Alan Menken, an American composer of musicals and film soundtracks, was born in New Rochelle, New York, on July 22, 1949. By high school, he had mastered the violin and piano, and after a brief stint as a pre-med student at New York University, he decided to pursue a career in music, spending time at the Lehman Engel Musical Workshop of Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI).
Howard Ashman chose Menken to collaborate on the musical adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” which premiered off-Broadway in 1979. They stuck together and adapted Roger Corman’s Little Shop of Horrors, first as an Off-Broadway musical that received a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Music, and then as a feature film with a song that received an Academy Award nomination for Original Song. Disney hired Ashman and Menken to write The Little Mermaid when they decided to return to producing animated feature films.
The Little Mermaid was the first in a long line of Menken-Disney collaborations. Menken worked on the following projects over the next few years:
With Ashman, it’s Beauty and the Beast.
Tim Rice, who stepped in after Ashman’s untimely death, directed Aladdin.
Bob Tzudiker and Noni White wrote Newsies.
Stephen Schwartz’s Pocahontas
With Schwartz, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
David Zippel and Hercules
Glenn Slater’s Home on the Range
The Shaggy Dog is a dog that has a shaggy
Schwartz has enchanted me.
Menken has also written music for several Simpsons episodes, as well as “My Christmas Tree” for Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and “The Measure of a Man” for Rocky V. Menken has also adapted his Disney films for Broadway and other theater venues.
Menken had won four Academy Awards for Best Original Score and four for Best Original Song for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Pocahontas 2008. The first three won Golden Globes for Best Original Score, as well as Grammy Awards for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media. Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media went to Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.