You might not instantly think of kids’ movies when looking for deep and meaningful life lessons, but they are often packed full of these sorts of inspirational messages.
Unsurprisingly, the Disney studio has been the source of many of the most profound storylines and scripts, but they have also churned out some amazing musical moments which can teach our kids – and us – how to grow as individuals.
We’ve hit the Disney back catalogue to uncover the most uplifting and motivational songs from their animated movies. You’ll find some truly memorable and often epic melodies below. So (drum roll), in no particular order…
1. Circle of Life – The Lion King
The incredible opening to The Lion King is one of the most iconic scenes from any Disney film, and a large part of its impact comes from the immaculately written score and lyrics.
It reaches its climax with the words:
It’s the circle of life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle
The circle of life
2. A Whole New World – Aladdin
The moment that Aladdin whisks Princess Jasmine off on his magic carpet is the standout musical moment in this beautiful movie. It captures the essence of a new found love as they dive into an exciting, shared journey together.
These lyrics show just how thrilling it can be to be at the start of a relationship; how it can feel like a new world has opened up:
A whole new world
With new horizons to pursue
I’ll chase them anywhere
There’s time to spare
Let me share this whole new world with you
3. When You Wish Upon a Star – Pinocchio
This is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most important of all the Disney songs featured here because it became an anthem for the whole company. It is now used in the opening of all Disney films when their logo appears on screen.
It tells us that anyone can make a wish and have their dreams come true, no matter who you are or what your background.
When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you
4. Let It Go – Frozen
This modern classic is known and loved by all kids of a certain age (and their parents), and it’s not hard to see why. Not only is it beautifully sung, but it brings a message of pure release of feelings that have bubbled under the surface for far too long.
This cathartic purge of pent up energy is Elsa’s way of sticking two fingers up at the world and being herself, just as she is. The following two parts are key in this song:
Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
5. Bare Necessities – The Jungle Book
Baloo the bear and Mowgli sing this wonderfully catchy tune all about relaxing and knowing that the “bare necessities" will come to you when you need them. It urges you to let your worries slip away and to stop pursuing things that you can live happily without.
Towards the end of the song, when the music quietens down, these lyrics are particularly poignant in this modern, materialistic world we live in:
And don’t spend your time lookin’ around
For something you want that can’t be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin’ about it
6. Colors of the Wind – Pocahontas
This musical piece from Pocahontas has two very important messages. The first is that we can learn a lot from people who are different from us, and the second is that we should protect and cherish the natural world.
The former is summed up very nicely in these touching lyrics:
You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew, you never knew
7. Beauty and the Beast – Beauty and the Beast
The theme song of this love story encapsulates what it is like when two people fall for each other despite their first impressions. It is tender and gentle, just like the scene that goes with it.
If you’ve ever found yourself loving someone who you wouldn’t have given a second glance initially, then these lyrics will mean something to you:
Tale as old as time
True as it can be
Barely even friends
Then somebody bends
Just a little change
Small to say the least
Both a little scared
Neither one prepared
Beauty and the Beast
8. Hakuna Matata – The Lion King
Our second song from The Lion King sees Pumbaa and Timon teaching a young Simba about their laid back, carefree philosophy. The approach they sing about has a certain element of Zen to it, not letting the opinions of others get you down.
It can be summed up in its entirety in the opening lyrics:
Hakuna Matata! What a wonderful phrase
Hakuna Matata! Ain’t no passing craze
It means no worries for the rest of your days
It’s our problem-free philosophy
This ultimate self-examination ballad discusses the issue of being yourself in a world that prefers you to be someone else. It covers ground such as family expectations and the suppression of your true desires.
Just read these lyrics and you’ll no doubt be able to relate to them:
Who is that girl I see
Back at me?
Why is my reflection someone
I don’t know?
10. Part of Your World – The Little Mermaid
A true Disney classic, Ariel sings her heart out to express her longing to be a part of the human world above. It is a ballad for all those who have felt a little out of place, and who sit on the fringes looking in.
If you’ve yet to find your tribe, you’ll know exactly what Ariel means when she says:
Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wanderin’ free – wish I could be
Part of that world
11. Baby Mine – Dumbo
While the song is set to a fairly heartbreaking scene of Dumbo seeing his mother chained up in a circus cart, it beautifully illustrates the love that exists between mother and child.
This maternal care is summed up so well by the lyrics, the last of which are:
From your head down to your toes
You’re not much, goodness knows
But you’re so precious to me
Sweet as can be
Baby of mine
12. Dig a Little Deeper – Princess and the Frog
Perhaps a little less well known that many on this list, but containing no less wisdom, this song is all about looking below the surface to find out what’s really important to you.
It’s all summed up perfectly in these few lyrics:
You gotta dig a little deeper
Find out who you are
You gotta dig a little deeper
It really ain’t that far
13. A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes – Cinderella
If you’ve ever had a dream come true, it’s because your heart wanted it so. After all, as this famous song says, your dreams are just wishes that your heart makes. It is very much aligned with ‘law of attraction’ type of thinking.
If you don’t believe in the power of dreams, perhaps these lyrics will convince you:
Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling through
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
The dream that you wish will come true
14. Just Around The River Bend – Pocahontas
Delving into the Pocahontas catalogue once more, we uncover this immensely relatable song that asks what the future holds, and the ability we all have to shape our own destinies.
The words to this song have the power to get even the most settled person dreaming of what’s to come:
I look once more just around the river bend
Beyond the shore where the gulls fly free
Don’t know what for what I dream the day might send
Just around the river bend for me, coming for me
15. Can You Feel The Love Tonight – The Lion King
Yes, we’re back at The Lion King for a third time, but can you blame us? This Oscar winning song is such a perfectly pitched combination of music and lyrics that it just had to make the list. It may be a bit mushy, but if you listen to the lyrics and watch the scene, you’ll be sure to get that warm feeling on the inside.
These words, in particular, are just perfect:
Can you feel the love tonight?
You needn’t look too far
Stealing through the night’s uncertainties
Love is where they are
Which of these songs is your favorite? Leave a comment below and let us know.