“Howard” is the story of Howard Ashman, a writer of Disney lyrics. This Disney+ documentary by Don Hahn, producer of Beauty and Beast, showcases video footage, audio, and new interviews with those involved in the making of these Disney classics. The style of the documentary is different than most- unless you’ve seen Hahn’s other documentary “Waking Sleeping Beauty“. At no point is there a direct interview shown. Instead, Hahn overlays new audio interviews with older media laced with video and audio uncovered from the production process. Hahn takes the audience on a journey of Ashman’s life.
Early on in Howard’s life
Hahn went back to the early years of Ashman’s life by interviewing his family and gathering pictures. Because of this, we get to see and hear about how Ashman grew up.
Spoiler Alert: Howard Ashman didn’t begin his career working for Disney. Rather, his career started in New York City. While writing and directing musicals he met Alan Menken, a name that should be familiar to many Disney fans. Together they collaborated on several Broadway musicals. It should be mentioned that Menken was the composer of all the new music in “Howard”.
Howard’s Connection to Disney
Howard’s first involvement with Disney was for “Oliver and Company”. But where things took off was “The Little Mermaid”. Howard Ashman and Menken wrote all the songs for the film, winning multiple awards. As a result, Disney asked the pair to help out on “Beauty and the Beast” which was struggling. They also pitched the idea of “Aladdin”, writing the script and songs for a movie that would be released after Ashman’s death. Both films would go on to win multiple awards.
What makes this worth watching?
If knowing more about some of your favorite Disney songs isn’t enough of a reason, then getting to watch and listen in to the creation of these songs is pure joy. One of my favorite scenes starts off the movie as the audience is watching and listening to Ashman coach the actors and actresses through their performance- which is being recorded alongside a live orchestra. It made chills run up and down my spine to hear the famous opening song to “Beauty and the Beast”, followed by applause from their fellow actors, and then the chilling statement from Hahn “And what we didn’t know was that in nine months Howard would be gone”. And that’s all before the opening title.
Overall, this film is one that every Disney lover will enjoy.
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