'Howard': Release date, plot, trailer and all you need to know about Disney's unscripted film on the late Oscar-winning lyricist
'Howard' explores the life and times of late Oscar-winning lyricist Howard Ashman who breathed life into Disney's most famous films with his amazing melodies
If there's anything besides its ace animation and whimsical plotlines that Disney is known for, it is the renaissance songs that in one way or another have become a part of every Disney lover's life and music library. 'Part of Your World' from 'The Little Mermaid' and 'Be our Guest' from 'Beauty and the Beast', are catchy songs that we find ourselves often humming along to.
These classics are significant to Disney, and we only have Howard Ashman to thank for leaving us with the songs that practically made our childhood. Now, a new documentary titled 'Howard' is exploring the life and times of the late Oscar-winning lyricist who breathed life into Disney's films with his famous melodies.
Disney+ will stream 'Howard', on the life of Oscar-winning lyricist Howard Ashman, starting Friday, August 7.
Howard Ashman is credited for the words and melodies behind some of Disney's most iconic songs including 'Under the Sea' from 'The Little Mermaid' and 'Beauty and the Beast' from the film of the same name. He also strived to keep 'Part of Your World', the song that Ariel sings at the beginning of 'The Little Mermaid', and pitched the idea for the musical adaption of 'Aladdin', that went on to become one of Disney's best hits.
In an unfortunate turn of events, Ashman's career was short-lived at Disney as he was gone too soon. He died from complications from AIDS in 1991, before 'Beauty and the Beast' had its theatrical release.
'Howard' touches upon the life and career of Ashman, his time at Disney and his collaboration with composer Alan Menken. The documentary film draws focus to his work, ranging from 'The Little Shop of Horrors' to 'Beauty and the Beast', his time in Baltimore, his formative years in New York and his untimely death. The film is a treasure trove of archival footage and interviews with his longtime friend and collaborator, Menken, montaged with personal accounts from Disney voice artistes like Jodi Benson (Ariel), Paige O'Hara (Belle), his partner Bill Lauch and many others. 'Howard' made its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 22, 2018.
Born in Baltimore, Ashman grew up in a Jewish household and moved to New York in 1974 to work as an editor for the publishing company, Grosset & Dunlap. He started off writing plays like 'Cause Maggie's Afraid of the Dark and 'Dreamstuff', which were met with mixed reviews. Ashman met his future collaborator, Menken at a BMI workshop, and went on to work with him on the 1979 musical 'God Bless You, Mr Rosewater', adapted from Vonnegut's novel of the same name.
They also collaborated on 'Little Shop of Horrors', with Ashman serving as director, lyricist and librettist. He won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics for the musical. Ashman was also the director, lyricist, and screenwriter for the 1986 Broadway musical 'Smile'. He received an Academy Award nomination for the song 'Mean Green Mother From Outer Space', which he wrote for the film adaptation of 'Little Shop of Horrors'
Ashman was tapped in to write a song for Disney's 'Oliver & Company' in 1986 and went on to work on 'The Little Mermaid', which at the time was Disney's fairytale venture after three decades. Ashman and Menken wrote all the songs in the film and the former became a driving force during the early Disney Rennaisance. With his urging that Disney needed to make more musical movies, and the strong theatrical background he gave Disney the ultimate transformation. When 'The Little Mermaid' was released in November 1989, it was a smashing success, with Ashman and Menken receiving two Golden Globe nominations and three Academy Award nominations. Ashman won both awards for the song 'Under the Sea'.
Ashman and Menken helped reinvigorate and retain the production of 'Beauty and the Beast' which was going nowhere as a non-musical. At this time, his health had begun to deteriorate due to his illness. Regardless, he completed the lyrical work for the film but succumbed to AIDS. He died before the film's theatrical release, and it was dedicated to his memory. Menken and Ashman became co-recipients of two Grammy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards and two Academy Awards. He received his second Academy Award posthumously, and his partner, William "Bill" Lauch accepted his award in his stead. Before he died, Ashman was shown the unfinished version of 'Beauty and the Beast'. He died four days later on March 14, 1991, at a Hospital in New York City.
'Howard' is directed by Don Hahn, with Hahn and Lori Korngiebel serving as producers at Stone Circle Pictures.
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