3 Most Underappreciated Songs in Animation

I. You Know Better Than Ifrom Joseph: King of Dreams [2000]

This song, written by John Bucchino and performed by David Campbell, is from the straight-to-video animated film Joseph: King of Dreams. The song is inspirational and feels very personal. It is sung by Joseph when he finds himself near to despair and at the lowest point in his life. He has to start from the very beginning again and build his life anew. The faith and trust in God enable him to do that. The animation is often compared negatively to the great animation The Prince of Egypt [1998], but the comparison is a bit unjust and Joseph: King of Dream should stand on its own as that that has many strong points, including the amazing dream sequences and this wonderful song.

II. “God Help the Outcasts” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame [1996]

This beautiful song is written by Alan Menken (Aladdin, Beauty & The Beast) and Stephen Schwartz. Praised by critics upon the animation release, who “promised” it the Academy Award nomination, the song is “a sombre hymn” of the gypsy girl who is asking God to help her people and give them the strength to face racist and discriminatory policies employed by the most powerful men in Paris. Only the song was not nominated in the category of the Best Song by the Academy, and soon, rather unjustly, “delegated” to a more or less mediocre position. The song is melodic and very moving, conveying the sheer heartache of Esmeralda regarding the plight of her people. There is both immense sadness and notes of hope in the singer’s voice as she tries to communicate her wish that will see people coming out of oppression and poverty. The best part of the song probably begins when the chorus starts to accompany Esmeralda’s voice.

III. “In the Dark of the Night” from Anastasia [1997]

“In the Dark of the Night ” was written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd/Jim Cummings) sings his villainy song, threatening Anastasia with violence and retribution. It is very surprising that this song is not appreciated more and was even deemed to be “unpopular”. It is creative, making Rasputin a more interesting character in the film, and has a catchy rhythm with a majestic sweep (plus hints of the Russian waltz), making it a memorable melody. The chorus is particularly good accompanying Rasputin’s voice.

5 thoughts on “3 Most Underappreciated Songs in Animation

  1. Those were interesting choices and it was a creative idea for a list. I’ve seen all those movies when I was a kid.

    Funny you mention “In the Dark of the Night”. It is an underrated villain song. I remember when Nostalgia Critic (back before I lost tremendous respect for him) did a Top 11 Villain Song video and put it on the list. In hindsight, I was disappointed in him calling Anastasia an “expensive Disney ripoff” movie and he really should talk about ripoffs since a song that was really high on his list was literally sung by an expensive ripoff character (HINT: It’s a certain Disney villain who’s voiced by Jeremy Irons!).

    Thanks for sharing and I even gave you a shout out in my Christmas Toy review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! He called Anastasia – “an expensive Disney rip-off”? I wonder in what particular way? True, Disney might have been a pioneer of this “artistic style” in animation, but when it comes to ideas, the majority of its “original” ideas go only as far as fairy-tales of this world are capable of stretching themselves, and the company overused them and other cultures with impunity which is frankly shocking; let alone, launching its biggest “reputation” movie on the back of Japanese visionaries and people from other countries and cultures whose names the majority don’t know and will never know.

      Anastasia does not deserve all the dirt thrown at it by critics (the majority of whom were or are Disney-sponsored anyway, I am sure). If someone other than Disney uses another culture, folklore or “history” for their animation, it is suddenly “bad taste”, “shocking”, “disrespectful” and “appropriation”, but if Disney does not – it is “simply marvellous”, apparently. Double standards. If anyone has a right to complain about Anastasia it is probably me because my country of origin happens to be Russia. And I won’t, because, yes, despite a ton of historical inaccuracies, its main aim was to entertain and provide enjoyment in storytelling and that it did beautifully. In fact, I have the highest respect for “non-Disney” animations, including Balto [1995]. Often these have been better the the “standard” of animation, heh, that Disney has provided over the years. And yes, Scar…has left his scars. A total rip-off.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome! Yeah, that actually happened. I disagree with it. I know Don Bluth didn’t always have the best track record, but Anastasia being called a rip-off isn’t right. If I’m not mistaken, Bluth was an ex-Disney animator who worked on some of the movies way back when. Now, making a movie based on a public domain source isn’t bad at all, but there is a lack of originality (saying nothing about the constant remakes) going on with Disney. It is very intellectually insulting that Disney’s first “original screenplay” would steal from Osamu Tezuka, use a plagiarized song from a South African musician, and eventually trademark a super common Swahili phrase is just infuriating.

        While Anastasia isn’t my favorite movie, I would still defend it from the “ripoff” reputation and some of the negative reviews overdid it. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of them were paid off or affiliated (USA Today would be a big example). Re: culture, folklore, or history for animation…THANK YOU! It’s a huge double standard and I’ve been very vocal about that hypocrisy on different posts. Don’t get me wrong, other companies are guilty of doing those bad things, but why does Disney get a free pass for doing the same thing or worse? I don’t think I knew you were from Russia, but you make a great point about how Russia would have every right to be offended if the movie disrespected the culture. That perspective certainly helps. I knew there were historical inaccuracies, but it wasn’t being insensitive. Pocahontas would be the opposite with the numerous inaccuracies and there’s a reason why the Native American community utterly despises that movie (rightfully so). Since I found out about being part Congolese through my maternal side through a DNA test, that affected how I saw things in a cultural context among the other samples I got. I found out about the “Hakuna Matata” trademark issue weeks after finding out about my heritage and since the DRC has Swahili as one of 5 official languages, I can argue that Disney infringed on part of MY culture. Don’t even get me started on those parallels between the elephant graveyard with the hyenas and how Leopold starved out some of the Congolese during his genocidal reign of that part of Africa (or even Shark Island in German-occupied Namibia and I’m not even of Namibian descent!).

        Balto? I’ve seen that movie when I was a child. I think I liked it if memory serves me correctly. A lot of non-Disney stuff can be good and especially some foreign animated works.

        All too true about Scar. You could make a case of that character being the biggest ripoff character ever. I respect Jeremy Irons with the documentary Trashed, but I can’t look at that malevolent lion the same way again with how identical he was to Claw.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great to see You Know Better Than I on your list- I love that song and Joseph as a whole! Agree with you that it’s been unfairly compared to Prince of Egypt- both are amazing films (with some epic songs- The Plagues is one of my all-time favourites) but they are very different and are both deserving of praise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad you agree! It is very good. It is a pity that we don’t see anymore animations with this depth of vision, warmth and inspiration. Especially given the current global climate, they are needed more now than ever.

      Liked by 1 person

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