In 1989 Alan Menken won his first Academy Award for “Under the Sea”, one of the hit songs from that years Disney animated film The Little Mermaid. This win would start a decade of Disney doing extremely well in the category of Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. With 5 more Disney films to follow Menken’s win, with Menken winning three more times by 1995, it’s no wonder that when we think of movies, music and the 90s, we think of Disney.
So let’s take a walk down memory lane as we look at the winners and nominees at the Academy Awards for Best Original Song from 1989 to 1999. With films like Titanic, The Lion King, Evita, and Philadelphia being nominated, it was a tight competition during that decade, for who would win out of the nominees. They all had talent and all are remembered, but there can only be one winner, sadly, every year.
1989 – “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid
It’s been said that The Little Mermaid began a golden age for Walt Disney, with Mermaid being the first truly successful Disney film in some years. It also started a craze for Disney films that still holds strong to this day. The film had two songs nominated for Best Original Song: “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl”, both iconic songs from the film. This would be Menken’s first win and second nomination, but not his last, as he would go on to make history with Disney music and become almost a household name. Other nominees for that year were “After All” from the film Chances Are with music by Tom Snow and lyrics by Dean Pitchford, “I Love to See You Smile” from Parenthood with music and lyrics by Randy Newman and “The Girl Who Used to Be Me” from Shirley Valentine with music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Alan Berman and Marilyn Berman.
If you can’t (for some odd reason) remember the song “Under the Sea” you can listen to it below.
1990 – “Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man) from Dick Tracy
Stephen Sondheim walked away the winner this year, with Madonna giving a stunning performance at the ceremony. This was Sondheim’s only win at the Oscars, being better known for his music on Broadway and a six time Tony Awards winner by 1990 (adding two more in later years including a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater). That year, Sondheim’s competition included “Blaze of Glory” from Young Guns II by Jon Bon Jovi, “I’m Checkin’ Out” from Postcards from the Edge with music an dlyrics by Shel Silverstein, “Promise Me You’ll Remember” from The Godfather Part III with music by Carmine Coppola and lyrics by John Bettis and finally “Somewhere in My Memory” from Home Alone with music by John Williams and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse.
See Madonna’s performance of the song at the Academy Awards ceremony below.
1991 – “Beauty and the Beast” from Beauty and the Beast
And so begins Menken’s 2-year domination at the Oscars. With Beauty and the Beast this year and Aladdin the next. This film did more than just win Best Original Song, it also won Best Original Score and was nominated for both Best Picture and Best Sound Mixing. The film had three songs nominated in the Best Original Song category, so there was no doubt that it would win. The other songs nominated were “Be Our Guest” and “Belle”, both with lyrics by the late Howard Ashman who had passed away in March of 1991. The other nominees this year were “(Everything I Do) I Do it for You” from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves with music by Michael Kamen and lyrics by Bryan Adams and Robert John Lange and “When You’re Alone” from Hook with music by John Williams and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse.
1992 – “A Whole New World” from Aladdin
The second year in a row, Menken won the Oscar for Best Original Song with Aladdin. This film only had two songs nominated this year, the other being “Friend Like Me” which was performed by Robin Williams in the film. The other nominees this year were songs from the films The Mambo Kings and The Bodyguard which had two nominations itself.
1993 – “Streets of Philadelphia” from Philadelphia
Disney got a break in 1993 when they had no nominations in the category of Best Original Song. The winner, Bruce Springsteen, was nominated for the song Philadelphia, which received two nimations that year, the other being for Neil Young’s song “Philadelphia”. “Again” from Poetic Justice, “The Day I Fell in Love” from Beethoven’s 2nd and “A Wink and a Smile” from Sleepless in Seattle were also nominated for the category that year.
1994 – “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King
But once again, Disney was back in the category and winning in 1993, with music by Elton John and Tim Rice for The Lion King, a film that took the world by storm. With 3 nominations in the category, including “Hakuna Matata” and “Circle of Life”, it was no real shocker that The Lion King won this year. It’s competition this year was “Look What Love Has Done” from Junior and “Make Up Your Mind” from The Paper.
1995 – “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas
Alan Menken was back in 1995 with the film Pocahontas, but with only one nomination for the film in this category. The upset, was that Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Pixar’s Toy Story wasn’t the winner, with other nominees coming from the films Dead Man Walking, Don Juan DeMarco and Sabrina. But “Colors of the Wind” won, with Vanessa Williams giving a powerful performance of the song.
1996 – “You Must Love Me” from Evita
In 1996, “You Must Love Me” from Evita, which was performed by Madonna took the award for Best Original Song. No shocker here, it was a stunning song and was beautifully performed on the Oscar stage that it brought tears to your eyes, but not as much as next years winner.
1997 – “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic
Enter Titanic, the film that basically broke every record and was the first film to beat Disney in Best Original Song category in the 90s. Celine Dion’s song, written by James Horner with lyrics by Will Jennings, was breathtaking and became a ballad that was played on every radio station across the world. With the film winning in fourteen categories, including Best Picture and Best Director, it’s is one of the top films of all time. It’s competition included “Go the Distance” from Hercules, “How Do I Live” from Con Air, “Journey to the Past” from Anastasia and “Miss Misery” from Good Will Hunting.
1998 – “When You Believe” from The Prince of Egypt
Then we end the 90s with two songs from animated films. The first, “When You Believe” from The Prince of Egypt a Dreamworks film. Other nominees included “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” from Armageddon and “The Prayer” from Quest for Camelot. Celine Dion did not win another year though, instead Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey won with this amazing song.
1999 – “You’ll Be in My Heart” from Tarzan
And finally, to round out the year we have Phil Collin’s song “You’ll Be in My Heart”. Triumping over music from films like Toy Story 2, Magnolia, Music of the Heart and South Park: Bigger is Better. A touching song from one of the last 90s era Disney films.