After his wife’s death in 2001, Robert moved to London until his own passing in 2012, while Richard still lives with his family in California, so the interviews for The Boys took place separately. Because of these separate interviews, it’s fascinating to hear each brother relate the same stories in his own inimitable way. My favorite example is hearing Richard and Robert tell of Walt Disney’s offering the brothers a job and an office at the studios. Both brothers shed tears at their remembrances of Walt’s generosity and friendship decades later!
The Boys sheds light on the brothers’ style of collaboration. Richard would bang out ideas manically on the piano, often repeating phrases and trying new combinations of words. Robert would patiently wait for a break in Richard’s action, raise his hand quietly, and suggest lines of lyric or melody.
Oddly enough, the same disparate styles of creative work drove Richard and Robert apart personally. The brothers, so close in age, rarely spent time with each other outside of the studio and would often express irritation with each other in public. Cousins Greg and Jeff Sherman, who directed and produced the film, admit in the beginning that they barely knew each other until they grew up.
In addition to the extensive interviews with Richard, Robert, and other Sherman family members, The Boys features interviews with Dick Van Dyke, Julie Andrews, Ben Stiller (who also served as executive producer), Alan Menken, Sam Goldwyn, Jr., and many others. For anyone who is interested in Disney lore, pop music history, the songwriting process in general, or the Sherman Brothers specifically, I highly recommend this documentary.