On Thursday night The Walt Disney Family Museum hosted An Evening with Alan Menken. DAPS MAGIC was invited to cover this event by The Walt Disney Family Museum. It was a magical night that gave donors and fans the chance to experience the magic of the music and experiences of Alan Menken, Chris Montan, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. The event included a fundraising portion first for donors and then the second half included a performance that was open to the public. It came right on the heels of Alan Menken winning an Emmy and achieving EGOT status. Those in the chat for the first portion of the event were quite excited about this while waiting for things to start.
Fundraising efforts for the evening went towards the following:
Event proceeds 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 initiatives to provide educational opportunities to underresourced young people, including its newest initiative, the At-Promise Youth Animation Academy, an intensive animation-focused jobs-training program for high school students experiencing economic and social displacement.
Throughout the evening, viewers were encouraged to Text WDFM to 41444 to help support the event’s initiatives.
The evening began with a special event with Alan Menken and former Disney music executive Chris Montan. Executive Director Kristen Komoroske welcomed guests to the event. She shared about what the contributions would be going to. This included the At-Promise Youth Animation Academy, a four-year high school program for students experiencing economic and social displacement. She also shared some animation from students. Then, she turned the event over to the evening’s moderator Chris Montan.
Chris Montan gave a beautiful introduction to Alan Menken and invited him to play a song. Menken, sitting at his piano, both played and sang Santa Fe from Newsies. The performance was full of heart and energy and was a magical way to start the event. “I got goosebumps just like the first time,” Montan said after the song concluded.
Montan then hopped into some questions asking what it was like to work with both filmmakers and animators while developing a score. “it’s wonderful, it’s joyful, it’s incredibly creative, and there’s a lot of challenges.” This is because they are bringing songs together to tell a story. This includes all of the different “signals that the music are adding to the story.” Menken shared how much he loved working with the animators.
Menken was also asked what it was like to lose a song. Menken shared how “being willing to lose a song is frankly, number one it’s the most collaborative way to work and number two, it’s the best chance to keep the song.”
Montan then pivoted to Disney’s legacy with music in movies. He asked Menken what inspired him as a kid. “Fantasia was incredible,” Menken exclaimed. “Fantasia married visual and story for me.” He also shared he loved Pinocchio and Peter Pan. He never dreamed he’d get to write for Disney though. He shared how Disney is really “the only safe space that we have.” He went on to share how real life is there but “there is something very very comforting and enlightening that happens that’s a miracle.” He shared how lucky he is to be able to be with the company.
The Little Mermaid was the next topic. First, it was an animated movie, then adapted for the stage, and now it’s getting adapted for live-action as well. Montan also shared how he worked multiple times with Menken on Aladdin. Menken shared how he could pinch himself knowing how blessed he is to get to bring these projects to new generations. As he shared, he played a little bit of A Whole New World in its original form and also in its rearranged and reinvented form. He also shared the responsibility of being the “keeper of the flame” for these songs as well.
The conversation then turned to the style of music not being necessarily in-line with what was going on at the time. This is why so many of the songs are created to be timeless. Menken shared how the music also had to help tell the story and have “a long shelf life.” As they were going through this, Menken gave musical examples on the piano of moments from Beauty and the Beast and Hercules. They then shared a part of the collaborative process and how Montan could push and how Menken would outwrite what was being asked of him. The conversation carried on to how they came up with I See the Light for Tangled and how they tried to come up with how it would turn out. “And you wrote it in front of us in about 15 minutes,” said Montan and how he was jealous of the talent. Through this Menken again played piano.
Things moved to Aladdin and the development of A Whole New World (which was then A World at My Feet) with Tim Rice after the death of Howard Ashman. Menken basically wrote the first draft of the song at 4:00 in the morning on the day they were going to fly to England to meet with Rice. He also wrote on One Jump and a song called Why Me?
As Beauty and the Beast was wrapping up, Howard Ashman was dying. Menken shared how “emotionally gutting” it was to watch his collaborator lose his battle with HIV/AIDS they worked on the score for Beauty and the Beast and also Aladdin. Menken shared about a song called Humiliate the Boy that was worked on for Aladdin and how the song it really felt like it was also Ashman’s story. He shared how he couldn’t listen to Beauty and the Beast without feeling like Howard Ashman was in the room. He continued on to share a story about breaking down as learning the song Disneyland from Smile ahead of a D23 Expo performance.
“Roy Disney was our patron saint,” Menken shared as they talked about The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin and the impact Disney had in creating those movies.
The performance portion of the event began shortly after 5:30. Chris Montan also hosted this event as well. He thanked viewers for joining for their first-ever virtual fundraiser. The evening’s fundraising efforts were matched by an anonymous donor. After sharing about the fundraising portion, Montan introduced Alan Menken. Menken has won more Acadamy Awards than any other person. Menken started off by sharing the importance of the fundraising efforts of the evening and encouraged people to be generous.
The performance began with Menken performing a medley. This started with Be Our Guest from Beauty and the Beast and continued with Little Shop of Horrors. The medley then moved on to Colors of the Wind from Pocahontas. He gracefully transitioned into Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid. I Could Go The Distance from Hercules was next. I See the Light followed from Tangled. How Does She Know from Enchanted came next. It was back to Hercules for Zero to Hero next. King of New York from Newsies followed. Things got quieter for a moment as he pivoted to Out There from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Kiss the Girl from The Little Mermaid came next and then How Does a Moment Last Forever from the live-action Beauty and the Beast. Continuing with the live-action remake music, Speechless from Aladdin was performed. Under the Sea concluded the medley.
As the song ended, Lin-Manuel Miranda joined him from home on the screen. He congratulated Menken as “Mr. EGOT” and then asked to see the awards! Miranda asked if he wasn’t already an EGOT and Menken explained that he was an “honorary EGOT.” Menken also explained that he was a REGOT for his Razzie award he got for Hard Times from Newsies.
The conversation then moved to their meeting. While they technically met backstage at In the Heights, Menken also remembered Miranda as a kid and sending him a note. Miranda shared how The Little Mermaid was his absolute favorite. Decades later after meeting at In the Heights, Menken and Miranda got to collaborate on new songs for the live-action The Little Mermaid. Miranda shared how it was a dream come true and how excited he is for the movie to go back into production.
The night is really dedicated to helping underprivileged kids get to learn about animation and give them the opportunity for the creative freedom that they have been able to experience thanks to Disney animation. The fundraising efforts of the night really are giving “kids the opportunity to have a hands-on immersive experience in working with animation” thanks to this program Menken shared. Menken shared about how incredible it is to see new talent come in and revitalize the industry. Miranda shared about how important it also is to get “new people in the door” as young minorities get the opportunity to do what they’ve done and how it leads to “more stories” and richer stories. “It’s the greatest creative melting pot,” Menken added.
Carl Stalling’s music was also influential to both Menken and Miranda and they discussed that influence. Menken shared how important it is to open the door to more kids.
“What you are passionate about every day of your life, that is what you are going to do, or should do, with your life,” Menken shared when asked by Miranda what he wished he had known as a kid. “It’s all fair game,” Miranda shared about if he could go back and give a younger version of himself advice. This includes the good and bad parts of life, because “you’re going to need all of it.”
After a fun conversation with the two of them that included lots of smiles and some laughter, Menken got back to the piano and played some more music. This started with an energetic performance of Friend Like Me from Aladdin. The song then pivoted to Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. A beautiful and heartfelt rendition of Proud of Your Boy, a song dropped from the animated version of Aladdin came next. Poor Unfortunate Souls from The Little Mermaid was up next. Menken then moved to A Happy Working Song from Enchanted. The theme from Galavant came next from the show of the same name. When Will My Life Begin from Tangled followed. Suddenly Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors came as Menken moved away from Disney music. Moving back it was time for Beauty and the Beast. As the music was performed it was hard not to marvel that he Menken is in the business of making magical tales as old as time which continues to bring magic to those who watch them through the years. The next song in the medley was Carrying the Banner from Newsies. As he sang away it was hard not to sing along through these fantastic songs. If I Can’t Love Her from Beauty and the Beast was beautifully performed next. The feeling Menken had in his performance was palpable through the screen. Someday from The Hunchback of Notre Dame came next and was a nice balance from the song before. “Please sing along, make sure you are in tune though, ok?” Menken said before beginning to sing A Whole New World from Aladdin.
As the medley wrapped up, Menken said “that was a lot of fun” before throwing things back to Executive Director Kristen Komoroske who thanked everyone again for their support as they work on its newest initiative the At-Promise Youth Animation Academy. The event wrapped up with a video featuring founder Diane Disney-Miller sharing about The Walt Disney Family Museum and Walt Disney. “Well, this museum is my book” about her father she said.
The Walt Disney Family Museum continues to share the story and legacy of Walt Disney. This is done through incredible exhibits about the life and work of Walt Disney. But also through its endeavors to inspire and train up new generations to follow in his creative footsteps. Their newest endeavor is the At-Promise Youth Animation Academy, a four-year high school program for students “experiencing economic and social displacement.” People can support this initiative by texting WDFM to 41444.
An Evening with Alan Menken was an evening full of magic, memories, heart, laughter, and purpose. Throughout the course of the night, inspiration was shared as Menken and company recounted their experiences. Menken’s performances were beautiful and real. His passion could be felt as he sang the songs of his life. The joy of collaboration was clearly evident in the conversations Menken had with Chris Montan and then Lin-Manuel Miranda. The gift of creativity and the magic it has brought to the world is something they are all passionate to share with a whole new generation. It gave the evening an extra special feel as this purpose shone through at multiple times throughout the night. The Walt Disney Family Museum doesn’t just honor Walt Disney’s legacy by looking back, but by helping multiple generations moving forward.
If you would like to support this incredible organization and this wonderful cause, please text WDFM to 41444 or go to waltdisney.org and click DONATE.
This event can currently be seen still on The Walt Disney Family Museum’s Facebook page.