As fun as it is to go to any attraction in Disneyland Resort and soak in the thrills, there’s something about the music that plays in the background that makes the experience that much better. Disneyland does an amazing job at using perfect music to fit the situation of the attraction, but it’s common to soak in the wind in your face or the scenery around you and forget to listen to everything.
In this list, I’ll break down what I believe are the attractions with the best on-ride music, not limiting it to a single song (like with the medley on Splash Mountain). However, this will be solely limited to attractions with moving vehicles, so an attraction like Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, which is built on the music and animatronics alone, will not be included.
King Arthur’s Carrousel
This seems like a good place to start this list, as it is one of the original attractions of Disneyland. It also is one of the few that may never need any sort of substantial renovation, which means that it will probably pump out the same classic Disney songs on the pipe organ for the next 100 years (possibly). So, saddle up with Jingles and her friends, and take a trip down memory lane with some of the best early Disney songs ever.
Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye
Two words: John Williams. I don’t think I need to add much more, but this is possibly the third best story about everyone’s favorite archaeologist, joining Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade. As you take the bumpy ride through Mara’s cave and get up close with a terrifying boulder, you hear the classic scores from John Williams, capped by the iconic main title that proves Williams’ genius as the greatest composer of our lifetime. Obviously there’s another use of Williams’ music in Star Tours, but the reason that one doesn’t fit on my list? Prequels… Either way, John Williams deserved a place on this list.
it’s a small world
Love it or hate it, “the happiest cruise that ever sailed ‘round the world” is nothing without the ear worm that is the Sherman Brothers’ tune. Try picturing it without the music for a second. It will definitely go from cute to creepy immediately, and that makes this song a strong candidate on this list. The song is made even more memorable by the use of several different languages depending on what country is being represented at each point. To add to these points, the attraction is named after the song, and not the other way around.
Radiator Springs Racers
The most difficult part about doing this list is the fact that many of the attractions are based strongly on movies, and utilize many songs from said movie. What makes Radiator Springs Racers stand apart is the variety of moods that the music sets in a story that’s all its own. Starting from the music that perfectly accompanies a beautiful visual scene at the beginning, to dramatic, heart racing pieces upon reaching Mack, the train, and Frank, and even a bit of Italian music in Luigi’s and “Low Rider” in Ramone’s. A fitting tie-in to the movie was including the tune from when Doc drives around Willy’s Butte as the theme to the race at the end. Overall, I believe this is the best utilization of a movie soundtrack in an attraction and deserves a spot on this list.
The Sailing Ship Columbia
I wanted to find something a little off script to put on this list, and a trip on the Columbia will definitely fit. While it features narration about your voyage, there is also a number of sea chanteys that will make you feel as if you’re a sailor yourself. The music won’t necessarily be something that you’d be singing as you’re driving along in your car, but it makes for a fun excursion around The Rivers of America.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT
This one is the hardest to write about, because you’re combining a great attraction with awesome classic songs like “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and “Born To Be Wild”, all while trying to explain why it’s the best. Then again, does it need an explanation? I submit that it does not. The only issue is that none of the songs are necessarily “Disney”, but I’m willing to overlook that minor detail.
I was about to skip Haunted Mansion on this list because it is primarily just Grim Grinning Ghosts and its non-lyrical melody throughout the ride, which is amazing but mostly the same tune throughout. What wound up putting this attraction on the list was the addition of the “Black Widow Bride” scene, and as you maneuver through the attic, “Here Comes The Bride” plays in a minor key. This attraction is generally a slightly happier take on the often bleak idea of death, but a haunting addition reminds you that not all is cheery on the way to the afterlife.
Soarin’ Over California
Personally, I preferred the original Soarin’ over the current iteration, mostly for the visual effects. Musically, it’s just about the same, but the current soundtrack sounds a bit more theatrical (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) whereas the majority of the original attraction was more like a peaceful sightseeing trip through California landmarks. While I still listen to the majority of the songs on this list on the Official Album of the Disneyland resort (2008 Edition), Soarin’ Over California seems to hold a special place in my heart.
Hollywood Tower of Terror
I think this one goes without saying. The transition from Tower of Terror to Guardians: Mission BREAKOUT was met with some resistance, but the current attraction is now very loved. Mechanically, it’s the same attraction, but theming plays a big part in it, too. The on-ride music for ToT was eerie, and quite possibly the best part of the entire experience. The classic minor key “Twilight Zone” theme could send shivers down your spine, and while you’re already on a “broken” elevator, the sensation of dropping mixed with the music was the perfect combination. To this day, it’s the only attraction I can go on with no control of my ability to scream.
This list was INCREDIBLY difficult to try and only fit a handful of attractions, and really, every single attraction has a case to be on this list.
Hope you enjoyed reading! Let me know what you think about this list!