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The Greatest Original Songs From Pixar Movies

In a retrospective on the history of music in Pixar Animation Studios, director Andrew Stanton recalled to The Ringer that he and other artists at the studio were initially adamant that their feature films would feature no musical numbers. The folks at Pixar wanted to establish themselves as different from other animated films, and that meant eschewing standard musical numbers. As a means of appeasing hesitant Disney executives, "Toy Story," the first Pixar motion picture, featured a handful of original tunes that were not actually performed by the characters. This approach established a precedent for future Pixar movies, which often featured similarly non-diegetic tunes and only occasionally had characters sing on-screen.

The original songs of Pixar's movies are not rehashes of classic Disney tunes like "Part of Your World," instead reaching far and wide for musical influences ranging from jazz to bubbly boy bands to country music. Just as varied are the purposes these songs serve within the films they inhabit, with some accomplishing tasks as simple as kicking off a story in an energetic manner, while others use original tunes as a way of reinforcing a story's core theme. Whatever their musical influences or purposes are, the greatest original songs from Pixar's features encapsulate the kind of bold creativity and risk-taking that the studio became known for.

12. Find Yourself (Cars)

The second half of the credits for "Cars" begins on a somber note, as a dedication to the late Joe Ranft — who passed away during the movie's production — flashes on-screen alongside silent footage of the various Pixar characters he voiced. To match this shift in tone, the credits are accompanied by a brand-new Brad Paisley song, "Find Yourself." One of two original numbers he recorded for the "Cars" soundtrack, Paisley's "Find Yourself" provides a musical reflection of Lightning McQueen's journey. Specifically, Paisley hammers home the idea that "when you lose your way, it's really just as well/'cause you find yourself."

The wistful tone of the tune and lyrics would, admittedly, be better served by a slightly older country singer, like Alan Jackson, or someone more well-versed in melancholy melodies, like Gary Allan. However, Paisley does a good job handling these lyrics and manages to convey a reflective tone in his vocals. His decision to keep "Find Yourself" relatively sparse is an especially wise choice: The intimate nature of this track would be doomed if it suddenly tried to be a power ballad. Admittedly, such a somber tune is a bit incongruous connected to a Pixar movie that features Larry the Cable Guy as a flatulent tow truck, but "Find Yourself" still functions nicely as one of the more meditative works on the "Cars" soundtrack.

11. The Time of Your Life (A Bug's Life)

In his time working at Pixar, Randy Newman wrote and sang tunes that could rock you to your core. Just thinking about certain verses in these songs makes audiences emotional. But he could also do jaunty and pleasant numbers if the occasion called for it. That's just what he got to do on "A Bug's Life," which featured end credits set to his original song "The Time of Your Life." The intentionally silly nature of this piece is made apparent right from the first few words. As Newman delivers the brief punchy phrase "was a bug/little bug" with his trademark drawn-out singing style, you immediately know you won't be crying during this song ... but you might be tapping your toes to it.

With simple enough lyrics that a kid could memorize after hearing it once, "The Time of Your Life" fits nicely with the streamlined but entertaining nature of "A Bug's Life" as a film. An especially amusing highlight of the track is a passionate female choir lending a quasi-angelic reinforcement to often banal phrases that Newman is crooning. Throw in some zippy piano and saxophone, and "The Time of Your Life" has peppy energy that's hard to resist. If these lyrics are true and "you only go 'round one time," there are worse ways to spend that one time than listening to fun songs like "The Time of Your Life."

10. We Belong Together (Toy Story 3)

After so many big, emotional scenes that reduced grown-ups in the audience to tears, "Toy Story 3" sent moviegoers out of the theater with more upbeat vibes. As the first part of the credits roll, an epilogue plays out on one half of the screen, showing how the various toy characters are doing in their respective new homes. This sequence is accompanied by a jaunty new Randy Newman tune called "We Belong Together." Newman even gets to sing, which reinforces the jubilant atmosphere the toys now find themselves in, as well as the sense of unity defining their lives.

Compared to other Newman "Toy Story" songs like "You've Got a Friend in Me," the lyrics to "We Belong Together" aren't incredibly inspired or emotionally moving. However, the elegant simplicity and chipper atmosphere of "We Belong Together" are perfect accompaniments to the "Toy Story 3" credits, while also functioning as a necessary counterbalance to the heavy emotions of the film's third act. Once the first notes of "We Belong Together" begin playing, moviegoers know they can finally exhale, nodding their heads along to a pleasant melody after grappling with so many weighty feelings. With "We Belong Together," Randy Newman delivers both another earworm and a signal to audiences that things are going to be alright.

9. Noble Maiden Fair (Brave)

The 2012 film "Brave" saw Pixar dipping its toes into familiar waters for sister company Walt Disney Animation Studios: A fairy tale movie about a princess. "Brave" departed from the likes of "Beauty and the Beast" and "Tangled," though, by explicitly not being a musical. Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) shoots off arrows with her bow to express her feelings rather than harmonizing on a hilltop. However, that doesn't mean the movie is devoid of original tunes. "Brave" does conjure up a song in the form of "Noble Maiden Fair (A Mhaighdean Bhan Uasal)," a lullaby delivered by Merida's mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson).

The song is primarily showcased in a flashback, with Elinor singing the melody alongside an adolescent Merida on a thundery night. The tune takes on an extra comforting quality in these confines, as it symbolizes a wistfulness for Merida and Elinor's fondest times together in comparison to their present turmoil in the main narrative of "Brave." Emma Thompson's tender delivery of these lyrics seals the authenticity of this atmosphere. It's also a nice touch to have various lyrics of this piece sung in Scottish Gaelic, the native tongue of "Brave," which is set in Scotland. "Brave" doesn't embrace musical numbers like so many other animated fairy tale features, but "Noble Maiden Fair (A Mhaighdean Bhan Uasal)" does ensure that its one major deployment of in-universe singing is put to great use.

8. Down to Earth (WALL-E)

For much of its runtime, the sonic landscape of "WALL-E" is defined by pre-existing tunes. These provide an amusing contrast to the post-apocalyptic backdrops of the feature, with the songs reminding viewers of what Earth used to be like centuries earlier. They also function as a fantastic extension of WALL-E's bombastically romantic personality, with the sounds of "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" from "Hello Dolly!" being the only way his larger-than-life emotions can be expressed. Once the credits begin, though, "WALL-E" finally drops its first original non-orchestral song, in the form of Peter Gabriel's "Down to Earth."

The choice of Gabriel alone makes "Down to Earth" feel right at home with the other song choices in "WALL-E," since, much like 1960s show tunes, nobody expects this singer to show up in a big sci-fi animated kid's movie. However, there's something important about the presence of this song coinciding with the images that roll alongside the credits depicting various robots and humans on Earth making a new life for themselves. Previously, pre-existing songs were the only way for "WALL-E" as a movie to engage with "proper" humanity. Now that humans have returned to Earth and are building a new society, though, an original song like "Down to Earth" can enter the soundtrack and reflect the hope these characters have for a better tomorrow. It's a great undercurrent to this tune and a microcosm of how thoughtful the song choices in "WALL-E" are.

7. If I Didn't Have You (Monsters Inc.)

After "Monsters Inc.," Randy Newman, the composer and songwriter behind the first four Pixar movies, took a breather from this studio. While Pixar further collaborated with Newman on subsequent movies like "Cars," they began to work with other musicians, like Michael Giacchino. But Newman got to end his initial streak of Pixar movies with a bang, thanks to his incredibly lively jazz-influenced work on "Monsters Inc." His efforts here include the cheerful duet number "If I Didn't Have You," sung by John Goodman and Billy Crystal as their respective "Monster Inc." characters.

Goodman and Crystal's warm rapport in their voice-over work does a lot to sell the central friendship of "Monsters Inc." and it comes in handy once again for selling the amiable vibes of "If I Didn't Have You." The naturalistic flow of their exchanges throughout the number, particularly whenever Crystal's Mike Wazowski feels like he's getting slighted ("why do you keep singing my part?"), feels incredibly authentic and fun. The two performers are backed up with a lively instrumental accompaniment that injects further energy into an already bouncy tune. "If I Didn't Have You" is a fun song taken on its own terms, but it also functions as the end of an era for Pixar and Newman's non-stop collaborations.

6. Real Gone (Cars)

So much of the soundtrack to "Cars" is made up of pre-existing songs like "Life is a Highway" and "Route 66," gussied up by the hottest artists of 2006. Some of those covers, especially "Life is a Highway," can be fun, but there's something to be said for delivering fresh musical material. Luckily, "Cars" kicks off its runtime with a bang by setting its very first sequence to the pulsating rhythm of Sheryl Crowe's "Real Gone." Played against the highly competitive Dinoco 400 race, this song needs to have energy to spare. Luckily, Crowe and her band come through in spades by making "Real Gone" a song that just glistens with confident passion. It's like Lightning McQueen's psyche has been manifested into a real tune.

"Real Gone" works just fine in the context of "Cars," especially since it livens up an opening scene super heavy on exposition. However, the soundtrack version of the song has an extra surprise for listeners by revealing a portion between the second and third verses where the instrumental accompaniment drops out almost entirely, leaving only Crowe's slightly distorted vocals. Crowe's words take on an intimidating quality here, which gives that final explosive verse a further jolt of conviction. You really believe Crowe and all the "Cars" characters can move mountains. Whether you're hearing it on Spotify or in "Cars," Sheryl Crowe's "Real Gone" is a real treat.

5. Nobody Like U (Turning Red)

Boy bands often become punchlines in pop culture, but they're just as capable as any other musicians of churning out earworm tunes you can't get out of your head. Pastiches of classic boy bands can be similarly enjoyable, as seen with songs like "Girl You Need a Shot of B12" from "American Dad." The appeal of boy bands enduring even in parody form was reaffirmed once again with "Turning Red," a Pixar film that heavily features a fictitious boy band by the name of 4*Town. Naturally, these heartthrob teens needed a catchy original song to belt out, and "Turning Red" gave them just that with "Nobody Like U."

What's incredibly impressive about "Nobody Like U" is how much it sounds like an authentic boy band song from the late 1990s or early 2000s. The tiniest details in the vocals and the way the members of the band bounce off each other in their line deliveries all make it sound like it was ripped right from decades past and plopped into a 2022 movie. Even better, it's genuinely catchy, and feels like it would be the sort of song to become a pop hit. Satirists like Mel Brooks proved that spoofs of specific genres or styles of artistic expression work best when the people doing the parodying love what they're skewering. "Nobody Like U" from "Turning Red" perfectly captures that attitude.

4. Le Festin (Ratatouille)

Both in the middle of "Ratatouille" and in its final scene, Michael Giacchino's orchestral score bows out and the original tune "Le Festin" takes over the soundtrack. Much of this song hinges on the vocals of French singer Camille, as established by the first 20 seconds consisting of just her harmonizing. Camille's beautiful voice and the stripped-down instrumental accompaniment, which often consists of Camille being paired up with just an oboe or a guitar, lends an emotional intimacy to the piece. That's a perfect quality for a song that's utilized in "Ratatouille" to underscore its characters finding some level of peace and personal satisfaction.

Even better, the tune is entirely in French. With this quality, "Le Festin" reminds listeners that good tunes transcend any language barrier. You don't need to speak a word of French to be carried away by the often dreamlike qualities of this "Ratatouille" song. Committing to the French language and letting Camille's vocals take center stage are two choices that reflect the song's artistic audacity. What a fitting feat for a song that anchors a movie about a chef who also challenges artistic norms.

3. You've Got a Friend in Me (Toy Story)

The very first original song in a Pixar movie is still one of the best tunes to ever appear in one of this company's features. "You've Got a Friend in Me" caps off the prologue of "Toy Story," with the song providing a perfect reflection of how tightly bonded Woody and Andy are. The ensuing story almost immediately throws countless obstacles in the way of their friendship, but for one brief moment, they're perfectly happy together. Woody isn't alive as Andy plays with him, but "You've Got a Friend in Me" makes the doll's internal thoughts incredibly vibrant.

The song is already so perfectly written on its own and thoughtfully incorporated into "Toy Story." However, "You've Got a Friend in Me," unlike many other original Pixar tunes, appears in more than one movie. The other appearances of this song have only reinforced how well-constructed it is, with its lyrics taking on unexpected emotional resonance under different circumstances. In particular, the phrase "as the years go by/our friendship will never die" takes on new haunting qualities when it's used to conclude a montage of Andy's childhood in "Toy Story 3." "You've Got a Friend in Me" is such a glorious song that its magic isn't contained to just one entry in the Pixar canon.

2. Remember Me (Coco)

The closest Pixar's come to doing an original musical is "Coco," which fits since that film's protagonist, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), wants to be a musician. The most prominent of the songs he encounters on his journey to the land of the dead is "Remember Me," a beautiful song on many levels. However, it's especially impressive how it remains impactful in various incarnations and tonal interpretations throughout the runtime. Audiences are first introduced to "Remember Me" as a boisterous song sung by Ernest de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), but later on, viewers find out that the tune was originally conjured up by Cruz's former friend, Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal).

After this revelation, a reprise of "Remember Me" occurs, this time happening in more intimate confines as Hector sings it to his young daughter. What was already a pleasant enough melody in its original form takes on entirely new layers of depth with this performance. The lyrics haven't changed, but Bernal's poignant vocals and the quiet delivery of the song effortlessly wring tears out of your eyes. A similarly intimate approach ensures that "Coco" can once again utilize "Remember Me" for emotional means in its finale when Miguel sings the tune to his great-grandmother. "Remember Me" takes on many forms and purposes throughout the narrative of "Coco," but it never loses its impressive level of poignancy.

1. When She Loved Me (Toy Story 2)

Once upon a time, people didn't associate Pixar immediately with scenes that reduced adults to tears. That reputation began to grow, though, after "Toy Story 2," and specifically its "When Somebody Love Me" montage, a sequence depicting the backstory of cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack) and her relationship with her old owner, Emily. Initially inseparable, Jessie and Emily drift apart as the child grew older. Eventually, Jessie finds herself underneath Emily's bed, watching from afar as the girl she used to comfort grew up. The unstoppable passage of time occurs before her very eyes. All the while, Sarah McLachlan's vocals on "When She Loved Me" reflect Jessie's internal world as she grapples with losing somebody she once held so close.

In three minutes, a sequel meant to sell toys to kids confronts the reality that all relationships will eventually deteriorate and end in loss. The sequence itself is masterful in its editing and visual choices, but "When She Loved Me" adds so much to the sequence. McLachlan, primarily accompanied by just a piano, communicates years of heartache and pent-up wistfulness in her voice. The outstanding unity between "When She Loved Me" and the images on-screen in this "Toy Story 2" sequence provides an unforgettable piece of filmmaking. Better yet, it establishes a norm for how moving and weighty Pixar movies can be.