Review: “The Circle Sessions” Is Sexy, Sophisticated – and Short

I want to start this review by commending the stores Cast Members at Disney California Adventure for being truly fantastic. Not only do they greet you in a friendly manner, they actually make engaging conversation such as asking how is your day is going, oh I really like that jacket you’re wearing, what can I help you find… That is what I encountered when I purchased this CD, and it’s much appreciated!

I noticed this especially in the stores at Buena Vista Street and Cars Land ever since the grand reopening of DCA on June 15. Hey, let’s bring some of that courtesy and friendliness training over to Disneyland side, whydontcha???

Anyway, on to the product. The Circle Sessions: The Music of Carthay Circle is a real treat. It’s classic Disney tunes with a sophisticated and sexy jazz twist. This is what you hear as you step through the doors and check in for a “premiere” meal at Carthay Circle Restaurant or stop for a drink in one of those cushy chairs at the lounge.

The playlist (which can be viewed here) includes several songs from animated movies made in Walt’s time, as well as some contemporary Disney ones and a few Pixar ones. The album’s “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite versions of that song, and “Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat” can be summed up in one word: groovy.

The Disney melodies are very pleasantly understated, and that’s a good thing. There’s never any part where the music screams “DISNEY MAGIC, BITCHES” – which believe me, is a huge relief after all that obnoxious material we get exposed to against our will on a regular basis.

The music epitomizes the glamor and elegance of the time period of Carthay Circle Theater as well as the fun and flair of the “new DCA” itself. It’s classy and smart, with a subtle touch of Disney that leaves a good taste in your mouth. Compare this to the pop songs by The Beach Boys and The Mamas and The Papas that were playing in this precise spot in Sunshine Plaza just a year or so ago. The difference is night-and-day.

The album is a joy to listen to, but it’s too short. With only 12 tracks, averaging 3 minutes per track and a total running time of 37 minutes, the $18 price for the CD is a little stingy. Each time I listen, it runs out faster than I want it to, leaving me wondering why they couldn’t have produced more material to put on it. Apparently “The Circle Sessions” weren’t very long sessions.

Actually, that might be because several songs are missing. Below is the video Disney released several months ago about the making of the music for Carthay Circle. You can hear them playing Le Festin, the main theme from Ratatouille, and the album arranger, Bill Cantos, talks about arranging Cruella de Vil, but neither song is included on the CD:

Also sadly missing is “I See the Light” from Tangled and “King of New York” from Newsies, which I was delighted to hear inside the lobby recently. So it seems this album is merely “selections” from the music that plays in Carthay Circle, not a complete set. It would have been nice to hear more. For gosh sakes, there’s plenty of room left on the CD.

Despite the album’s shortcomings – as in, it’s just SHORT – I like this album and I recommend it for anyone who loves Disney music. Pick it up if it’s in stock (I heard they ran out at least once already, so if you see it, GRAB IT) at Carthay Circle Restaurant, Off the Page or Elias & Co. It’s great to chill out to after a long day. It’s the perfect size to stuff inside a stocking, too.

And while we’re at it, can we beg Disney to release World of Color, Mickey’s Soundsational Parade, Minnie’s Fly Girls, Five and Dime, the Red Car News Boys and about a half million other great pieces of music from the parks on CD???

UPDATE: “The Circle Sessions” is now available as an mp3 download on Amazon and iTunes, for the much more reasonable price of $7.99! This is great news for those of you who can’t make it to the park to get your copy. You can also listen to it for free on Spotify.

(photo of Carthay Circle Theatre by Andy Castro. Used with permission.)


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