Classic animated Disney features like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast have touched lives around the world, but the story of Howard Ashman, the man behind the songs from those films, is not widely known.
Ashman's life, including his time at Disney, is the subject of a new documentary, Howard, and now a trailer has been released giving viewers—and Disney fans—a behind-the-scenes look at how the master lyricist worked.
Just before production started on the animated Beauty and the Beast, Ashman was diagnosed with AIDS and saw the Beast's curse as a metaphor for the disease:
“On the heels of The Little Mermaid they showed it to [composer] Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Ashman had just found out he had AIDS,” revealed Bill Condon, director of the live-action Beauty and the Beast. “And it was his idea, not only to make it into a musical but also to make Beast one of the two central characters; until then it had mostly been Belle’s story that they had been telling.”
Sadly, Ashman died four days after the first screening of the animated classic, but his legacy still lives on with his songs, and his songwriting partner, Alan Menken, who performed at this year's D23 Expo, and spoke about collaborating with Ashman, and dedicated his final song to him during his performance.
Ashman's story was also featured in a previous documentary, Waking Sleeping Beauty, about the Disney renaissance that began in the late '80s, but Howard will explore even more of his life and feature clips from his time at Disney and working on his other musicals like Little Shop of Horrors.
Check out the trailer below.