Legendary Disney composer Alan Menken was a guest on the new, live Rosie O’ Donnell Show, according to io9, where he revealed that while production has stopped on the new Little Mermaid movie, they did manage to record all the songs for the movie, which includes four new songs.
“This has been a great time for writing,” Menken said. “Production stopped on The Little Mermaid movie. We recorded all the songs, and I wrote four new songs with Lin-Manuel Miranda, the lyricist for Mermaid. And I’m working on Disenchanted, the sequel to Enchanted. And I have another Broadway show. Oh, and Hercules is coming to the stage, of course. We did that in Central Park last summer. Just a whole bushel of new projects.”
First of all, congrats to him for his own writing goals (remember, don’t hold yourself to anyone else’s standard), but also, the Disney purist in me is screaming, “Four more songs?!”
The Little Mermaid is, narrative-wise, not one of my favorite Disney films, but it launched the Disney Renaissance for a reason. The music that drove the 1989 film was superb and really understood the magic of animation combined with the theatrics of the musical. Every song perfectly fits the movie, and the only reason I could think of why they are going to add more is that Halle Bailey, who is playing Ariel in the remake, is an incredible singer and they want to take advantage of that. But the original’s Jodi Benson was also amazing, and that’s what made the absence of her voice for the second half of the movie so striking.
I’m aware that the Broadway stage musical also added music, but let’s not forget that the only good thing to come out of that production was Tituss Burgess. It’s very easy to bloat a simple story that was only 83 minutes long when you’re trying to make a 2-hour aquatic spectacle, but that’s not what made The Little Mermaid amazing. Howard Ashman’s lyrics are part of the power of the songs, and that presence was sorely missed when works like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast were brought into other mediums.
While I will always defend the casting of Bailey from the racists out there, it doesn’t erase the fact that Disney has struggled to make these live-action musical adaptations as thrilling or interesting as their original counterparts. They see the dollar signs and the nostalgia, but they so frequently lack the heart—putting all the pressure on their actors to deliver when so little is being done to help the film be the best it could be.
Also, Hercules is coming to the stage, and I’m both intrigued by it and wondering how the Greek Chorus and monster fighting will work into it. A sequel to Enchanted sounds cute, and Idina Menzel can collect another Disney check.
(via io9, image Disney)
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