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Special Report and Video: Inside The Walt Disney Family Museum's AN EVENING WITH ALAN MENKEN

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This event was held to support the Walt Disney Family Museum's education programs.

Special Report and Video: Inside The Walt Disney Family Museum's AN EVENING WITH ALAN MENKEN

On August 8th, 2020, The Walt Disney Family Museum hosted their first virtual fundraiser - An Evening with Alan Menken. The San Francisco museum was founded by Diane Disney Miller in order to both preserve her father's legacy and inspire future animators. This event was held to support the Walt Disney Family Museum's education programs, which provide arts and animation instruction to the next generation of creative talent. The proceeds will also support the museum's newest initiative, the At-Promise Youth Animation Academy, an intensive animation-focused jobs-training program for local high school students experiencing economic and social displacement.

Disney Legend Alan Menken made headlines earlier this month when he became an EGOT, but his name is well known to theater and Disney fans. In the early 1980s when Little Shop of Horrors was a hit off-Broadway, Menken and his writing partner Howard Ashman were called to LA by Disney. Their music ended up revitalizing a dying animation department, ushering in a golden age with hits like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Sadly Ashman died of AIDS before Beauty was released and while Aladdin was in development, but Menken continues to be a Disney mainstay. Currently, he is working on the live action version of The Little Mermaid, the sequel to Enchanted, and Spellbound (an animated fairy tale for Skydance).

The first part of the event was a VIP chat where Menken was interviewed by Chris Montan, the former President of Walt Disney Music. (In that role Montan oversaw the music used in animated films, stage productions, the theme parks and more.) The two reminisced on their 30 year collaboration including revisiting The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin for their stage adaptations and recent live action updates. Seated at his piano, Menken treated the audience to a performance of "Santa Fe" (Newsies) and underscored the interview with clips of familiar and cut songs like "Shooting Star" (Hercules) which was ultimately replaced by "I Can Go the Distance. He also gave us a taste of the first lyrics for "A Whole New World," or as it was originally known "The World at My Feet."

Menken cited Pinocchio and Peter Pan as childhood favorites and credited Fantasia as having a major impact on his work. "Fantasia was incredible because it was so much music upfront, interpreting different composers through visuals. Fantasia married visual and story to music for me."

Why do Menken's songs continue to be so beloved? Montan credited the timeless melodies. Unlike other animated films, the music never tried to be of the exact moment in which it was created. (He chuckled thinking of Beauty and the Beast with a 1990s Nirvana inspired soundtrack.)

The second part of the evening was a concert which featured two medleys of Menkens work from. The first performance included: "Be Our Guest" (Beauty and the Beast), "Little Shop of Horrors" (Little Shop of Horrors), "Colors of the Wind" (Pocahontas), "Part of Your World" (The Little Mermaid), "I Can Go the Distance" (Hercules), "I See the Light" (Tangled), "That's How You Know" (Enchanted), "Zero to Hero" (Hercules), "King of New York" (Newsies), "Out There" (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), "Kiss the Girl" (The Little Mermaid), "How Does a Moment Last Forever" (Beauty and the Beast), "Speechless" (Aladdin), and "Under the Sea" (The Little Mermaid).

As Menken hit the last notes on "Under the Sea," lifelong fan Lin-Manuel Miranda crashed the concert! The two are collaborating on "several" new songs for the live action Little Mermaid - a dream come true for Miranda who cites the animated movie as the reason he writes music. The film was in production prior to the COVID-19 shutdown.

Miranda congratulated Menken on his new EGOT status which led to a location shift to Menken's studio complete a packed case of trophies. Technically, Menken was given an honorary Emmy in the 1980s for "Wonderful Ways to Say No." Roy Disney asked Menken and Howard Ashman to write the anti-drug song for "Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue." Menken officially received EGOT status with his first Emmy Win ("Waiting in the Wings," Rapunzel's Tangled Adventures) last month. He joked he's actually now a REGOT as he received a Razzie Award for "High Times, Hard Times" (Newsies) the same night he won the Oscar for "Beauty and the Beast!"

Menken and Miranda also discussed the joy of continuing the Disney legacy of marrying songs and animation. This harkened back to the important purpose of the event - raising funds to continue educating the animators of tomorrow, especially those of varied backgrounds.

Menken wrapped up the evening with a second of favorites including: "Friend Like Me" (Aladdin), "Gaston" (Beauty and the Beast), "Proud of Your Boy" (Aladdin), "Poor Unfortunate Souls" (The Little Mermaid), "Happy Working Song" (Enchanted), "Galavant" (Galavant), "When Will My Life Begin" (Tangled), "Suddenly Seymour" (Little Shop of Horrors), "Beauty and the Beast" (Beauty and the Beast), "Carrying The Banner" (Newsies), "If I Can't Love Her" (Beauty and the Beast), "Someday" (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), and "A Whole New World" (Aladdin).

An Evening with Alan Menken was sponsored by The Walt Disney Company, Michelle Lund, and The Janet and Clint Reilly Family Foundation and donations are being matched by an Anonymous donor up to $25,000 through August 14th. Visit WaltDisney.org/Menken or text WDFM to 41444. You can also support the program by visiting WaltDisney.org/Auction for a chance to purchase artwork by legendary Disney animators.

The performance can be streamed through Friday, August 14, below:


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