How Galavant Subverts Disney’s Formula

Posted: November 16, 2016 by Jaden C. Kilmer in Article
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Galavant is the best show you’ve never seen. Let’s just get that out there. This wonderfully strange and silly musical/fairy tale/satire went quietly into the night after two seasons on ABC, but mark my damn words it will have a resurgence somewhere in some medium in the next five years. It’s too good to die for good.

Created by Dan Fogelman (director of Tangled) with music and lyrics done by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater (who worked on every movie of your childhood, most notably Aladdin) this parody of Disney musicals comes from a place of personal experience. They know exactly how Disney musicals are supposed to work, and exactly how to twist the structure for max hilarity.

Also, this gives me a chance to revisit one of my favorite pieces I’ve done for this blog: A WAY too in-depth Breakdown of Disney Songs.

Briefly recapping that article: Almost every Disney song ever belongs to one of four categories and appears in this order: The Exposition Song, the I Want Song, the Wake Up the Kids Song, and the Love Duet. 


For brevity’s sake, I want to focus on ways Galavant reverses the I Want Song and the Love Duet to humourous effect.

You know how the first song after the opening number in every Disney musical has the princess sing about her hopes and goals?

“I Want much more than this provincial life/I want adventure in this great wide somewhere”

“Do you wanna build a snowman?”

“I wanna be where the people are/I wanna see ’em dancing”

Well, Galavant gives the I Want Song to the villainous King Richard. The result: A slew of unexpectedly PG-13 images that pretty much sum up how I feel most cackling villains really feel.

I want to shoot him with a crossbow/I want to stab him in the eye/I want to liberate his head from his neck and then punt the bloody wreck sky high”

And the delightfully bloody lyrics come accompanied by a major-key waltz that sounds nice and happy. Fit more for a princess than the evil king.

I want to hurl him out a window/and shove explosives where the sun don’t shine.”

Perhaps giving their villain the I Want Song was carefully planned rather than a simple reversal. As the show unfolds, King Richard emerges as the central character, even more so than the title character and Prince Charming stand-in. The show ends up being about his journey. And I’m sure that was planned from the start, because these Disney experts intentionally gave him the I Want Song.

Next up: the Love Duet.

Let’s get real for a moment. The Love Duet is usually the song that doesn’t hold up. They’re typically too sweet, too perfect, too groan-inducing. And Glenn Slater is well aware of this. In “Maybe You’re Not the Worst Thing Ever” the Love Duet gets flipped completely on its head and turned into a passive-aggressiveness competition instead, with two separate pairs of love interests exchanging insults and disparaging remarks.

“You’re worse than crabs/worse than scurvy/worse than lice or plague/but truth be told/you’re growing on me just like mold”

“You’re utterly disgusting/I loathe your manly stink/I see your mouth start moving/And God I need a Drink”

But, not wanting to entirely desecrate the good name of Disney love songs, the crew do give us one duet played straight at the end. And perhaps to re-iterate how this second one, “Love Is Strange,” is the serious love song, they gave it the exact same chord progression as “A Whole New World.”

Or maybe they didn’t. I’m not a music major, but saying that makes me sound smart.


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