Take a look at these men, chances are if you follow this blog, they shaped your childhood. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken were brought onto the little mermaid project back when it was still being developed. Mind you the fate of Disney animation was hanging quite literally on this film. As most of the films Disney had done prior to that in the 80’s were becoming such flops and financial bombs the animation department was hanging by its teeth.
So they decided to do a big hurrah, go back to the fairy tales of their youth and hopefully translate it and bring in a new audience. So when the chair of Disney animation was making this film, they knew they were going to need music and songs that would compare to the early days of Walt Disney Animation. That’s when David Geffen (Co founder of Dreamworks) decided to recommend Howard and Alan since he was producing their (Now famous) musical Little Shop of Horrors. The dynamic duo proved to be spectacular and even won an Academy Award for their song Under the sea.
Howard Ashman was the Playwright and Lyricist and Alan Menken was the Composer. Together they went on to create such classic soundtracks found in Disney’s (arguably best three film’s out of the renaissance period.) Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. Unfortunately during the production phases of Beauty and the Beast, Howard Ashman grew ill. The team and producers had to fly out to where he lived in order to work with him as he was gravely sick, he like unfortunately many other gay men during that time had contracted AIDS. Even so he was able to work through it and even write some more lyrics for the upcoming feature Aladdin. To say that Howard played an integral part of Disney history would be an understatement. He and Alan among many others helped build and shape Disney to the current state that it is today, they brought Disney animation back when it was almost on its last breath.
On March 10, 1991, the Disney animators had their first screening for Beauty and the Beast and it was considered by many an enormous success. After the screening the crew and Alan Menken hurried right away to visit Howard in the hospital. He was 80 pounds, lost all of his sight, and could barely speak. His mother showed the animators that he was wearing a Beauty and the Beast sweatshirt. The animators told him that the film was incredibly well received by the press and described to him in detail how it had gone. He nodded appreciatively to the news. As everyone said their goodbyes, producer Don Hahn leaned over to Howard and said, “Beauty and the Beast is going to be a great success. Who’d have thought it?”, to which Ashman replied with “I would have.” Four days later, on March 14, Ashman died following complications from AIDS at the age of 40.
They had Beauty and the Beast dedicated to him:
“To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman 1950–1991.