Saturday, March 10, 2012

He has won the most Oscars than any one person alive. He was awarded 8 of them; 2 for each film, and he isn’t even an actor. Most of you won’t even recognize his name but you will all know his work. He is Alan Menken and now he is writing the music for Broadway. Yes, he is an American treasure because the world loves our musicals and our music. Disney loves him even more. Alan wrote the music to the most successful Disney stories in cartoon form.
If you were a parent or a child since the 1990’s you have sang and watched the Disney cartoon musical many many times. Songs like “Under The Sea” from “The Little Mermaid” and others. If you saw it or sang the tunes, Alan probably wrote the music. This score to “The Little Mermaid” won Menken his first 2 Oscars. He won 2 more for “Beauty and The Beast.” He won another 2 more for “Aladdin.” By now you know he has a good thing going for him. That is six Oscars. He won another two for “Pocahontas.” The sales from these animated Disney musicals made him and Disney very wealthy.
He never even wrote a movie score before “The Little Mermaid” and he was supposed to be a Dentist since his grandfather, father, his uncle, his mother’s sister’s husband, his father’s sister’s husband are all Dentists. Alan Menken should be the poster spokesperson for why music and art should NEVER be excluded in schools. Alan admits that he was not a good student in the regular classes. He was very attention deficit or ADD, and couldn’t concentrate for long periods of time.
As a child he loved music and played guitar and piano and violin. He did include some Dentistry in his musical, “Little Shop of Horrors.” It was also made into a movie version in 1986. You remember it, about a man eating plant named Audrey 2 . In the film Steve Martin plays a sadistic Dentist. Alan had a collaboration with his late friend Howard Ashman who wrote the lyrics to their songs. He is proud that they brought original musical theater back into film.
Alan describes his songs as, “infectious, vulnerable, unguarded, joyful and basically childlike.” He also wrote “The Hunchback of Notre Dame “ of which he is the most proud of his musical scores. He has composed the music to more than a dozen movies in the past 2 decades for Disney. Not all of his compositions have been produced for Disney.
His latest is for the new movie “Mirror Mirror” opening this month starring Julia Roberts and is loosely based on the Disney story” Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” So how has he been able to do so much composing so quickly and so successfully? Well, his equipment might have something to do with it. The animation or film is completed first. Then with the help of a synthesizer keyboard that is linked into the action of the movie, he is able to quickly inject sound effects into the music and set the pace for the songs.
With the help of sophisticated computer programs, he can quickly convert his simple piano versions of the songs into full orchestrations. He also has his musical on Broadway called “Leap Of Faith.” In April he will have three Musicals running simultaneously on Broadway, Sister Act, Leap of Faith and Newsies. Alan has the luxury of being able to work at home in his country compound north of New York City where he has lived for nearly 20 years. His beautiful property could have been the scene in any one of the fairytale stories he writes for but his career has been very hollywood with his walk of fame star and his fortune.
Yes, Alan Menken is probably the most famous guy you have never heard of. He enjoys his anonymity where he can go largely unrecognized by the press. No one knows him. His personal life is very un-hollywood. He has two grown daughters and his wife Janice, a former Ballet dancer. Turning Movies into Broadway Musicals has become a second career for Menken especially all those 1990’s Disney films.
Newsies did not receive any awards when it came out in 1992 but now by giving it a new life on Broadway, it has also become very successful. He is a simple man who everyone thought would have become a dentist like the rest of the Menken clan. Instead, he decided to make our mouths sing healthy songs not necessarily passing through healthy teeth. Thanks Alan.

No comments:

Post a Comment