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A Once In A Lifetime Meeting Of Disney Songwriting Legends

Richard Sherman and Alan Menken performed together at this year's D23 gathering before sitting down for an interview together.

by
Chris Queen

Bio

August 12, 2013 - 5:00 pm

Alan Menken and Richard Sherman

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.

All Chris Queen wanted to be growing up was a game show host, a weather man, or James Bond. But his writing talent won out. By day, Chris is a somewhat mild-mannered office manager for an IT managed services provider, but by night, he keeps his finger on the pulse of pop culture and writes about it. In addition to his Disney obsession (as evidenced by his posts on this website), Chris's interests include college sports -- especially his beloved Georgia Bulldogs -- and a wide variety of music. A native of Marietta, GA, Chris moved with his family as a child to nearby Covington, GA, where he still makes his home. He is an active charter member of Eastridge Community Church and enjoys spending time with family and friends. In addition to his work at PJ Media, Chris spent nearly a year as a contributor to NewsReal Blog. He has also written for Celebrations Magazine and two newspapers in Metro Atlanta. Check out his website, www.chrisqueen.net.

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Oh, I feel mention should be made of Howard Ashman, the lyricist for the Disney comeback, working with Menken on Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and 3 songs on Aladdin. Modern Disney would not have happened without him. I wish the interviewer had mentioned him to the pair for their takes. When Menken mentions Kiss the Girl as "our single" you'd think he was referring to Sherman.
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