Alan Menken

American composer Alan Menken was responsible for some of the best known film and stage musicals of the late 20th Century. Born in New York City, he originally set out to become a recording artist. In the mid-'70s, he began gravitating towards musical theater, contributing songs to a number of revues and workshops. His early attempts to write a full musical, though, went unproduced. His luck changed when he began a long partnership with playwright and lyricist Howard Ashman. They worked together on a musical adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's novel "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" that ran Off-Broadway. Their next collaboration, however, earned them a place in musical theater history. Based on a little seen 1960 film, "Little Shop of Horrors" opened in 1982 and went on to become the highest grossing Off-Broadway production of all time. The play was adapted to film in 1986, and Menken and Ashman's original composition "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" earned the duo an Oscar nomination. The pair were hired by Disney as the company was attempting to reinvigorate its animated film division. They wrote the music for "The Little Mermaid" (1989), winning Oscars for Best Original Song ("Under the Sea") and Best Score. That kicked off one of the most successful runs in film history. They partnered again on "Beauty and the Beast" (1991), and added another two Academy Awards. As work began on Disney's next animated offering, "Aladdin" (1992), Ashman died from complications related to AIDS. Famed lyricist Tim Rice stepped in and worked with Menken to complete the music for "Aladdin," and again, the film won Oscars for Best Original Song ("A Whole New World") and Best Score. Menken also worked with Jack Feldman on Disney's live-action musical, "Newsies" (1992). While the film was considered a flop, the property went on to find new life as a successful Broadway show. Menken returned to working with Disney animation, working with Stephen Schwartz on "Pocahontas" (1995) and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1996), as well as with David Zippel for "Hercules" (1997). He also contributed the score to a number of other films, including "Life With Mikey" (1993), "Home On the Range" (2004) and "Tangled" (2010). Menken and Schwartz reunited to provide the music for Disney's hit "Enchanted" (2007). He also worked with the studio to adapt both "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin" into Tony-winning Broadway shows. He had additional success adapting the films "Sister Act" and "A Bronx Tale" into Broadway musicals. Menken's Disney partnership continued as well. He worked with the studio on its live-action film adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast" (2017), before partnering with the Oscar and Tony-winning team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul on a live-action version of "Aladdin" (2019). He went on to work with Broadway superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda on a similar update of "The Little Mermaid" and re-teamed with Schwartz on the "Enchanted" sequel, "Disenchanted."