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Howard Ashman was a lyricist for Disney Animation who worked with Alan Menken.

Disney

The Little Mermaid

Howard Ashman and Alan Menken were approached to write music for a Disney film of their choice. Ashman chose The Little Mermaid and wrote all seven songs. Ashman not only wrote the music with Menken but he also served as the film's producer. Ashman also conducted Jodi Benson to sing Part of Your World right and he also dressed up as Ursula to show Pat Carroll how to sing "Poor Unfortunate Souls". Ashman and Menken won three Academy Awards for original songs in the movie in 1989.

Beauty and the Beast

Ashman and Menken were bought into team writing songs again for another project called Beauty and the Beast. Howard really wanted to work on another project called Aladdin, but with the studio in need of help, he reluctantly agreed. The original story was early selected by Walt Disney in the 1940s and 50s but was scrapped when the animators couldn't find the right story. Ashman solved the biggest problem Disney himself faced with the story. The original story involves a maiden who is kept prisoner by a beast and transforms him by love. Howard said, "The Beast is the guy with the problem. He's got to redeem himself by the movie's end. His act of love allows the girl to leave his castle." Walt's nephew Roy Edward Disney decided to give Beauty and the Beast another shot. Ashman and Menken wrote all six songs. Since Beauty and the Beast was a musical Ashman chose many Broadway actors and actresses including Paige O'Hara, Jerry Orbach, and Angela Lansbury to voice the characters and he also coached them very well to sing the songs just perfectly. The song Human Again was planned to be in the original film, but due to story problems, it had to be cut out. Menken fixed the story problems for the 1994 Broadway production and the song was a success. The song would later be animated and brought to life in the 2002 IMAX release.

Aladdin

When The Little Mermaid was almost done, Ashman and Menken pitched a treatment of the story of Aladdin, and wrote many songs. But after being asked to help out with Beauty and the Beast, Ashman reluctantly agreed. Three of Ashman's songs made it into the final version, Arabian Nights, Friend Like Me and Prince Ali. Directors Ron Clements and John Musker talked to Menken and Ashman about writing a song for the Magic Carpet ride but sadly didn't have the time to write it. Lyricist Tim Rice, who was working on a project known at the time as King of the Jungle, was asked to help finish the songs for Aladdin.

Death and Legacy

At the 1989 Oscars for Little Mermaid Ashman told Menken they needed to talk when they got home to New York City about something important that couldn't be mentioned at the Oscars. When they got back to Ashman's house in New York, Ashman told Menken that he was sick and was HIV positive, and revealed during the production of Beauty and the Beast that he had been diagnosed with AIDS which made him weaker everyday, but never stopped him from writing songs. Before he passed away, they showed him an unfinished version of Beauty and the Beast. He then died four days later on March 14, 1991, at a hospital in New York City, at the age of 40. Ashman never married, but he was survived by his life partner Bill Lauch, his sister Sarah Ashman-Gillespie, and his mom Shirley Ashman. Beauty and the Beast was dedicated to Ashman during the end credits reading:

TO OUR FRIEND, HOWARD,
WHO GAVE A MERMAID HER VOICE
AND A BEAST HIS SOUL,
WE WILL BE FOREVER GRATEFUL.

HOWARD ASHMAN
1950-1991.

Gallery


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Walt Disney Animation Studios - Transparent Logo
In the Past
Disney's Nine Old Men: Milt KahlFrank ThomasOllie JohnstonLes ClarkJohn LounsberyMarc DavisWard KimballEric LarsonWolfgang Reitherman

Animators: Bill TytlaArt BabbittPreston BlairEd LoveFred MooreShamus CulhaneCy YoungDon LuskNorman FergusonHal KingJack HannahJack Kinney • Cliff Nordberg • Bob Carlson • Hal AmbroKen O'BrienJudge WhitakerEric CleworthHarvey Toombs • Marvin Woodward • Bill Justice • Jerry Hathcock • Hugh Fraser • Clair Weeks • Don BluthGary Goldman • Berny Wolf • Don Towsley • Norman Tate • John Bradbury • Lynn Karp • Charles A. Nichols • Art Palmer • Joshua Meador • Don Tobin • Robert Martsch • George Rowley • John McManus • Don Patterson • John Elliotte • Phil Duncan • George Kreisel • John Freeman • Jack Campbell • Ed Aardal • Blaine Gibson • Ken Hultgren • Fred Kopietz • George Nicholas • Bob Youngquist • John Kennedy • Henry Tanous • Dick Lucas • John Sibley • John EwingWalt StanchfieldFred Hellmich • Blaine Gibson • Julius Svendsen • Bill Keil • Andy Paliwoda
Visual Development, Layout, Background Artists and Character Designers: Gustaf TenggrenMary Blair • David Hall • Joe GrantCampbell GrantMel ShawClaude CoatsDon DaGradiJohn Hench • Art Riley • Eyvind Earle • Thelma Witmer • Al Dempster • Dick Anthony • Don Griffith • Ralph Hulett • Ray Huffine • Art Landy • Brice Mack • Al Zinnen • Ken O'Connor • Charles Philippi • McLaren Stewart • Tom Codrick • Hugh Hennesy • Lance Nolley • Thor PutnamAlbert Hurter • John Miller • Martin Provensen • John Walbridge • Dick Kelsey • Kay Nielsen • Terrell Stapp • John Hubley • Merle Cox • Ray Huffine • Mac Stewart • Jimi Trout • Basil Davidovich • Jack Hubler • Erni Nordli • Victor Haboush • Homer Jonas • Ray Aragon • Frank Artimage • Walt Peregoy • Bill Layne • Fil Mottola • Richard H. Thomas • Dale Barnhart • Anthony Rizzo • Sylvia Roemer
Storyboard Artists and Writers: Ted SearsBill PeetRalph Wright • Erdman Penner • Winston Hibler • Joe Rinaldi • Milt Banta • Bill Cottrell • Webb Smith • Aurelius Battaglia • Otto Englander • Joseph Sabo • Dick Huemer • Tom Oreb • Del Connell • Floyd Norman
Directors: Clyde GeronimiHamilton LuskeWilfred JacksonBill RobertsJack KinneyBen SharpsteenArt StevensTed BermanRichard Rich
Producers: Walt DisneyWinston HiblerRon MillerJoe HaleKen Anderson

In the Renaissance, the Present and the Revival
Renaissance Directors: Rob MinkoffRoger AllersGary TrousdaleKirk WiseChris SandersMark Dindal

Story Trust Directors: Ron ClementsJohn MuskerChris BuckByron HowardDon HallChris WilliamsRich MooreStephen J. AndersonNathan GrenoJennifer Lee
Producers: Peter Del VechoClark SpencerRoy ConliDorothy McKimDon Hahn
Executive Producers: John Lasseter
Associated Figures: Bob IgerRoy Edward DisneyMichael EisnerEd CatmullJeffrey Katzenberg
Signature Voice Actors: Jim CummingsAlan TudykKatie LowesMaurice LaMarcheDavid Ogden StiersJesse CortiPaul BriggsRaymond S. PersiPhil JohnstonFrank WelkerBill Farmer
Signature Musicians: Sherman Brothers Robert B. Sherman Richard Sherman Alan Menken Kristen Anderson-Lopez Robert LopezLin-Manuel MirandaHoward AshmanTim RiceStephen Schwartz
Supervising Animators: Glen KeaneAndreas DejaRandy HaycockAlex KupershmidtAnthony DeRosaEric GoldbergMark HennJohn PomeroyT. Daniel HofstedtTony BancroftTom BancroftTony FucileRuss EdmondsDuncan MarjoribanksRuben AquinoNik RanieriRon HusbandRick Farmiloe
Visual Development & Storyboard Artists: Paul Felix • Andy Gaskill • Dean DeBlois • Lorna Cook • Bill Schwab • Lisa KeeneClaire Keane • Chen Yi-Chang • Vance Gerry • Brittney LeeJin KimShiyoon KimCory LoftisLeo Matsuda