Within the lead-up to the discharge of the live-action The Little Mermaid, Consequence is having a look again on the Disney Renaissance and the way it formed our tradition. This time, we’re exploring the legacy of its two pioneering contributors, composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman.
On the finish of 1991’s Magnificence and the Beast, a message seems onscreen that reads: “To our buddy Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will likely be eternally grateful.” Magnificence and the Beast premiered in November of that yr, simply months after the movie’s lyricist Howard Ashman handed away on the age of 40. The dedication is apt — it doesn’t really feel like an exaggeration to say that Alan Menken and Howard Ashman have been once-in-a-generation collaborators. Whereas remarkably gifted people, lightning struck when the composer and lyricist labored collectively.
Within the late ’80s, Disney Animation Studios fell in a serious stoop. 1985’s darkish, moody The Black Cauldron acquired largely unfavorable reactions from critics and bombed on the field workplace, whereas rival studios made their mark with commercially profitable options like The Land Earlier than Time. So, because the Mouse Home sought a technique to reinvigorate their major product, a venture that had been floated for many years resurfaced.
The Little Mermaid turned a turning level for Disney. For its first fairytale venture in over 30 years, the workforce behind the film imagined a headstrong, curious heroine extra impartial than any of her predecessors. On the time, then-head of Walt Disney Studios Jeffrey Katzenberg had his eye on Menken, a Broadway composer who had scored a house run with Ashman already on Little Store of Horrors, however confronted a setback together with his follow-up, 1986’s widely-panned Smile. Prepared to take a break from the New York theater scene, Menken signed on to the venture.
In the meantime, Disney had already enlisted Ashman to supply lyrics for Oliver & Firm. Reuniting for The Little Mermaid allowed the 2 theater specialists to middle Ariel’s emotional journey on probably the most time-honored traditions of the stage: The good “I would like” track, by which a personality expresses their objectives or needs for the sake of the viewers.
Menken and Ashman’s impression on the movie can’t be overstated. Ashman first pitched the concept Sebastian be Jamaican, opening up a world of metal drums and vibrant power in different elements of the movie — however their contact extends on to Ariel’s characterization. Whereas administrators Ron Clements and John Musker envisioned a track by which the mermaid expresses her romantic emotions for Prince Eric, Menken and Ashman turned in a tune about leaving the security of dwelling, desirous to discover, and an insatiable curiosity in all issues new.