With the remake of “Beauty And The Beast” roaring into theaters this weekend, I wanted to take just a few minutes to reflect on the life of a man who helped bring the original Disney classic to life.
A man who shaped a generation of composers and songwriters. And yes.. a man who was from Baltimore.
Howard Ashman was born on May 17th, 1950. He fell in love with cinema after seeing a Disney film with his grandmother. Growing up, Howard directed backyard musicals and even joined the Children’s Theatre until he left Charm City.
Ashman went on to write and direct the musical “Little Shop Of Horrors”, as well as write the script for the film. In 1986, he was brought in to Disney to write a song for “Oliver & Company”, while “The Little Mermaid” was just beginning production. He wrote all songs to the film, with his writing partner Alan Menken. Both are credited in helping with the “Disney Renaissance.”
After winning a Golden Globe and Oscar for “Under The Sea”, Ashman wrote a total of 16 songs for a film adaptation of “Aladdin.” He was asked to help oversee the failing “Beauty And The Beast” at the same time.
According to The Mirror, he read the first treatment of “Beauty and The Beast”, and countered that “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.” He teamed up with Alan Menken once again, and also took on the role of Executive Producer of the film.
During the production of “Beauty”, Ashman revealed that he had been diagnosed with AIDS, and had failing health. So the team worked out of his New York City residence to complete the film and soundtrack.
Four days after the first screening of “Beauty And The Beast”, Ashman died at the age of 40 of complications due to AIDS.
Ashman and Menken would go on to win the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Song for the title track “Beauty And The Beast.”
He would also receive three posthumous Grammy’s: One for Best Original Song, two for Best Musical Album for Children (“Beauty And The Beast” and “Aladdin.”)