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Menken & Slater React to Oscar Nomination for Disney's TANGLED

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This morning, music duo Alan Menken and Glenn Slater received an Oscar nomination for Best Song for "I See The Light" from Disney's Tangled.  This is the 19th nomination for Menken, who has earned 8 Academy Awards already, more than any living person.  This is the first nomination for Slater, who has collaborated with Menken on several projects, including Broadway's The Little Mermaid and Sister Act, which is scheduled to open on Broadway on April 20, 2011.  The show has played in the West End and is currently a hit in Hamburg, Germany.

BroadwayWorld spoke with Menken and Slater just after the nominations were announced.  The pair spoke about why recognition for this film is particularly special, their process, the status of Broadway's Sister Act and more.

According to Menken, being honored for Tangled is particularly sweet because the film was close to not happening at all.  "I knew that Disney's Rapunzel had been struggling for years. Once they finally pulled the trigger on the film, I was so proud to be approached because it showed me how much faith Disney has in me, to trust me with this project that had been such a labor.  This nomination is special because I love Tangled - the film and the process."

On his favorite Tangled moments, Menken shares: "The orchestral recording sessions are the emotional piece for me. So thrilling. One standout moment was when we put together the particular tune that leads up to "I See The Light." I remember being at the soundstage and it was just a thrilling moment when they are in the boat on the lake. The second standout moment was when we put together the reprise of "When Did My Life Begin," when Rapunzel has left the tower for the first time. Seeing that come together was watching "classic Disney" that I've been lucky enough to experience for decades. 

For Slater, the magic was the synchronicity in the collaboration. He explains: "What is wonderful about animated film is that it's so collaborative. There is this huge cast of characters that contribute towards this one vision - the story boarders, animators, musicians, directors etc. The song is so special for me because it is one of the moments where the animation and music is synchronized perfectly.  Everything comes together in a perfect moment."

He elaborates: "Alan and I were approached with the concept of floating laterns and a storyboard of the moment. That's it. The scene had not yet been created. We worked with them through most of the story creation process and when they brought us this moment we said "wouldn't it be great if we could hear what is in the characters' heads in song?  What if we could write a song here that captures the journey they have been on up to this point?" So we composed the song and the story board artists worked around it.  This is very much the Disney way of doing things. Alan is largely responsible for making music in Disney animation an integral part of the story telling process, not an afterthought."

Slater acknowledges the similarities in composing for stage musicals, noting that the only real difference is that with animated film, the composers take a backseat to the directors, whereas in theater they largely guide the ship and make the big decisions.

Both Menken and Slater are equally excited for Sister Act, which Menken tells us is "going really well" and "has a lot of positive energy going on." Slater echoes this sentiment: "The process of adjusting the show for a Broadway audience is going fantastically. We are fine tuning the plot and tone, honing the characters etc.  It's been said that musicals are never finished. You just abandon them. We're fortunate that we get to continue the writing process through more than one production and take the evolution to the whole new level.

Unable to reveal too much about the changes from the London production, Menken was able to confirm that "as of right now, one song has been cut" and that the team "may add or reinstate a song from one of the original incarnations of the show." Mostly, audiences can expect the London score.

For Disney, Menken has scored The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Pocahontas, each of which won him two Academy Awards. He also composed the scores for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Enchanted, and Tangled. Menken has collaborated on several occasions with lyricists including Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Stephen Schwartz. On Broadway, Menken has composed for The Little Mermaid, Little Shop of Horrors, King David, Beauty and the Beast and, now, Sister Act.

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