Every Disney princess gets a signature song and, most of the time, those songs are written by eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken, the brains behind such classic jams as “Under the Sea,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Colors of the Wind,” and “A Whole New World.” Menken is back for Disney’s newest feature, “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” which includes a new song for its offbeat princess, Vanellope Van Schweetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman).
The song, “A Place Called Slaughter Race,” has all the hallmarks of a big, cheery Disney hit: a princess wondering about her place in the world, a chorus of supporting stars weighing in on her predicament, and the sense that something big is about to change.
It also has jokes about dumpster fires, stolen appliances, and face tattoos, and at least one verse that rhymes “deplorable” with “adorable.” The song even got a techno-infused cover from Grammy-nominated pop singer and songwriter Julia Michaels that plays over the end credits. It’s the perfect song for Vanellope, and while its lyrics are a bit jarring and dark, it still fits alongside other classic Disney Princess songs, backed up by that old Menken magic. Also, it’s just plain catchy.
“When they told me there was gonna be a song, which was almost halfway through recording a lot of the movie, I couldn’t believe it,” Silverman said in a recent interview with IndieWire. “It didn’t even occur to me. I was so excited and I love to sing, and then it’s like ‘the music’s written by Alan Menken,’ and I was just freaking out.”
Silverman said she was a Menken fan from way back. “He’s this icon of Disney, the writer of so many epic Disney songs,” she said. “Also, he wrote my favorite musical, ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’ I got to rehearse with him and he played ‘Somewhere That’s Green‘ for me. We just got along really, really well. I loved him.”
As Vanellope, Silverman is expected to force her already-high voice into an even squeakier register, and when it came time to do that while singing, she admitted to being a little nervous.
“Recording in this character voice was not as challenging as I thought it would be,” Silverman said. “Of course, it is a challenge, because it’s like all the way up in my highest register just to talk like her. And then, I’m singing notes. It worked. There’s something kind of mental about once you’re in character, you just do it. That sounds so corny, but it really is true. There must be something chemical about it. Once I’m in her voice, then I’m just singing as her. It’s just her singing.”
For all its out-there lyrics (sample line: “We have fallen wires, dumpster fires, creepy clowns, and burning tires/That great white in the sewer”), Vanellope’s song serves the same function as other princess songs: it forces her to confront her true feelings.
In the film, Vanellope and best friend Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) travel into the actual internet on a quest to save Vanellope’s arcade game home, but the ambitious young racer finds a bigger world than she could have ever dreamed of, including the eponymous Slaughter Race game. As Vanellope struggles with her desire to stay in the web, she runs into the rest of the Disney princesses, who all encourage her to sing about her feelings. The advice is a little tongue-in-cheek, but the message sticks — and eventually Vanellope gives voice to her desires, in pure Disney fashion (plus face tattoos).
“It’s like when you hear about something that’s supposed to happen to you naturally, and then you try to egg it on or force it, it just can’t happen, until it just happens organically, and then it does,” she said. “It’s so cute.”
Listen to “A Place Called Slaughter Race” below.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is in theaters now.