Children engage more with visually and aurally stunning films; hence, kids’ movie soundtracks are, more often than not, outstanding. Film studios such as Disney Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation and Illumination Entertainment regularly work with top tier talents to create songs that will capture the attention of little ones and concurrently entertain older viewers.
What does a kids’ movie soundtrack sound like? Well, that all depends on the film. Like a film targeted at adults, a kids’ movie will feature a soundtrack that reflects its genre. For instance, Paramount Pictures’ animated Western-inspired film Rango (2011) features a cowboy-inspired soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer, and MGM’s cartoon take on The Addams Family (2019) features a horror-inspired score.
Below, we run through the best soundtracks in the history of children’s film, and serve up plenty of inspiration for you to create your own kids’ movie soundtrack from our catalogue of production music tracks.
15 of the Best Kids’ Movie Soundtracks
Before we get into it, here is a list of all the movies mentioned:
- Monsters, Inc
- Toy Story 4
- Inside Out
- Despicable Me 3
- My Neighbor Totoro
- The Muppets
- The Princess and the Frog
- Shrek 2
- The Lion King
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
We’re kicking off our best kids’ soundtracks list with early 00s Pixar film Monsters, Inc. Composed by the film studio’s favourite composer, Randy Newman, the Oscar-nominated soundtrack is an absolute delight to listen to. And it’s the jazz-inspired moments at the beginning and end of the film that we treasure the most.
The title track – heard playing over the opening credits – features light drums, peppy, spontaneous horns and energetic keys. Meanwhile, the closing credits track finds Billy Crystal and John Goodman (AKA the voices of Mike and Sully) channeling their inner Dean Martin and Nat King Cole.
Keen to discover more jazz music? We’ve loads more on our discover jazz page.
Toy Story 4 (2019)
Toy Story 4 surpassed all expectations; nobody – not even diehard fans of the franchise – expected the third sequel to be as necessary as it is. And, just like the other films, Randy Newman did a tremendous job devising the soundtrack.
Just like the film, the Toy Story 4 soundtrack takes the most lovable elements of the saga to create a masterpiece – sometimes this literally means using songs from previous entries (e.g. ‘You’ve Got A Friend In Me’, as heard at the beginning of the film) and sometimes this means capturing the spirit of the Toy Story franchise in new compositions. Our favourite takeaway from the Toy Story 4 soundtrack is the super meaningful, super chirpy hit ‘I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away’. Have a listen – it’s practically impossible to resist singing along.
Inside Out (2015)
Which PIXAR movie has the best soundtrack? We’d argue it’s Inside Out. Although the score eschews vocals, it is just as memorable as any other soundtrack on this list.
Composed by American musician and composer Michael Giacchino, the soundtrack brings the inside of main character Riley’s mind to life with sounds that are simultaneously fun, warming and aptly full of emotion.
Looking to create a kids’ movie that’s just as emotional? Make sure you visit our thoughtful/reflective playlist to seek inspiration for your movie’s soundtrack.
Despicable Me 3 (2010)
The jewel in Illumination Entertainment’s crown is, undoubtedly, the Despicable Me franchise. We simply can’t resist those adorable Minions! And each time a film from the primary saga is produced, the Universal-owned animation studio calls upon multifaceted musician Pharrell Williams and Brazilian composer Heitor Pereira to compose the soundtrack.
It may not be the most popular, but we believe that Despicable Me 3’s soundtrack reigns supreme. The album is brimming with memorable moments – from ‘Freedom’ to ‘Yellow Light’ to ‘There’s Something Special – that add depth to the easy-to-watch animation.
It’s easy to think of Dreamworks Animation as a thing of the 90s/00s era, however, we should acknowledge one of the most successful animations of the 2010s came from the animation studio –Trolls. For this film, DreamWorks Animation made the strategic decision to place the responsibility of the soundtrack in the hands of R&B singer Justin Timberlake; a move doubtless inspired by Illumination Entertainment’s decision to let Pharrell oversee the soundtracks to Despicable Me.
Working alongside super-producers Shellback and Max Martin, Timberlake created one of the best kids’ movie soundtracks ever. The album features huge pop covers from across the eras, performed by the likes of Gwen Stefani, Anna Kendrick and Ariana Grande, as well as brilliant original songs, including the top 10 hit ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling!’.
Discover more upbeat tracks like those found on the Trolls soundtrack over on our upbeat background music page.
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Studio Ghibli films offer a healthy dose of escapism, and so do their soundtracks (which, FYI, are usually created by Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi).
The soundtrack to anime classic My Neighbor Totoro begins with ‘Hey Let’s Go’ – an opening theme song that pulls the viewer into the world of forest spirits with its marching drums and powerful trumpets – and ends with a whimsical, 80s J-Pop track named after the film. Each track in between reflects the magical ongoings of the film’s narrative.
The Muppets (2011)
2011 flick The Muppets is perfect: it’s nostalgic, heart-warming and, above all, hilarious. And even the songs are infused with tons of humour. For example, one track performed by Mary (played by Amy Adams) titled ‘Me Party’ quite literally revolves around the comical concept of having a party by oneself.
In our opinion, the most memorable song from the super fun soundtrack is ‘Man or Muppet’ performed by Muppet Walter and his brother Gary (played by Jason Segal). Impressively, the song approaches the relatable concept of figuring out one’s identity, but, naturally, it does so in the most light-hearted way imaginable.
The Princess and the Frog (2009)
Here at Audio Network, we love an underrated gem – take Disney’s overlooked, hand-drawn animation, The Princess and the Frog, for example. Naturally, it’s the Randy Newman-produced soundtrack that wins us over.
Fundamentally, the music works because it captures the spirit of the city of 1920s New Orleans and its Black community. The track ‘Almost There’, performed by protagonist Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose), is, in our opinion, one of the greatest Disney songs. The hit reminds viewers that they can achieve their dreams if they work hard.
From 20th Century New Orleans to Ancient Greece, Hercules is the next Disney animation to secure a place on our list. Centred around the tale of Zeus’ demi-god son, the film uses music to drive the narrative. For example, the film opens with The Muses who set the scene with the storytelling track ‘The Gospel Truth’. Who knew animation could be so soulful?
The soundtrack was produced by industry deity Alan Menken, who also composed music for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Little Mermaid (1989) and Pocahontas (1998).
As mentioned above, the 90s/00s era is largely regarded as DreamWorks Animation’s golden age. And right at the centre of this era is the studio’s most popular film, the Academy-Award winning Shrek.
The unorthodox love story follows a grumpy green ogre sent on a quest to rescue a beautiful princess who turns out to be an ogre herself. And, as you will also know, the Shrek soundtrack is just as iconic as the film. Featuring covers of songs such as ‘Hallelujah’, ‘I’m A Believer’ and ‘All Star’ performed by the likes of Smash Mouth and Rufus Wainwright, it's a hard album to dislike.
Shrek 2 (2004)
Shrek 2 – the sequel to a movie about two ogres falling in love – and which casts the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella as the main antagonist – has no right to be as good as it is. The same applies to the Shrek 2 soundtrack.
Filled with a more diverse range of covers, the soundtrack seamlessly moves from an upbeat rock song to a power ballad to a disco hit with confidence. We can’t decide whether our favourite moment is Butterfly Boucher and David Bowie’s ‘Changes’ or Jennifer Saunders’ version of Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding Out For A Hero’.
Another soundtrack that reinterprets classics to entertain the whole family is Illumination Entertainment’s Sing.
The original motion picture soundtrack is jam-packed with world-renowned artists and actors – including Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Hudson – singing hits such as Shocking Blue’s ‘Venus’, Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’ and ‘Elton John’s ‘I’m Still Standing’. Oh, and there’s also an original song by Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande titled ‘Faith’.
If you’re after pop inspiration for your next project, make sure you explore our pop categories.
The Lion King (1994)
The Lion King soundtrack is not only one of the best kids’ movie soundtracks ever, but it’s also one of the best movie soundtracks full-stop. Unsurprisingly, three of the biggest names in the industry were behind it: Hans Zimmer, Elton John and Tim Rice.
What’s the secret to The Lion King soundtrack’s success? It harmoniously infuses Disney’s tried and tested musical formula with African-inspired beats, rhythms and vocals to create an atmospheric selection of songs that'll be remembered forever.
Looking to produce an Africa-set project? Take some time to browse and sample the tracks in our Africa playlist.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
In 2005, Tim Burton achieved the impossible: he told Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory story in a completely unique way that’s rarely compared to the OG Mel Stewart’s 1971 flick, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. And to the surprise of no one, Burton relied on his long-time collaborator Danny Elfman to bring his uncanny vision to life through music.
Like most Elfman x Burton soundtracks, the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory soundtrack combines music from several genres – namely gothic, adventure and fairytale. Each composition is suited to the scene in which it is featured – for example, ‘The Indian Palace’ track, which plays as Grandpa Joe tells the story of Prince Pondicherry’s chocolate palace, incorporates Indian instruments to make the scene more believable.
Frozen is Walt Disney Animation Studios’ biggest success story of the millennium so far. The original film and its sequel – Frozen II (2019) – are the two highest-grossing animations of all time, and it’s no coincidence that the music is A1.
The star track on the album is the power ballad ‘Let It Go’ sung by Princess Elsa (voiced by Broadway performer-cum-film star Idina Menzel). At the beginning of the track, a solo piano riff plays that creates an image in one’s head of snowflakes falling to the floor. As the song unfolds, the music becomes more intense, like a blizzard.
Discover Our Catalogue of Family-Friendly Music Tracks
Are you working on a kids project? How exciting! We hope you’ll consider taking advantage of our ever-expanding catalogue brimming with family-friendly music tracks.
Feel free to begin exploring our music offerings by checking out the 13 different categories on our children page – perhaps you’ll find something within our fantasy playlist, or maybe it’s the children 11-15 selection of songs that’s more suited to your production.
Lastly, be sure to check out our blog for more insightful articles, the latest news, inspiration for your next project and industry expertise!
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