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Henry Buck

The Official Alan Menken Thread

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I don't know where I was when this thread started, but I'll stand up for all of Alan Menken's music pre-"Hercules." I agree that "Hunchback" is his most daring and ambitious work ever, but that doesn't dilute everything that came before it.

Yes, "Mermaid" was his first score, and for a first-timer, it's remarkable what he did. If you think about it, it was the only instrumental work that relied very little on the song score. Most of the underscore he wrote for future films leaned hevaily on the songs, which worked splendidly, but reeked a little of laziness.

That said, Alan Menken deserved all eight of his Oscars. "Mermaid," "Beast" and "Aladdin" likely won for the same reason "Fame won: the song score. But even if you ignore the song score of each film, the underscore in each is stupendous:

"Storm" and the finale in "Mermaid"

"The Wolf Attack" and "Transformation" in "Beast"

"The Cave of Wonders" in "Aladdin"

It is indeed a shame that he suffered the year of "Hunchback." I am certain the score would have won if the voters really took the time to listen to it.

Some people here may know of the letter Alan Menken wrote to me shortly after his loss in 1997. It's framed with my John Williams autographs.

I can't wait to hear what Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz cooked up for "Enchanted."

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I can't wait to hear wait Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz cooked up for "Enchanted."

The movie looks pretty bad......I have a feeling that the songs won't work in the 'real' world, aside from comic effect.

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It just occurred to me that there's a lot of great Menken and other Disney music woven into various shows, parades, and firework displays from the theme parks, that some fans may not be familiar with. I have a lot of WDW show music if anyone's interested, like Epcot's Tapestry of Nations and Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, Spectro-Magic (which I read somewhere that John Debney composed), Fantasy in the Sky, and Wishes. Also, the soundtrack to the new show Finding Nemo: The Musical is really great, a combination of Thomas Newman's eclectic style and Alan Menken's broadway sensibilities. Just drop me a PM if interested!

Ray Barnsbury

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I'm with Ray - I've got oodles of Disney park music, and you might be surprised at how strong some of the scoring for the shows and attractions are. Of particular interest to film scores nerds is the stuff provided by film composers - John Debney did "Phantom Manor," as well as orchestrating and conducting all the classic Disney material for the 1983 Fantasyland redo; Joel McNeely wrote the score for "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln," as well as the new "Tower of Terror" at DisneySea; most know by now that Jerry Goldsmith is response for "Soarin' Over California"'s fantastic score; Michael Giacchino wrote new scores for each iteration of "Space Mountain" across the globe; and somewhat infamously, Bruce Broughton is all over the parks these days, particularly Tomorrowland, though his scores remain sadly unreleased for the most part.

Not that this has anything to do with Menken, but since someone mentioned it...

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I will place myself firmly on the side of the Menken supporters, and go much further by calling myself a fan. I don't have hunchback yet, but am hoping to get it soon. Both Mermaid and Aladdin are pretty good, but Beauty and th Beast is not only the best animated movie I know, it is perhaps the best movie I know. Can't really think of anything that can top it. And whoever said that the chef's song and Be Our Guest were pretty much the same, perhaps you should listen to them again. ;) Some similarities maybe, but not much. Of course the songs in Beauty and the Beast are great, and they always get recognition. But the score is simply incredible, and each and every cue is great. Battle on the Tower is my personal favorite, especially the second half where Menken turns from the cartoony scoring to more of the dramatic type. And when the theme that is played in the beginning intro is reprised in the middle of it, between action, it is simply amazing. Then the theme he uses for Bells wanting adventure (the "new and a bit alarming, who'd have ever thought that this could be?" music) comes in as the Beast climbs towards here, and simply soars. Of course, the ending is great. Overall, that is perhaps my favorite track on iTunes.

Colin Thomson

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I only have Pocahontas and Aladdin, but I love them both (especially the former). I never get tired of them.

I'm planning on eventually getting Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but they're more of my long term goals.

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I only have Pocahontas and Aladdin, but I love them both (especially the former). I never get tired of them.

I'm planning on eventually getting Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but they're more of my long term goals.

My how the tables have turned ;) You really need Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. Some of the best music ever written for a movie. At least, Beauty and the Beast is.

Colin Thomson

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I only have Pocahontas and Aladdin, but I love them both (especially the former). I never get tired of them.

I'm planning on eventually getting Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but they're more of my long term goals.

My how the tables have turned :jump: You really need Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. Some of the best music ever written for a movie. At least, Beauty and the Beast is.

Colin Thomson

;) ;) Nice one. Yeah, I will definetly try to get those in the future. BATB is a bit higher on my priority list, because so many people love it.

Mulan wipes the floor with anything Menken wrote.

Mulan isn't even that great. There isn't one cue from Mulan that beats "Just Around the Riverbend," "Mine, Mine, Mine," "Colors of the Wind," "Savages," "Farewell," "Prince Ali," "Arabian Night," or "Friend Like Me."

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Whoa, hold on there, Blumenkoh. National Treasure tries its hardest to be 'epic' sounding, and the biggest and best thing since sliced bread. But that is the main reason it fails: Everything is so epic that nothing is epic (that and it is so repetative). Beauty and the Beast is great BECUASE it is not epic and world changing. How many world-changing stories can you have before they get boring? I think restrained can beat epic any day of the week, if done well. I am sure Mulan is just wonderful, but Beauty and the Beast is just plain great, and succeeds without the help of the world resting on this one story.

Colin Thomson

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Menken writes good songs but his underscores, minus the songs, are nowhere near the quality of Goldsmith's Mulan.

Take away Menken's songs from those Disney films and let him just compose a regular score and I'll bet he has no Oscars to his credit. The songs were responsible.

The academy fixed it somewhat by giving musical/comedy scores their own category but effed it up by giving Dudley the oscar for The Full Monty.

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Double dog damn straight!!!

Actually, since the only animated Disney scores I've heard outside the movie are Mulan and The Lion King (and some of Howard's work) I don't have a truly informed opinion on this.

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Menken writes good songs but his underscores, minus the songs, are nowhere near the quality of Goldsmith's Mulan.

Take away Menken's songs from those Disney films and let him just compose a regular score and I'll bet he has no Oscars to his credit. The songs were responsible.

Well, that's like saying: Raiders of the Lost Ark is a good score, but get rid of the adventurous music, and it is nowhere near the quality of The Mummy. The songs of Menken scores, like the adventurous music of Indy scores, are the main reason why the scores are so damn good. Take away a highlight, and duh it won't be as good as before.

Oh, and any of you who think Menken can't write good purley instrumental cues should listen to "Farewell" from Pocahontas.

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Oh no it doesn't. Zimmer was riding the coat tails of Menken's success and he benefitted from Elton John and Tim Rice.

Well, that's like saying: Raiders of the Lost Ark is a good score, but get rid of the adventurous music, and it is nowhere near the quality of The Mummy. The songs of Menken scores, like the adventurous music of Indy scores, are the main reason why the scores are so damn good. Take away a highlight, and duh it won't be as good as before.

Now that really makes sense.

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I think that while Menken's songs for the "original trilogy" of revived Disney animated musicals (Mermaid, Beauty, Aladdin) are his best, his underscore writing peaked with Pocahontas and Hunchback. Enchanted actually features some of his least engaging score, though the songs are good enough.

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All right, as I type this I am downloading Mulan from iTunes, 'cause I am a fair guy when it comes to arguing. But if ANYTHING in it beats Battle on the Tower from BATB, well, let's just say I will have to start rethinking my musical priorities.

Colin Thomson

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Menken writes good songs but his underscores, minus the songs, are nowhere near the quality of Goldsmith's Mulan.

Take away Menken's songs from those Disney films and let him just compose a regular score and I'll bet he has no Oscars to his credit. The songs were responsible.

Well, that's like saying: Raiders of the Lost Ark is a good score, but get rid of the adventurous music, and it is nowhere near the quality of The Mummy.

Very good point, even though I think Menken has written some of the greatest film scores around.

OK, first impressions of Mulan:

Most certainly lacking when it comes to the songs. I am afraid that there is no real comparison between Menken and Goldsmith here, and I have to assume most would agree. A couple nice moments, perhaps, but nothing on the scale of Beauty and the Beast. But usually the Mulan defenders point to the score, and say Goldsmith can write instrumentals better than Menken. Fair enough, we'll discuss it on your terms.

So, why is Mulan's score considered better by some? More 'epic' has been the argument I have heard, and I already said why I don't think that means 'better'. Still, the writing in Mulan is top notch. Some nice themes, very nice oriental textures, and good percussion work. All of these things are well done. I watched the movie once quite a few years ago, and don't hardly remember any of it.

But the score in and of itself does not say 'animated', or, if you like, 'child-like'. Many may say that this is a good thing, and that they have heard enough child-like music, and want something with substance. The fact is that, while child-like has far too often sunk to the 'child-ish' (two distinctly different terms), it doesn't have to, and when done well, the wonder and innocence can lend itself in a powerfully child-like way to the emotional effect (need I cite once more Battle on the Tower?). This is why I think Menken's music works better for its films than Goldsmith's (in the animated genre). Mulan could be a very serious sort of movie in the music's serious moments, and the only moments that really sound child-like come dangerously close to child-ish. So we have two very different types of scoring, and Menken's is the more confluent of the two. Menken uses all of the tools at his disposal to write music that makes you feel like a child experiencing a fantasy. One in which there is fun, danger, and powerful emotion. Goldsmith writes music that starts as fantasy, but, when it becomes dangerous, loses all fantasy elements and becomes your average well written scary dangerous music. Which is good, but Menken's is much better for the subject matter.

That is my defense. And, in case you hadn't noticed, I love arguing. So, bring it on.

Colin Thomson

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Really? Oh, I see, Matthew Wilder. OK, well, if we are comparing Mulan and Beauty and the Beast, the song argument still stands. If we are comparing Menken and Goldsmith, we have no songs to compare. Which would make which of the two more versatile? :P Working with a lyricist is not something anybody can do. Not saying Goldsmith can't. It just seems he didn't for this genre.

But thanks for pointing that out.

Colin Thomson

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Goldsmith had nothing to do with the songs, in fact if I'm not mistaken he was brought in late to score the film film because Rachel Portman was originally assigned but had to bow out because she was pregnant.

Yes the songs to Mulan aren't as good but I'm talking score. And if you downloaded it from itunes I imagine you have the commercial version that contains maybe 25 mins of score and not the Academy promo that has about 60 to 70 mins of Goldsmith's score.

However, one could listen to Secret Of Nimh to get an idea of how Goldsmith might score a Disney film if he were able to compose the songs as well.

In my book he would do an excellent job.

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Goldsmith had nothing to do with the songs, in fact if I'm not mistaken he was brought in late to score the film film because Rachel Portman was originally assigned but had to bow out because she was pregnant.

Yes the songs to Mulan aren't as good but I'm talking score. And if you downloaded it from itunes I imagine you have the commercial version that contains maybe 25 mins of score and not the Academy promo that has about 60 to 70 mins of Goldsmith's score.

However, one could listen to Secret Of Nimh to get an idea of how Goldsmith might score a Disney film if he were able to compose the songs as well.

In my book he would do an excellent job.

I know you are talking score. So am I. Yes, I got the original release. The promo seems pretty hard to get a hold of. Is the extra 35 minutes of score a lot better than what was released on the original? I know often OSTs do not do full justice to a score. Would the extra music refute my points? I can understand how a bigger picture of the music leads to a much more powerful whole, and makes more sense than bits and pieces spliced together. But most of what I said had to do with style, which, I assume, still holds true. Correct me if I am wrong.

Colin Thomson

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Yes it would present a much better picture of the score to hear the full version. If you are expecting Mulan to sound like an animated film score or "child like" then I can see why you would prefer Menken's work.

Mulan sounds like a very good music and whatever genre it was composed for shouldn't matter. And as I mentioned earlier give Secret Of Nimh a listen if you want a more "child like" approach to the music. But it too contains aggressive writing that might suggest otherwise.

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Mulan is a really great score, and is probably the most "grown up" one for Disney. It surprised me how much score there is in the film in relation to the songs, in that there is a lot more orchestral music. I can understand how it can be compared to Menken's absolute best, but saying The Lion King is better is pure horseradish (and I like that score).

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Yes it would present a much better picture of the score to hear the full version. If you are expecting Mulan to sound like an animated film score or "child like" then I can see why you would prefer Menken's work.

Mulan sounds like a very good music and whatever genre it was composed for shouldn't matter. And as I mentioned earlier give Secret Of Nimh a listen if you want a more "child like" approach to the music. But it too contains aggressive writing that might suggest otherwise.

Probably my two favorite scores in the world are: Beauty and the Beast, and The Empire Strikes Back. But neither would work at all for the other. To say 'whatever genre it is composed for shouldn't matter' is to give up on anything but generic music (good or bad, still generic). It is a fact that we associate different things with different types of music. So if you mean that the Mulan music would work better stuck into any random film, you are probably right. That is called generic, and that is one of the worst enemies of good music. I can understand if you would like a more adult-like approach to a children's movie. Well, no, I can't.

I am sure Goldsmith wrote great music for many types of films. Menken, however, is the master of the animated musical.

Colin Thomson, who never thought Lion King was all that amazing

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