“A Spark Inside Us” from The Princess and the Goblin

The 1991 film version of George McDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin is the quintessential mid-range, mediocre kids’ movie of the era. It’s not nearly as awful as most of Don Bluth’s Nineties efforts, but it doesn’t remotely compare to what Disney was accomplishing at the time, and the fact that it’s now forgotten except among a few devotees who grew up with it is not all that surprising. But like several much worse Nineties children’s films like Thumbelina or Quest For Camelot, the film’s one notable redeeming quality lay in its music. It only contains one song (although that song is reprised continuously throughout the film), but it is an extremely memorable one that is generally what those few remaining fans who grew up with the film remember most about it. In the original novel, MacDonald makes mention of the villainous Goblins being repelled by the hero Curdie’s singing; the movie jumped on the idea of music as a weapon against evil, introducing this stirring anthem in a thrilling scene where the hero drives off monsters with the power of music. It’s true that this song features a relatively unsophisticated musical idiom compared to the Disney award-bait ballads of the era, but its folksong-like simplicity gives it a certain primal power, and makes a nice contrast to the polished Pop of most Nineties animated movie themes. In any case, it sounds exactly the way the idea of music as a weapon against evil should sound, and as forgettable as the rest of the movie was, the scene where this song is introduced is one of the most memorable film musical numbers of the Nineties, animated or not.

Verdict: One of the best themes for an animated movie in the era, and fully able to hold its own with the Disney hits of the time.

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