Oscar winning songwriters and Disney Legends Richard Sherman and Alan Menken performed together at a once in a lifetime evening of music at the D23 Expo in Anaheim on August 10. The D23 Expo is an annual fan club gathering for Disney fans. The concert represented two golden ages of music for Disney, with Sherman’s output stretching from the early 60s into the turn of the millennium, and Menken’s career with the Mouse beginning with The Little Mermaid in 1989.
The music men also sat down for a rare interview with Mental Floss. In the interview, Menken and Sherman shared each other’s favorite songs and talked about the biggest surprises of their careers. Interviewer Stacy Conradt asked Menken what it was like to perform for the Disney faithful at D23:
It’s fun, it really is fun. It’s a really powerful, shared experience. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it wasn’t kind of a pleasant ego trip, because everything I’m doing up there, they’re reacting so exuberantly to. It’s just great fun, really.
Sherman told of the special nature of working with Walt Disney:
Walt set a high standard for the both of us when he had these great songwriters of the past, who wrote the great scores for Pinocchio and all of these wonderful, wonderful pictures that came before our time. [They are] wholesome, beautiful entertainments that uplift the spirits. They’re not depressing; they’re uplifting. We’re lucky to have done that kind of work.
Both songwriters likened the process of writing for a Disney picture to writing for musicals – writing driven by characterization and scene – and both of them talked about turning the classic Disney films into musicals. Sherman and Menken have formed a mutual admiration society – both are enamored of each other and their work, and they have become great friends.
At the end of the interview, Sherman shared some special thoughts on what Disney culture means to these men who have devoted years to it:
There’s a wonderful thing called being positive in your life as opposed to being negative—being on the upside of the coin. Both Alan and myself have been blessed with the “chore” of writing things for very upbeat ideas. They’re not depressing…
There’s nothing cynical about our work, none of us.
The biggest, wonderful gratification I get is the fact that people get joy out of my work. That they feel good about it and they have a good time and they feel happy about it, and that’s truly my reward.