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Disney Musical Icon Howard Ashman Celebrated in New Documentary Film Trailer

Disney Musical Icon Howard Ashman Celebrated in New Documentary Film Trailer

After the death of Walt Disney in 1966, the Disney animation studios stagnated and slowly floundered, with much of their creative genius deemed long gone. Although some decent animated films were produced by the studio over the next twenty years or so, it seemed as tough the heyday of the Disney animated fairy tale/musical extravaganza had died with Walt himself.

Then in the late ’80s, the studio decided to make an attempt to return to the glory days of the Disney animated musical, going to an unlikely source to bring this plan to life: a man named Howard Ashman, who had written the lyrics for the offbeat musical hit show Little Shop of Horrors with his composing partner Alan Menken. Together, Ashman and Menken created the now iconic scores for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and half of the songs in Aladdin. Thus was the beginning of what is now called the “Disney Renaissance.”

Howard Ashman Movie D23 Premiere Trailer from Don Hahn on Vimeo.

Tragically, Ashman died due to complications from AIDS eight months prior to the theatrical release of Beauty and the Beast in 1991. The film was dedicated in his honor. When the song “Beauty and the Beast” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1992, it was Ashman’s (who was openly gay during a time of great homophobia in the film industry) romantic partner Bill Lauch who accepted the award on his behalf, which in itself was a landmark moment in Oscar history for LGBT visibility.

While Ashman never got to see the massive success of either Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin, his lyrical styling influenced an entire generation of composers of both animated musicals and regular Broadway shows. Now, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Don Hahn explore’s Ashman’s life and work in a new follow up to his benchmark documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty. The trailer for the new film, which doesn’t yet have a release date, premiered at D23, and you can check it out above.

Which of Howard Ashman’s musical compositions is your favorite? Be sure to let us know down below in the comments.

Images: Walt Disney Company

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