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Music in Disney's Animated Features - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to The Jungle Book

Music in Disney's Animated Features

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to The Jungle Book

By James Bohn
Foreword by Jeff Kurtti
Paperback : 9781496818331, 318 pages, 58 musical examples; 12 b&w illustrations; 5 tables, March 2018
Hardcover : 9781496812148, 318 pages, 58 musical examples; 12 b&w illustrations; 5 tables, May 2017

A composer's brilliant study on how Walt Disney revolutionized the use of music in film


In Music in Disney’s Animated Features James Bohn investigates how music functions in Disney animated films and identifies several vanguard techniques used in them. In addition, he also presents a history of music in Disney animated films, as well as biographical information on several of the Walt Disney Studios’ seminal composers.

The popularity and critical acclaim of Disney animated features truly is built as much on music as it is on animation. Beginning with Steamboat Willie and continuing through all of the animated features created under Disney’s personal supervision, music was the organizing element of Disney’s animation. Songs establish character, aid in narrative, and fashion the backbone of the Studios’ movies from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs through The Jungle Book and beyond.

Bohn underscores these points while presenting a detailed history of music in Disney’s animated films. The book includes research done at the Walt Disney Archives as well as materials gathered from numerous other facilities. In his research of the Studios’ notable composers, Bohn includes perspectives from family members, thus lending a personal dimension to his presentation of the magical Studios’ musical history. The volume’s numerous musical examples demonstrate techniques used throughout the Studios’ animated classics.


"Well-documented and based on accurate analysis methods"


"It is accessibly written and equally engaging for those with and without musical training. . . . Highly recommended."

- Kathy Merlock Jackson, Journal of American Culture

"Walt Disney would famously claim, 'It all started with a mouse.' What James Bohn demonstrates is that 'it started with music'! Bohn had access to Disney archives and employs a wealth of original primary research to create this comprehensive and scholarly study of the music for Walt's animations. Informative, readable, engaging, impressive."

- Kathryn Kalinak, author of Settling the Score: Music and the Classical Hollywood Film, How the West Was Sung: Music in the Westerns of John Ford, and Film Music: A Very Short Introduction

"James Bohn's insightful book provides a unique view of Disney music and the influence it had on Walt's storytelling. The 'Old Maestro,' Walt Disney was not a trained musician and could not play or read music. Yet, he was well aware of the film score. Hardly an afterthought at the end of a production, music was a critical part of the creative process. From the crude early thirties movies to Walt's most lavish animated productions, music has always played a key role in Disney storytelling and continues to do so to this day. As both an animator and musician, I naturally found James Bohn's book a delightful read. I think you will as well."

- Floyd Norman, Disney animator and story development artist

"Music was the narrative engine and emotional heart of the golden age of Disney animation. James Bohn's thorough research and astute musical insights provide a perceptive exploration of the unforgettable songs and memorable scores, and they celebrate the careers of the often-overlooked songsmiths and composers who provided the soundtrack to four decades of Disney screen magic."

- Brian Sibley, writer, broadcaster, and animation historian

"A much-welcomed and much-needed exploration of one of the world's most significant musical influences for almost a century. Bohn deftly treads a fine line between conversation and erudition, offering a brisk, entertaining journey as well as a scholarly deep dive into the sharps and flats of Walt-era animation music--exploring how it serves its specific source material, often transcends it, and sustains its effectiveness regardless of changing times and tastes."

- Greg Ehrbar, TV writer, commentator, and coauthor of Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records, published by University Press of Mississippi

"For anyone who has a serious interest in the history of film music, and especially the creation and evolution of music in Walt Disney's animated films, Jim Bohn's carefully and comprehensively researched book is a fascinating internal look at the creative collaborators and the techniques they invented to provide a unique way of combining music with the animated image. He includes many biographies of and information on well-known and not-so-well-known contributors to many classic Disney films: Carl Stalling, Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline, Oliver Wallace, and many others, along with engaging inside stories about the creation of some of the best-known and best-loved film music of all time. Limited to the motion pictures that were made under the direct supervision of Walt Disney himself, Bohn respectfully and carefully details the collaborative association between Disney's creative vision and that of his musical creators, and he provides an engrossing and privileged look at the way so much venerable music came to be."

- Bruce Broughton, Emmy Award-winning film and TV composer

"I devoured it. Essential reading for any fan of the music of Disney. It's well researched, well organized, and full of intriguing facts and analysis. It also tells the stories of the unsung early Disney composers and songwriters. Fun to realize that even though times have changed, the process of making a Disney-animated score remains essentially the same eighty years later."

- Robert Lopez, winner of the 2014 Academy Award Best Original Song for "Let It Go"

"[Music in Disney's Animated Features] is accessibly written and equally engaging for those with and without musical training."

- Kathy Merlock Jackson, Virginia Wesleyan University