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Henry Buck

The Official Alan Menken Thread

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This is a thread for discussion of universally renowned composer Alan Menken. Menken wrote the scores to a slew of Disney box office smashes, starting with the revolutionary The Little Mermaid and ending with Home on the Range ... or something. He is currently working on Enchanted, a new Disney film that combines traditional animation with real footage, a technique sure to breed a winning film.

But, actually, I like Menken quite a lot. Despite the simplistic, kid-friendly feel of his music, he has captured the romantic spirit and the soaring optimism we are capable of at our best moments. Little Mermaid didn't deserve to take the Academy Award from Williams, but if it had been Beauty and the Beast that year ... Menken's best work was with amazing lyricist Howard Ashman. Tim Rice and those other guys weren't so great. Did they come up with something on the caliber of "Tale as old as time / Tune as old as song / Bittersweet and strange / Finding you can change / Learning you were wrong / Certain as the sun / Rising in the east / Tale as old as time / Song as old as rhyme / Beauty and the beast?" Yeah, right.

Speaking of The Little Mermaid, isn't "The Storm" an ethereal cue? It's along the lines of what I wish Pirates had been.

Here are some chronological orders (Aladdin supplied by Kendal_Ozzel)

The Little Mermaid

Fathoms Below

Main Title - The Little Mermaid *

Fanfare *

Daughters of Triton

Part of Your World

Fireworks *

Jig *

The Storm *

Part of Your World (Reprise) *

Under the Sea

Sebastian and Triton * (see The Music Behind the Magic)

Destruction of the Grotto *

Flotsam and Jetsam *

Poor Unfortunate Souls

Les Poissons

Tour of the Kingdom *

Kiss the Girl

Bedtime *

Wedding Announcement *

Eric to the Rescue *

Happy Ending (*)

Under the Sea (no opening dialogue - DVD rip)

Part of Your World (no opening dialogue - DVD rip)

Beauty and the Beast

Prologue * (see The Music Behind the Magic for instrumental version)

Belle

To the Fair *

Wolf Attack * (see The Music Behind the Magic)

Belle Reprise

Gaston

Gaston (Reprise)

Be Our Guest

West Wing *

Something There

Human Again (see Special Edition)

Beauty and the Beast

The Beast Lets Belle Go *

The Mob Song

Battle on the Tower *

Transformation (*)

Beauty and the Beast (pop version)

Transformation (Alternative) - used in end credits

Aladdin

Arabian Nights

Legend of the Lamp *

On a Dark Night *

One Jump Ahead

Street Urchins *

One Jump Ahead Reprise

Jasmine Runs Away *

The Marketplace *

The Cave of Wonders *

Friend Like Me

To Be Free

Prince Ali

A Whole New World

The Kiss *

Aladdin's Word *

Jafar's Hour *

Prince Ali (Reprise)

The Ends of the Earth *

The Battle *

Happy End in Agrabah (*)

A Whole New World (pop version)

* Denotes score-only track

A few words on Aladdin - cut "Jafar's Hour" off at around 38 seconds and sub in "Why Me?" (available, orchestra, John Freeman and all, on the The Music Behind the Magic box set) for an expansive, alternative version of "Prince Ali (Reprise)." The "Arabian Nights Reprise" track was recorded for the film's finale but ultimately discarded in favor of "Happy End in Agrabah." I haven't found a satisfactory way to edit this, replacing the choral ending of the track with "Arabian Nights Reprise," and I like "Happy End in Agrabah" better anyway. Nevertheless, "Arabian Nights Reprise" is a great listen. You can find it on the Music Behind the Magic box set or in better sound quality on the obscure Aladdin and the King of Thieves soundtrack (well, PM me if you're interested in an Apple Lossless or AAC or MP3 file). The end credits (a great instrumental version of "Friend Like Me") can be ripped from the DVD; however, they blend right into the awful, pop "A Whole New World," so there's no good way to separate them.

Anyway, I'm starting to sound like a Disney representative. Menken is cool, though. Let's discuss, eh? I know Kendal_Ozzel is a big fan, and... um... others?

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Come on. The guy brought Broadway back to the big screen and wrote harmonies on a level of interest and listening satisfaction that composers like Steve Jablonsky can only dream of (I'd say he orchestrated, but I believe he didn't do more than rough, synthesized sketches of what he wanted for instrumentation).

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I'm a BIG Disney fan, especially regarding the theme parks (mainly WDW) and the music, whether it be from the movies, parks, or otherwise. And I've always enjoyed Menken. I grew up with the soundtracks (on cassette) to The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, knew all the words, etc. It wasn't until the last few years that I really paid attention to the purely instrumental portions of his scores. I find Beauty and the Beast to be the strongest of the early nineties "trilogy," although after getting Pocahontas last fall I really feel that it's Menken's best effort. So many rich themes woven throughout with such emotion, particularly the love theme ("If I Never Knew You"). Anyway, yeah I'm a Menken fan and am looking forward to hearing his music for Enchanted. :devil:

Ray Barnsbury - who still really needs The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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In another wonderful example of how little the Oscars have to do with talent, Menken won in 1989 over more qualified scores (including Batman and Glory which weren't even nominated) and then lost in 1996 for his best effort The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Did Menken rob Goldsmith in 1992? Sure. Is Menken the Gustavo Santaclaus of the 1990's? No. C'mon! At least Menken has some talent!

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Being a film score neophyte at the time, I was somewhat impressed with The Little Mermaid score, having watched the film. My standards were pretty low then, I thought Horner was the best composer ever. But I was absolutely gobsmacked that it actually won the Oscar that year, I watched the Awards on TV live. Same thing next year, and the next.

Menken can write a good tune, I'll give him that. He's a tunesmith. That's all that Disney films need. And an army of orchestrators and editors to give the final, pristine product.

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Yes it is clear that Menken is a genius, we can see that in the vast number of films he scored that were not Disney cartoons.

Oh.....

But you can hear traces of geniality in his non-film work: the vast oratorio King David, the very intelligent Weird Romance... It didn't necessarily take an animated crab to inspire the man, you know.

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But since I'm not a homosexual, I have no interest in musical theatre.

Is that Menken's fault?

Not that you have to be gay to appreciate Menken's finest works, though. You just have to accept that their are written for the stage. Which leads us to a vicious circle of one-answer-one-question.

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No Mulan is the best score to a Disney Cartoon.

Menken wrote great songs for the films. He deserved the Oscars for best songs but as far as the scores were concerned they weren't worthy of the awards.

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I'll agree that he didn't deserve the Oscar for The Little Mermaid's score. It was his first film score, and doesn't quite compare with something like Hunchback. It just isn't as... big. It's great, certainly, but not better than Last Crusade.

Another good DVD rip is Clay Aiken's "Proud of Your Boy" from Aladdin. A little "listhp"-heavy, but it's a great song.

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He's the best songwriter in Hollywood, by far. His scores are pretty good, maybe not all Oscar worthy (Hunchback might be, I agree it is his best work). But those tunes...the guy is a genius.

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I'll agree that he didn't deserve the Oscar for The Little Mermaid's score. It was his first film score, and doesn't quite compare with something like Hunchback. It just isn't as... big. It's great, certainly, but not better than Last Crusade.

Another good DVD rip is Clay Aiken's "Proud of Your Boy" from Aladdin. A little "listhp"-heavy, but it's a great song.

Ah, yes, the orchestra sounds great, but Aiken doesn't. His straight, nonvibrato belting of extended notes is painful to listen to. Other times, he is soft and wispy. Brad Kane should have sung it. "Proud of Your Boy," though, is a really good song. Had the pacing of the film been different, it would have functioned very well in the place of "One Jump Ahead (Reprise)." (Yes, Aladdin references his parents, but he could, as Menken and Ashman considered, be speaking to them at their graves.)

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Except it has little to do with the songs. Not that I mind that, as the songs are quite terrible, but all of Menken's music works as a whole, score and songs together.

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I don't mind if Menken got so many oscars , the whole award is kind of a joke.But the music he've created says nothing

to me , NOTHING.

He's one trick wonder.

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Which is fanastic, if you are interested in that sort of thing.

I'm not, so I'll happily take a superb Goldsmith score over some one-day-fly's movie tunes for cartoons.

Hunchback of Notre Dame has an excellent score, that fits in with the good songs. It's not as exciting as Jerry's score, but it's got it's highlights that are as good as the best tracks from Mulan.

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You'd like those fish fingers if they were cooked by Jerry Goldsmith.

But he didn't cook fish fingers so there's no point debating it.

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Since we're on the subject of Menken...who I personally think gets the job done, but is nothing to write home about...has anyone noticed that his Jaffar theme from "Aladdin" bares a striking note for note, rhythm for rhythm resemblence to Bizet's "tragic" motif from Carmen?

I will say this for Menken. He's given us band directors plenty of music that works well for half-time shows.

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Yes, if you are the kind of man who thinks fish fingers is as good as smoked salmon....

I do not like fish fingers, I am a big smoked salmon person. Had it yesterday for breakfast. And Mulan is a fine Jerry Goldsmith score, a better than average JG score. But I would give it up to keep Menken's Hunchback, as that is the one score where he actually delivered something really terrific. 'Sanctuary' is better than anything in Mulan.

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Except it has little to do with the songs. Not that I mind that, as the songs are quite terrible, but all of Menken's music works as a whole, score and songs together.

Well the main titles of mulan use thematic material from 'Honor us'. I dont know if the main titles are Goldsmith's though.

In a side note, Menken repeated himself sometimes, even songs:

the little mermaid cook's song is very similar to the beauty and the beast 'feast' song.

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Oh, come now...and Goldsmith's Mulan is sparkling in it's originality? No, but that's quite beside the point, in both cases.

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Zimmer's Lion King score is much better than any of the Menken scores. Just as The Lion King is much better than any of the other Disney movies.

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I think The Lion King is a very good score, but too uneven. Although I would take it over Pocahontas any day of the week, twice on Tuesday.

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Mulan is a very nice score.

But believe it or not, The Hunchback of Notre Dame blows it away.

Good form exactly.

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