CMU School of Drama

Friday, April 07, 2017

Talking to Alan Menken about how 'Aladdin' was born — and changed

Chicago Tribune: In 1986, an energetic playwright, lyricist and director named Howard Ashman and a young composer named Alan Menken had a New York hit with a satirical off-Broadway show called "The Little Shop of Horrors." Around that same time, on America's West Coast, a Disney staffer named Ron Clements had successfully pitched his bosses his idea to re-energize the studio's animated movies — he wanted to do a version of the Hans Christian Andersen story called "The Little Mermaid."

6 comments:

Marisa Rinchiuso said...

Such a touching article. I'm not very familiar with the Chicago Tribune, but they sure were lucky to get such a personal interview. To start off, I loved that Alan Menkin lives outside of the city in a farm-style home. While reading it, I could just imagine the home of all that magic. I was not aware of his career pre-Disney, but it was incredible to learn his jump from an off-broadway show to a multi-million dollar movie. I thought his thoughts on collaboration and how new experiences with others inspired much of his work was touching. I thought it was interesting his comparison of writing music as turning on a faucet. In addition, he mentioned that he no longer writes personal songs. I found that comment somewhat jaded. After learning more about his collaboration with Howard Ashman, I felt like I had more incite to the why of some of the music throughout Aladdin, Little Mermaid, and Beauty and The Beast. Overall, an extremely touching article with incite from one of the biggest names in art.

Alexa James-Cardenas said...

It is funny to get a glimpse of how these projects that end up being a nostalgic classic to many people across ages, starts. We, the audience, mainly see the end the result or a small portion of its creation, but knowing the very beginning to the lives and feelings of those who were creating it at the time is truly special. I believe that awareness does make an effect of how you perceive the movie/project. As a child, at least for me, seeing these amazing movies is something out of fantasy, meaning that it sort of just appeared and was magical. The songs, the colors, the characters, I loved the movie, but never really thought about the human aspect of it. Which in turn puts the movies on this mystical pedestal. But as I grow older and generally more curious about process and not just product, for me, having this background knowledge sort of puts the project off of the pedestal and into my hands, as if feeling it for the first time. I know it sounds kind of odd, but bringing in a very human side of the final product changes my perspective of it a little. Once where it seemed like it was special, now it seems like a mixture of sadness, passion, hard work, and just generally of the elements that life offers.

Zak Biggins said...

This article is a very interesting read. I am always surprised when composers come back and work on their shows post broadway engagements ie: Finding Neverland or Aladdin. Each one of these reformed productions usually consult with a team of people to discuss the current composition of the show and its success. Aladdin, in particular,has been constantly changing. The musical is pretty different from the movie (i would say most Disney musicals are... Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella is completely different from the movie). In this new production of Aladdin they have introduced the song "Proud of Your Boy" which was originally cut from the movie. I think its place in the show is incredibly important-- it allows the audience members to connect with Aladdin and his parents. I really hope to see the touring company!

Sarah Battaglia said...

I feel like when movie musicals become musicals it is really difficult for the creative team because what people want is just a human version of the cartoons that they love but in reality just because it was a movie musical doesn't meant that it transfers so easy. I am glad that Aladdin is doing so well on Broadway and that we can still make some money from these stories that are now pretty old for the constant stream of information we have about them all the time. I think because these stories tend to be pretty universal and a very good shell it lends itself to a complete recreation for Broadway. The Little Mermaid on Broadway is nothing like the movie, Cinderella is super different, and I think that that is okay and so do viewers apparently because the skeleton is so great that it really shouldn't matter. I am looking forward to these new new movies like Frozen and Moana to hit Broadway, every day we are more able to recreate these cartoon worlds in real life and that is pretty amazing.

Megan Jones said...

I really loved reading this article. It's so cool to hear about the process and thought behind some of my favorite Disney movies. I personally had no idea that Alan Menken and Howard Ashman were a part of the team behind Little Shop of Horrors, but I can definitely see the parallels between Part of Your World and Somewhere That's Green. Menken and Ashman had a very special working relationship and the scope of their work really reflects that. I had no idea that Home from Beauty and the Beast was originally written as Menken's tribute to Ashman, and that just makes the song even more powerful. Something else that I found very interesting was that songs that were originally cut from the movie Aladdin have been brought back for the musical. I haven't seen the Broadway production of Aladdin but I would imagine that they have had to add a lot of content in order to increase the hour and a half run time of the original movie.

nick waddington said...

Whenever you take a beloved story whether it be a book, or movie, or musical, and you try to change the media in which it is delivered, like making a movie out of a book, or vice versa in my opinion, almost never works. I think it is really difficult to truly mimic a classic via a different media because everyone has all their prior expectations for the quality of the show. thus i think it is hard for a creative team to come together and create something new and great while still keeping the best parts of the original show. I am really glad that the broadway production of aladdin was able to do this so well, on a trip to new york, many of my classmates in highschool had the opportunity to see and work with the cast of Aladdin. I, like Sarah am excited to see newer disney movies like frozen and moana come to the big stage because i think we have an ever growing capacity to put on amazing shows like these.

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