Background music is one of the things that gives atmosphere to each land at Walt Disney World, yet is often overlooked. Disney’s best background music does a great job of setting the mood, and most guests would notice if it was not there, but it’s not something ordinary guests actively give much attention.
For better or worse, I am no ordinary guest. I am obsessed with the background music (BGM) of Walt Disney World, and have been collecting it for over a decade. I have hundreds of hours of this area music, and play it regularly while working or trying to unwind. Its transportive, uplifting, and one of the ways we experience Disney at home.
After a few of you suggested a Top 7 about background music, I’ve decided to oblige. Full disclosure: music appreciation is not my forte. While I enjoy music, and have a huge library of background music loops and non-Disney albums, I could not even begin to explain why I like some of what I like in proper terminology. Basically, I know what I like when I hear it, but couldn’t tell you why beyond how it resonates with me on an emotional level.
Back in theday when I started collecting background loops, the process of acquiring loops via trade or torrent was sometimes difficult. (Mousebits was–and is still–the easiest way of downloading a lot of these.) The good news is that, thanks to YouTube, it’s easier than ever to listen to Walt Disney World background music at home. Click on the name of each loop to open its full audio in a new tab…
Hollywood Tower Hotel – To be honest, I almost always skip over the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror background loop when it comes up in my iTunes. It’s actually too good at being transportive, and the Jazz Era music that would be enjoyable and relaxing in isolation is ominous and creepy in its arrangement and the association it has in my memory.
This is one of many ways Disney’s Imagineers paid extreme attention to detail when designing and bringing to life the Hollywood Tower Hotel, and one of the reasons Tower of Terror is my #2 attraction (arguably the best) at Walt Disney World. (Note: more BGMs from Disney’s Hollywood Studios would’ve made this list, but almost every major loop in the park was recently replaced, and I don’t have enough in-park exposure to the new ones to have formed any attachment to them.)
Japan Pavilion – If Hollywood Tower Hotel makes the list despite me not listening to it because it’s so well-done, you could say Japan makes my list pretty much exclusively because I listen to it so much. This is my reading music, a mix that I use to drown out distracting noise. It also transports me to evenings spent waiting for IllumiNations to start, or relaxing with food from Katsura Grill in the outdoor seating area.
The loop consists primarily of traditional Japanese folk music, with a lot of pieces featuring the koto (a stringed instrument). This is actually one of several World Showcase loops I really like, with Norway and France being two other big favorites. For me at least, those do not translate nearly as well for home listening as they do in the park.
Wilderness Lodge Christmas – This music can transport me to a snowy Christmas warming up by the fireplace in the North while its 80 degrees outside in sunny Florida, and it can transport me right back to Christmas in sunny Florida while sitting at my computer up North.
This is my favorite winter music to fall asleep to, and I can accomplish that feat whether I’m in the crowded lobby of Wilderness Lodge or at home with it playing over the top of a yule log channel.
Journey into Imagination – I covered this in our Top 10 Toilets at Walt Disney World post, but for those of you who sat that one out, I need to stress that this loop can only be heard inside the restrooms to the back right of Journey into Imagination. It’s the original, 1983 background music from the attraction, which was changed everywhere else in the pavilion. How it has survived in the restrooms for so long is anyone’s guess, but I’d like to think it’s some rogue Imagineer who also shares a fondness for Figment…and these toilets, I suppose.
This BGM features instrumentals of the original attraction themes, and is an energetic mix that just makes you happy…to be in the restroom. I’d love for this to be used elsewhere in around Imagination, and I really don’t see why it’s not restored. Not like it’d do any damage to the “integrity” of the pavilion.
Epcot Entrance – From my EPCOT Center purist perspective, there have been very few changes in Future World at Epcot that have been positive or at least lateral moves. I view just about every pavilion as being a downgrade of its predecessor, and while I still love Epcot, it’s a bittersweet relationship.
The one regard in which Epcot has not been downgraded is its background music. This is most noticeable at the park entrance, which has had three beautiful loops over the years. While I still prefer the original 1982 EPCOT Center Entrance BGM that features orchestral attraction themes, I think both the 2000 and 2006 updates have been in keeping with the optimistic spirit of Epcot. Both the original and current loops could make this list, but I’m lumping them together here.
Tomorrowland – If you read Tom’s Top 7: Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom post, you got a preview of this. For me, it’s tough to top the current Tomorrowland background music, which is very similar to the 1994 loop. It reminds me of nights spent riding the TTA PeopleMover while gazing at the neon marquees. There’s also the original 1972 loop and the pre-1994 loop, which many fans prefer over the current loop. (I like it, but I wouldn’t go that far and definitely wouldn’t want it back in the park.)
A big part of its strength comes from the fact that its self-referential, but in a way that’s on-theme. This background music contains music from Carousel of Progress, Adventures through Inner Space, Alien Encounter, and other attractions. Rather than presenting these as a generic medley like is done at the park entrance, these versions have a billowy sound evoking a sci fi vibe. The only thing that would make Tomorrowland’s BGM better? If we got a Christmas version of the music and accompanying light show on Space Mountain, a la Tokyo Disneyland.
Innoventions – The scariest thing to me about Epcot’s re-imagining is not whether the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster will be a good thematic fit for Future World (I already know the answer: it won’t), but whether the Innoventions Background Music will bite the dust.
More than any other background music loop at Walt Disney World, this reminds me of the way Epcot used to be with its 1990s synthesizer goodness that establishes an upbeat tone for your adventures in Future World. Created by background music extraordinaire Russell Brower (read more about him in this interesting article) using the David Arkenstone piece “Papillon Day – On the Wings of a Butterfly” there are actually a few cuts of this loop, two different versions of which (to my knowledge) still play in Future World.
BONUS: Reflections of Earth Pre/Post-Show – I’m not sure that this should count as background music, but I love the pre and post-show score for IllumiNations. It’s longer than several other loops, and it creates a convivial ‘festival’ atmosphere, so in a sense it’s on-theme for World Showcase, but it’s also much louder and actively commands the attention of guests, rather than fading into the background.
There are actually (at least) two versions of this; one for normal nights when the park closes, and other evenings when Extra Magic Hours begin after IllumiNations. I love both, and use the regular track as high-energy motivation music. (That’s how geeky I am–my version of high-energy music is from Epcot, not EDM or hip-hop.)
Which Walt Disney World background music loops do you like the most? Any of these that you dislike? Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!