An Ode to the Disney Reprise

By: Amy Kawa

It’s not breaking news that Disney is known almost as much for its music as it is for its movies.  Timeless songs have been born from their classic films.  These songs simultaneously give characters a greater platform – a greater voice – to express their deepest thoughts and emotions all while moving the actual plot forward.  While Disney has created several universally known and loved songs, like “Circle of Life,” “Under the Sea,” “When You Wish Upon a Star,” “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” and many many more, I am here to make an argument that the very best the Disney musical world has to offer is found in some of its shortest musical pieces that are oftentimes hidden on a film’s soundtrack.

There are some songs in the Disney canon that are especially poignant to the film itself and those listening to them, but did you know that many of the songs you’re thinking of have reprises that are even more emotionally uplifting and vocally impressive by the artists singing them?  A reprise is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a repeated passage in music.” In Disney films, reprises tend to follow the longer version of a song and offer the character singing them the chance to reiterate something important or discover something new that causes them to emote something even greater than the full version of the song can offer. Reprises build off the foundation laid by the full versions of the songs.  The orchestra accompanying the song is oftentimes more amped up in reprises as well – forgive my lack of musical lingo knowledge – giving the piece a greater sense of power.

Here is a listing of the most notable Disney’s reprises (in chronological order), the movie in which they’re in, the character who sings them, and my take on why the particular musical piece is so good:

1. “Part of Your World (Reprise)” – The Little Mermaid, Ariel

  • Who hasn’t tried to re-enact the scene from The Little Mermaid where the music crescendos and Ariel pushes herself atop a rock and the waves crash over her?  Just me?  Awkward… Well, fun fact anyways:  Did you know that this iconic scene does not occur during “Part of Your World,” but actually during “Part of Your World (Reprise)?”  This scene… this song… started the Golden Age of Disney movies:            “I don’t know when
    I don’t know how
    But I know something’s starting right now
    Watch and you’ll see
    Some day I’ll be
    Part of your world.” (Cue waves!!!!).
  • This reprise gives Ariel the chance to say more than she just wants to passively learn about the human world or that she just hopes to be part of that world, as she does in the full version of the song.  In the reprise, she actively states that somehow, someway, it is going to happen, therefore, pushing the plot forward and giving our heroine and active role in her own story.  Not to mention, Jodi Benson is a LEGEND.

2.  “Belle (Reprise)” – Beauty and the Beast, Belle

  • There is no cooler opening to a Disney movie than the one audiences are treated to in Beauty and the Beast. After the narrator tells the story of the rise and fall of Prince Adam, the story kicks off right into “Belle,” in which we learn about our heroine and how she isn’t exactly beloved by the townspeople and how she, herself, would rather live in a world of books than her own reality.  We get a sense of her misery, but it is in “Belle (Reprise)” that we get a deeper understanding of her desire for more: “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere
    I want it more than I can tell
    And for once it might be grand to have someone understand
    I want so much more than they’ve got planned.”
  • As the music builds behind Paige O’Hara’s miraculous voice, if that doesn’t give you goosebumps and cause you to examine where you are in your own life, than what are you doing even watching this movie?

3.  “One Jump Ahead (Reprise)” – Aladdin, Aladdin

  • Perhaps the most underrated piece of music in the history of Disney soundtracks, the tone of this reprise is drastically different from the full version of the song.  “One Jump Ahead” introduces us to the “diamond in the rough” – aka Aladdin – and how he gets by on the streets of Agrabah, conning and stealing his way around. It’s a peppy tune, mirroring Aladdin’s seemingly nonchalant, unfazed, wise-guy attitude.  However, as the narrator says at the film’s opening, not everything is always as it seems.  This reprise allows Aladdin the chance to reveal his true feelings about his life and how those around Agrabah view him: “‘Riffraff,’ ‘Street rat’
    I don’t buy that
    If only they’d look closer
    Would they see a poor boy?
    No, sirrey
    They’d find out
    There’s so much more to me…”
  • Singer Brad Kane brings so much heart to this piece.  As Aladdin looks out onto the palace as he so movingly sings these lyrics, we now know that Aladdin isn’t content with his street urchin ways, and now, we are on a journey to see how his fortune will be changed.

4.  “Go the Distance (Reprise)” – Hercules, Hercules

  • My personal favorite on the list is this piece from Hercules.  Hercules sings the first version of “Go the Distance” on his journey to find his place in the world, a place of acceptance.  There is a tone of uncertainty that Roger Bart brings to the voice talent despite the powerful lyrics, which humanizes the demigod. The song itself is beautiful and expresses a desire to have the most basic questions about who you are answered.  However, after Hercules meets his father, Zeus, his zest for life is renewed and the reprise takes off, as Hercules does on Pegasus, to become a true hero.  The orchestra in this piece builds unlike any other piece in the Disney repertoire.
  • “I will beat the odds, I can go the distance
    I will face the world, fearless, proud, and strong
    I will please the gods, I can go the distance
    Till I find my hero’s welcome right where I belong.”

5.  “When Will My Life Begin (Reprise)” – Tangled, Rapunzel

  • Rapunzel sings the first version of “When Will My Life Begin” after we hear about her tragic backstory.  She longs for more than the same routine day after day up in her tower.  We feel her struggle and fear to leave the only world she knows behind.  We cheer her on to take the jump: “Look at the world – so close, and I’m halfway to it!
    Look at it all – so big – do I even dare?
    Look at me – there at last! – I just have to do it
    Should I?
    No.
    Here I go… “
  • We also feel her sense of euphoria when she first swings out of her tower and her feet touch the grass for the first time.  Mandy Moore does a remarkable job expressing that sense of wonderment, and once again, the music builds to the point where tears are induced, leaving this reprise more memorable (and emotionally poignant) than the original song itself.
  • “Just smell the grass! The dirt! Just like I dreamed they’d be!
    Just feel that summer breeze – the way it’s calling me
    For like the first time ever, I’m completely free!
    I could go running
    And racing
    And dancing
    And chasing
    And leaping
    And bounding
    Hair flying
    Heart pounding
    And splashing
    And reeling
    And finally feeling
    That’s when my life begins!”

6.  “For the First Time In Forever (Reprise)” – Frozen, Elsa and Anna

  • The newest addition to the reprise list certainly doesn’t pack any less of a punch. This Frozen reprise is like Aladdin’s “One Jump Ahead” in that its tone is a drastic departure from the song’s first appearance in the film.  “For the First Time In Forever” features Anna singing about her optimism for the night juxtaposed against Elsa singing about her fear.  This song certainly has a Broadway-esque quality to it.  The reprise, however, has a much darker tone, as Elsa feels utterly defeated after believing she had freed herself of a life of responsibility and control.  This piece is almost manic in tone, reflecting the struggle between Anna’s desire to help her sister and Elsa’s desire to break free from her old way of life and find inner peace.
  • Now, for just this reprise in particular, I am by no means indicating that it is better that the full version of the song.  I am simply stating that this reprise is also genius and deserves a spot on this list.
  • “Sure you can! I know you can!
    Cause for the first time in forever (Oh I’m such a fool, I can’t be free!)
    You don’t have to be afraid (no escape from the storm inside of me)
    We can work this out together (I can’t control the curse!)
    We’ll reverse the storm you’ve made (Anna, please, you’ll only make it worse!)
    Don’t panic (There’s so much fear!)
    We’ll make the sun shine bright (You’re not safe here!)
    We can face this thing together (No!)
    We can change this winter weather (ahhh…)
    And everything will be all right (I can’t!)”

So did I miss any reprises on this list that you love?  Let me know in the comments!

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