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The Lion King's Elton John and 5 other musicians who added magic to our favourite Disney movies


Disney’s multi-Oscar-winning sensation The Lion King gets an eye-widening, photorealistic makeover on 19th July.

Directed by The Jungle Book’s Jon Favreau, it features the all-star cast of Donald Glover (Simba), Beyoncé (Nala), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Scar), Seth Rogen (Pumbaa) and James Earl Jones (Mufasa). And of course, The Lion King wouldn’t be The Lion King without its monumental soundtrack.

We can thank the combined, Oscar-winning might of Hans Zimmer, Elton John and Tim Rice for the numerous tunes we haven’t been able to get out our heads for a quarter of a century. All three return for the remake, and the new movie promises fresh renditions of classics such as 'Circle of Life' and 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight', plus a brand new John-penned end credits numbed titled 'Never Too Late'.

And talking of Elton John, he isn’t the only superstar musician who’s helped make our favourite Disney movies even more magical over the years – scroll down to discover five others…

The Lion King adult Simba movie poster

1. Cliff Edwards – Pinocchio (1940)

Including famous musicians in their films is nothing new for Disney; they’ve been doing it ever since Pinocchio, their second feature film. It featured the heart-warming vocals of Cliff Edwards as the voice of Jiminy Cricket, and also the performer of timeless tune 'Give a Little Whistle', which was written by Leigh Harline and Paul J. Smith.

Best known by his stage name Ukulele Ike, Edwards was huge in the 1920s and 1930s for his jazzy vaudeville performances of popular and novelty songs. Moreover, he was one of the earliest scat singers, helped popularise the ukulele and in 1929 he had a massive hit with ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ decades before Gene Kelly would sing it.

Although he’s relatively unknown today, there’s no denying the cultural impact Edwards has had, and his charms will forever be immortalised in Pinocchio.

2. Billy Joel – Oliver & Company (1986)

If there’s one thing Disney do best, it’s reimagining classic tales for the big screen. And while the likes of The Jungle Book, Peter Pan and The Lion King are among the most famous examples, one of our favourites is Oliver & Company.

An anthropomorphic rendition of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, in which a kitten falls in with a group of New York street dogs, part of what makes this film so memorable is the casting of soul sensation Billy Joel as streetwise terrier Dodger. One of the bestselling recording artists of all time, Joel is the musical genius behind hits 'Piano Man', earning him that very nickname, 'Uptown Girl', 'We Didn’t Start the Fire' and so much more.

His native New Yorker charms are a huge part of what makes his character so loveable, and his outstanding vocals ensure you’ll be singing 'Why Should I Worry' (written by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight) long after.

3. Phil Collins – Tarzan (1999)

Adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1912 novel Tarzan of the Apes, Disney’s Tarzan tells the story of the eponymous man (Tony Goldwyn) raised by gorillas who must choose whether to stay in the jungle or return to civilisation when he encounters and befriends visiting scientists in his jungle home.

While it was Mark Mancina who provided the orchestral score for the film, it was undoubtedly Phil Collins who blew us away with his selection of original songs. The Genesis drummer and vocalist, famous the world over for the likes of 'In the Air Tonight' and 'I Can’t Dance', brought his musical prowess to use to give us unforgettable Disney tracks 'Strangers Like Me', 'Trashin’ The Camp', 'Two Worlds' and the Oscar-winning 'You’ll Be in My Heart'. Collins would later go on to write the songs for 2003’s Brother Bear, too.

4. John Rzeznik – Treasure Planet (2002)

Perhaps one of Disney’s most underrated films, Treasure Planet is a semi-futuristic adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s seminal swashbuckling Treasure Island that launches the seafaring adventure into space.

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jim Hawkins and Brian Murphy as John Silver, eight-time Oscar-nominated composer James Newton Howard does a spectacular job at bringing the grand visuals to life with his orchestral score. But it’s Goo Goo Dolls’ guitarist and vocalist John Rzeznik who really shines brightest here.

Writing and performing the original songs 'I’m Still Here (Jim’s Theme)' and 'Always Know Where You Are' for the film, the ‘Iris’ singer’s gravelly rock tones gives each relevant scene the kind of raw emotional weight that only 2000s rock could do. We enjoyed Treasure Planet for its epic adventure and unique setting, but we love it for Rzeznik’s songs that we still haven’t been able to shake from our heads all these years later.

5. Jemaine Clement – Moana (2016)

Not only was Moana’s soundtrack stuffed with exceptional tracks including 'How Far I’ll Go', 'You’re Welcome' and 'We Know The Way' – written by the combined might of Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), South Pacific musician Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina – it also featured a surprise vocal appearance by Jemaine Clement.

For those who don’t know, he’s one half of New Zealand folk comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, and he performs Moana’s irresistibly infectious 'Shiny'. Giving voice to Tamatoa, a giant crab with a passion for hoarding sparkly treasures to decorate his shell, Clement channels David Bowie for this humorous and ridiculously catchy song.

Although Clement didn’t pen the lyrics himself, the song certainly matches his brand of comedy, and fans of the cult comedy group will already be familiar with his Bowie impression in the far out 'Bowie’s in Space'.

Click here to book your tickets for The Lion King, opening in Cineworld on 19th July. Don't forget to tweet us your favourite Disney musicians @Cineworld.

Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.