"Aladdin" genie singing "Aladdin" genie singing

Every song ever featured in a Disney animated film falls into one of 18 categories. That’s according to Justin McElroy, a reporter for CBC Vancouver, who made the playful claim on Twitter — and backed it up with a detailed breakdown of said categories, complete with video montages. He makes a good point.

McElroy gives each category a name and a few essential characteristics. Examples include I’m The Villain (think Ursula’s “Poor Unfortunate Souls” in The Little Mermaid), We Should Bone (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King), and It’s Nature Time (Bambi’s “Little April Shower”). The whole breadth of the Disney catalogue is covered, from towering classics like Aladdin to lesser-known works like Fun and Fancy Free.

Along the way, McElroy’s tweet thread drops in little pearls of insight. For instance, he writes that villain tunes always follow I Want songs, in which the main character shares their greatest desires. He also points to general differences between early and late Disney music, and calls out songs that have aged badly, whether for political or merely artistic reasons (Phil Collins’s Brother Bear score, anyone?).

The whole idea reminds me of The Seven Basic Plots, Christopher Booker’s contentious work of literary analysis, in which he argues that all stories can broadly be divided into seven archetypes. Unlike Booker’s argument, McElroy’s holds water: I’ve just spent half an hour trying find a counter-example, and got nowhere. Can you?

Here are some choice categories from McElroy’s thread:

Credit to McElroy — he’s even devised a Disney Songbook Table of Elements, arranging all the songs according to his categories:

Disney Songbook Table of Elements

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Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Associate Editor of Cartoon Brew.

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