Disney Plus is really pulling it out the bag when it comes to documentaries from The Imagineering Story to Frank and Ollie, now there’s another doc to add to that list – Howard, the untold story of the lyricist.
Ashman was the man behind Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid and Be Our Guest in Beauty and the Beast alongside Alan Menken.
Some say he’s the man that gave Disney it’s defining I Want song – take Belle’s song at the start of Beauty and the Beast, as well as the strong musical tradition of the renaissance animations.
Now the Tribeca Film Festival documentary is heading to Disney+ meaning fans can explore the man behind the music.
Howard Ashman is the man behind the catchy words and music from the biggest Disney movies – from Little Mermaid to Beauty and the Beast. He also pitched the adaptation of Aladdin that was then handed over to Alan Menken and Tim Rice.
However, Ashman’s career was cut short as he died from complications from AIDS in 1991 before Beauty and the Beast was released.
Howard shows how Ashman started out, his success with Little Shop of Horrors, his early work with Alan Menken and then his work with Disney before his death.
There’s plenty of unseen archive footage with gems showing Menken and Ashman creating the tunes we all know and love.
There are clips of Paige O’Hara (Belle), Jodi Benson (Ariel) and Angela Lansbury.
Who is Howard Ashman?
Ashman was born in Baltimore. He grew up in a Jewish household and moved to New York in 1974 where he worked as an editor in a publishing company.
He soon moved on to plays and musicals working with Alan Menken on God Bless You, Mr Rosewater in 1979. They also worked together on Little Shop of Horrors, which Ashman won several awards for.
Ashman went on to write the movie adaptation for Little Shop of Horrors then was asked to come in to work with Disney on Oliver and Company – the 1986 animation.
He then moved on to The Little Mermaid writing all the songs with Menken. The move became a huge hit. Under the Sea was nominated for two Golden Globes and three Academy Awards. He won both.
Then came Beauty and the Beast which was struggling – Ashman was brought in to help it out musically but ended up impacting its story too.
But Ashman’s health started to deteriorate – he had HIV. Ashman finished his work on the move but just as Beauty and the Beast was shown to the New York Film Festival Ashman died – the film was dedicated to his memory.
Menken and Ashman won two Grammy awards, two Golden Globes and two Academy Awards. The second he received posthumously with his partner Bill Lauch accepting it for him.
Before he died Ashman was shown the unfinished movie, four days later on 14 March, 1991, he died in a hospital.
Who directed Howard?
Disney legend Don Han, who directed Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, is the man behind Howard. Hahn and Lori Korngiebel served as producers.