Richard Sherman helped give Disney park songs their true voice (RIP to a legend)

Disney legend Richard Sherman has passed away, leaving behind a legacy that has influenced movies and theme parks for generations!
AFI FEST 2013 Presented By Audi 50th Anniversary Commemoration Screening Of Disney's "Mary Poppins"
AFI FEST 2013 Presented By Audi 50th Anniversary Commemoration Screening Of Disney's "Mary Poppins" / Alberto E. Rodriguez/GettyImages

“Legend” is a word that gets passed around a lot, especially by Disney. In the case of Richard Sherman, that is dead on as from movies to especially theme parks, Sherman lived up to that title. 

Sherman passed away on May 25, 2024, at the age of 95. He finally joins his brother Robert, who died in 2012. To many Disney fans, the Sherman Brothers are the standard by which Disney music is always judged. They set a bar in ditties that stick into your head and make any film or attraction all the better. His passing ends an era for Disney, one that many remember well. 

The Sherman’s movie impact was great

The Shermans set a record likely to never be broken by writing more musical movie scores than any songwriting team in film history. Their connection to Disney goes back to 1958, when they crafted songs for the Mickey Mouse Club. That got them nice work for various Disney films. 

In 1964, the pair hit the big time with Mary Poppins. The movie Saving Mr. Banks has a fun scene where P.L. Travers is outraged hearing the “nonsensical” songs made for the story. But it’s impossible to imagine the movie without their tunes from “Chim Chim Cheree” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” It earned the pair two Oscars and a huge success.

After that came Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, along with music for The Jungle Book, The Parent Trap, The Aristocats, and more. Fittingly, their last work was for Disney, making songs for 2000’s The Tigger Movie. 

They also had non-Disney fare like Charlotte’s Web and the hit Broadway show Over There! Yet most will forever associate the Shermans with Disney as without them, we wouldn’t have “Bare Necessities,” “Let’s Get Together,” or more songs that formed the core music for Disney films. Scores of musical creators like Alan Menken have cited the Shermans as key influences in crafting their own smash hit songs of the Disney Second Golden Age of Animation.

That would be a good enough legacy but the Shermans had an even better one.

Theme parks were where the Shermans shone

As great as they were with the movies, it’s the theme parks that the Shermans made the most impact. While still working on Mary Poppins, they were chosen to work on a song for an upcoming attraction at the New York World’s Fair about a boat ride featuring the children of the world. 

Thus it’s the Shermans behind arguably the greatest earworm song in Disney lore “It’s a Small World After All,” which is the most performed song ever. They also had “It’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” for the Carousel of Progress and the title song for the Enchanted Tiki Room and “One Little Spark” for Journey Into Imagination. 

Back then, songs for theme park rides weren't commonplace. The Shermans made them must-haves as proven by how early EPCOT Center boasted a soundtrack for every pavilion, all inspired by the Shermans in mixing fun tunes with a message to match the subjects.

Richard has continued to work for Disney following Robert’s death, including writing the “Kiss Goodnight” exit music for Disneyland’s Forever Fireworks display. His final appearance was in the 100th anniversary short “Once Upon a Studio,” where he’s shown playing “Feed the Birds.” 

It was a fitting capper to a fantastic career and life. The Shermans’ music was something of a bygone era, packing in positivity and looking for a brighter future with wonderfully catchy lyrics matching the fun music. Given they were in a time of turmoil in the 1960s and early ‘70s, this approach was even more remarkable.

Walk through a Disney park and/or listen to a soundtrack and you’ll feel the Shermans’ influence. It’s there in the spirit of Walt’s life, in the great music, the charm and the hope for tomorrow. That Richard kept it up all the way to his death shows how much he believed in his art and little wonder why his loss is a huge one for all Disney fans. 

The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story is streaming on Disney+.