Alan Menken was one of the original composers for the 1991 animated Beauty and the Beast film. His work on the film won him two Oscars – one for Best Score and one for Best Song. He returned to score the live-action Beauty and the Beast remake, writing four new songs for this production of the film.
Screen Rant spoke with Menken at press day, where we discussed how his approach to live-action material was different compared to the animated material, how he chose to revisit his songs from the original Beauty and the Beast, and his future Disney projects.
First of all, let me just say, this is Disney making dreams come true. I cannot believe this. It’s amazing. First question I had, you have a long history with Disney. How do you approach live-action material and compare it to animated?
Alan Menken: Whether it’s animated, whether it’s live-action, whether it’s Broadway, whether it’s television, a musical is a musical is a musical. So, pretty much you approach the songs in pretty much the same way. The difference might be that in a film you have a close up. On stage you don’t. So there are more songs on the stage because the songs are kind of the close up.
Interesting. What song from Beauty and the Beast did you want to revisit going into a live-action film? I know that Gaston had more lyrics I feel in this.
Alan Menken: Yes. We had outtake lyrics from Howard Ashman that we didn’t use for the animated because they were a bit edgy. But so funny and so brilliant. And so we were actually able to add some to the Broadway and we were able to add more, many more, to the version in the movie. We did the same thing with the Beauty and the Beast at the end where we had a lost verse of Beauty and the Beast and we were able to add that to the end.
Alan Menken: Yeah. The one big verse that Emma Thompson sings. You know, “Famine turns to feast. Nothing else to say. Beauty and the Beast.”
That’s amazing. You know, I know that your next project is going to be The Little Mermaid.
Alan Menken: It might be the next one. It’s coming up. It may not be the next one because right now Lin-Manuel Miranda and our producer of Beauty are in London doing the Mary Poppins movie. Aladdin is also coming along supposedly. So, we’ll see.
Wow. What can you tell me about any one of those movies?
Alan Menken: I can’t tell you much. Where I am with those movies now is where I was with Beauty and the Beast, let’s say, five years ago.
Alan Menken: You know, I didn’t know anything. I’m excited about the prospect of doing those, but I also, I don’t know what is going to be the new approach. I know that maybe there are ideas for new song moments. But I haven’t even met…in one case we have a director I haven’t met. In the other case, we don’t even have a director. So, it’s early.
Interesting. You know, we have a piano here.
Alan Menken: Oh!
And you are a musical genius. And you provided the soundtrack for my childhood.
Alan Menken: What would you like to hear?
Uh, you know what? Anything. Anything you want to play.
Alan Menken: From Beauty?
Alan Menken: From Beauty! How about we do […]?
[starts playing piano]
No one’s slick as Gaston/No one’s quick as Gaston/No one’s neck’s as incredibly thick as Gaston’s/For there’s no man in town half as manly/Perfect, a pure paragon!/You can ask any Tom, Dick or Stanley/And they’ll tell you whose team they prefer to be on/No one’s been like Gaston/A king pin like Gaston/No one’s got a swell cleft in his chin like Gaston/As a specimen, yes, I’m intimidating!/My what a guy, that Gaston!
Man, that’s amazing. That is so amazing. One last question I have for you. I have to ask you this before I go. You did Sausage Party.
Alan Menken: Yes I did.
How liberating was it to do an R-rated movie?
Alan Menken: Well, in one sense it was liberating. In another sense, it was hard work because Seth and Evan and the guys kept going, “Oh, wait. Wait! Wait! Can we put a polka in? Oh, wait! Wait! Wait! Can we put a march in? Oh, wait! Wait! Wait! Can we[…]?” I mean, I wrote more versions of that song probably than I’ve written of any song in my life.
Alan Menken: Oh, yeah.
That’s amazing. That’s incredible.
Alan Menken: Yeah.
Well, I love all of your work. And, again, thank you so much for everything. You are truly a legend.
Alan Menken: My pleasure.