A New Documentary Shines A Spotlight On The Lyricist Behind The Disney Renaissance


Wrote the words too some of the classic Disney songs he was the lyricist behind three classic Disney song books, as well as Little Shop of Horrors. But his career was cut short when he died of AIDS in 1991. Composer Alan Menken had worked closely with Ashman and now a new documentary film has given him one last chance to collaborate with his late friend Tim. Grieving has the story. Alan Menken wrote this song at Howard Ashman Hospital Bed while his friend was dying. His life was pitifully cut short. But As an artist. He's really vital Even now. They met in New York in the 19 seventies, where Ashman was running a black box theater. They yelled like Rodgers and Hammerstein and wrote the musical's Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless you, Mr Rosewater, and the unlikely hit little Shop of horrors. Pretty soon Ashman was courted by Jeffrey Katzenberg to come to Disney and help in animation department That was on the skids. I have a letter that I found in the Library of Congress. And it's a letter from Jeffrey Katzenberg. Don Hahn, a producer on beauty and the Beast directed the new documentary, Howard, says Howard. Thanks for talking the other day. There's so many things we want you to work on. We'd love you to work on a Arabian Nights story. We'd love you to work a little murder, and Jeffrey ends up, saying the collaboration of Of Howard Ashman and and bolt. Disney is, you know just a hit, waiting to happen. It sure Wass, Ashman and Mink and brought a vibrant Broadway sensibility to Disney animation, and it led to a lucrative renaissance. The beast. Ashman died before he finished Aladdin and even before beauty and the Beast premiered, he was only 40. The documentary tracks his rise from a theater obsessed kid in Baltimore to his musical highs to his untimely death, told through archival footage of recording sessions, song demos, new interviews with family and friends and Ashman, explaining his own philosophies. You get to a certain point where the crab has to convince the mermaid not to go up above the water and change your life, So he has to sing under the sea, and she has same part of your world because she wants to go up to dry land so badly. Over the years, Alan Menken has worked unused songs from the Disney animated musicals into their Broadway adaptations. So in a way, he's never stopped working with Howard Ashman. I wrote a song for Howard past Mile friend Donna When Tim Rice and I began work on the Broadway adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, I said, I'm going to take a piece of music and is this home? This is where I should learn to be happy. So that became part of the fabric of beauty and the beast of hell in this Mink and shared his memories for the documentary. When Don Hahn sent in the rough cut, he told the director, he had to write the score. Oh, my God! Was it a labor of love? I feel deeply connected to Howard. And I just felt that I wanted music that if he was directing and he would have wanted to put in there Composer says This was really like his final collaboration with Howard almost 30 years after he died, a new work with words by Ashman and tunes by Minkin. For NPR news. I'm Tim grieving.

Coming up next