“American Idol has a reputation for pulling off extravagant theme notes and, with the help of soulful contestants like Alyssa Raghu, the show has executed a fun Disney night!
The producers of the show asked each contestant to choose and perform their favorite Disney song. Disney’s first animated film with music was Snow White in 1937, so performers had a lifetime’s worth of material to work with. The youthful ages of the performers meant that, with a few exceptions, songs from the eighties onwards were used.
It seems an impossible task, narrowing all those great songs down to just one, but everyone has a favorite Disney film and usually a favorite song to at least use as a starting point. So the contestants got to it, with magnificent results. Alyssa’s performance was exemplary.
Katy Perry, who is a judge, pop sensation, and lover of costumes, got into the act by dressing as Ursula. Ursula is the evil sea hag from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. She joked around with performers, saying “I know I’m hard to look at” and helping keep the mood light.
To prepare for the singing, the contestants and crew flew to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The theme park bills itself as “the happiest place on Earth.” That may be true, but planning and rehearsing such an important part of the contest sounds like it is not always happy!
Luckily, contestants received mentorship through the actress and singer Rebel Wilson. Wilson is known for her physical comedy and willingness to laugh at herself. These are good qualities for someone aiming to get the best out of the people they are mentoring or teaching. Wilson’s presence must have helped a great deal.
For her song, Alyssa chose Colors of the Wind, from the animated movie Pocahontas. The real life Pocahontas was the daughter of Powhatan, a chief who commanded a large network of native tribes in the Americas before colonization. She later assimilated into European culture in Virginia and later visited London.
In the Disney movie, Pocahontas is a fun loving teen girl who resists marrying the young warrior her parents have picked out for her. She becomes involved with John Smith, the captain of a ship that came to Virginia for settlement.
Colors of the Wind are about Pocahontas’s deep connection with nature. She has a raccoon and a hummingbird as pets in the movie, and they visit a forest to seek advice from an ancient willow tree. The song is full of nature imagery, colors, and references to specific animals.
Besides just being a celebration of nature, Colors of the Wind is Pocahontas’s song to John Smith as they begin to fall for each other. She is scolding him for not seeming to appreciate the earth and nature around him. By this point in the movie, Smith has helped establish a colony and a gold mine. But Pocahontas warns him that he is making use of the earth without really seeing it or understanding its majesty.
While she sings, it is clear that this is Alyssa’s song. She lovingly recreates the experience of seeing Pocahontas for the first time, while adding her own spin to it. Alyssa’s is one of the strongest performances from Disney night, and it is encouraging to see what contestants can do when they are encouraged to follow what they love.”