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Howard Ashman Documentary Slated To Premiere On Disney Plus

Howard | Official Trailer | Disney+

The beloved lyricist's life will be shown in a documentary on Disney+

The Little Mermaid. Beauty and The Beast. Aladdin. It's almost impossible to think of these movies and show adaptations, without thinking of Howard Ashman, the lyricist behind the classic songs that we all know and love. Now, his legacy will be honored on Disney+.

Howard Ashman's Legacy 

Howard Ashman's last accomplishment on his death bed was composing the lyrics to "Prince Ali" with composer Alan Menken - the song that the late Robin Williams sang in the 1992 movie Aladdin.

The documentary is summarized by NPR Music as:

"The documentary tracks Ashman's rise from a theater-obsessed kid in Baltimore, to his musical highs and lows (including the ill-fated Broadway show Smile with composer Marvin Hamlisch), and to his untimely death. It's told through archival photos, song demos, new interviews with family and friends and a filmed recording session from Beauty and the Beast — a Disney-lover's treasure trove."

Menken reveals how Ashman's legacy will live on throughout the documentary, saying:

"His life was pitifully cut short, unfortunately, as were many at that time. But Howard's [death], for me, is the most personally difficult and his spirit remains very, very present still; there's something about Howard that is not just a statistic in the battle against AIDS. But as an artist, he's extremely vital — even now."

The Journey Through Howard Ashman's Life 

There was an abrupt turn that no one would have ever expected: Ashman succumbed to AIDS at only 40 years old, months before Beauty and the Beast made its debut.

The documentary will take viewers through a journey of Ashman's life, from his humble beginnings to a world-renowned superstar. But perhaps his true perseverance and determination came through while working on Beauty and the Beast, where he fought his illness known as AIDS.

Don Hahn worked with Ashman as a producer on Beauty and the Beast, and he talked to Entertainment Weekly about Ashman's true talent:

"He was one of those rare people that had, certainly, genius to him in terms of his talent, but [also] he had amazing depth in terms of his craft. He was this really learned guy who made musical theater his life. And he was much more than a lyricist, you know. He was a dramatist. He was a director, a producer. He was demanding, he was challenging to work with, he was smarter than many of us in the room. And all that meant we had to up our game. If we had a point of view that was different from Howard's, we had to defend it. He was tremendously able to tell you not only what would work in his mind, but why it would work."

Hahn also revealed how Ashman's true heroism shined through while working on Beauty and the Beast, saying:

"I think that's where it becomes heroic. Here's a guy struggling with his life and recording these joyful songs, and writing them while he's aware that he has a limited time on earth. That's about as big and epic a story as I can think of. That kind of struggle of life and death against the creative spirit is really moving and important to me."

Make sure to catch the Howard Ashman documentary Howard August 7th exclusively on Disney+.

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Nicole Gibson