Oscar Flashback: ‘The Lion King’ roars in Best Original Song

This article marks Part 21 of the Gold Derby series analyzing 84 years of Best Original Song at the Oscars. Join us as we look back at the timeless tunes recognized in this category, the results of each race and the overall rankings of the winners.

The 1994 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“Look What Love Has Done” from “Junior”
“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from “The Lion King”
“Circle of Life” from “The Lion King”
“Hakuna Matata” from “The Lion King”
“Make Up Your Mind” from “The Paper”

Won: “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from “The Lion King”

Should’ve won: “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King”

If there is any year in which a single film could and should have filled out the entire Best Original Song category at the Oscars, it is 1994.

Kudos to voters for nominating “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata” from “The Lion King,” all composed by Elton John and Tim Rice, but why not go the distance and also recognize “Be Prepared” and – the picture’s most fun song – “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”? The other two nominated tracks here are truly dismal, the worst in adult contemporary – Patty Smyth and Randy Newman phoning it in on “Look What Love Has Done” from “Junior” and “Make Up Your Mind” from “The Paper,” respectively.

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If voters wished to recognize a non-“The Lion King” tune, they should have instead gone with Lisa Loeb‘s marvelous, Billboard-topping “Stay (I Missed You)” from “Reality Bites.”

Among the three “The Lion King” tracks nominated here, despite the supremely entertaining vocals of Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella, “Hakuna Matata” clearly ranks third. Much like “Friend Like Me” from “Aladdin” (1992), it’s a lot of fun but doesn’t quite carry the weight of Disney’s best in music.

“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is, a rarity in this category, soft rock done right, even if the production and background vocals occasionally border on the weepy. While it isn’t among the strongest of John’s extensive catalogue, it is a plenty moving piece and its victory cannot be knocked.

That said, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” lovely as it is, is not quite on the same level as “Circle of Life,” the spectacularly epic opening number. It’s a sweeping piece of music, among Disney’s very best for sure, that sets expectations sky-high for the rest of the picture – expectations the film more than meets.

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The Oscar winners ranked (thus far):

1. “Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
2. “The Way You Look Tonight” from “Swing Time” (1936)
3. “High Hopes” from “A Hole in the Head” (1959)
4. “Streets of Philadelphia” from “Philadelphia” (1993)
5. “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” from “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956)
6. “Mona Lisa” from “Captain, Carey, U.S.A.” (1950)
7. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from “Neptune’s Daughter” (1949)
8. “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life” from “Dirty Dancing” (1987)
9. “The Windmills of Your Mind” from “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968)
10. “The Way We Were” from “The Way We Were” (1973)
11. “Let the River Run” from “Working Girl” (1988)
12. “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969)
13. “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid” (1989)
14. “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’)” from “High Noon” (1952)
15. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from “The Lion King” (1994)
16. “Beauty and the Beast” from “Beauty and the Beast” (1991)
17. “I’m Easy” from “Nashville” (1975)
18. “You’ll Never Know” from “Hello, Frisco, Hello” (1943)
19. “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” from “The Harvey Girls” (1946)
20. “Fame” from “Fame” (1980)
21. “Theme from ‘Shaft’” from “Shaft” (1971)
22. “Secret Love” from “Calamity Jane” (1953)
23. “White Christmas” from “Holiday Inn” (1942)
24. “Moon River” from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961)
25. “Take My Breath Away” from “Top Gun” (1986)
26. “When You Wish Upon a Star” from “Pinocchio” (1940)
27. “Thanks for the Memory” from “The Big Broadcast of 1938” (1938)
28. “Lullaby of Broadway” from “Gold Diggers of 1935” (1935)
29. “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” from “Song of the South” (1947)
30. “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin” (1992)
31. “Flashdance…What a Feeling” from “Flashdance” (1983)
32. “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” from “Arthur” (1981)
33. “Last Dance” from “Thank God It’s Friday” (1978)
34. “Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)” from “Dick Tracy” (1990)
35. “Days of Wine and Roses” from “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962)
36. “For All We Know” from “Lovers and Other Strangers” (1970)
37. “All the Way” from “The Joker Is Wild” (1957)
38. “It Might As Well Be Spring” from “State Fair” (1945)
39. “The Last Time I Saw Paris” from “Lady Be Good” (1941)
40. “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” from “Here Comes the Groom” (1951)
41. “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” from “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” (1955)
42. “It Goes Like It Goes” from “Norma Rae” (1979)
43. “Born Free” from “Born Free” (1966)
44. “Never on Sunday” from “Never on Sunday” (1960)
45. “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from “The Woman in Red” (1984)
46. “Up Where We Belong” from “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982)
47. “Three Coins in the Fountain” from “Three Coins in the Fountain” (1954)
48. “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from “Mary Poppins” (1964)
49. “Call Me Irresponsible” from “Papa’s Delicate Condition” (1963)
50. “Evergreen (Theme from ‘A Star Is Born’)” from “A Star Is Born” (1976)
51. “Swinging on a Star” from “Going My Way” (1944)
52. “You Light Up My Life” from “You Light Up My Life” (1977)
53. “Gigi” from “Gigi” (1958)
54. “Sweet Leilani” from “Waikiki Wedding” (1937)
55. “The Continental” from “The Gay Divorcee” (1934)
56. “Buttons and Bows” from “The Paleface” (1948)
57. “Talk to the Animals” from “Doctor Dolittle” (1967)
58. “The Shadow of Your Smile” from “The Sandpiper” (1965)
59. “Say You, Say Me” from “White Nights” (1985)
60. “The Morning After” from “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972)
61. “We May Never Love Like This Again” from “The Towering Inferno” (1974)

SEE Best Original Songs of the 1930s, including ‘Over the Rainbow,’ ‘The Way You Look Tonight’

SEE ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ is first Disney winner in Best Original Song

SEE Best Original Songs of the early 1940s, including ‘White Christmas’ and ‘You’ll Never Know’

SEE Best Original Songs of the late 1940s, including ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah’ and ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’

SEE Best Original Songs of the early 1950s, including ‘Mona Lisa,’ ‘High Noon’

SEE Judy Garland classic from ‘A Star is Born’ loses Best Original Song to Frank Sinatra standard

SEE Best Original Songs of the late 1950s, including ‘All the Way,’ ‘High Hopes’

SEE Best Original Songs of the early 1960s, including ‘Moon River,’ ‘Days of Wine and Roses’

SEE Best Original Songs of the late 1960s, including ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’

SEE Best Original Songs of the early 1970s, including ‘Theme from ‘Shaft,’ ‘The Morning After’

SEE ‘Live and Let Die’ no match for ‘The Way We Were’ in Best Original Song

SEE Best Original Songs of the mid-1970s, including ‘I’m Easy,’ ‘Evergreen’

SEE ‘New York, New York,’ ‘Saturday Night Fever’ snubbed in Best Original Song

SEE Best Original Songs of the late 1970s, including ‘Last Dance,’ ‘It Goes Like It Goes’

SEE Best Original Songs of the early 1980s, including ‘Fame,’ ‘Flashdance…What a Feeling’

SEE ‘Footloose,’ ‘Ghostbusters’ no match for Stevie Wonder in Best Original Song

SEE Best Original Songs of the mid-to-late 1980s, including ‘Take My Breath Away,’ ‘Let the River Run’

SEE With ‘The Little Mermaid,’ Disney begins its domination in Best Original Song

SEEBest Original Songs of the early 1990s, including ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘A Whole New World’

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