Written and directed by Don Hahn, who collaborated with Ashman as a producer on “Magnificence and the Beast,” “Howard” — touchdown on Disney+, after premiering two years in the past on the movie competition circuit — dutifully runs via the early parts of Ashman’s life. That features his discovery of theater at a comparatively younger age, and transfer to New York shortly after faculty to pursue these goals.
That finally resulted within the satirical musical adaptation “Little Store of Horrors,” starting his affiliation with Menken. After a conspicuous failure with Marvin Hamlisch on the musical “Smile,” Ashman landed at Disney, the place he paired with Menken amid a dizzying burst of “pure inventive vitality” that revived the studio’s moribund animation division.
What ought to have been the beginning of Ashman’s fortunately ever after, nevertheless, coincided together with his AIDS analysis, which he realized about shortly earlier than “The Little Mermaid” made its debut. For a while he saved his well being considerations from his associates, turning into more and more ailing as he gained an Oscar for “Mermaid” and went on to obtain one other posthumously for “Magnificence and the Beast,” with out residing to see the finished movie.
Ashman can be nominated once more for “Aladdin,” having described the animated film as “the final excellent spot to do Broadway musicals.”
Whereas which may sound like hyperbole, the explosion of Disney motion pictures within the late ’80s and ’90s owes an enormous debt to Ashman, who, it is recalled, obtained a glimpse of his immortality watching a Disney World parade taking part in his songs on the “Little Mermaid” press junket. Involved about being a homosexual man related to Disney at the moment, he quietly slipped away to take IV remedies through the festivities.
For followers of those movies, there are some great glimpses and anecdotes, similar to behind-the-scenes footage of Ashman conferring with Angela Lansbury or teaching Jodi Benson as she sings “A part of Your World,” after clashing with then-studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg about chopping the track, with Ashman saying that might be “over my lifeless physique.”
There may be additionally welcome dialogue relating to the context of these years, and the homophobia that appeared to metaphorically discover its approach into the “Magnificence and the Beast” mob track, because the narrow-minded villagers marched in opposition to that which they feared.
“He was not political,” former Disney animation chief Peter Schneider stated, including merely of Ashman’s capability to talk via his songs, “He was human.”
Regardless of his immense expertise, Ashman skilled sufficient skilled disappointment to really savor his success. His work turned an integral a part of Disney’s legacy, turning out materials — effectively conscious that his time was restricted — whose wit and coronary heart has echoed past his demise, and as evidenced by the onslaught of latest live-action variations, will for many years to come back.
“Howard” serves as a becoming celebration of that life and profession. It is an opportunity for many who knew him to pause and fondly look again, in a approach that merely provides to an appreciation of the parade that he helped begin.
“Howard” premieres Aug. 7 on Disney+.