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The Secret To Getting Tom Hanks To Sing, According To The Composer Of Pinocchio And The Polar Express

At this point, Tom Hanks has done just about everything in his career. There’s very little we haven’t seen him do, and do well, even if there are, somehow, people who don’t know who Tom Hanks is. One thing we rarely see him do, however, is sing on screen. Composer Alan Silvestri has been able to accomplish that task, not once, but twice. First, an animated version of Hanks sang in The Polar Express and more recently he did it in the flesh in the new Disney+ live-action Pinocchio. 

I recently had a chance to speak with the songwriters behind the songs that Tom Hanks sings in both The Polar Express and Pinocchio, Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard, and I asked them if there was a secret to getting Tom Hanks to sing in your movie. Silvestri explained that it was simply about giving him a song that felt necessary, and then letting him do the rest. Silvestri said…   

If there’s a secret I think it’s something to do with, is this piece of material really deserving to be in this film? And I think you can depend on Mr. Hanks to honor the intent of the film. And then the next secret is, you have to write something and you have to give it to him and just be enamored with what he comes back with because it’s always spectacular as a performance.

While most of the Disney live-action remakes that have included music from the original film have added brand new songs as well, the new version of Pinocchio found on Disney+ actually includes four original songs. Two of them take place in the early part of the film and are sung by Tom Hanks as Geppetto. “When He Was Here With Me” opens the film and sees Geppetto singing about his lost son, who inspired his puppet. “Pinocchio, Pinocchio” has Geppetto singing with joy following the discovery his puppet has come to life. 

The other classic Pinocchio songs like “I’ve Got No Strings” and “An Actor’s Life For Me” are also in the film. The cast of Pinocchio does a great job with the music overall, and it all feels like it belongs together, despite some of the songs being written 80 years after the others.

The fact that, of the few times Tom Hanks has sung in a movie, two of them were directed by Robert Zemeckis and included songs by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard, cannot be overlooked. If Tom Hanks is honoring the intent of the film, he likely feels confident in doing so because of the talent that is creating the music and directing the scenes.

We’re probably not going to see Tom Hanks lead a full musical anytime soon, but the man has a solid voice and he gives his all to his songs in Pinocchio just as you would expect that he would. The musical moments, new and old, are the highlight of the new Pinocchio, which can now be seen on Disney+. 

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.