenching parts of the movie, “Baby Mine” plays while Dumbo visits his mom outside the cage she’s been locked away in. The melancholy ballad, sung by Betty Noyes in 1941, plays as Dumbo’s mom cradles him in her trunk.

Fast forward to 2019, and we’re treated to a film version by Sharon Rooney and a single version by Arcade Fire. The latter is updated with a subtle rock flare from the guitar and drums, and Arcade Fire does a great job of keeping the track melancholy while putting their own spin on the (maybe) tear-jerking ballad.

Verdict: Arcade Fire come out on top thanks to the little bit of energy they put into the track.

Betty Noyes (1941)

Arcade Fire (2019)

 

Cinderella

In 1950, Ilene Woods performed the hope filled track “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” as the title character of Disney’s Cinderella. Nearly 75 years later, the film and song were revived by Lily James. It’s worth noting that in 2005 Disney Channel released a version of the song by its Disney Channel Circle of Stars group, a group featuring Disney Channel stars, which appeared on the platinum edition DVD of Cinderella.

Both the 1950 and 2015 iterations have similar pace and music, but 2015’s version gets a little more upbeat. The music in Lily James’ take has more depth, giving the song slightly more energy than the original. The two women’s vocals however both have a somewhat theatrical sound, giving the song its magical feel.

Verdict: Lily James’ rendition is just a bit more magical than Ilene Woods’.

Ilene Woods (1950)

Lily James (2015)

 

The Jungle Book

Now this 1967 film has been made into a live-action version twice by Disney: in 1994 and 2016. Though, the 1994 version is far different than its other two counterparts, having no musical numbers and seeing Mowgli grow up. But the 2016 version presents the same story from 1967, complete with animals who talk and sing.

One of the most memorable songs, “The Bare Necessities” sung by Baloo and Mowgli. The original was performed by Phil Harris (Baloo) and Bruce Reitherman (Mowgli), while Bill Murray (Baloo) and Kermit Ruffins (Mowgli) redid it in 2016. Both versions of this fun song remain largely similar, aside from the increased instrumental support in the modern version.

Verdict: This song is equally as fun and catchy in both versions of the film, it has to be a draw here.

Phil Harris & Bruce Reitherman (1967)

Bill Murray & Kermit Ruffins (2016)

Disney seems to do a good job of updating its music for today’s sound without compromising what made these songs so great in their original forms. After Aladdin, Disney is set to release live-action remakes of The Lion King and Lady and the Tramp later this year, and Mulan in early 2020.