Alan Menken

Distinguished composer/lyricist Alan Menken is responsible for penning many of the catchiest tunes from Disney features of the late '80s onward, including such chart-toppers as "Whole New World" (from Aladdin) and "Colors of the Wind" (Pocahontas). Menken is a graduate of New York University and got his start when noted playwright Howard Ashman chose him and Lehman Engel to write the music for his 1978 adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. Menken and Ashman had major success as a team when they adapted Roger Corman's popular 1960 film Little Shop of Horrors into an off-Broadway smash that in 1986 became a major feature film. With Menken penning the tunes and Ashman writing the lyrics, the duo began working for Disney on The Little Mermaid, the company's first major animated feature in years. For their catchy calypso tune "Under the Sea," Menken and Ashman earned an Oscar. Menken has since earned seven more for his songwriting work, including one for the title track of his final completed collaboration with Ashman, 1991's Beauty and the Beast. When Ashman died that year, he and Menken were working on the music for Aladdin, which Menken finished with Tim Rice. Menken's subsequent work for Disney -- which included 1995's Pocahontas, 1996's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1997's Hercules (which reunited him with his old friend David Zippel), 2007's Enchanted and 2010's Tangled -- earned him a Disney Legend award in 2001. His other film music work included 1992's cult favorite Newsies, which spawned a stage adaptation that won Menken a Tony Award for Best Score in 2012. Indeed, his musical theater career thrived throughout the '90s and into the 21st century. The stage versions of Disney favorites like The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Beauty and the Beast -- which ran on Broadway for 13 years -- earned audiences and awards, while A Christmas Carol and Sister Act were also hits. For 2017's live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, Menken and Rice wrote an additional three songs. ~ Sandra Brennan

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