In almost every musical ever written, there’s a place that’s usually about the third song of the evening – sometimes it’s the second, sometimes it’s the fourth, but it’s quite early – and the leading lady usually sits down on something; sometimes it’s a tree stump in Brigadoon, sometimes it’s under the pillars of Covent Garden in My Fair Lady, or it’s a trash can in Little Shop of Horrors… but the leading lady sits down on something and sings about what she wants in life. And the audience falls in love with her and then roots for her to get it for the rest of the night. ~ Howard Ashman.
For many Disney and musical theatre fans, Howard Ashman left an imprint in theatre, film, storytelling, and song that has withstood the test of time. His brilliant voice in storytelling has changed the way, we see music, film, and theatre.
Howard was released on Disney+ on August 7th, 2020. For any fan of Disney, this film is a must watch.
The film opens, in the recording studio of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast with Howard Ashman and the cast recording the soundtrack. His passion for music, storytelling, and directing are evident in the footage.
From there, Sarah Ashman Gillespie (Howard’s sister) candidly talks about how some of her most fond memories of Howard, were of the world’s he created.
The film portrays Howard as a true creative at heart, who understood his purpose in life was storytelling through music. Like most creative personalities, Howard was both confident and self-conscious, seeing his vision crystal clear, yet struggling to make it happen. He was stubborn, yet passionate and in many cases, it’s that combination that innovators and visionaries are made of.
Howard founded the off-broadway company WPA, which years later, which impressed Jeffrey Katzenburg, who years later, would beg Howard to work with him at the Walt Disney Studios. Howard eventually said yes and brought his friend and fellow composer Alan Menken on board for a little project called The Little Mermaid.
Alan Menken, Jodi Benson, Glen Keane, Ron Clements, John Musker, Roy Disney, and Jeffrey Katzenburg in the documentary talk about their experiences working with Howard on The Little Mermaid. Howard at the time of film’s production had learned that he had AIDS, yet continued to work in spite of that. He had worked on two other Walt Disney Studio films prior to his death in 1991 that included Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.
For any fan of Disney or of The Little Mermaid, Howard is a must-watch. It explores the life, struggles, career, and untimely death of a man who changed the Walt Disney Studios and musical theatre forever.
Thank you Howard for giving a mermaid her voice and a Beast his soul. We you and will remember you for your contribution to musical theatre and Disney.
The songs in The Little Mermaid were written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman and forever changed the Walt Disney Company and it’s contribution to music.
Alan Menken revolutionized Disney and the Disney musical by using the musical theater format in storytelling. They did this, by using storytelling techniques, typically used in musical theater and giving them a Disney twist.
Alan Menken and Howard Ashman as a team, wrote and composed all the songs for The Little Mermaid, staying true to their musical theater roots. Ariel’s iconic song of Part of Your World. Howard Ashman famously referred to this song as the “want song” and it is.
During Part of Your World, we learn about Ariel’s hopes and dreams of exploring land and asking humans questions about the human world.
Growing up in the 90s, the music in The Little Mermaid was a pivotal point in our childhood. Singing along to the soundtrack on cassette and watching the movie on VHS.
As children, we lived and breathed the soundtrack, knowing every song word for word from memory. We didn’t just listen to the music, we absorbed it and lived it every time we sang the memorable lyrics.
The music of The Little Mermaid has a voice that is completely it’s own and there is nothing like it.
And we can all thank Alan Menken and Howard Ashman for that! Thank you Alan, for making us Part of Your world!