Animated films are responsible for bringing so many different kinds of stories to life, and are responsible for so many iconic cinematic moments cherished by children and adults alike. For those of us who love music and musicals, some of Hollywood’s all-time best earworms can be found within this medium, appealing to viewers of all ages. These singalongs and show tunes have stood the test of time—film buffs and even the most casual fans can point to so many scenes that have spelled movie magic, whether it’s Timon, Pumbaa, and Simba head-bopping across a log or SpongeBob’s Patrick Star posing in fishnet stockings and heels.
The animated films of the last few decades have dealt with everything from fairy tales to family trauma, from falling in love to making the world a better place. And when it comes to family-friendly fare, there’s often truly memorable music to be found, be it a revamped classic or an original number, giving these movies a chance to prove that they’re as rich in epic tunes as any live-action musical.
Below, I’ve rounded up the eleven of my favorite animated movie moments that are sure to spark a dance party! From The Little Mermaid to Hotel Transylvania to Encanto, these stirring showstoppers and goofy, feel-good gems are guaranteed to get you moving…
The Lion King, “Hakuna Matata”
Timon and Pumbaa taught Simba their mantra and things have been jolly in the jungle ever since. “Hakuna Matata,” built around a Swahili phrase originating from East Africa (which translates to “no problems” or “no troubles,” or as the song puts it, “no worries”) turned young and old moviegoers into lifelong fans who couldn’t stop shaking their tail feathers or singing along.
Madagascar, “I Like To Move It”
This upbeat number from 2005’s Madagascar is a cover of the ‘90s earworm by Reel 2 Real. The boisterous nighttime antics of King Julien (voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen) and his legions of lemurs is a riot by any standards. It certainly got the stranded (and skeptical) crew from the Central Park Zoo to bust a move, not to mention audiences worldwide.
Tarzan, “Trashin’ The Camp”
Tarzan landed both the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Song (“You’ll Be In My Heart”) in 2000, and the rest of the soundtrack is equally dazzling. “Trashin’ The Camp” turns the moment Tarzan’s gorilla clan discovers Jane’s campsite into a toe-tapping tune complete with horns, rhythmic scat singing, and inventive, kinetic visuals. Their highly amusing antics as they turn various objects into musical instruments (and implements of destruction) make for a swinging good time.
Hotel Transylvania, “The Zing”
“It was a thing called a Zing and I wanted to sing,” Johnny (Andy Samberg) rhymes, describing the exhilarating feels that come with true love after falling for Count Dracula’s daughter, Mavis. It’s silly and fun and goofily romantic, and you can’t help but boogie to the catchy lyrics—or the bouncy rap breakdown by none other than “The Undead King” himself (Adam Sandler).
Shrek 2, “Holding Out For A Hero”
The Fairy Godmother’s now classic cover of “Holding Out For A Hero” in Shrek 2 is the stuff of animated movie magic. Performed by Jennifer Saunders, this cover of Bonnie Tyler’s epic power ballad neatly sets the stage the film’s emotional climax as Shrek, Fiona, and Prince Charming square off, each hoping to finally secure their happily ever after.
Happy Feet, “Boogie Wonderland”
In 2006’s Happy Feet, starring Elijah Wood and Robin Williams, Warner Bros struck gold with yet another nostalgic throwback cover, “Boogie Wonderland.” The disco-lite classic practically demands that you groove along as Mumble woos Gloria (Brittany Murphy), her heartsong blending artfully with his tap-dancing, joyously in sync at every step.
The Little Mermaid, “Under The Sea”
You’re probably already singing along here, as Sebastian links up with a “hot crustacean band” to let Princess Ariel in on some timeless wisdom, Calypso-style, in one of the all-time great Disney showstoppers. She doesn’t listen, of course, but “Under the Sea” remains a spectacular showcase of Caribbean sounds and a wonderful excuse to shimmy across your living room.
Encanto, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”
Allow me to break the cardinal rule (and break into my off-beat bachata): it’s time to talk about Bruno! This bubbly blending of Latin musical styles sparked the most viral animated movie moment in recent history, earning instant earworm status from its TikTok fame and even got a live-action Megan Thee Stallion remix at this year’s Oscars. With music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, this ensemble number performed by Encanto’s amazing cast is officially the biggest chart-topping Disney song ever, surpassing former hits like Frozen’s “Let It Go” and Aladdin’s “A Whole New World.”
Trolls, “Can’t Stop The Feeling”
“Can’t Stop the Feeling!” is pure sunny pop perfection written and recorded by Justin Timberlake for the Trolls soundtrack. JT (who stars as the voice of Branch, and is also the film’s executive music producer) knew just what to do for the movie’s climax, serving up the perfect tempo to trigger shoulder shrugs and hip sways, irresistible to even the most miserable Bergens and audiences alike.
Lilo & Stitch, “Burning Love”
As if the ending to Lilo & Stitch wasn’t heartwarming enough (I’m not crying, you are!), the final scenes of this Hawaiian big screen hit were set to classic rock n’ roll by the King. If you can’t sit still as Wynonna’s rousing rendition of the Elvis tune provides the soundtrack for the mischievous Stitch’s antics as he builds a new life with his found family, then you aren’t alone!
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, “Goofy Goober Rock”
Who’d have known that under his friendly, wholesome fry-cook image, our porous, yellow protagonist was a fierce rock guitarist? SpongeBob’s amped-up shredding in this Twisted Sister-inspired anthem not only saves the citizens of Bikini Bottom from mind-control, but the solo is sure to inspire air-guitars and headbanging from fans of all ages.
That’s my list of personal favorites, but obviously there are a ton of amazing animated musical moments to choose from. Would you pick some songs from older movies, or different movies altogether, or even different songs from some of the films mentioned above? Let us know which covers and original songs would make your own list, and why…
Sasha Lee is a freelance journalist and writer based in Jamaica. She has seen every episode of The Golden Girls at least five times and her work has appeared in a variety of online publications. You can connect with her on Twitter @ohsashalee