Skip to main content

The Beach Boys released classic rock songs inspired by many things. For example, one of the most famous Disney songs inspired one of their hits. Here’s a look at how Brian Wilson came full circle with this influence many years later.

The Beach Boys in blue around the time they released a hit inspired by one of Disney's songs
The Beach Boys | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

This movie gave us one of the most famous Disney songs ever

Pinocchio is one of Walt Disney’s more acclaimed films, however, it’s arguably not one of his more influential films. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty laid the template for all subsequent Disney princess movies. The most impactful thing about Pinocchio, however, isn’t its storyline — it’s one of its songs.

Pinocchio contains one of Disney’s quintessential songs: “When You Wish Upon a Star.” The track became something of a theme song for The Walt Disney Company. The opening notes of the song appear before the beginnings of many Disney films over an image of a castle. It also has relevance outside of Disney movies, as Gene Simmons of Kiss, Vera Lynn, Louis Armstrong and many other artists covered it. 

“When You Wish Upon a Star”

How ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ inspired one of The Beach Boys’ songs

During an interview with Consequence, The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson said he still watches Disney films as an adult — specifically the ones he watched as a child. Wilson said Pinocchio was his favorite Disney film. “When You Wish Upon a Star” had a significant impact on him. He told USA Today it inspired the melody of The Beach Boys’ 1963 hit “Surfer Girl.” “I heard it while I was driving my car, and I started humming a melody in my head,” he said. “I went home and finished it, and it was called ‘Surfer Girl.’” There seems to be a similarity between the chorus melodies of both songs.

How the world reacted to The Beach Boys’ ‘Surfer Girl’

Wilson’s decision to draw inspiration from Pinocchio turned out well commercially. “Surfer Girl” reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining on the chart for 14 weeks. Its parent album, Surfer Girl, was a success as well, reaching No. 7 on the Billboard 200, remaining on the chart for 56 weeks. Interestingly, the song had a bit of a legacy, as indie duo CocoRosie covered it in the 2010s as a B-side to their song “Lemonade.”

“Surfer Girl”

Why You Can Hear Paul McCartney Eating Celery on a Beach Boys Song

One of The Beach Boys covered many Disney songs

Subsequently, Wilson recorded “When You Wish Upon a Star” for his 2011 album In the Key of Disney. In the Key of Disney includes covers of classic Disney and Pixar songs such as “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story, and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King. Wilson’s version of “When You Wish Upon a Star” arguably sounds more like “Surfer Girl” than the original version of the song. The album reached No. 83 on the Billboard 200, remaining on the chart for a week. Wilson covering “When You Wish Upon a Star” seems like him going full circle.