Chris Montan: the secret weapon of Disney music

During the awards ceremony as Disney Legend, Chris Montan allowed himself to joke, does anyone remember any Paramount themes? He said to those present in the theater and to the hundreds of spectators who were following the event through his official website. The joke remained as a sample of his humor. Perhaps in the short distances he is someone sarcastic. But it was also a summary of a tradition within The Walt Disney Company: making memorable songs.

For much of the last thirty years, one of the company’s key names in this area has been Chris Montan. His recognition as a Disney Legend can be explained from there, to the leading different musical production teams that resulted in iconic themes and unforgettable soundtracks. However, the award suggests something more: it is the celebration of a school, of a way of composing songs and of the treatment of the chords and melodies that accompany the stories on the big screen.

When one thinks of favorite films, titles in either direction are bound to come up. In the case of The Walt Disney Company, in the section of animated films, that search may be even more specific: when evoking the name of a production this is when the particularity arises that memory may be accompanied by a series of melodies. More than one has wondered what if we made a doll?

So Chris Montan’s joke regarding Paramount has a lot of humor in it, yes, but also a lot of truth to it. Part of the collective memory remembers Disney because of its music. In that area, the former president of Walt Disney Music has been one of the most visible and responsible faces in overseeing projects.

The Chris Montan Story

His relationship with Disney began in 1984 composing different themes and working together with other people in the music department. Since then, he worked his way up through the ranks to the position of senior vice president of music and, starting in 1995, established an exclusive agreement with the company. It was a context in which the music industry was moving in different directions, with genres that seemed to be dying while others were stomping ahead with force and distortion. Chris Montan, who had been composing music for about ten years and working for a few record labels on his own, found no space in that environment.

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Chris Montan, Disney's key man

So, he thought about the possibility of approaching The Walt Disney Company which was working on character albums and movies. What Chris Montan did not imagine when he became interested in this type of project was that the person in charge of that area at the time, in the mid 1980s, would leave his post and Would give way to a kind of refounding of the sector, with Montan as one of those involved in that process.

That coincidence, as he recalled in The Sountrack Showwas the beginning of a new era in which he assumed immediate responsibility as composer while the department was being reassembled. Those tasks did not prove as complex as understanding the dynamics of the business and what the executives wanted. Despite any possible arm wrestling with the head of the company, he was a natural in creative environments, Chris Montan is one of its key names.

Chris Montan’s musical productions

  • The Little Mermaid (1989)
  • The Lion King (1994)
  • Pocahontas (1995)
  • Toy Story (1996)
  • Jim and the giant peach (1996)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1997)
  • Hercules (1998)
  • Mulan (1998)
  • Bugs (1999)
  • Tarzan (1999)
  • Toy Story 2 (2000)
  • Dinosaurs (as executive producer) (2000)
  • The Emperor and his follies (2006)
  • The family of the future (2007)
  • Ratatouille (2007)
  • Enchanted (2008)
  • WALL-E (2008)
  • Up (2009)

These, along with an extensive list of productions, among which are contemporary classics such as. Frozen, Inside Out y Moana. Part of Chris Montan’s working method consisted of understanding the concept of the production in order to build on it. What to the viewer might be just a song, to him was a fragment of a larger work.

Disney and the reading of context

During the 1990s, from Chris Montan’s point of view, the industry was disregarding musicals. Other types of stories were being developed through different genres. Relying on music as a medium through which to tell a story became relevant for Walt Disney. In the producer’s words, “nobody in Hollywood was thinking about them. They had forgotten them since the sixties. They seemed old-fashioned and artificial.”
Chris Montan and Frozen
What changed? According to Montan in the aforementioned podcast, the influence of groupings such as The Beatlesthat little by little changed the collective imaginary. The melodies and themes were progressively refreshed. Then, there was a series of creatives who had, in Montan’s words, “the knowledge of the past with the language of the present”. It was possible to make a sort of updating of the genre along with adaptations of stories taken from various mythological or literary tales.

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The pop influence of music at the time, the 70s, 80s and 90s, was impregnating imaginaries. Those that would later be reflected in different productions. Something that The Walt Disney Company exploited like no other company, with the help of Chris Montan throughout time. The summary of awards achieved by the company from his work is as follows, according to World Soundtrack Awards:

“(Chris Montan) has been nominated for multiple Grammy® Awards and won Best Original Cast Recording for. Aida and Best Compiled Soundtrack for Visual Media for. Frozen. Under his direction, Walt Disney Studios earned 42 Musical Academy Award nominations. unprecedented and 16 Academy Awards in the ‘Best Song,’ ‘Best Score’ and ‘Best Musical’ categories.”

Disney’s emotional value

Through its musicals, Disney has not only achieved blockbusters or adaptations through which old myths and stories are represented to new generations. In that huge series of animated productions, and their songs, there is a sort of personal refuge in which everyone will find a layer of his life, through which he connects by the melodies of one or another theme.

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That makes those stories endure beyond the time in which the viewing took place. The emotionality that each one has may remain in time, that is resting somewhere in the memory until activated by some song or the aesthetics of those films. “Who invented gladiators? Hercules!” or “Overcome! We must be like a swift torrent, Overcome!” can be phrases that evoke something more than the title of a movie. It is the magic of cinema, a field in which for many years Chris Montan was one of the most relevant figures and in which he still remains advising some projects.