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Here's the playlist you didn't know you needed: the ten best Disney non-musical animated film scores, as determined by yours truly. Ground rules: the score can be from a musical, but can't be written by the composer of the songs. List is chronological.…
1) Elmer Bernstein, The Black Cauldron (1985). What do you get when you ask a legendary film composer to score one of the worst animated films ever? A spectacular, overwrought, and wildly inappropriate horror score featuring an ondes martenot, of course.
2) Bruce Broughton, The Rescuers Down Under (1990). Broughton brought his A game to this lovable B movie, particularly the scenes featuring a soaring eagle named Marahute.
3) Hans Zimmer, The Lion King (1994). Remembered today for its Elton John songs, The Lion King also featured perhaps Hans Zimmer's best score. The music from this score was later worked into additional songs for the Julie Taymor stage musical.
4) Jerry Goldsmith, Mulan (1998). Did you know Jerry Goldsmith scored a Disney film? He did a good job, too, even though the score has completely different themes from the songs; somehow it all works out.
5) Randy Newman, A Bug’s Life (1998). My very favorite Randy Newman score, this one features an outstanding Americana theme, rendered in brass by orchestrator Don Davis.
6) James Newton Howard, Dinosaur (2000). Scoring a forgettable ripoff of Don Bluth's 1989 masterpiece The Land Before Time, Howard must have felt compelled to match that film's even better score by James Horner. He didn't, but it was an excellent try.
7) James Newton Howard, Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001). Howard's second score for Disney animators is perhaps my favorite of his three.
8) James Newton Howard, Treasure Planet (2002). Again competing with a non-Disney animated film with an even better score (Harry Gregson-Williams' for Dreamworks' Sinbad), Howard turned in a creditable effort, mixing Celtic themes with an electric guitar.
9) Mark Mancina, Planes (2013). Mancina's outstanding martial theme for Planes has sadly been forgotten along with the forgettable film it accompanied. Mancina turned in a similarly valiant effort the following year for the sequel, Planes: Fire and Rescue.
10) Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna, The Good Dinosaur (2015). This Western-inspired Americana theme is melancholy in all the right ways. The Danna brothers now seem to be the main composers for Pixar films, so hopefully there's more excellent work to come.
If you're wondering why I left out Michael Giacchino's score for Up and Christophe Beck's score for Frozen, I don't like the Giacchino score (love the movie though!) and I didn't want to give Beck credit for Frode Fjellheim's work, which is the best part of that score.
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