Alan Menken Interview: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ composer
“I wanted to make sure that everything felt fresh” reveals Alan Menken as we chat via webcam (watch the exclusive video above). “Beauty and the Beast” is the acclaimed composer’s live action adaptation of his acclaimed score for the 1991 animated feature of the same name, which netted him two Oscars, for Best Score and Best Song. He adds, “With each song I wanted to give them a fresh arrangement and a fresh performance that would help people both remember what they heard before, but feel like they were seeing it for the first time.”
As well as reviving his score and songs from the classic animated film, Menken created four new songs, co-written with award-winning lyricist Tim Rice for the live action film: “How Does a Moment Last Forever” (with Celine Dion returning as vocalist), “Evermore” and “Days in the Sun,” with the first two having been submitted for Oscar consideration this year in the Best Original Song category.
“I didn’t know what more we could do with this story” Menken admits, noting that he created the original with the late Howard Ashman and then later adapted it for Broadway. “There were years of development before [director] Bill Condon came aboard,” Menken explains, noting that it was when Condon took on the project that the vision for this revival took shape. “It was when Bill came aboard that things became clearer to me, that we were going to be giving much more of a sense of period, much more of a sense of back story to Belle and her father, and also back story to the beast, and a sense of realism.”
Menken is renowned for his now iconic scores for Disney animated classics like “The Little Mermaid” (1989), “Beauty and the Beast” (1991), “Aladdin” (1992) and “Pocahontas” (1995). He famously won two Oscars for each of those projects, a staggering eight Oscars in relatively short succession for score and song. The composer also has an additional 11 Oscar nominations to his name to date, and has won a Tony for his Broadway adaptation of “Newsies” in 2012 and numerous Grammys for his film and stage work over the years. It is not lost on him that he is an Emmy away from the coveted EGOT club. “At this point, I think that if it’ll happen, it’ll happen,” he says smiling, noting that he has had a few recent chances, having worked on two seasons of “Galavant,” and writing a song for “The Neighbors,” receiving Emmy nominations for both projects.